A Brief History of Liberty Hall
Liberty Hall’s story began in Northamptonshire
England, in Green’s Norton with Robert Green.
He was the youngest son in a rather healthy family of strong, tall men;
so was unlikely to move up the inheritance chain and was in need of
opportunities. Fortunately for Robert,
while his family had noticeably healthy genes, they also had great connections
to the Court, (including his 5th Cousin Katherine Parr – the only wife Henry
VIII actually liked) and his father William was a member of King William III’s
Royal Bodyguard. (To be in the Royal
Bodyguard one must be strong, healthy and over 6 feet tall; so not just a
vanity Court position.) So young Robert, perhaps with a a grant from the King
himself, set off to America at just 17 years of age in 1710.
Robert’s mom also contributed to his fortunes (least she
could do to make up for all those bigger brothers she gave him) through her own
big brother, Sir William Duff, a Scottish Quaker, with whom Robert traveled to
the New World to make his fortune. Uncle
Duff had received many of his own patents prior to departing for Virginia,
though I am not sure how or have much of a clear story on him. We know that Uncle Duff joined the Monthly
Meeting at West River in southern Maryland, a slightly “freer” religious area
than Northern Virginia. We also know
that Uncle Duff lived a stricter lifestyle than Robert, a traditional Anglican,
which caused Robert (only 17 upon his arrival) to quickly seek out his own life
independent from his Uncle.
Legend has it that Robert named his first parcel of land,
this plantation, “Liberty Hall” because it was a place at which “A man could be
at his liberty...” We assume he might
also have added, under his breath, “from Uncle Duff.”
Robert had a successful life, serving as vestry man for St.
Mark’s Parish, and he was also a member of the House of Burgess, a Justice of
the Peace and Sheriff for Orange County.
He (and his wife Eleanor) had 7 healthy sons, all taking after the Green
family line in being very strong, healthy and tall as well as inheriting their
mother’s flaming red hair; thus earning the nickname “The Red Green’s of
Aside from being healthy, the Green family was blessed with
significant military, civil and economic talents. Robert’s luck in receiving a patent for land
so well situated, with 2 strong streams flowing through the rolling hills of
the pasture land and bordered by two strong rivers ensured the long-term
success of the plantation and his family.
At the time of its inception, Liberty Hall, was located in
the County of Essex, within an area that would be established (through a very
long legal battle) as Lord Fairfax’s Northern Neck of Virginia. During its first owner’s life, Liberty Hall
began in Essex and passed to Spotsylvania County on December 17, 1721, to
Orange in 1734 and settled in Culpeper in 1749 (though after Robert’s will was
probated in Orange).
Throughout history, Liberty Hall has raised cattle as well
as horses for sport. Attesting to this
fact are numerous advertisements in colonial papers for cattle and horses for
sale and for stud at Liberty Hall. From
the early 18th century to mid-19th century the Hall was
also the location of two robust Mills, which included a county store with
various goods. The largest Mill was in
the Hazel River (on what we call Danny’s Island) and was part of the Hazel
River Navigation Company complete with Lock and Canal system. The rock foundations of the docking area and
rings to securing transports are still there along the bank.
The plantation’s land, given its strategic advantages of
river borders and strong streams, was host to both armies during the Civil
War. Thankfully, as the house was
uninhabitable due to the fire shortly before the war, Liberty Hall was not destroyed. Many relic hunters have found treasured
buried here and continue to enjoy unearthing the plantation’s secrets even
Throughout its 300+ year history, the plantation has
consistently sustained operations for cattle, equestrian sports, a center for
The Various Owners of Liberty Hall
Thomas Rutherford assumes ownership of Liberty Hall in 1876
from John & Eleanor Green, which marks the end of the 166 years of direct
ownership by the Red Greens and their descendants. Thomas Rutherford was likely a descendent of
the Slaughter family and thus is also likely a Green descendent as well. Rutherford
rebuilds the Hall and was able to salvage much of the original wood frame (East
Indian Mahogany and heart of Pine) of the house and used that to plank the
interior floors of the house. The 3 room
basement of the main house is original and was undamaged in the fire, built in
the early 1700’s with 3-foot-thick stone walls. Rutherford also likely added the
Smokehouse/Summer Kitchen, which is a square building originally made of all
brick that sits just NW of the main house.
Henry & Alice Ratrie receive
the plantation from Rutherford in 1891.
The Ratrie’s use the Hall as a show place (in
addition to raising cattle) and were very active in the social scene, hosting
frequent gatherings reported in period newspapers, during the close of the 19th
century. They added what was likely a
carriage house with loft apartment as servant’s quarters, which originally was
not connected, as well as a larger kitchen.
On the plantation they likely built the red wood barn and used for hay
and winter feed storage for their cattle.
Sadly, both Henry & Alice died just prior to their daughter’s
marriage to Robert Stark at the Hall in February 1910. (Henry died in October 1909 and Alice on
Christmas Day 1909.) They raised 4
children in the Hall including their daughters Alice and Elizabeth who lived
and managed the plantation after her parent’s death.
Robert & Alice Stark officially receive the deed to the
planation in 1913 and continued the Hall’s tradition of hospitality and cattle until
after her husband’s death in 1942. Elizabeth,
Alice’s older sister continues living with the Starks (unmarried) until her
death in the late 1930’s. The Starks
raise their two daughters, Nancy and Lucy at the Hall. During their ownership a Works Progress
Administration (WPA) report was made on Liberty Hall (which includes some facts
that contradict documented history) and a current description of the house
itself as of 1937. The house’s exterior
at this time was weatherboard wood, though has the large front porch with 4
square columns. The interior is reported
to having 9 rooms (7 large and 2 small) with wood floors throughout.
