Green’s Folly History
Green’s Folly is Halifax Landmark
History of Old Manse Recalls Other Incidents in County
“Green’s Folly”, one of the oldest and most interesting homes in Halifax County sits serenely today amid historic surroundings and perhaps the stately old pillars in front cogitate on those happenings of yesteryear which passed like a review its much-talked-of “stoop.”
Ninety-two years ago today the Rev. Charles Dresser, long the tenant on the old Howerton farm near by, the rector of old St. John’s Episcopal Church in Halifax, a familiar figure trudging the roadside in front of the Folly, officiated at one of the most famous weddings in American annals.
“I pronounce you man and wife,” concluded the Rev. Mr. Dresser. It was in Springfield, Ill.
The tall, angular, gaunt form of Abraham Lincoln bent to tenderly kiss his bride, Mary Todd, and Halifax, Va., today shines in the reflected glory that the minister who united this famous couple lived and served a pastorate there. A tablet on the South Boston-Halifax Road serves to commemorate the facts.
And again today the old “front stoop” of the Folly may perhaps hear echoes of the famous retort of that old Indian fighter, Custer, when Union troops invaded the farmyard of that same old Howerton farm near by.
It was many, many moons before the Sioux war cry at the Little Big Horn was to signalize the great redman victory over “Long Hair,” as Custer later became known. A courier arrived with word of General Lee’s surrender. He drove into the yard of the Howerton farm where Custer was just making his headquarters.
The Howerton farm today is occupied by Mrs. Elizabeth Howerton Webb and her family, and the story is one of the treasured family anecdotes.
Mrs. Howerton met the Union soldiers in the yard and asked if they would occupy the house. General Custer is quoted as answering that it “was too insignificant.” He put up his tents in the yard instead, using the office for a kitchen and had the cattle he was driving with his troops corraled in the yard.
When that stage of the invasion was reached, Mrs. Howerton requested General Custer to confine the cattle to prevent them from destroying the crops, it being spring. She explained to the general that the crops must be saved “else how would we feed ourselves and the Negroes?”
To Mrs. Howerton’s disgust, General Custer made reply: “Graze, madam, graze.”
This incident resulted in later years in a friendship between Mrs. Howerton and Mrs. Custer. The former joined a needlework exchange in New York and it was there that Mrs. Custer saw and admired the Halifax woman’s handiwork.
And so “Green’s Folly,” built prior to 1771, saw many interesting events. At the time it was built a special court permit was obtained to build it two stories high, making it perhaps the first two-story building in Halifax County. It is now a modern home in appointments, though the front still retains the Colonial appearance.
Berryman Green was born in Westmoreland County, Va. He was captain of a company in the Revolutionary War. When General Washington, with his army, was in Pennsylvania, about the time of the battle of Valley Forge, his men were in great need and suffering for food. He wrote an urgent call to General Fitzhugh Lee to find him an energetic and trustworthy officer for quartermaster, to look after the comfort of his men. General Lee wrote him he had found the right man, Captain Berryman Green but he hesitated about accepting the position, as it would put him out of line for promotion in the army. General Washington was so insistent that Captain Green resigned his position and went to aid him in relieving the suffering and the needy of the army there.
It was there that Captain Green met his first wife, Anne Pritchard. Her parents were from England and loyal to the Crown. General Washington ordered Captain Green to secure rooms for the officers. He found a large, comfortable house, and was preparing the rooms on the lower floor, when he heard some one open a door across the hall. He turned and doffed his hat and bowed to a lovely woman with black hair and eyes. She spurned his salute with a shrug and turned her back on him. But that day their fate was sealed. It proved to be love at first sight and they were soon married. In those days there were no railroads or stage coaches and most of the travel was done on horseback. Captain Green and his wife, both being magnificent riders, they chose their long trip back to Virginia to be on horseback. He owned a beautiful charger which he allowed his wife to ride, while he used a work horse; thus they happily jogged along through the wild country with “saddle bags” to carry their clothing, and were halfway to their Virginia home when the charger took fright and ran away, throwing his wife and breaking her leg above the knee. The accident occurred near a farmhouse, where she was taken in and cared for until she was able to travel, when she was placed in an army wagon on a bed to finish her journey to their Westmoreland home, where they lived for some time. His wife died about ten years after, leaving five children. Very soon all the children but one were married, most of them moving to Halifax. A son, Anthony Wayne Green, named for “Mad Anthony Wayne,” lived in Halifax County, just across the Dan River from South Boston.
