As the Greenbrier Historical Society celebrates the 200th birthday of the North House, we reflect on its history and the people who inhabited the house we now call home. This exhibit explores the people that lived in the house, the changes to the house, and the role of enslaved people in its early history.
Henry B. Hunter purchased the property in 1818 and had the house built in 1820. You are standing in one of the three original bedrooms in two-story brick ell-shaped house. It is believed John Dunn built the home, but there is no historic evidence that supports this claim. The original house had a detached kitchen, slave housing, and a garden.
The North Family
John North and Charlotte Blain were married on July 15, 1819. They moved into the newly constructed house in 1821 with their young daughter Margaret and had four more daughters while living there: Mary, Martha Jane, Isabelle, and Charlotte. They lived in the house for fifteen years until 1836 when they moved into a newly constructed brick house across town. While living in the house, John North owned at least three enslaved people, likely more. By 1850 John held twelve people in slavery. The enslaved people performed domestic chores such as cooking, nursing children, and driving the carriage.
John A. North
December 15, 1794-September 26, 1857
John was born in Staunton, Virginia and served in the War of 1812. Following the war, he was appointed clerk of the Greenbrier District Court of Chancery and moved to Lewisburg. Later, he was appointed clerk of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, organized in Lewisburg in 1831. In the 1830s he helped to establish the Blue Sulphur Springs Resort and oversaw its construction and the hiring of enslaved labor. John inherited enslaved people, purchased them, and gave them as wedding presents to his daughters. John was described as having a delicate constitution and frame, never weighing over 130 pounds. He was well-respected in the community and people trusted his legal advice.
“Your uncle North is not expected until Wednesday; do you not think a Trumpet should be blown the old Lady [North], mourns his absence, almost like a young bride.”
Charlotte Blain North
April 23, 1800-April 22, 1883
Charlotte was born in Lexington, Virginia and met John while visiting an aunt in Lewisburg. John quickly started courting Charlotte and even persuade her to move up their wedding date. Charlotte was known for her ability as a manipulator and her strong nature and was often called “the queen,” “her Highness,” and “the aristocracy.” After her daughter Mary’s death, Charlotte opposed her widowed son-in-law, Thomas Hamner’s, remarriage to his close friend, Maria Horton. Charlotte did everything in her power to prevent the match because of the swiftness of the relationship and Maria’s lower social status.
The North Daughters
Margaret North Johnston
May 16, 1820- June 3, 1851
Margaret was the oldest daughter of John and Charlotte North. She married Robert Johnston in 1845 and moved to Richmond, Virginia where Robert worked as an auditor. Margaret died at the age of thirty from cholera.
Mary North Hamner
Isabelle Abney North Caldwell
June 21, 1824- May 7, 1897
Isabelle was the third daughter of John and Charlotte North. She married James R. Caldwell in 1852 and lived in a brick house on the banks of the Greenbrier River, now called Elmhurst. They had six children, but only three survived into adulthood. Isabelle suffered many illnesses in life and died from complications related to an old leg injury.
Martha Jane North Dennis
July 7, 1828- September 27, 1895
Martha Jane was the fourth daughter of John and Charlotte North. She attended the Lewisburg Academy and continued her schooling
in Flushing, New York. She married Robert F. Dennis in 1849 who was the prosecuting attorney for Pocahontas, Greenbrier, and Fayette Counties. They did not have any children.