Chronology

Chronology

1753-1775
John Neville obtains his initial land grants in the Ohio Valley and in Winchester, Virginia. (Neville’s first land grant for a lot #209 in Winchester was granted on May 15, 1753.)

1767
John Neville purchases his first two slaves – Harvey and Joe.

1774
John Neville purchases 14,000 acres of land, including land “about five miles from Fort Pitt,” the future site of Woodville.

1775
John Neville takes command of Ft. Pitt (Ft. Dunmore) on behalf of the Virginia colony. During this time, development of the Woodville site was probably initiated.

1775-1780
Original structure(s) at Woodville are constructed. There is some disagreement among historians researching the development of the site regarding the appearance of the original house. Camille Wells, University of Virginia, visited the house in 1998 and speculated that the original house may have been a smaller 25 x 25 square house, with a passage and one large room below stairs and one above.

This conjecture is based on physical evidence beneath the house showing that the foundation below this plan is log, while the foundation beneath the Parlor is constructed of stone. Additionally, an original structure of this size would explain the asymmetry of the dormers on the west side of the house. On a house of the smaller 25 x 25 dimensions, these dormers would be located symmetrically. It should be noted that Ed Chappell, architectural historian for Colonial Williamsburg, who investigated the structure at the same time, did not agree with the assessment, although he did agree that the house was most likely unpainted at this time. Both Wells and Chappell agree that the original structure most likely did not have chimneys or fireplaces, suggesting that stoves most likely were being used at this time.

1780
John Neville registers 21 slaves (9 females and 12 males) to the property under the Pennsylvania Gradual Emancipation Act of 1780. This is notable, as it gives us evidence that some building or farming activity was being conducted at this time, since Neville presumably would not have 21 slaves sitting idle at a rural site. This is also a possible indicator that slaves completed some portion of the construction at the Woodville site.

1781-1783
Tax records indicate that “John Navel” is taxed for 900 acres of land, 9 horses, 10 cattle, 26 sheep, and 11 slaves.

1786
The name “Woodville” is listed on the patent for the land. This is the first recorded instance of the property being called by this name. Also during this year, the first written record of the house itself is found in the Pittsburgh Gazette, in a story reporting the marriage of Mary Ann Oldham, John Neville’s sister in law, to Abraham Kirkpatrick at the house on November 26.

1798
The U.S. Direct Tax for 1798, the “Glass Tax” lists the measurements of the house as 24 x 45 feet, evidence that by this time the Woodville house had taken its present dimensions. This house contained 8 windows with 156 panes of glass. It also lists the only outbuilding as a kitchen measuring 18 x 20, slightly different than the current kitchen. It also lists a Thomas Jones as the occupant, probably an overseer or supervisor for the farm. The 270-acre Woodville farm was valued at between $1,562 and $2,314.

1814
Woodville is sold to Stephen Barlow, a director of the Bank of the United States, for $12,000. A month later it is sold to Christopher Cowan for $14,000.

1815
First renovation to the existing house is completed, with the addition of a shed type room measuring 12 x 19 on the center of the eastern wall of the Parlor. This room utilized the existing exterior door on the southernmost part of the eastern wall of the Parlor.

1816-1825
Cowan undertakes the most extensive and significant renovation of the site. The shed addition is extended to the north wall, and addition is divided into 2 equal sized rooms. The wallpaper that is reproduced in these rooms was added at this time. The wood sheathing on the walls of the Parlor was added at this time, as was the wallpaper seen behind the door to the Passage.

Additionally, the southern wall of the house was removed and extended approximately 7 feet in order to connect the house with the kitchen. The wall that can be seen today divided the large single room adjacent to the passage. A triangular fireplace was constructed in order to permit 3 fireplaces in the adjacent rooms to use a single chimney. The house was painted white during this period of renovation. A storehouse (still house) was built in the west yard and a porch was added across the eastern side of the house.

1835-1900
Mary Ann Wrenshall (Cowan) inherits farm following her father’s death. Her and her husband John and their descendants live there until 1975. Most of the improvements to the Woodville house during this time were principally cosmetic, like the gothic window additions and the “L” shaped, lattice decorated porch that is seen today. At some point during this time the paint on the exterior was changed from white to brown, briefly, and later to the yellow color that remained until 2004.

1942
Following their marriage at the Woodville house in 1923, Joseph Fauset and Mary Wrenshall Fauset purchase the 3 remaining acres of the Woodville site and 15 acres on the East side of Washington Pike. The Fausets were responsible for most of the modern updates to house including the addition of a modern heating system and a first floor bathroom in the room adjoining the dining room.

2006
A pianoforte is heard in Woodville for the first time since Christopher Cowan’s instrument, valued in 1835 at $250.00. The new instrument was built c. 1815 by the “father of the pianoforte,” Muzio Clementi and his London firm. It was donated to Neville House Associates and its debut, played by two NHA members, was on 11 June.

The Home of John and Presley Neville, circa 1780

Woodville, the John and Presley Neville house, is Southwestern Pennsylvania’s principal link to the late 18th century, interpreting the time period of 1780-1820 and documenting the lives of the three families that resided there, the Nevilles (1775-1815), the Cowans (1815-1835), and the Wrenshalls (1835-1975).


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Wayne's Legion

Please visit the website for Wayne's Legion, a group of dedicated individuals based at Woodville Plantation who recreate the first Army of the United States from 1792-1796.