When the mother of his children died, they being young and helpless, Captain Green moved to Halifax and attempted to aid in raising the children. His own children were all he could care for and he concluded the best thing for him to do would be to marry again.
Colonel Nathaniel Terry, who fought at the battle of Yorktown and was aide to General Washington, lived in Halifax, and Captain Green knew him intimately during the war, so he visited Colonel Terry to ask his advice. (This Colonel Terry was a member of the House of Burgesses at Yorktown, Va. There is a monument to the members of the House and his name is inscribed thereon.) When he arrived at the home of Colonel Terry, he found three beautiful young ladies, daughters of Colonel Terry. After becoming well acquainted with them, he asked permission to address his daughter. Colonel Terry answered, “There are three of them, captain, take your choice.” He chose Nancy, the eldest, and was accepted. They were married and his second wife proved to be the kindest and most affectionate stepmother to his first children who loved her devotedly.
Captain Green moved with his family to a large fertile farm he owned about two miles from the county seat, then called “Halifax Courthouse,” but there was so courthouse there then. Berryman Green was then deputy clerk, and seeing the need for more room than he then had, and also seeing the need of a room in which to hold court, he built a house, so large, the populace then thought, that they called it “Green’s Folly,” but to Berryman Green it seemed the part of wisdom, and so proved. After passing through a large front porch one entered a very spacious, high-pitched hall. This he intended to be, and was, used as a courtroom until the courthouse was built. On the right hand was a room for the jury, on the left his bedroom, back of this the nursery and back stairs, and back of the large jury room was the dining-room; the main stairway led from the hall to the second floor.
The house is situated in the center of Halifax County, and though it was built for a private home, it was used for some time as the official courthouse. A place called Hawkins was used prior to the building of Green’s Folly. Berryman Green was with General Washington at Valley Forge, and acted as quartermaster-general. In recognition of his services he was given the land on which Nashville, Tenn., now stands. He, with one of his small sons, rode horseback to the Tennessee property to survey it. On his return it is said that he remarked that he wouldn’t give one acre of Virginia soil for all of Tennessee. Berryman Green was a very religious Baptist. He was tried by his church for joining the Masonic lodge. When time came for the trial the deacons failed to appear, but Green forced the trial. He was turned out of the church and immediately after joined with the Episcopal faith.
The courthouse was next located where Millstone Church is now located, near Dudly (Old Neathery). From there it was moved to its present location (Houston) Halifax, Va. John Randolph made one of his famous speeches at “Green’s Folly.”
The heirs of Captain Berryman Green gradually sold the land from the property for the purpose of educating their children, most of them being sent to Chapel Hill the University of North Carolina. Colonel Philip Howerton, described as a splendid type of “old Virginia gentleman”, was the next to acquire the property. He, having four beautiful daughters, it was a mecca for the young people. Mrs. Rufus Owen next bought the place, then the Stockwells (who moved to California) after the property was bought from them by combined South Boston and Halifax interests for use as a country club. The club failed to make a go, due mostly to the condition of the roads, though it was only two miles from Halifax and four miles from South Boston. In 1918, the property was sold at auction by the club interests and was bought by R. S. Barbour Sr. who modernized it in every way and has made a permanent home out of it. He first used it as a summer home only. The general shape of the home on the outside is still very much like it was when built by Berryman Green.