Halifax County is rich in historic homes. In accordance with the Society Mission Statement to preserve historical information for dissemination to the public, the Society may assist homeowners through the arduous process of documenting and helping to obtain the national recognition deserved of these homes.
Currently there are thirty-six county properties that have been listed on either or both the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places as well as five groups of homes and public buildings designated as “Historic Districts” in Virginia.
For additional information on the houses, please see An Architectural History of Halifax County, Virginia, published by the Halifax County Historical Society.
One of the designated properties will be featured periodically and will include detailed descriptions and photographs of the exterior and interior, if available.
Collins Ferry Farm
McKEeVER Trail, Nathalie area
The stately Collins Ferry farm house stands along the Staunton River in the northern part of Halifax County. It is acclaimed for its large rooms, handsomely carved mantels and hallways so spacious they were used for dances. It is also known for the many tragedies that occurred in the vicinity.
James Collins was the first in the family to own the Collins Ferry property. He received a patent in 1761, and subsequently constructed a mill on the banks of the Staunton River. Unfortunately, the location Collins choose for his mill was located at a point in the river where treacherous currents eddied around several small islands. In addition, the road approaching the mill—the only available route for those in the area needing to cross the river to take their tobacco to Lynchburg—inclined in a downward direction making it hard for wagon drivers to slow down or stop due to the heavy loads they were transporting. Problems at the crossing would soon begin.
In 1881 Josh Ridgeway and his family moved into the Collins Ferry farm house to run the mill and operate the ferry. Nelson Black, an employee of Ridgeway, was heading down the hill toward the ferry when his wagon overturned, causing the logs he was hauling to move forward, crushing him to death. Not long after this, a visitor to the mill fell from the top floor of the mill and suffered a broken leg.
Trouble continued to plague Ridgeway during his ownership of Collins Ferry. From the time he moved to Collins Ferry, he had been in a constant dispute over a road with Les Thacker, a resident of the area. The dispute escalated over the four years Ridgeway operated the mill and one day, when the two men met in a store in Stovall, Thacker pulled a gun and shot and killed Ridgeway. Mrs. Ridgeway and her children stayed in the house and continued to manage the mill, but it was only a month after her husband’s death that tragedy struck again. This well-known catastrophe involved Charlie Beale and Tom Abbott who along with Paul Adams, the ferryman, drowned in the Staunton River. The three-team wagon they were driving, laden with tobacco, capsized as the river’s current caught them and crashed them against a massive rock. Mrs. Ridgway stayed one more year before moving away and relinquishing the mill and house to Jim Mullins. But, bad things did not stop here.
Mullins and his family moved into the grand brick house and he began the task of managing the mill. But once again, tragedy marred Collins Ferry farm. Somehow a loaded pistol was left in the reach of Mullins’s two small sons and before they could be discovered, the children decided to experiment with the gun and one of them was shot and quickly died. A short time later Mullins was hunting near his home and accidentally shot himself in the arm. While his wound would not be fatal today, Mullins died as a result of not receiving the proper medical attention.
Eventually E. R. Monroe acquired the Collins Ferry property and made the wise decision to relocate the ferry east of Melrose where the river was much smoother and crossing less difficult. The old mill at Collins Ferry was demolished and the materials were used for tenant houses. The imposing and dignified brick house still stands, one of the most impressive in the county.
Note: Today this property is part of the Collins Ferry Plantation, LLC, located in the Collins Ferry Historic District. The properties in the Collins Ferry Historic District are listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and in the National Register of Historic Places.