History of Churchill

Sam Houston | Horatio Davenport Thompson |The Civil War
Robert E. Lee | The movie Gods and Generals | Restoration

Church Hill through the years...

Church Hill in the 1800's

Church Hill undergoing renovations in 2004

Church Hill as it looks in 2014


In 1837, one year after Texas declared it's independence from Mexico, the Reverend Horatio Thompson took ownership of the plantation. 11 years later "Church Hill" was built and occupied by Horatio Davenport Thompson and his family, a minister of the nearby Timber Ridge Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church. The property was formerly owned by the pioneering Houston Family who acquired title of the land in 1742. In a log dwelling, that was moved to make way for the present home, Sam Houston, the Texas pioneer was born in 1793. It is believed that some of the logs from the Sam Houston birthplace were incorporated in a later log structure that still remains on the property today.(see footnote 1) Today the property is still in the hands of the 6th generation of Thompson's that have made "Church Hill" their home. The home is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and the Virginia Historic Landmark Registery.

Excerpt from Katherine Tennery & Shirley Scotts 1995 book Country Roads Rockbridge County, Virginia ..."The imposing mansion behind the Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church is Church Hill"

Church Hill sits on the knoll behind the marker at the Sam Houston Wayside...

Church Hill can be found in the Virginia Landmarks Register top

Gods and General's top

In August of 2001, Church Hill was the setting for several scenes of the Ted Turner film "Gods & Generals" starring: Bruce Boxleitner, Jeff Daniels, Kevin Conway, Robert Duvall, Mira Sorvino, Stephen Lang &
Directed by: Ronald F. Maxwell. The rooms remain much the same as they were in the movie and are easily recognizable to those who saw the movie. (picture from a scene filmed at "Church Hill")

>>>click here to see more photos

>>>click here for link to trailer of scene from Gods & Generals
once there click on the link for "letter"


Horatio Davenport Thompson top

Search of public land records show the following:

5 Sept 1836 D.S Wilson and wife to Givins Kinnear Deed book T page 303
7 March 1837 D.S. Wilson and wife to Horatio Thomspon Deed book T page 452 These were included in a Rockbridge Cnty VA Grantor Deed Index, 1778-1848 for "W" surnames
It appears that D.S Wilson and wife owned a good deal of property. They sold some to Givins Kinnear who was Eliza Kinnears brother in 1836. Eliza Kinnear was the Rev Horatio's wife. They married in 1832. Then in 1837, Wilson sold some property to Horatio. There was a David S. Wilson that married a Nancy Lackey.

1.The Reverend Horatio Thompson and Eliza Kinnear had 8 known children
2.John Andrew Thompson and Alice Ida Davenport had 6 known children
3.Horatio Edwin Thompson and Judith Edna Thompson had 2 known children
4.Horatio Davenport Thompson and Mildred Ann Goodman had 3 children
5.Charles Edwin Skip Thompson and Jacqueline Ora Robertson had 2 children
6. Charles Mikel Thompson and Tina Whittaker Thompson had 2 children
Melinda Sue Thompson


The Civil War top

The home sits just off of Highway 11, which at the time of the Civil War was the main route from the North to the South through the Shenandoah Valley. Sherman's Army was said to have marched up the front walkway of Church Hill but left the home and all of its possessions untouched.

Robert E. Lee top

The original steward of "Church Hill" was a well travelled pastor in Rockbridge county but also served on the board of Washington College. He was one of the members of Washington College that appointed Robert E Lee to the presidency of Washington College, today known as Washington & Lee University.

Text taken from letter in which General Robert E. Lee conditionally accepted the Presidency of Washington College.

Gentleman, I have delayed for some days replying to your letter of the 5th of July informing me of my election by the board of trustees to the presidency of Washington College, from a desire to give the subject due consideration. Fully impressed with the responsibilities of the office, I have feared that i should be unable to discharge its duties to the satisfaction of the trustees or to the benefit of the country. The proper education of youth requires not great ability, but I fear more strength than I now possess, for I do not feel able to undergo the labour of conducting classess in regular course of instruction. I could not, therefore undertake the more than the general administration and supervision of the institution. There is another subject which has caused me serious reflection, and is, I think, worthy of the consideration of the board. Being excluded from the terms of amnesty in the proclamation of the President of the US, of the 29th May last, and an object of censure to a portion of the Country, I have thought is probable that my occupation of the position of president might draw upon the college a feeling of hostility; and i should therefore, cause injury to an Institution which it would be my highest desire to advance. I think it the duty of every citizen, in the present condition of the Country, to all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony, and in no way to oppose the policy of the State or General Government directed to that object. It is particularly incumbent on those charged with the instruction of the young to set them an example of submission to authority, and I could not consent to be the cause fo animadversion upon the College.
Should you, however, take a different point of view, and think that my services in the position tendered to me by the Board will be advantageous to the College and Country, I will yield to your judgement and accept it; otherwise, I must most respectfully decline the office.

Begging you to express to the trustees of the College my heartfelt gratitude for the honour conferred upon me, and requesting you to accept my cordial thanks for the kind manner in which you have communicated their decision, I am, gentleman, with great respect, your most obt servt., Robert E Lee

Sent to John W Brockenbourgh, S.McD. Reid, Alfred Leyburn, Horatio Thompson, D.D., Bolivar Christian, T.J. Kirkpatrick, Committee.

footnote 1 -information taken from national registry of historic places




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