Sunday, August 25, 2013

The History Of Nottoway Plantation

      On the western banks of the Mississippi River, southwest of Baton Rouge and northwest of New Orleans, stands a stunning and truly awe-inspiring Greek and Italianate style “White Castle”. This is Nottoway Plantation, the South’s largest antebellum mansion, and the mere fact that she actually is still standing is a tribute to the tenacity, courage and commitment of many people throughout her history. Nottoway has survived the Civil War, a variety of owners, and years of decline and disrepair to become a favorite destination for visitors the world over.

     Completed in 1859, Nottoway’s 53,000 square foot palatial white mansion awes visitors with its 64 rooms and countless extravagant features like 22 massive exterior columns, 12 hand-carved Italian marble fireplaces, exquisitely detailed plaster frieze moldings, soaring 15½-foot ceilings, enormous 11-foot doors and a lavish pure white oval ballroom, as well as unheard of innovative features, like modern bathrooms with running water and a gas plant providing gas lighting throughout the home.

     The construction of Nottoway was commissioned by John Hampden Randolph, a very prestigious sugar planter, to be the ultimate showplace of his wealth; he wanted no expense spared and ordered that it include every extravagance and innovative feature possible. Stately, opulent Nottoway would be home to John, his wife, Emily Jane Randolph, and their 11 children, but also the perfect setting in which to elegantly and dramatically entertain their many visitors.
     John’s wish was to build the finest mansion on the Mississippi River, a spectacular home without equal that would be admired by all who saw it, whether from a riverboat on the Mississippi or a horse-drawn carriage traveling on the Great River Road. However, although he was considered to be an astute businessman and remarkable visionary, it is doubtful that even John Randolph could have foreseen that, more than a century and a half later, his magnificent and beloved Nottoway Plantation would be revered and visited by thousands of people around the world.

Painting of the John H. Randolph family, circa 1841     Born in Nottoway County, Virginia on March 24, 1813 to an affluent Virginia family John Hampden Randolph was the son of Judge Peter Randolph, Jr. and his wife Sarah Ann. When John was six years old, President James Monroe appointed his father was appointed a federal court judgeship in Woodville, Mississippi.  In 1819, Judge Randolph moved the family from Virginia to Mississippi where he purchased Elmwood Plantation, a successful cotton farm.

     At Elmwood, John was raised in the family tradition of planting, growing mostly cotton, and as a young man, the dashing, six-foot tall John met Emily Jane Liddell, a petite five-foot tall blonde from a neighboring plantation. In 1837, 24-year-old John married 18-year-old Emily who brought with her a substantial dowry of $20,000 and 20 slaves.

     In 1841, four years and two children later, John had become a bit bored with what he saw as a rather ordinary cotton plantation and had begun toying with the idea of switching his crop to sugarcane, which he believed would be much more lucrative than cotton. 
     So, with grand visions of becoming a wealthy sugarcane planter, John Randolph moved his growing family to southern Louisiana and began searching for the perfect acreage on which to grow sugarcane. However, John soon realized that he had arrived in Louisiana too late — all of the Mississippi River-front land he so desired for both its agricultural riches and valuable shipping access had already been grabbed up by other eager planters, forcing him to buy a property several miles away from the river.

     John was subsequently forced to find land several miles away from the river, and in 1842 he purchased a 1,650 acre cotton plantation.   Forest Home, as John named it because of the heavily Forest Home Plantationwooded area in which it was located, cost him $30,000, and included a four-room house, and a variety of livestock, farm supplies and 2 slave cabins. The Randolphs’ 17 years there would see eight more children added to their original two, resulting in John adding two wings to the house to accommodate his growing family’s needs. Their eleventh child would be born later at Nottoway, giving them a total of four sons and seven daughters.

     Although John raised successful cotton crops in 1843 and 1844, he was still determined to become an affluent sugar planter, and he began making ambitious plans to build Iberville Parish’s first steam powered sugar mill. In 1844, he took the risky step of putting Forest Home and 46 slaves up as collateral for a loan to fund the construction of a steam engine sugar mill, levee, and drainage system.