Paul & Edna Carrington, (Yankees from New York City!)
bought Liberty Hall from Alice in 1942, likely as she was unable to manage the
place by herself after her husband’s death.
The Carrington’s worked hard on improving the plantation and the main
house, and much of their work is still evident today. No doubt inspired by Gone with the Wind, the
Carrington’s planted the beautiful trees that line the drive up to the house as
well as adding the brick portico on the front of the house. According to newspaper accounts, Paul
Carrington commuted to the Hall from his job in NY, so the beef cattle
operation (which continued on throughout their time) most have been run by a 3rd
party. After selling the Hall, the
Carrington’s decided to stay in VA and retired in Charlottesville.
John & Elisabeth Pulvermann
bought the Hall from the Carrington’s in 1964 and kept it for a little over a
decade. John immigrated to the USA from
Hamburg, Germany in 1940 and became a naturalized citizen in 1943; through
prior to his naturalization he traveled extensively as an export manager. Elizabeth (Logan) was a Society Editor for a
newspaper in Essex NJ, having graduated from a 2-year college. They were married in 1942 in Massachusetts, and
John continued to travel for his work.
After 20 years of marriage, they decided to relocate to Liberty Hall
(who knows why??) and lived here for just over a decade, until John’s
unfortunate death in 1976 from a heart attack. Elisabeth was definitely a lover of history,
as after she sells the plantation she relocated to James City Virginia, where
she lived out her widowhood supporting many historical preservation efforts in
the area, passing away in 2013.
Gerald & Grace Sullivan – 1976 to October 20, 1992
Marsyl S. Hammond, a former
Newport RI debutant and member of the east coast society, took on the
plantation in 1992 with a much greater focus on raising horses over cattle. Marsyl lived the
majority of her life in the Northern VA area, carrying on the Stokes family
interests in leisure sports and enjoying the interest of vast family
fortunes. After the passing of her
second husband, Ogden Hammond, Marsyl takes on the
plantation herself and goes to work building and improving the land to raise
and train thoroughbred horses. Marsyl’s horses are frequent winners at Pimco. Marysl built the
long red metal barn with indoor arena and the majority of the paddocks
surrounding the two stables. In 2001,
shortly before her death, Marsyl Hammond gifted an
easement for Liberty Hall Plantation to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation;
thereby preserving the current plantation’s boundaries, land and residential
use from non-agricultural development or fundamental change.
Clifford & Beth Kearns purchase the plantation in 2003
from the Hammond estate and made many improvements. The Kearns reinforced the 2 story Red Barn
(added by the Ratrie’s), with tack and wash rooms and
finished apartments in the loft of the barn.
They added the large shop & equipment buildings (red metal building
next to indoor arena) and added a commercial walk-in freezer for the Farm to
Table beef business. The Kearns brought
back the formal operation of the plantation, managing the cattle and equine
business directly (though stable managers), added the sign at the front gate
and participated in the Culpeper Farm Tours.
Daniel & Sarah Coleman became owners of Liberty Hall in
May 2018, relocating from Pie Town NM and Phoenix AZ. Like all of the previous owners, their story
is an interesting one. Having met and
married in Phoenix, both Dan and Sarah considered New Mexico their “home” though
neither was actually born there. This
fluid sense of citizenship is not unusual for Phoenix – similar to Los Angeles,
where no one is actually from. Sarah’s
parents met as teenagers in Clovis NM (NE part of state,) but traveled the
country for her father’s Airforce career.
Adopting the common BRAT ideal that “home is where Christmas is” New
Mexico is where Sarah called home. Dan
was born and raised in Pittsburgh (of course we are Steelers fans!) but
relocated to Rodeo NM (far SW corner) with his mom (Jane Candia Coleman) when
he was just a teenager. Here is where
Dan learned the western lifestyle and cattle ranching from his step-father,
Glenn Boyer. Dan bought his first ranch
(separate from her parent’s place) in about 1999 and continued to trade and
grow his land/herd over the years.
By 2017 the Coleman’s had amassed 3 children, 12 horses, a
computer consulting business, a non-profit corporation and 2 polo clubs in
Phoenix (where the kids went to school) AND a 1,300 acre cattle ranch with
another polo club in Pie Town NM – it was just TOO much! So the whole family hopped in a plane in
search of a single place that could provide; Polo (their family’s
passion), horses, cattle, great schools and cultural opportunities. Sarah, who is an amateur historian, planned
the road trip to include many stops along her family’s ancestral path. They started in Maryland (where the first of
their ancestors arrived in 1633) and drove through 7 states over a 3-week road
trip looking at potential homes along the way.
One of the first was Liberty Hall in Brandy Station – which obviously
caused a great impression on the family!
After putting in their offer for Liberty Hall, Sarah began
researching the property and the Green family only to find that Robert Green
(1710) was her 9th Great Grandfather! (They descend from Robert’s grandsons
(through John) that relocated to Kentucky following the Revolutionary War and
married into the Sarah’s maternal ancestors within the Haynes/Bell family.) While this is certainly cool in the “fun
facts” department, it’s not really that surprising when you consider how
quickly human generations pile up and intertwine when in a close space.
The Coleman’s moved into Liberty Hall in May 2018 and even brought
along their NM ranch foreman Kenny Bruton (crazily enough, he’s a descendent of
the Williamsburg Bruton’s!) Kenny focuses on
maintaining the cattle business and continues to return to NM where he is a
professional hunt guide for Elk and Mountain Loin. The Coleman’s are very proud to continuing
building upon the dreams of their ancestors and to pass on the traditions and
values of New Mexico and the “Old West” style.
They are hopeful that Liberty Hall will continue to be enjoyed by their
descendants and the Virginia community for centuries to come.