Green Hill, Complete Plantation

From The Journal, Altavista, Virginia, October 6, 1976.
Green Hill: giant mansion in its day

"Green Hill" was a mansion in its day. While lacking elaborate decoration, the house was spacious with a river portico overlooking the Staunton River Valley and a rear porch held up by round brick columns.

A complete kitchen and dining area occupied the basement and three stairways led from the ground floor to three separate upstairs rooms one for males, one for females, and one for special guests.

Not only was the house outstanding, the many well-built outbuildings made "Green Hill" the most complete plantation anywhere around.

The outbuildings included a kitchen with three ovens side by side, a milk house with hollowed-out troughs for cooling the milk, a smokehouse, icehouse, loom house,l laundry, slave quarters, barns, stables, store, chapel, mill, all built of brick or stone.

Remains of the stone-built outbuildings at Green Hill

Service buildings and garden were closed in by high stone walls with built-in dog runs. A broad road, paved with stone, led from the back of the house on past the lower group of buildings to the river.

Samuel Pannill bought his first property in Campbell County in 1797. Through his own ingenuity and through marriage to Judith, daughter of the wealthy John Boughton, Samuel became a man of means.

It is said that when asked how many slaves he had, Pannill answered, "I don't know. I have to have shoes made for 300, not counting sick folks and children."

Pannill's great interest was in transportation. He operated a ferry and then a toll bridge the latter was willed to his son, John, along with stock in Roanoke Navigation Co.(Samuel was president of this), Seaboard and Roanoke River Co. and James River and Kanawha Co.

A bridge presumably was built across the Staunton at Long Island in 1841. By 1844 Campbell County was planning to build on Otter River a lattice bridge similar to Pannill's.

The bridge was washing away in the flood of 1877. Again ferry service was instituted.

Pannill died in 1864 at the age of 94. In a 5,730-word will he left "Green Hill" plantation to his son, John. (The will also requested that his body be interred i"in a plain, decent manner" and that a funer sermon may be preached "as soon as convenient."

Unfortunately, John's daughter, who later inherited the place, sold it to a purchaser who paid in fraudulent bonds. The husband shot the cheat, and was tried for murder, but was acquitted.

James Franklin, Sr., of Lynchburg purchased "Green Hill" at public auction and hired his nephew, Samuel Hale of Bedford County, as overseer. As the owner Mr. Franklin minced no words about planning to leave the place to a relative interested in farming, the neighborhood teased Hale considerably about his expectations. Hale always said he was interested only in his wages, not in what someone might leave him.

When Franklin died, Hale went to Lynchburg to attend the funeral and had to be prevailed on to remain for the reading of the will. Returning home heir to thousands of acres of land, a furnished home, livestock, et cetera, he said in response to teasing about now becoming a blue-blood, "I am the same I always have been. Never saw any blood but red blood anyway."

Hale's success apparently did not go to his head. He died early, however, leaving his wife Betty Arthur Hale, and her sister, Emaline, to operate "Green Hill farm" for nearly half a century. Mrs. Hale later gave farms cut off from "Green Hill" to each one of the children: Lucy (Mrs. John Ferris); Emma (Mrs. J. F. Epperson), Nannie (Mrs. Clarion Trent); Frank and Lester.

"Green Hill" is now owned by the Holland brothers.