Plans and Preparations for the Building of Nottoway

   By the end of his first year as a sugar planter, Randolph had already tripled his profits over his crops of cotton. His steadily-increasing revenue now allowed him to buy land as it became available, especially Mississippi River-front land, and within 10 years of moving to Louisiana, he had increased his holdings to 7,116 acres. In 1855, he acquired the property on which his majestic home would one day stand. The purchase included 400 acres of highland and 620 acres of swamp, as well as 13 more slaves, 400 barrels of corn, 2 horses, 5 oxen, 5 cows and calves, and ploughs. It was a beautiful property that faced the Mississippi River, a major transportation thoroughfare on which a great variety of riverboats, steamboats, and shipping barges travelled regularly.

     John Randolph made it clear from the very beginning that no expense was to be spared in the construction of the opulent structure he planned to build; he wanted a house that would be completely different from anything ever built before, no matter what the cost. After consulting with several New Orleans architects, he chose the highly respected Henry Howard to design his new home, instructing him to build “the finest house on the river”. Randolph named his future home “Nottoway”, after the Virginia county in which he was born, and it is said that he so jealously guarded the design of Nottoway, that as soon as the house was completed, he destroyed the architectural plans to prevent the mansion from ever being duplicated.

     The Nottoway mansion was to be constructed of very durable cypress wood, cut from trees which grew in great abundance in the swamps of Forest Home. However, before the cut cypress logs could be used, they had to be cured underwater for six years, after which they were hauled by the slaves over miles of plantation ground to the construction site. There the slaves finished preparing the timber by cutting the logs into planks and allowing them to dry.


Nottoway Plantation Mansion     Construction of Nottoway began in 1857 and was completed in 1859 at an estimated cost of $80,000. When finished, Nottoway had 64 rooms on 3 floors, 6 interior staircases, 3 modern bathrooms, 22 massive 3-story high columns, 165 doors and 200 windows. Befitting the Greek Revival and Italianate style designed by Henry Howard, the mansion featured soaring 15½-foot ceilings and massive 11-foot tall doors.

     Nottoway’s incredible 53,000 square feet included a grand entrance hall, a formal dining room, a ballroom, a gentlemen’s study and library, music room, front parlor, master bedroom, girls’ bedrooms, Ancestral Hall, sitting rooms, breakfast room, wine room, dairy, laundry, servant rooms, a bowling alley, and the boys’ wing. Its most unique room was and still is the exquisite semi-circular all-white ballroom, with beautiful Corinthian columns and elegant archways adorned by elaborate hand-molded designs. The kitchen was located in a separate building, adjacent to the house, so that in the event of a fire, the home would not be destroyed. Since the bottom floor was susceptible to flooding from the Mississippi River, it was not as detailed as the rest of the home; however, it did include a bowling alley for the Randolph children as well as a wine room.

Elaborate frieze plaster designs in Nottoway's White Ballroom     Among the most beautiful aspects of the Randolphs’ castle was the extraordinary plaster frieze work throughout the house. The frieze plaster, of which enormous quantities were used, was made using a combination of mud, clay, horsehair and Spanish moss. 4,200 yards of it were used for plastering the walls, with more than 1,500 feet required for the elaborate cornice designs, and 140 feet more for the scroll ornaments in the parlors. The ornamental frieze work was done by Jeremiah Supple, a young, talented Irishman, who lined the seams of the ceilings with meticulously hand-carved moldings, creating a different design for each room. He also made all eight of Nottoway’s ornate ceiling medallions.
     Besides the massive home, Nottoway Plantation included some 1,900 acres of prime farmland, 5,636 acres of swamp, a variety of other buildings including slave quarters, a schoolhouse, greenhouse, stable, steam-powered sugar house, copper-lined wooden water cisterns, and other necessary buildings essential to an agricultural operation.

