This article is coming out a bit later than I’d originally planned, but the last couple weeks have been busy. However, even being late, I still want to tell you about a wonderful home and one of our county’s oldest historical treasures.
Due to the location of our county, situated along two of the largest rivers in the Eastern United States, and the fact that many local homes were heated using fireplaces or wood stoves up until recently, there aren’t many homes around here that date to before the Civil War. Combine floods and accidental fires with arson and demolition, and there’s even fewer. That being said, the mere presence of Roseberry is a treasure. The condition of the home, near perfect thanks to Trenton and Sarah Stover and their restoration expert, Jeff Staats, places Roseberry in a category rarely seen in this area.
In 1815, Point Pleasant was still the middle of nowhere. Other than Gallipolis, the closest major settlements were at Guyandotte, Charleston, and Marietta. There were small settlements scattered along the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers, but very few large enough to warrant any kind of defenses. In Point Pleasant, the town consisted of little more than a stockade, a few wood homes, and a mill. However, it was during this very same time that Thomas Lewis, Jr., the grandson of Andrew Lewis, built his plantation just north of town. Today, the town has overtaken Roseberry, but it is still fairly secluded.
For the middle of nowhere in 1815, it’s an enormous and rather expensive home. Roseberry isn’t anything close to a frontier cabin. Standing two and a half stories tall, the house perfectly embodies the Federal style of architecture. It was built using elaborate Flemish brickwork, it’s perfectly symmetrical, the fanlight over the door is typical of the period, and you don’t even want to try to count all of the window panes. Inside, the home follows the typical central-hall, double-pile floor plan, and the craftsmanship is absolutely breathtaking. Aside from the obvious wood trim and horse-hair plaster, there’s so many places where you can see the work of masters. From the literal trees used as floor joists to the detail in the window frames, it’s clear that Roseberry wasn’t built during a frontier house-raising party. It’s very likely that Thomas brought an architect and craftsmen from his native Shenandoah Valley to design and detail the home, using Lewis family slaves as manual labor.
For the next forty years, Thomas Lewis ran his plantation from his home. During his time in Mason County, he likely met Anne Bailey, Dr. Jesse Bennett, General McCausland, and so many others of historical fame. He witnessed the Civil War, and as a matter of fact, the “Pomeroy Weekly Telegraph” records Thomas Lewis as voting in favor of Virginia’s secession from the United States. Meanwhile, the other Lewis clan, those descended from Colonel Charles Lewis, ran neighboring plantations at Beechwood and Violet Lawn. Today, Beechwood is known as Old Town, and Violet Lawn, as I understand it, was lost to fire.
After Thomas’ death, the plantation was sold to James Capehart, a local banker and eventual congressman from our district. He didn’t live there long, selling it to Richard Spence in 1873. In 1880, the property was sold again, this time to William Owens Roseberry, a local shipping merchant. It was under his ownership that the home became known as “Roseberry,” and
the inside of the home was renovated to reflect Victorian attitudes and tastes. Finally, in 1977, the home was sold to the current owners.
The home certainly has a rich history, but the land upon which it sits has one even older. The area is the site of the Shawnee’s river crossing just prior to the Battle of Point Pleasant, one of George Washington’s camps during his surveying trip of 1770, a Shawnee town before that, and a Fort Ancient village and burial mound almost a thousand years ago.
The property is certainly a historical treasure, and I’m very happy that the Stovers are maintaining that history. I’ve toured the house throughout its restoration, and the progress is just amazing. My most recent visit, two weeks ago, was with a descendant of William Lewis, Thomas’ brother, and a representative of the local D.A.R. It’s absolutely worth a visit if you hear about a tour.
The next meeting of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society will be at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 11 at the Mason County Library in Point Pleasant. We will be planning the summer’s cemetery projects.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society.