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Since I first moved to West Point, VA, a common topic of discussion has been, “What is the oldest surviving structure in town?” Only history buffs and lovers of old houses will even begin to understand why this remains a contentious issue. In the past, the answer has always been, “Well, there’s really no way to know beyond a doubt because all of the records were burned in the fire of 1885.” The beauty of history is that it is one of discovery–and rediscovery. The burned records give us new insight into historical documentation previously thought lost.
One such property is 303 Main Street, West Point, VA. Previous sources have described this home as circa 1850. In reality, the lots were purchased from the West Point Land Company by James and Maria Gwyn in 1865 for $380. Research continues related to the identities of James and Maria Gwyn. Unlike the later owners, the documents do not list where they live at the time of purchase. Regardless of identity, James and Maria Gwyn owned lots 158 and 157 when the house was constructed (this post will be updated when we have conclusive proof of their identities).
One year later, they sell lots 158 and 157 to Charles Gallagher of Yorktown for $2700. The original deed from the West Point Land Company provides details about the requirements for building on the lots and the total value reveals a house was certainly not there when they made the purchase. The value however had increased significantly by the time they sold to Charles Gallagher one year later.
Other lots without improvements in the same area sold for $100 to $200 at that time. In the King William Land Book however, the comments indicate that Charles Gallagher bought the property from the West Point Land Company. The deed in the burned records shows it was conveyed to him by James and Maria Gwyn.
By 1907, the lots and home are owned by William Lawrence Wheeler. According to census records, he was a ship builder born in 1852. He died June 21, 1913 in West Point and is buried in Sunny Slope Cemetery.
Stay tuned for early property ownership information for surviving buildings as revealed in the Freedmen’s Bureau Records!
This series is designed to highlight answers to a few questions, provide a preview of the extensive hours of research completed, and encourage further dialog. If you are interested in receiving additional information for a particular property, locality, family history, or court case, contact Theresa Sirles with REACH Consulting for a custom quote: (804) 843-3495, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by text at (804) 310-0516.
You may also purchase full reports which include copies of all source documents and detailed footnotes. Follow us on Facebook at REACH Consulting, LLC and view snippets of local history at Three Rivers Reflections. If you build upon what is published with your own follow up research, please mention us in the credits. It’s the Southern thing to do. 😉 Keep calm and do history.
|1865||West Point Land Company to James and Maria Gwyn, Lots 158 and 157||Sale price $380||KW burned records, Book 16, i249|
|1866||James and Maria Gwyn to Charles Gallagher of Yorktown, VA, Lots 158 and 157||Sale price $2700||KW burned records, Book 16, i252|
|1867||Charles Gallagher of Yorktown to William F. Whitbeck of Maryland, Lots 158 and 157||Sale price $2800||KW burned records, Book 16, i462|
|1870-1872||King William Land Book shows William Whitbeck as taxpayer for Lots 158 and 157||KW Land Book|
|1873-1877||King William Land Books show B.G. Wheeler of New York as taxpayer for Lots 158 and 157||KW Land Book|
|1880-1906||King William Land Books show Julia C. Wheeler of New York as taxpayer for Lots 158 and 157||KW Land Book|
|1907||King William Land Book shows taxpayer as William Wheeler||KW Land Book|