A Few of the Mansion's Extravagant Features:
  • 12 hand-carved, imported Italian marble coal fireplaces. Most plantations at the time, unable to afford authentic European marble, had surfaces painted “faux marble”, hoping they would look genuine. Also, coal-burning fireplaces were a very forward-thinking feature that saved on both room space and firewood.
  • 3 modern bathrooms (one on each floor), with flushing toilets, and hot and cold running water, all unheard of at that time.
  • Gas lighting throughout the home, produced by an on-property gas plant, again, very unique at the time.
  • Closets instead of traditional chiffarobes (similar to a large armoire). Homes at that time were not built with closets because they were taxed as additional rooms.
  • Exquisite, detailed plaster frieze work moldings throughout the home
  • 165 doors and 200 windows - one opening for each day of the year!
  • 15½-foot ceilings, 11-foot doors and 6 interior staircases.
  • Brass and baccarat crystal chandeliers.
  • Hand-painted German Dresden porcelain doorknobs and matching keyhole covers.
  • A bowling alley on the ground floor for the children.
  • Honduran mahogany banisters lining stairways carpeted with green velvet.
  • Cast-iron ornamental railings, custom-made in New Orleans.
  • An enormous matching set of curved granite front steps.
  • A concrete ground floor with 14-inch thick brick walls.
Curved granite steps of Nottoway Plantation's mansion
Innovative Features

     While many planters balked at progressive ideas or new agricultural machinery, John Randolph not only enthusiastically embraced the use of leading-edge technology in his business, he also brought his passion for it into his home.

     Among the innovative features that Randolph incorporated at Nottoway were modern bathrooms, indoor hot and cold running water, gas lighting, and an advanced servant call-bell system.  Nottoway was the first home in Louisiana to have a bathroom on more than the main floor; in fact, there were three bathrooms, one on each floor, and all had flushing toilets and running water, a rarity at the time. 
     Gas lighting was also very uncommon in 1859, especially in rural locations, so Randolph had a small gas plant built on the grounds to produce the gas used for the lighting throughout the mansion. 
     And while servant call bells weren't new when Nottoway was built, the system installed by John Randolph was innovative in its complexity and expansiveness.

A Sampling of Nottoway's Rooms

     Atop Nottoway’s curved granite front steps and across its expansive rocking-chair appointed porch, the mansion’s grand front door opened into a spacious main hall. A stroll down this elegant hall revealed all of the lavish rooms used for entertaining; however, when initially stepping through the front door, a visitor would already have been struck by the glittering crystal chandeliers suspended from soaring ceilings, the towering, massive white doors, and the exquisitely detailed frieze molding flowing throughout every space.
The White BallroomNottoway White Ballroom
It was seeing the proposed White Ballroom in Henry Howard’s mansion design that convinced Randolph that he had found the perfect architect for Nottoway. As the father of seven daughters, Randolph was reported to have instructed Howard that he wanted the room to be pure white in order to highlight the beauty of his ladies. Nottoway’s most stunning and famous room, this radiant all-white ballroom was the site of countless Randolph events, including their daughters’ debuts to society, five of their weddings, and countless parties and events. The room features exquisitely detailed frieze work, stately Corinthian columns, elaborately embellished archways, two fireplaces of imported Italian marble, and chandeliers of baccarat crystal. The oval part of the room was made of exactingly curved cypress wood that took six years and excruciating patience to soak and bend slowly into the precise shape. This rounded end of the ballroom is the second level of Nottoway’s dramatic rotunda.
Dining RoomPlantation Formal Dining Room
The formal dining room was a reflection of the elegance and graciousness of Emily Randolph. Sparkling with stunning crystal chandeliers and brightened by the light of elegantly draped windows that reached almost to the 15½-foot ceiling, the warmth and laughter emanating from the room’s frequent dinners and parties often spread a lively energy throughout the house. Mrs. Randolph had added her own personal touch to the frieze molding, where hand-painted camellias, her favorite flower, oversaw every festivity. The ornate marble fireplace burned coal, rather than wood, which was very unusual for the time; it even had a hole in the back where the spent ashes were swept, dispersing them down a chute and out of the house. Adjoining the dining room was a Butler’s Pantry, a small room used both as a food holding area for servers and for storage of the china.
Gentlemen's StudyPlantation Gentlemen's Study
As John Randolph’s private domain, this was the room to which he and his gentlemen guests retired after dinners and events. Here, free from the social proprieties required in the presence of ladies, the men would drink fine liquor, smoke Cuban cigars, and discourse on the issues of the day. The windows were dressed with heavy silk damask drapes which “puddled” their excessive length onto the floor in a show of great wealth. Large bookcases held leather-bound collections from Shakespeare to Audubon and traditional classics, as well as copies of the leading newspapers of the day. The fireplace’s black, imported Italian marble, which had been shipped from Europe to the Port of New Orleans and then sent by steamboat up the river to Nottoway, had been carefully hand-carved in exquisite detail.
Master BedroomPlantation Master Bedroom
When John and Emily Randolph retired to their private quarters, they entered a sanctuary richly appointed with intricately hand-carved rosewood furniture, sumptuous draperies and bedding made from the finest imported fabrics, and a black Italian marble fireplace. An ornate canopy hovered high above the poster bed holding mosquito netting to protect the sleeping couple, while at the bed’s end, two brightly burnished rosewood posts quietly concealed their hollow interiors, in which Emily would one day hide her valuables from Civil War intruders. Opening off of this main room were a private dressing room, used initially as a nursery for Julia Marceline, a hunting closet to hold John’s rifles, and a modern bathroom. The bathroom’s flushing toilet, as well as its hot and cold running water, were astonishingly innovative for the times, as was the mere existence of such a room on an upper floor.

