Lawrence Dameron's Home, Brick Walls
The area in Northumberland County, Virginia, where Lawrence Dameron received his first land grant in 1652 is at the eastern edge of the county a few miles east of Wicomico Church and south of Reedville across Ingram Bay. He amassed about 2,000 acres before his death. The property stayed in the family until about 1845 when it was sold to the Harding family. The cemetery still exists although there are no marked graves for Damerons. The original house was located nearby. A subsequent house, Brick Walls, replaced that house. Brick Walls no longer exists, the location is a plowed field. It is said that pieces of brick from Brick Walls are sometimes unearthed when the field is plowed.
Helen Foster Snow quoted Mrs. O. A. Keach in Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine.
One long tongue of marshy land called afterwards Dameron Marsh, covered for the
most part with reeds and marsh grasses, was a covert for wild game and a resting place for waterfowl, and the tidewater rivers and creeks were full of fish and oysters.1
The first house, probably built of cedar slabs, was very likely commodious and comfortable. It was built in an area known as Guarding Point but later called “Garden Point.” In his will Lawrence Dameron mentions the ‘Great Roome.’ He bequeathed “unto my sone Bartholomew Dameron one halfe of five hundred acres of land situated in Great Wicocomoco which I bought of Mr. Peter Knight to be delivered to him at the death of his mother, with one cedar Bedstead, one long table with forme and benches to it, and one Couch, all which stands in the Great Roome. I give unto my son George Dameron, the other half of 500 acres of land above described.” He also bequeathed three silver spoons, a good feather bed, fixed (?) guns and one iron pot, but the names of the remaining legatees are in a section of the record that has deteriorated beyond legibility. His widow Dorothy is named his executrix. She evidently was a woman of intelligence and independence as she managed the estate, which suggests that the fortune was on her side of the house originally, as it was not common for the wife to be left to manage an estate of any size.
Lawrence probably died late in 1657. He was buried within sight of the ‘manor house,’ probably in the Dameron burying ground that still exists although no Dameron gravestones survive. Most existing stones in the cemetery are for members of the Harding family who later owned the property.
Col. Thomas Dameron, grandson of Lawrence, built a brick manor house known as “Brick Walls” on the “Guarding Point” plantation. This was probably in 1735 because it is reported that a brick in the chimney bore that date. This manor home was said to be the largest and finest dwelling at that time in Wicomico parish and was a center of social life. It was built of red “English brick,” two full stories tall and wider than it was long. It stood some distance back from the road. The entrance was up two or three steps from what might be called a brick terrace and through double doors. The grounds were planted with lilac bushes, roses and hollyhocks. At the rear, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, which was about three-quarters of a mile distant, was the garden that was the pleasure and pride of the ladies of the manor. It had brick walks edged with boxwood, flowers, shrubs, and herbs. Further down the slope, toward the bay, was an orchard. Nearby was the family burying ground.
Much of the history of the family can be found in the Helen Foster Snow book, The Dameron-Damron Genealogy. In that book, Snow provides the content from two copied letters she has that describe the house, Brick Walls.
Mrs. Louisa Hurst Ball, born September 29, 1817, daughter of Capt. James Hurst, an officer in the Revolutionary War; and wife of Thomas Ball, lived her married life at ‘Bayview’ and died about 1910. Her mind was clear, and she retained a wonderful memory until she died. The last owner of the manor house was Mr. Robert J. Dameron, a great-grandson of Col. Thomas Dameron. In his later years he was quite generally called ‘Uncle Robert.’ Mrs. Ball wrote, ‘Uncle Robert’s house was called, after it was sold, the ‘Brick Walls.’ I remember two very large high-pitched rooms, with a wide entrance hall between. The entrance doors to the hall were double, large and tall. The whole home had the effect of spaciousness, and the windows were unusually large and deep with seats in them. The staircase was wide and, as it opened on the second floor, a more extensive apartment or hall spread out, giving an idea of airiness and space. On this hall opened the sleeping chambers. In the old days there was much gaiety here and tradition tells of the candle lighted ‘great hall,’ where the minuet was danced, while the negro fiddlers played and a generous hospitality was dispensed, with laughing colored servants looking on and serving the guests, with genuine enjoyment. The negroes were treated indulgently always among Virginians.
Mrs. Sarah Wooters raised in this old house and a ward of her great-uncle Mr. Robert Damron, mentioned above writes, ‘The front of the dwelling faced toward the highway, and the back to the sea. As I remember, the ‘house’ had ten rooms–including the big halls. There was a kitchen away from the house, and the little colored children used to come running across the yard with the dishes of food. This was always a source of great pleasure and excitement to them.
I remember best the old fire place at the end of the hall, so large that you could put a fence rail in it. Uncle Robert used to have family prayers in the hall, with all the negroes gathered in. His prayers were long and the youngsters always went to sleep. There were fruits of all kinds on the place.
After the death of Uncle Robert Dameron, as he was called, the place passed into the possession of John H. Harding. A new home was built on another site and the old brick manor house that had stood for about 125 years was pulled down, though it remains a landmark in the affectionate memory of the country side now called Ball’s Neck.2
The above is taken from the appendix of The Dameron-Damron Geneology, by Helen Foster Snow, where Mrs. Snow documents the references she used in compiling the Dameron-Dameron geneology.
The only geographical site in Northumberland County that still carries the Dameron name is Dameron Marsh, a hook-shaped spit of salt water marshland jutting into the Chesapeake Bay. The 316-acre Dameron Marsh Natural Area Preserve is one in a series of protected lands that line the western and eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. There is also a Dameron Road near Kilmarnock.