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An Antebellum Home With Its History Intact

If rooms and furnishings could talk, the home referred to as North Bend in Charles City, Virginia, would be in perpetual chatter mode. Throughout its history, many significant occurrences took place within the Greek Revival-style home, starting with its construction in 1801 by John Minge for his wife, Sarah Harrison, the sister of William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States.

In an 1830 census, there were 80 slaves listed at North Bend, but David, the son of John Minge Jr. inherited the property before the Civil War encroached on the area. Following his religious convictions, he freed the enslaved people across the state line into Maryland.

In 1864, 30,000 Union troops, commanded by Gen. Philip Sheridan and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, flowed into the area. The Union troops dug trenches through North Bend to the nearby James River. And one of the most noteworthy items in the home is the desk that Gen. Sheridan used when temporarily billeted at the home.

Octogenarian Ridgely (“everyone calls me Nannie”) Copland is North Bend’s current owner. Her husband, George Forbes Copland (now deceased), was not only a direct descendant of William Henry and Sarah Harrison, but was also the great, great, grandson of Edmund Ruffin, who fired the first shot in the Civil War against the federally held Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, near Charleston, South Carolina.

“Nannie” not only lives at North Bend but enjoys leading tours, pointing out artifacts, and sharing countless historical stories with friends and guests she allows to visit or stay there. “History is extremely important,” Copland said. “We learn from it, and I like to share as much as possible.”

North Bend
The grand upstairs and downstairs hallways of North Bend are large enough to exhibit miscellaneous multi-generational family heirlooms, photographs, and furnishings, including packed bookcases with rare and first-edition books. (Courtesy of Michael Johnson)
North Bend
The family room features family heirlooms, original antiques and paintings, old dolls, rare books, distinct china and silver pieces, and preserved historic correspondence. Each chair in this eclectically decorated space conveys a distinct decorating style, from Mission to Victorian to Empire. (Courtesy of Michael Johnson)
North Bend
The home’s dining room, which opens to a music and game room, is equipped with an antique dining table with a mix of dining chair styles; a few that are leather-backed with brass tacks and a few that are ornately carved have survived more than a century of use. A brass and glass light fixture hangs overhead, while a traditional corner armoire houses antique family porcelain. (Courtesy of Michael Johnson)
North Bend
The plantation desk used by General Phillip Sheridan has remained in the same spot, with a view out a top-floor, front-facing window, since he sat at the desk in 1864. A plantation style desk is a type originally designed for postmasters to organize correspondence. (Courtesy of Michael Johnson)
North Bend
The grand Federal period, heavily carved, four-poster bed sports a ruffled insert. Historically, privacy curtains were sometimes tucked into the ruffle and let down if the person using the bed so desired. This room includes a mirrored armoire and a needlepoint-covered chair. (Courtesy of Michael Johnson)
North Bend
An iron and brass bed and a silk damask settee define the Federal Room, which is appropriately painted yellow since it flows out to an upstairs sun porch with expansive vistas of fields, livestock, and wildlife. This room, like the others at North Bend, is replete with 19th-century antiques. (Courtesy of Michael Johnson)
North Bend
On the exterior of the homesite are the preserved smokehouse and icehouse, both built around 1819. The smokehouse is equipped with its original hand-hewn salt box for salting meats, and the icehouse is considered noteworthy for its multi-hued brickwork, also noticeable on the well. (Courtesy of Michael Johnson)

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