Union Hill, circa 1981. Photo Courtesy Briscoe Guy.

Home Site – Nelson County, Virginia

In 1763, Dr. William Cabell deeded him title of 1785 acres of land from above Midway Station to the mouth of the Tye River. William Cabell, Sr. added 460 acres on both sides of Findlay Creek and extending to the highlands establishing the basis for the Union Hill estate. He continued to add to the estate which eventually encompassed 25,000 acres, extending six miles along the James River east of the Tye River and back 10 miles in a northwest direction beyond Shipman.

Col. William Cabell, Sr. began building Union Hill in 1775 on the site where an old Tuscarora Indian town once stood. Because the Union was so important to the patriots during the Revolution, the house was named Union Hill, for the union of colonies to form a new country. The house was completed in 1778.  The house he was living in while building Union Hill was moved in 1783 and became known as Colleton. 

The property is between Wingina and Norwood on the James River in Nelson County, Virginia. It is 1 ½ miles southwest of Wingina on Rt. 647,  0.2 miles north of 647 and 1.4 miles east of 626.


The late Georgian house was 40 ft. x 60 ft. It was symmetrical double pile, center passage type house. The house was two-story wood with clapboard siding and had a basement, attic and cellars. The roof was shingled.  There were four chimneys laid in Flemish bond so each of the eight rooms had its own fireplace with carved mantles of which no two were alike.

Union Hill was built primarily with materials harvested and engineered locally by the enslaved laborers. Beams & boards were cut from heart of oak, pine, poplar, and walnut from the property.  Bricks were fired in a local kiln. Nails & spikes were forged by hand in the blacksmith shop.  Hardware, locks & glass were probably brought from Williamsburg.

On the first floor, there was the drawing room, main salon, dining room and library. On the second floor, there was four identical bedrooms. The rooms incorporated Georgian features such as wainscoting, hipped roof and sash windows. Outside, the ramped shoulders of the exterior end chimneys were Georgian but Federal style was found in the more delicate decorations on the porch, columns and molding.

Outbuildings included a spinning & weaving house, sewing room, laundry, storeroom for fruits & vegetables, picking house, dyeing house, smokehouse, kitchen, coach house, ice house, barns and stables, cow houses, chicken house, overseer’s house, dwellings for enslaved persons and craftsmen, cobblers shop, blacksmith shop, coopers shop, wheelwrights’ shop, masons shop, tannery, distillery, gristmill, corn house, tobacco house, and dairy.  It was a self-contained village.

Timeline of Union Hill Ownership

  • 1778 – 1798: William Cabell Sr. and wife Margaret Jordan.
    • 1798 – 1801: Elizabeth Cabell, daughter of William Cabell Sr. and her husband and cousin, William H. Cabell lived at the home before moving to Midway.
  • 1801 – 1822: Col. William Cabell, Jr. and his wife Anne Carrington.
  • 1822 – 1869: Mayo Cabell (1800-1869) was the last to farm on the property.
  • 1869 – 1873: Caroline Anthony Cabell (wife of Mayo Cabell)
  • 1873 – 1906: Alexander Brown, author of The Cabells and Their Kin and himself, a great grandson of Col. William Cabell, Jr. Alexander Brown married twice, each time to daughters of Mayo Cabell.
  • 1906 – 1915: Lucy Gilmer Cabell, unmarried daughter of Mayo Cabell.
  • 1939 – 1946: Lucy Gilmer Cabell died in 1919, leaving Union Hill to her brother, Edward Marshall Cabell (youngest of Mayo’s 16 children).
  • 1946 – 1969: Edward Marshall’s children, Randolph McGuire Cabell and Elizabeth Cabell Dugdale inherited the home, but did not live in it. They sold the property in 1969 to Bass Construction Company of Richmond. The Cabell Family Society retained ownership of the Union Hill graveyard.
  • 1980: Mr. and Mrs. Royal E. Cabell, Jr. purchased the house structure, moved it and rebuilt it in Goochland County.
  • 1991: New owners of the land built a modern house on the property.

Union Hill Cemetery

The Union Hill Graveyard is located at the Union Hill homesite on the top of the property.

Union Hill Graveyard circa 2003

Information on those buried at the Union Hill Cemetery can be found here.

Enslaved Persons

Enslaved persons performed the manual labor at Union Hill through April 1865. There were 100 enslaved persons in 1780 at Union Hill. Known family surnames include Bolling, Bowling, Fleming, Hatcher, Rose, Trotter and Woodson.

A large graveyard of enslaved persons can be found at the edge of the woods behind the home with an estimate of over 150 graves. A few markers are still visible.

Aerial view of Union Hill site with slave graveyard shown at the rear of the property.

Additional Photos

Union Hill, circa 1890. Robert A. Lancaster
Union Hill 1947, Photo courtesy of Briscoe Guy.