An Antebellum snapshot of “The Tuleyries”

Posted on January 3, 2015 by


Note to the reader: Please, if visiting the Virginia Arboretum, remember… “The Tuleyries” is private property and the grounds are not open for visits. All of the photos you see in this post were taken from a distance. Thanks.

Following up from my walk this past Sunday

For starters… let’s get the name issue cleared up. When pronounced, “Tuley” is supposed to sound more like “Twu-ley”, not “Tooley”.

That said… the history…

The first thing that strikes me as unique, regarding the story of “Tuleyries”, is that the original landowner, Joseph Tuley, Sr., was not your standard Clarke County plantation owner. Specifically, he was not a carry-over from Virginia’s Tidewater. Rather, he was a New Jersey man.

I can’t say for certain what brought J.T., Sr. to Virginia, but, over the course of time, it’s pretty clear he made a substantial amount of money in tanning leather. Though rented from Col. Nathaniel Burwell, his first tanning site (ca. 1785) appears to have been in the village of Millwood. Located between the Toll House and Spout Run, Burwell rented the property for Three Pounds, and for a very generous ninety-nine year term. The significance of this amount apparently proved a point of pride for J.T. Sr., considering he named his residence in Millwood, “Three Pounds”… as if to show what he had made of himself, as a business man, from the rent he paid.

In Biographical and Genealogical Record of Persons Buried at Old Chapel, there is this interesting description of this “rags to riches” story:

Of him, Dr. Randolph wrote: “In recording the fact that Colonel Tuley’s father was a Tanner in the Village of Millwood, no sneer, or disrespect is intended, to the memory of the man, who by his own unaided efforts, raised himself from the lower walks of life to a respectable position in fashionable life, and procured for his name a place in this book.”

Portion of the Tuley headstone focused on J.T., Sr.

Portion of the Tuley headstone focused on J.T., Sr.

As things turned out, by the early 1820s, Tuley’s business expanded with a new tannery in the neighboring county, in Front Royal. It’s not clear, however, whether it was the father or the son who actually made this business expansion (at the time, J.T., Sr. was 57 and his son was 24, and J.T., Sr.).

Following the death of Joseph Tuley, Sr., on October 9, 1825, it seems J.T., Jr. began an outright effort to demonstrate his wealth, starting with the construction of “The Tuleyries”, ca. 1830.


“The Tuleyries”… looking at the NE corner


“Tuleyries” head-on

"The Tulyries"

SE view of “Tuleyries”

One source (the National Register of Historic Places registration form from 1972) describes the situation thus:

The son set about to ensconce himself in a setting suitable to his wealth. The result was a lavish expenditure on a stately residence almost European in scale, a complex of architecturally dignified farm buildings, and extensive gardens and grounds, all forming an estate so impressive that Tuley was moved to have its name be a play not only on his own but on the French Royal palace of the Tuileries.

TB NE gate

Northeast gate of “Tuleyries”

Even the earliest Shenandoah Valley historian, Samuel Kercheval, had something to say about “The Tuleyries”. In his History of the Valley of Virginia (1833), Kercheval noted:

Col. Joseph Tuley, in the county of Clarke, has built a most splendid and expensive mansion on his beautiful farm in the neighborhood of Millwood, which he has named “Tulyries” [sic]. To give a detailed account of this fine building would be tedious, and perhaps tiresome to the reader. It is sufficient to say that this edifice is sixty feet by forty, of the best of brick – finished from the base to the attick [sic] in the most elegant style of modern architecture, and is covered with tin. A spacious portico, supported underneath with massive marble slabs, with pillars of solid pine, twenty-eight feet high, supporting the roof – forming a most beautiful colonnade, based on square marble blocks; the porch floor laid with white marble, and marble steps; a spacious entry; a spiral stair-way running from the passage to the summit, on which there is a handsome cupola with a large brass ball erected; the fire places decorated with the finest marble mantles; his doors and windows of the best mahogany; with a green house in which there is sheltered a great variety of the richest exotic plants and flowers; the yard decorated with a great variety of native and imported trees and shrubbery, with several orange trees which bear fruit handsomely. Adjoining the yard, an extensive park is enclosed in the forest, within which enclosure there are a number of native elks and deer. The old buck elk will not suffer any stranger to intrude on his premises.


After building an amazing home as an expression of wealth, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Joseph Tuley, Jr. quickly began moving in the higher social circles of the time… and J.T., Jr’s marriage to a prominent woman from the D.C. crowd couldn’t hurt.

A widow of U.S. Army Surgeon John S. Jackson*, Mary Wheeler Edelen Jackson appears in a couple of sources, seemingly eclipsing anything regarding Joseph Tuley, Jr. In The Tuley Family Memoirs, William Floyd Tuley described Mary’s splash on the social scene:

Mary Edelen Tuley in the ball gown she wore in 1845.

