The old additions have been swept away, and in their place is the framework for a new addition. This new section of 300 Buckmarsh will hold the heart of the home—the kitchen!—and the master suite. The craftsmen on our team are sweating through the summer heat to get this home ready for its next family—but what would the home’s first family think? Would Julia recognize the five panel doors and hardwood floors? Would she like the upgrades we are making to her home?
The 300 Buckmarsh house sits on three lots, of which Julia Nickens owned two. Her husband John Nickens owned the first lot closest to the street. They purchased the land in the late 1800s-early 1900s. The house is built on the front two lots. Julia was a teacher, and her husband John was a blacksmith. The concept of a woman owning property in her own right, and having her own career at the turn of the century is novel enough, but also consider that Julia was a freedwoman. The Buckmarsh house sits in one of several original black settlements in Clarke County. Julia was a teacher for the Josephine City School, and chose to make her home in the nearby Blackburn area of Berryville.
This is an interesting connection for us, as Charlie helped in the renovation of the Josephine City School. Josephine City, of which remnants can be found along Josephine Street in Berryville, was a community created by freedmen and former slaves around 1871. The owner of Clermont farm sold 31 acres that eventually developed into Josephine City. The street was a city in itself, boasting churches, restaurants, stores, and the school. The only connection that the early Josephine City had with Berryville was mail service.
As it is said, the world is small. Berryville has its connection to Robert “King” Carter via Carter Hall and the Burwell Morgan Mill. That connection seems to have snuck into 300 Buckmarsh’s history as well. John Carter-King Carter’s father- gives freedom and provisions to a Nickens as early as 1690. The Nickens family always worked diligently for their freedom, and most of them were freed men and women.
How brave Julia must have been, and how proud! To give hope and education to young people in need, and to build a home with her husband for their family. The “everyday” stories of the American Dream often get lost in history, and it’s through thoughtful preservation that these stories are revisited. When the new family moves into 300 Buckmarsh we hope that they will have an extraordinary everyday American Dream story as well!