Magnolia Grange: A brief love story

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The Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia (CHSV) held its quarterly meeting at Magnolia Grange Sunday, May 1, in celebration of the 25th year since the site first opened to the public. There, Mary Arline McGuire, former CHSV president and former country treasurer, gave a presentation titled “A Love Story: A Story about a Beautiful, Refined, and Sophisticated Lady Who Has Had Many Lovers, Magnolia Grange,” sharing some early history regarding one of our county’s most beloved historical relics.                                              

“William Winfree had spared no expense in having the best, most-talented workers build his handsome federal-period plantation home …,” said McGuire. “The love story must have begun that day, 189 years ago, when the Winfree family moved into Magnolia Grange.”

The Winfree family wasn’t the only ones to inhabit the gorgeous plantation home; the Hobbs, Duvals, and Cogbills were also owners of the house in the years that ensued.  But when Marcus “Mac” Cogbill died in 1964 the house stood empty. And in 1969 the property was sold at auction.  McGuire said those working for the county across the road were told that “a gas station would do well” where the plantation stood. However, sadness turned to elation when Philip and Julie Daffron purchased the site, who then worked diligently to bring Magnolia Grange back its former glory.

  When the plantation was once again for sale in 1984, there was word that the interested buyers planned to tear it down; but according to McGuire, “there were more lovers” – the CHSV. After that scare, the CHSV, which first assembled in 1981, saved Magnolia Grange.   The county Board of Supervisors, who were asked by CHSV to buy the building, thought taxpayers would rebel.  However, because CHSV was willing to raise money for the restoration, the Board agreed to the purchase.  Taxpayers did not rebel; in fact, thetaxpayers made many small and large donations to the society to enable research and renovations to proceed.                                                       

A former docent at Magnolia Grange, Betty Matthews, said, “When I first walked into Magnolia Grange it reached out and put its arms around me and said, ‘I love you,’ and I said it back to the house.” McGuire agrees that “Magnolia’s faithful lovers have continued their support. . . .  Magnolia Grange is unique in that among historic houses in the area it is open to the public year round . . . uninterrupted for twenty-five years.”                                          

Liess van der Linden-Brusse, CHSV president, invites county residents and friends to visit the county’s historic places and to attend the quarterly meetings and events celebrating the 30th year of the society and the 25th year since Magnolia Grange first opened to the public. The July 24 quarterly meeting and ice cream social with speaker Judge Ernest P. Gates is at 2 p.m. at the Old Chesterfield County Jail. Call the CHSV office at 796-7121 for more information.

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