Antebellum Planatation Bedroom
Cornelia's Bedroom
As with all of the mansion’s numerous bedrooms, the domain of the Randolph’s seventh child was unique and luxurious. The soaring canopy bed, made in New Orleans around 1840, was draped in rich imported fabric which had been carefully coordinated with the expensive carpet, curtains and furniture. Mosquito netting, another sign of prosperity, hung nightly from the canopy, while the bed’s extra height from the floor allowed storage space for a small bed underneath. When a child was young, this would have been pulled out at night for use by a servant, but as she grew older, it would have provided accommodations for her friends to stay overnight.

Ancestral Hall
Nottoway Ancestral HallCovered in emerald green velvet, the steps of the grand mahogany staircase led upstairs to the bedrooms and the Ancestral Hall. Located on the third floor, the Hall was where the family would gather to relax together. It was appointed throughout with Louis XIV furniture glowing in rich, red damask, while on the walls, the Randolphs’ ancestors stood silent watch from their elegantly framed portraits. At the east end of the Hall was an immense floor-to-ceiling window that was often used as a door to access the balcony. From here, the family was able to enjoy a spectacular view of the Mississippi River and its bustling activity, as well as the many acres of lush grounds in front of the mansion. Every doorway in the Hall opened into a different luxurious bedroom, each one unique with its own distinguishing color or exclusive wood texture.
Bowling Alley
Since the bottom floor of Randolph’s grand castle was susceptible to flooding from the Mississippi River, it was not as detailed as the rest of the home. However, being made of cement with 14-inch brick walls, it still held several features used for the running, and even amusement, of the household. A wine room, dairy and some house servants’ rooms were found there. And, amazingly, so was a ten-pin bowling alley, added for the Music Room at Nottoway Plantationentertainment of the children. It was so popular that the younger Randolphs, having to reluctantly retire from their family competitions earlier than their older siblings, often fell asleep to the rumbling of balls far below them. Today the bottom floor is the site of the restaurant, lounge and museum.
Music Room
Although this room was originally a bedroom, today it is used to display an assortment of valuable musical instruments from the period, which were put to frequent use for both entertainment and children’s music lessons.


Slaves cutting sugar cane in the field     In 1860, John Randolph owned 155 slaves and 42 slave houses which made Nottoway one of the largest plantations in the South, at a time when most owners possessed fewer than 20 slaves. Made up of both field hands and house servants, the Nottoway slave community played a very significant role in running the plantation and house.

     The field hands, by far the largest group of slaves, were mainly responsible for growing and harvesting the plantation crops, primarily sugar. On average, field slaves worked 5½ days a week, with Saturday afternoon and Sunday free to tend to their own needs. A bell, still present in the Nottoway courtyard, was rung by the overseer to announce the time for rising, meals and retiring.

