One of the historic homes of Virginia – still standing, still in private hands.
The classic early colonial home at Mahockney Plantation, patented in 1663, stands at the center of 1,200 acres of farmland in Upper Mount Landing, Virginia, on Mount Landing Creek just above the spot where it feeds into the Rappahannock River. That’s also the very spot where Capt. John Smith encountered the Rappahannock Indians on his initial 1608 exploration upriver from Jamestown.
Mahockney was granted as a royal patent in 1663 with 518 acres to Thomas Rosson (variously spelled Rason, Rawson, Roson), incorporating an earlier 1653 patent by Andrew Gilson of 200 acres. The name was used early; a 1721 deed for the property refers to it as “land formerly granted to Thomas Roson by patent bearing date 1663 which is grant of 600 acres commonly known by the name of The Mehockney.”
That 1721 deed places Mahockney as the plantation of Martha Tomlin; her father Robert Tomlin (var. Tomlyn, Thomlin, Thomaline) had acquired the property from Rosson in 1671, beginning a half-century of ownership by the Tomlin family. Rosson or Robert Tomlin likely built a home within a few years of the original patent, as required, and today’s physical evidence of Mahockney’s brick cellars, chimneys and foundation is consistent with a late-seventeenth-century construction. Robert Tomlin is recorded in county records as sheltering Rappahannock Indians in his home here during the tumult sparked by Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. A dwelling identified as “House of Mr. Thomaline” appears at this very spot on the 1680 Map of Hobbs Hole (Tappahannock) in the State Library of Virginia; a copy of the map is also held in the Essex County Museum.
The current structure consists of three sections: the brick-foundation frame southern portion of the house (on the left in this photo), where at least the chimneys, basement, and foundation likely predate Bacon’s Rebellion; on the north end a substantial brick two-story and high-ceilinged cellar (on the right); and third, a substantial addition behind, dating from the early part of the 20th Century. The grounds also feature several dependencies of the 19th century. (For more on the architectural history and evidence click here.)
The name “Mahockney”: A story of silver mines and Native Americans
The Mahock tribe, first encountered by Capt. John Smith and also known as the Manahoac, were a Siouan Native American tribe in Virginia during the pre-colonial days and the 17th century. Most likely the decision by early plantation owner Robert Tomlin to use the name “Mahockney” is related to the explorer John Lederer’s famed 1670 encounter with the Mahocks in their village of “Mahock” in central Virginia above the falls of the James River, on his second of three expeditions that year in search of legendary Spanish mines of silver and copper, sponsored by the colonial Governor in Jamestown.
After the second expedition in May found tantalizing evidence of riches among the Mahock, Lederer quickly organized a third voyage westward in August 1670, taking with him cartographer John Catlett and a handful of unnamed white colonists eager to find new wealth. They departed from the home of Robert Taliaferro, another new settler just up the Rappahannock River from Mahockney’s location. Tomlin knew both Taliaferro and Catlett, who previously had mapped the Rosson/Tomlin land in 1666, and it is likely that Tomlin was one of the unnamed “English horsemen” on the expedition.
Lederer and crew became the first Europeans to climb the Blue Ridge Mountains and to see the Shenandoah Valley…but missed the Mahock on that third and final trip, and found no treasure.
According to linguists, “-ney” was a common Anglo-Saxon suffix typically meaning a placename or “island,” attached to a nearby tribal or personal name.
History suggests, therefore, that Robert Tomlin chose the name “Mahockney” for his new plantation home as a romantic moniker after that 1670 expedition, to commemorate the new Virginians’ quest for Mahock and the riches it symbolized as a gateway to “the treasures of the Spanish mines.”