Mary Edelen Tuley in the ball gown she wore in 1845. Photo from “The Tuley Family Memoirs”.

Mary W. Jackson, the beautiful wife of Col. Tuley, was a woman of rare accomplishments and learning. Her personality was as refined as “earthly tabernacle” could be made, which combined with her charming manners contributed greatly to her popularity. During the administration of Jackson, Van Buren and Tyler she was recognized as one of the court beauties of the Capital, her portrait adorning one of the pages known as “The Court Beauties of Washington,” [actually, the book was titled The Court Circles of the Republic, Or, the Beauties and Celebrities of the Nation, etc.] a book now very rare.

At a noted ball given by President Tyler** at the close of his administration in 1845, to which the President elect, Polk, was invited, Mrs. Tuley attended wearing the robe shown in her picture which appears elsewhere.

An even better description of the “lady of the house” (as well as “Tuleyries”) actually comes from the aforementioned Court Circles of the Republic:

At the ball Mrs. Tuley of Virginia was conspicuous and admired. Her dress was elegant, and her ornaments superb and in good taste. Her stately grace and elegance of manner marked her as an appropriate representative of the proud and luxurious “Old Dominion.” She has for years past been extensively known in the Northern as well as Southern cities; but most of her winters were spent in Washington, where she was the center of a distinguished circle. Mrs. Tuley is descended from a noted Roman Catholic family, who, in company with Lord Baltimore, came from England, settling the colony of Maryland under the grant issued by Charles I, in 1632. She was twice married. Her first husband was Dr. Jackson of the United States army. She afterwards married Colonel Tuley of Virginia. Their magnificent estate, known as “Tuleyries,” in the valley of the Shenandoah, was one of the finest and most valuable in the State. The mansion was large and elegant, the park very extensive, and stocked with elk, deer and smaller game; extensive fields stretched beyond, forming one of the modern plantations of the Southern country. The traditions of Virginia hospitality were well observed by Colonel and Mrs. Tuley, and their generous and elegant style of living made their house a delightful resort to a large circle of friends, among whom were numbered the most prominent statesman of the day and distinguished foreigners, among them many of high rank.***

Of course, somewhere between the Tuley money and the “wow” factor of “Tuleyries”, there were… slaves. Though neither Kercheval nor William Floyd Tuley said anything about them, it was Confederate veteran Thomas Kemp Cartmell who pointed out, in Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and their Descendants (1909)

Col. Tuley was a large slaveholder; and thus was able to maintain all the attractive features of this magnificent estate. But the writer saw the time when the slaves were no more; the founder in his grave, and others on the ground, but helpless by reason of changed conditions to maintain the dignity of old Tuleyries.

So, doing a little more digging, I tried to expand beyond this quote and what little is mentioned at the interpretive marker at the Virginia Arboretum/Blandy Farm. Though I didn’t come up with a great deal, I did learn that the number of slaves increased significantly over time. While Joseph Tuley, Sr. owned only nine slaves as of 1810, by 1820, he had increased to forty… and then sixty-six slaves by 1850 (spanning from age 2 to 90).

The walk from "The Tuleyries" down the Dogwood Lane toward the slave quarters seen in the distance and to the right.

The walk from “The Tuleyries” down the Dogwood Lane toward the slave quarters seen in the distance and to the right.

Looking at the east face of the slave quarters.

Looking at the east face of the slave quarters.

Looking at the west wing of "the quarters", which was the actual portion which served as slave quarters. The central and west wing were built in the 1940s.

Looking at the east wing of “the quarters”, which was the actual portion which served as slave quarters. The central and west wing were built in the 1940s.

West side of the west wing, slave quarters

West side of the east wing, slave quarters

Following the death of Joseph Tuley, Jr., on June 17, 1860, a problem existed. Despite all that they had to show for their wealth, Joseph and Mary Tuley had no children. As such, the property shifted to the children (and grandchildren) of J.T., Sr.

As one might imagine, this is where the story gets complicated.

Apparently, not long after the death of J.T., Jr., there was an effort to sell “Tuleyries”. As of the Fall of 1860, Joseph Tuley Mitchell… a son of Mary “Rebecca” Tuley (5/1/1790-ca. 6/13/1862) and Henry Dudley Mitchell (died ca. 5/3/1824), and a grandson of Joseph Tuley, Sr. listed the property in the Staunton Spectator and General Advertiser (October 23 and November 6 editions):


Glimpse at the plantation village

This photo and those immediately following offer a glimpse at the buildings listed in the newspaper entry. Photos by yours truly.