     The life of a field hand, whether male or female, was very physically demanding, especially during harvest time. By the 1850s, plantation owners expected each slave’s labor to yield about 270 (dry) gallons of sugar in a season. When not tending a crop, the field slaves were busy clearing new land, digging ditches, cutting and hauling wood, slaughtering livestock and making repairs to buildings and tools. The women workers, on top of their daily field work, were also responsible for their own families — in addition to caring for their children and cooking the daily meals, there was also spinning, weaving, and sewing to be done. With the exception of young children and the elderly, everyone worked.

     While Nottoway’s house slaves lived in the servant’s section of the house, the field slaves lived in The Quarters, a collection of cabins that stood in even rows among shade trees behind the main house. Although no original Nottoway cabins survive, it is thought that they probably each contained two rooms and a fireplace, with a vegetable plot in the back. The whitewashed houses Freed Slaves who chose to stay and work at Nottoway Plantationstood a few feet off the ground supported by pillars of bricks or logs.

     The slave quarters also included a bathhouse, a hospital, and a meeting house, a relatively large and important building used for a variety of functions. During the week, it was a nursery where the oldest women watched the youngest children while everyone else worked in the fields, and on Sundays, it was used for church, as well as for weddings and other special occasions.

     Considering his slaves to be valuable tools in the operation of his business, Randolph provided the necessary care to keep them in good health. He understood the importance of hygiene in controlling the spread of illnesses and disease, so he provided a bathhouse where slaves could bathe daily if they wished. He also had a slave hospital; he paid a local physician to make weekly visits and trained one of the slaves as a nurse to care for his slaves.

     Ever the astute businessman, Randolph knew that in order to maintain a willing workforce, it was necessary to provide not only for his slaves’ basic needs for housing, food and medicine, but to also offer additional compensation and rewards when their work was especially productive. Every New Year’s Day, John Randolph would give the field slaves a hog to cook and the Randolph family would eat with them in The Quarters. There would be music and dancing, and the Randolphs would give the slaves gifts of clothing, small toys and fruit, as well as a sum of money for each family. In addition, the workers received an annual bonus based on their production.

     It is difficult to accurately assess the treatment of Randolph’s slaves; however, various records indicate that they were probably well treated for the time.

     After the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, most of Randolph’s slaves chose to stay and continue to work at Nottoway, but finally, as properly compensated free men and women. Many descendants of those freed slaves have worked at Nottoway throughout the years.
     Just as the family became truly established at Nottoway, rumors began of war among the states. Randolph was opposed to secession from the Union, frankly because he did not think the agricultural South could win a war against the industrialized North. But once the war began, he donated money to the Southern cause and saw three of his sons go off to war with the Confederates.

     Like some of the other Louisiana planters at the time, John decided to move both himself and his workforce to Texas, where the shipping would be much easier, for the duration of the war; however the change in location would also necessitate him switching his crop to cotton.  For the duration of the war, Randolph raised cotton in Texas to obtain the revenue that would allow him to hold on to his property in Louisiana.

     Before John Randolph left Louisiana for Texas, he and Emily decided together that if Nottoway were to be left completely abandoned during the war, it was certain to be occupied or burned to the ground by Union troops. So they made the very difficult decision to have her remain behind at Nottoway with only her youngest children, including her baby Julia Marceline, and a few trusted house servants. The elder girls were sent away to safety at an uncle’s plantation in another part of Louisiana, and Emily endured the war with very little communication from her husband or other family.

     Although Emily hoped that their presence would save Nottoway from destruction, it was still an extremely disquieting time for both family and servants alike, all of them keenly aware of the constant threat of attack by both enemy forces and thieves. And yet, the indomitable Emily Randolph never faltered in doing whatever she possibly could to ward off destruction and tragedy. One day, as a large Northern gunboat appeared on the river, she went out onto the second floor front balcony to make her presence known — one tiny, but courageous woman standing between the massive Union cannons and Nottoway. The Union officers must have been stunned by the sight of this brave, petite woman, who went on to surprise them even more by inviting them into the mansion and proceeding to entertain them in her typically gracious fashion. The Union soldiers were so taken with Emily and her elegant hospitality that a bond was forged between them that continued long after the war.

