Mildred Tibbs


Mildred Tibbs is a Home Economics Teacher, Groveton

We were transferred here in 1961. The fifth day we were here we bought a house on Muddy Hole Farm. My daughter became very interested in this historical area. As a project in her world history class, she wrote a history of Gum Springs. Not knowing anybody in Gum Springs, I called the Methodist minister. He gave her a list of names to contact. He showed me that the Woodlawn Baptist Church was the earliest freedman's church in Gum Springs. The Methodist church was one of the earliest ones, too.

The first name the minister gave Margaret to visit was Mrs. Holland who lived in the gray house next door to the Methodist parsonage. We called Mrs. Holland and made an appointment to visit her. I drove over there and it was a real bad rainy day. Muddy Hole Farm, where we live, is right across the creek from Gum Springs. It's always been a wooded area since the Civil War. It has springs and very compact soil. You can dig a deep hole and it’ll fill up with water; the drainage problems are terrific.

So I said, "Margaret, this is the place, and I'll sit here and wait for you. She went into Mrs. Holland's house and she stayed and stayed. I got out, but here was this mud everywhere. I called her. It was getting dark and nothing happened. The paper boy came sloshing along in boots. I said, "Would you go to the back door of this lady's house and see if Margaret Tibbs is there and tell her her mother is waiting on her?" He went to the back door, he knocked, and then he walked away. He never did come back to my car. A lady came out of another house and I said, ''Is Margaret Tibbs over there?" and she said, ''No, ma'am, we don't even know her." In a minute here came Margaret out of Mrs. Holland's house. She got in the car with me. She was so excited, she was just brimming over. Mrs. Holland had given her a long list of names to look up, places to go and other historical points about Gum Springs. She said, "Mother, I heard you every time you called, but I was so interested in what she was saying I just kept sitting there."

Mrs. Holland had told Margaret that all of the area in Gum Springs was deeded to her grandfather. I believe his last name was Ford (West Ford). Her grandfather had been Bushrod Washington's overseer. Mrs. Holland told Margaret that the original area of Gum Springs was a watering place for horses between Woodlawn Plantation and Alexandria. The old road came up that hill and right at the bottom of the hill, by Route 1 about where that old filling station was before they tore it down, was a huge springs. They stopped there. It was a wooded area with gum trees. She said that lots of those old cedar trees lined the old road. The old cedar trees that they cut down to build Sherwood Hall Lane were roots of the original property line that outlined Gum Springs. They could've put the road on each side of them and left those cedar trees in the middle.

When we went to the curator (at Mt. Vernon) two or three days after, he met her at the gate. He explained to her that Mrs. Holland's husband was a guard at the tomb (George Washington's). Some of the relatives of the original overseer were still working at Mt. Vernon. He got out the will and he read it to her. One of the things it said was that all of his slaves on the mansion farm should be released when and if they were able to support themselves.

Bushrod Washington was the only nephew that carried the Washington name, so he inherited the Mansion House farm. But all the other land went in every direction and he had all of the slaves to feed. They were skilled, but he had to feed them, take care of them, and house them until they were able to make it on their own. That just about broke Bushrod Washington. The farm never did pay for itself. He was a sick old man and he didn't have a whole lot of money. This was way before the Civil War.

The story went that he made a deal with his overseer, who was black, that he knew he was going to die and if this overseer would manage the mansion house farm, take care of all these people, and take care of Mrs. Bushrod Washington until she died, he would deed this portion of Gum Springs to him. When Bushrod Washington died that was in his will. Mrs. Bushrod Washington lived two days longer, and the overseer got the land. He was among the first black men who owned land in Virginia. Bushrod Washington the fifth lives here on Popkins Lane. His daughters have graduated from Groveton High School.”

I know one man who paid for his house in our sub-division. That was a big thing, no one had ever walked in and paid cash for the whole house, but he did. He hung his deed on the wall and it does go back all the way to Augustus Washington. He had sold his house in California and he walked in and wrote a check for this house, so he's got a clear title. His title serves all the way back, and it says Muddy Hole Farm.

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