Outer buildings and the South wing of “Tuleyries”




Overseer’s house?

TB North

Glimpse of an outer structure on the north side of “Tuleyries”

TB North

Glimpse through the NE gate, toward another outer building



This one intrigues me… brick arch gateway to the garden?

Additionally, though this part of the newspaper entry by Mitchell lists another house (in Winchester), the listing for the sale of 63 slaves seems to suggest (considering the number of slaves at “Tuleyries” in 1850) these may have been the slaves of “Tuleyries”:


As of March 1861, having failed to sell “Tuleyries”, Mitchell had decided to leave Staunton and return to Clarke County… but not without trying to sell more slaves (what was left of the 63 listed in 1860?) that were left from the estate:

Land and Negroes for Sale
I will sell privately the LAGRANGE FARM containing 418 Acres, lying 3 miles West of Staunton. The Central Railroad runs through it. I will also sell
Nine Young and Likely Negroes,
belonging to the heirs of Col. Jos. Tuley, dec’d.–A Women 33 years of age, who is a good Cook, Ironer and Washer, with a pleasant disposition; a Man 21 years of age, who is a No. one hand; the remainder are from 3 to 14 years old, all stout and well grown. The Negroes are healthy, robust and likely.

TERMS CASH, or a negotiable note at thirty days, well endorsed, with interest added. For the land, terms as usual.

Any one wishing to buy will apply soon, as I will leave for Clarke County in a few weeks.


March 20, 1861

Mary Edelen Tuley, likely at around the time of the Civil War

Mary Edelen Tuley, likely at around the time of the Civil War

While this pretty much ends what I could find regarding the story of slaves associated to the plantation, strange to say (if you didn’t notice), the story of Mary W.E. Tuley seems to come to an end as well. Though she lived until 1891, I only found a couple of references to her in the Staunton newspapers, in the 1880s, and only pertaining to a couple of legal suits. I did find mention that “Tuleyries” was spared by Union Gen. Phil Sheridan because of “the carved eagle over the door”, and that after the war, “much of the furniture from the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond was kept here.” Knowing that Sheridan burned no private residences, I seriously doubt the truth behind the eagle story. As for the furniture from the White House of the Confederacy… seems rather strange to transport it all this way from Richmond, for storage.

What is believable is that, following Joseph Tuley Mitchell’s arrival at “Tuleyries” in 1861… and with no slaves and the impact of “hard war”… the “Tuleyries” estate seems certain to have deteriorated. Certainly, it makes sense that Mitchell (and Mary Edelen Tuley?) would be eager for relief from the burden of such a large property. The problem is… is the way the story is told… correct?

According the details in the 1972 Historic Register nomination form…

After Tuley’s death in 1860, the War between the States brought calamitous damage to his estate, and his widow was forced to sell The Tuleyries in 1866 to Colonel Upton L. Boyce.

Furthermore, there are a number of sites on the Web that suggest this sale was outside the Tuley family.

Not exactly.

In fact, in 1858, Upton L. Boyce married Belinda Frances Wright, daughter of Uriel Sebree and Sarah “Sally” G. Tuley Wright. Yes, that’s correct… Sarah Tuley Wright was a daughter of Joseph Tuley, Sr.

Despite all that it had been through up to this point… following the Civil War, Tuley blood was still in “Tuleyries”. Thomas K. Cartmell wrote: “The property descended in part to Col. Uriel S. Wright his son-in-law, who came from St. Louis after the Civil War, where he and U. L. Boyce dispensed liberal hospitality for many years.”




*John S. Jackson may have been the same who was an assistant surgeon, beginning in 1822, in Mobile Barracks, and who was later at Fort Johnston, N.C. through July 1830 – Oct 1831.

**Incidentally, regarding her presence in Tyler’s social circle… Mary Tuley was among the invited group that was aboard the U.S.S. Princeton, on February 28, 1844, when the “Peacemaker” cannon exploded. While six were killed, Mary Tuley was unharmed.

***Yet another “beauty” mentioned in The Court Circles of the Republic book, Mrs. Joseph T. Thomas… also known as Belinda F. Mitchell Thomas (see her picture in the book, via this link), was a niece of Col. Joseph Tuley, Jr. As ironic as it may seem considering her “Southerness”, she was noted for her place in inaugural ball of Ulysses S. Grant circle. She and her husband… the prominent lawyer from Philadelphia… were actually married at “The Tuleyries”, in June 1845. Among the children of Joseph and Belinda Thomas was Admiral Charles M. Thomas, second in command of the Great White Fleet. Furthermore, a daughter of Joseph and Belinda, Eugenie, married Francis S. Thomas, son of Union Gen. Alfred Pleasonton.