     During the war, the grounds of Nottoway were occupied at various times by both Union and Confederate troops, and were also shelled periodically as Northern gunboats fired at Southern soldiers who were passing by. However, by the end of the war, although the grounds were badly damaged and the plantation had been stripped of most of its animals, the only damage to the castle itself was to a front column hit in 1863 with lead grapeshot. The grapeshot actually fell out on its own in 1971 and is on display today in the Nottoway museum.

     Randolph’s daughter, Cornelia, wrote in her diary that just before the 13th Amendment freeing the slaves was enacted, her father received a lucrative offer to sell his slaves to a man from Cuba, where slavery was still legal. However, honoring his earlier promise to the slaves to abide by the outcome of the war, John set them free, and then hired 53 of them, with a legally binding contract, to stay with him in Texas to work the cotton crop. And when Randolph finally returned to Nottoway, most of the slaves chose to go with him and continue working as free men and women. 
     After the war, President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation against Confederacy supporters with taxable property of more than $20,000, requiring them to travel to Washington to personally apologize to the President and request a pardon. The penalty for those refusing to do so was the revocation of their U.S. citizenship and the confiscation of all their assets by the government. So Randolph sought the pardon, and it was granted to him on February 14, 1867. A copy of his pardon hangs in Nottoway’s museum today.

     Although never again as wealthy as before the Civil War, the ever-ambitious Randolph started buying up more plantations from less solvent neighbors who were unable to pay their taxes. He had a brilliant mind for business, and several times he manipulated the system to his advantage by selling Forest Home and Blythewood to his sons, but with no money actually changing hands. The promissory notes they signed were used by Randolph as collateral against loans for the financing of his crops. After the harvest, the notes and loans were then paid off, and ownership of the plantations was returned to Randolph.

     However, the sugar business was no longer as profitable for Randolph as it had been before the war, and his annual income was considerably less than what it was in the 1850s. He continued to grow sugarcane, but the abolition of slavery and a depressed economy took their toll. By 1875, Nottoway plantation was reduced to 800 acres, and Randolph’s finances continued to diminish until his death at Nottoway on September 8, 1883.
     After John's death, Emily continued to live at Nottoway, frequently traveling to see her children and grandchildren. But in 1889, at 71 years old, she very reluctantly came to the conclusion that it was time for her to give up her beloved home. Nottoway was sold for the sum of $50,000, which she divided equally among her nine surviving children and herself.

     It is said that on the last day in her cherished home, Emily Jane Randolph, dressed in black as if in mourning, walked slowly around her empty castle and carefully, lovingly closed the shutters on each of the mansion’s 200 windows.

Ella Eugenia Randolph, 1838-1917, was the Randolph’s oldest child and was born at Elmwood Plantation in Mississippi. She married Lovik Feltus in 1861, and the couple moved to Natchez, Mississippi. Lovik tried his hand at sugar planting, but the venture was a failure and eventually, he turned to alcohol. According to Ella’s descendants, her life was a very difficult one.  Finances became so tight that Ella, still diligent about fulfilling her social obligations, resorted to giving away her valuable first edition John James Audubon prints as wedding presents. 

Algernon Sidney Randolph, 1840-1863, also born at Elmwood and the family’s first son, was the only Randolph child to die in the Civil War. He studied to become a doctor, but when the war broke out, he left school to join the Confederate army.  Sadly, he was killed in the Battle of Vicksburg in May of 1863.

Moses Liddell Randolph, 1842-1907, was born at Forest Home Plantation, the first of the Randolph children to be born in Louisiana. Moses served briefly in the Civil War, but contracted malaria and was sent home without ever seeing combat.  However, the disease caused him to suffer debilitating medical problems for the rest of his life.  He married the Jane Connor, the daughter of a prominent Natchez, Mississippi family, and they had 10 children, living at Blythewood Plantation near Nottoway. It was a very lively, happy home.

