Sherwood Plantation

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[top] History

Thomas Purife (Purifoy) was the original holder of the land that would become the Sherwood plantation. Local lore holds Purife's daughter Frances divided her father's land and named this particular track "Sherwood." John Kirby assumed ownership of the Sherwood tract possibly by 1755; ownership records preceding this time are unavailable.

George Booker acquired the tract in 1771. Although there is no documentation that he was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, he did make a public claim to recover expenses for thirty pounds of bacon, 252 pounds of beef, and two days cart and team for Colonial Southalls troop. Booker was a member of the House of Delegates from 1782-1804. He also served High Sheriff in 1793 and a County Court Justice in 1805 in Elizabeth City County. In 1782, he had twenty-seven slaves, four horses and mules, and eighty-one cattle.

George married the daughter of Augustine (~1736-1795) and Ann Moore, whose name may have been Mary. He married a second time to Ann. George Booker's son, Richard, a soldier in the War of 1812, inherited the property in 1813, and in 1826 Richard's son George inherited the property. George served in the House of Delegates from 1828-1830. In 1833 he married Ann Massenburg, who bore eleven children. When the Civil War began George served in the Confederate Army despite being initially opposed to secession. His health forced him to resign his commission, and when the Union Army moved onto the Peninsula, George and his family fled to Petersburg where they remained until war's end. The family lost $80,000 in silver when the Union Army took possession of a boat owned by Booker, and their farm had been decimated by squatters while the family was in Petersburg. George's health was failing after the war, and he died in 1868. His estate was divided between his wife and children. His wife inherited the main house on the Sherwood Plantation, the outbuildings, and 172.5 acres of the farm. His son Richard inherited 39.93 acres including the home and buildings on Canebrake, but he sold the farm after two years and became an oysterman and brickmaker in Hampton. George's daughter Mollie remained on the Sherwood plantation with her husband Franz Wilhelm von Schilling. The couple tried to farm the land, but the family's livestock had been depleted and the land had been neglected for four years. Beginning to farm was an expensive proposition, and with the family's lost fortune during the war, making the land profitable, at least for Mollie and Franz, proved to be impossible. The couple moved to Maryland and Washington, D.C. where Franz worked in federal mapping offices.

Franz's brother Louis stayed at Shellbanks Plantation, and with a German family was able to farm sixty acres. Louis needed to farm more land to earn a living and had "white Dinkel" wheat and fruit trees sent from Germany. These crops failed, and in 1872 Louis was evicted from the land and Mollie moved back to the plantation. In 1880 Junius and Lucy Jones bought the property and sold it is 1881 to James S. Darling. Darling's son, Frank, inherited the property and sold it to the federal government when Langley Airfield was established.

About the house: The original plantation house burned in 1800, and George Booker rebuilt a large home which survived into the 1920s. The house served as a barracks when the federal government purchased that property in 1916, then was converted to the Post Guard house in 1917. Inside the home stood a mahogany staircase that was moved into the home of a Booker descendant when the house was razed in the 1920s to provide space for the Officer's Club. A small cemetery remains in the area.


[top] Photos

1800s Portrait of George and Ann Booker (courtesy of the Hampton History Museum)Sherwood 1860s (courtesy of the von Schilling family and Hampton History Museum)1862 Civil War Map1875 Invitation to a "Pic nic" at Sherwood (courtesy of the Hampton History Museum)1880s Plantation Map1888 Semple Map1917 5th Aviation School Squadron at Barracks ( courtesy of Langley AFB, Archaeological Survey of 406 Acres, 2005)1920 (courtesy of Langley AFB, Archaeological Survey of 406 Acres, 2005)Cemetery MarkerSherwood burial ground in front of present Officers' Club


[top] Documents

1888 Semple Map

Langley Field Cemetery Records

1938 WPA Historical Inventory

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