Thursday, April 11, 2013

Edward H. Herbert and Level Green Plantation


UPDATE! (4/11/13) Special thanks to Mark Schumann for the photographs. Mark is a descendant of the Herbert family, and forwarded these photos to me. I thought they warranted a re-publish of this article, originally published on 11/5/12.


Edward H. Herbert was born on the family farm in what is now the Berkeley section of Norfolk in 1806. The Herbert family has a long history in Hampton Roads, beginning with a land grant from the King of England to George Herbert in 1650. The Herberts were shipbuilders from their earliest days in the New World, but Edward would choose a life in farming. Moving just a few miles to the east, he purchased 200 acres of the former David Murray estate in Princess Anne County and established Level Green Plantation in 1833.

Riveredge, the home to several generations of Herberts in Berkeley. Riveredge would later serve as the childhood home of a young Douglas MacArthur. Photo courtesy of Mark Schumann.

Mr. Herbert would grow Level Green to nearly 600 acres over the next 25 years, and establish himself as a successful farmer in Princess Anne County. He continued to expand his property north to the banks of the Elizabeth River through additional land purchases, from present day Sunnyside Drive to Whitehurst Landing.

Edward H. Herbert. Undated photo courtesy of Mark Schumann.

Mr. Herbert died on December 4, 1862. In his will, he directed his land holdings be sold upon the death of his wife Margaret (she died in 1870), and it is at this time that the land between Providence Road and the Elizabeth River is first referred to as "Woodstock Farm" in court documents.

The area near the intersection of Providence Road and Indian River Road would be known as "Herberts" for the next hundred years; but today, the once prominent family name is nowhere to be found. The Level Green neighborhood offers one of the only remaining references to this areas pre-Civil War history.


In several documents, E. H. Herbert has the title "Colonel", though I have not found evidence of a military career. Several of Edwards children were active in the Civil War, but as far as I can tell he remained a farmer during the conflict. Union troops did occupy one of his houses during the war.

There is a land survey of Mr. Herbert's entire estate at the time of his death that presumably shows the borders of Level Green Plantation, though I cannot locate this document. It does not appear to exist at the Virginia Beach courthouse, and the records previously on file in the Norfolk Circuit Court also seem to have disappeared.

There is an 1871 land survey of Woodstock Farm and "Branchville" (Avalon Terrace and Whitehurst Landing today) at the Virginia Beach Courthouse. I have superimposed the survey over a modern-day Google Maps photo of the area, to clearly show the area covered by Woodstock Farm:




  1. Edward Henry Herbert married Rebecca Tatem Herbert and they had four children - Annie Herbert, Laura Herbert McAlpine (my great-great grandmother), Rebecca Herbert and Edward Herbert. It was my understanding from my grandmother that Level Green was "burned down by the Yankeees". Sunnyside was built for Laura Herbert Mcalpine and her husband, James Newton McAlpine who was a staff surgeon in the civil war. The Princess Anne Co. courthouse burned down from what I was told so that could be reason for the mystery in locating documents. After Rebecca passed, Edward Henry Herbert then married Margaret Tatem who had six more children - Abner Herbert, Mary Herbert, Ellen Herbert, Arthur Herbert, Alice Herbert ande John Herbert.

    1. Laurie Forrest: We are distant cousins then; Rebecca Herbert was my great-great grandmother. She married Henry McNair, who was the son of a PA congressman, but appears himself to have been the black sheep of the family. They lived all over the South, but after Henry's death, Rebecca returned to Norfolk. Another distant cousin tells me Rebecca was rumored to have been a Confederate spy... which I totally discounted till I found a reference to her having been in Union custody! Haven't been able to follow up on it though.

  2. I was very recently made aware of this particular family story (VERY recently -- as in, this morning!) but I would offer one piece of compelling evidence to the contrary: Level Green is mentioned in the book _Old Houses In Princess Anne, Virginia_ by Sadie Scott Kellam. The book was written in 1931, and refers to the house in the present tense. If the house had been destroyed by Union troops, I would have expected a mention of that in the book. It is possible that the house was damaged by fire and later repaired, or perhaps another structure was burned?

    The mystery deepens...