John Hampden Randolph, Jr., 1844-1915, whose older brothers were already serving in the Confederate army, enlisted in 1862 as soon as he turned 18. John served in the war with great distinction, but was imprisoned briefly when his unit surrendered to Union forces in June of 1865. After the war, John earned his degree in Civil Engineering, and then returned to Louisiana to becoming a professor at Louisiana State University and eventually, the founder of LSU’s mechanical engineering department. He was married to Sarah Walker with whom he lived in Baton Rouge and had two children.

Mary Augusta Randolph, 1846-1937, was 14 years old when the Civil War began, and was thus unable to travel North to study as her older brothers and sister had done before her. She was married in 1875, at age 29, to Iberville Parish lawyer Horace Upton and moved with him to New Orleans. Said to have been an extremely kind woman, Mary Augusta raised six children and maintained close ties with two of her sisters, Emma Jane and Cornelia, who also lived in New Orleans.

Emma Jane Randolph, 1848-1932, the middle child of the Randolph’s eleven, was married at Nottoway in 1870 to Rev. Marmaduke Richard St. James Dillon, an Episcopalian priest and they had 2 children. Sadly, Marmaduke Dillon died in 1879 when he was only 33, and Emma Jane remained a widow for 20 years, then marrying her cousin Frank Liddell Richardson after the death of his wife. Emma Jane was remembered by descendants as a very proper, distinguished woman who insisted on conducting a meticulous tea service whenever she visited.

Cornelia Randolph, 1851-1931, was an enthusiastic eight-year-old when her family moved to Nottoway Plantation, and she was enthralled with everything about the plantation. She later wrote a thinly veiled account of her experiences growing up at Nottoway and called her book “The White Castle of Louisiana” under the pseudonym M.R. Ailenroc, which was actually her first name and married initials spelled backwards. At age 32, Cornelia married Dr. David Murrell; they lived in New Orleans, and although they had no children, they maintained close social ties with her sisters and their families who also lived in the city.

Sarah (Sallie) Virginia Randolph, 1853-1893, was a frail child who was afflicted with an unknown disease for most of her life. She was also the only Randolph daughter who never married. In 1889, after Emily Randolph sold Nottoway, she and Sallie lived together at Forest Home, but sadly, Sallie died in 1883 at the age of 40. The epitaph on her headstone reads, “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal”.

Annie Caroline Randolph, 1855-1942, married Valle Rozier, a Missouri-born attorney, and moved to New Orleans with him. Tragically, their only child, Geraldine, died the same day she was born, and her husband Valle then died in 1886 at the age of 39. The engraving on his headstone says, “With thee many hopes perish”. But, Annie did find love again, marrying Steven Williams, a civil engineer.  Annie often accompanied Steven on his frequent work travels, and they had one daughter.

Peter Everett Randolph, 1857-1931, was only eight years old at the end of the Civil War and grew up in a plantation system that had been forever changed. In his mid-20s, while still living at Nottoway, Peter fell in love with Alice Thompson, the beautiful mulatto daughter of a former slave, Eliza Thompson. While never married, Peter and Alice ran off to New Orleans where they lived together and raised two daughters, Bertha and Tessie. At that time, a multi-racial relationship was considered to be extremely scandalous, and Peter was written out of the family will for quite some time. However, Bertha and Tessie produced many descendants, some of whom have come to Nottoway over the years to learn more about their heritage.
Unfortunately, there are
no known pictures of
Peter Everett Randolph

Julia Marceline Randolph, 1863-1949, the youngest of the eleven children, was the only Randolph to have been born at Nottoway Plantation. In 1883, she married Francis Valle Reyburn and moved with him to his home city of St. Louis, where they became a prominent couple. Valle was a Judge of the St. Louis Court of Appeals, and Marceline, in addition to raising seven children, was active in the St. Louis Symphony Society and other cultural activities. Sadly, Valle died in 1907. However, in 1915, Marceline married Charles Fletcher Sparks who was in the flour milling business.

NOTTOWAY PLANTATION & RESORT    ▪    31025 Louisiana Hwy. 1,  White Castle, LA 70788    ▪    866-527-6884    ▪    225-545-2730    ▪    email    

Source: Nottoway


  1. The paintings of Emily Lidell show she is brunette, not blonde.

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