Slate Hill Gallery

Slate Hill Plantation House
The Slate Hill Plantation house built by Nathaniel Venable in 1756. The small building on the left is Venable’s office where the meeting to form Hampden-Sydney College was held in early February 1775. The office was moved to the College campus in 1944 and the house was dismantled and removed in 1971. This photograph was taken circa 1890.

Slate Hill, eastern end
Photograph of the eastern end of the Slate Hill house taken in the 1950s, by which time the home was abandoned. The house built by Nathaniel Venable in 1756 is to the left. The age of the structure to the right is unknown, but it was attached to the rear of the Slate Hill house by 1803. (Photography courtesy of Mrs. Dolly Worthy.)

The Birthplace move
Moving the “Birthplace” to Hampden-Sydney College in 1944. The Slate Hill Plantation house is located in the grove of trees to the right rear.


Slate Hill Plantation tract
The 252-acres of Slate Hill Plantation purchased by Hampden-Sydney College (outlined in red) shown on John Wood’s 1820 map of Prince Edward County. At the time, Slate Hill was owned by Richard N. Venable, son of Nathaniel Venable. Richard Venable attended Hampden-Sydney before going to Princeton where he graduated in 1782. Richard N. Venable was a great supporter of Hampden-Sydney College; he served on the Board of Trustees for more than forty years and he, along with his father and brothers, provided considerable financial support to the College during its early years. This map also shows the residence of Samuel Woodson Venable just to the east of Richard Venable’s home. Samuel, another of Nathaniel Venable’s sons, also attended Hampden-Sydney before moving on to Princeton where he graduated at the top of his class in 1780. Samuel Venable was lieutenant in the company of Hampden-Sydney College students that served for a brief period during the Revolutionary War. “Court House,” is the present-day community of Worsham, then the county seat for Prince Edward County. Note the presence of three “taverns” in the vicinity of the College.

Slate Hill boundaries
Reconstructed boundaries of Slate Hill Plantation from the time of the 1739 Royal grant to Joseph Morton to the 2005 purchase by Hampden-Sydney College. These boundaries have been reconstructed from descriptions provided in original deeds, most found in the records of the Prince Edward Courthouse.

Plantation layout
Archaeological footprint of the Slate Hill main house and attached structures. The only features existing today are the well, the Venable Cemetery and foundations associated with the house.

Slate Hill fire insurance policy

Several early nineteenth century fire insurance policies for Slate Hill provide information on plantation buildings.  This policy was issued to Nathanial Venable by the Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia on April 19, 1803, for three buildings at Slate Hill Plantation.  A sketch map at the bottom of the policy shows the three buildings.  From left to right these are 1) the main dwelling house built in 1756 by Nathaniel Venable, 2) a two-story building attached to the rear of the main house, and 3) the detached kitchen located about 20 feet from the two dwelling houses.  These buildings were insured for a total of $1750.  This document contains the signatures of Nathanial Venable and his son, Abraham Bedford Venable, who attended Hampden-Sydney College and graduated from Princeton College in 1780.  Abraham B. Venable was a Trustee of Hampden-Sydney College and he served as a United States Congressman (1791-1799) and Senator (1803-1804) from Virginia before his death in the Richmond theater fire in 1811.  (Courtesy of the Library of Virginia).

Estate inventory
A page from the inventory and appraisement of the estate of Nathaniel Venable, Senior, made in March 1806. This inventory lists the property owned by Nathaniel Venable at the time of his death in December 1804 and was made by three local citizens, James Allen, Sr., John Hudson, and Joseph Watson. This page lists items such as Windsor chairs; wine glasses, butter pots, pewter spoons, china dishes, cups and saucers, candle sticks and silver tea spoons. Some of these, or similar objects owned by Nathaniel Venable, have been found in the archaeological excavations at Slate Hill. (Prince Edward County Courthouse, Will Book 3, p. 477-480).

Slate Hill May Term 2006 students
May Term 2006 students recording an excavation unit. Note the Venable family cemetery to the rear.

May Term 2007 students
May Term 2007 students making a topographic map of the Slate Hill Plantation site.

Slate Hill kitchen wall
The southwestern corner of the kitchen foundation exposed during May Terms 2008 and 2009. The foundation measures 40 feet long and 16 feet wide, matching exactly the dimensions of the kitchen given in early nineteenth century fire insurance policies.

May Term 2009 students
May Term 2009 students digging and recording “shovel tests” at Slate Hill Plantation.

Slate Hill May Term 2009 students
May Term 2009 students excavating in the circa 1790s trash pit. Left to right: Elizabeth Baker (Sweet Briar College), John Montgomery '10, and Andrew Dillard '10

May Term 2009 students
May Term 2009 students screening soil excavated from the area of the kitchen foundation. Left to right: Matthew Conrad '09 and Wills Miller '09.

Washing artifacts
Washing artifacts recovered from a circa 1790 trash deposit at Slate Hill Plantation. Note the animal bone, oyster shell, ceramics and nails on the screen in the background.

Slate Hill pottery fragmentsSlate Hill pottery fragments
Examples of creamware plate rims found in the trash deposit. These ceramics date to about 1790 and correspond to the “Queens China Dishes” listed in the inventory of Nathaniel Venable’s property made in 1806. The styles of rim decoration shown here are known as Royal Pattern, Shell Edge, Feather Edge and Leaf Swag. All but the last correspond to styles manufactured by the Leeds Pottery in England in 1783.

Slate Hill excavation fragments
Excavation fragments from the buried trash deposit.