Cousiac’s inhabitants, throughout the centuries, probably have not so much shaped the identity of this beautiful place; rather the nature of Cousiac shaped the identity of those who have lived here. Great consideration was taken in preserving its legacy while incorporating the theme of nature. The current owners felt it was important to keep the name, which Native Americans bestowed upon it’s marshes centuries ago and means “Grand” or “Large.” This not only honors Cousiac’s culture and heritage, but also in recognizes and blessings bestowed by Nature herself upon this land. The Rose Mallow barn was named after the beautiful indigenous wild hibiscus, which flowers along the riverbanks here.
Review of local historic resources indicate that Cousiac has always been a place of both prosperity and peace. It long served as a ferry point for travel between King Williams and New Kent, and saw the comings and goings of many. Much of its rich soils appear to have been kept in agriculture throughout its occupations, likely first by the native Algonquian peoples in their time, then by the European settlers on their arrival. Cousiac’s bountiful fields and marshes have most certainly provided game, waterfowl and native foodplants for all, throughout time.
It has undoubtedly been almost exclusively a place of peace; through recorded history there are no written records of battles, or conflicts on this soil; In our imagined community history, it is very likely that the earliest English settlers were friends with the native inhabitants, rather than combatants.
The Manor House was built in 1746 by Augustine Claiborne, a Virginia state senator, who was born January 14, 1720, at Sweet Hall, right across the river from Cousiac. He married Mary Herbert (1728-1801) n 1744, so one may imagine his pride in carrying her over the threshold of what was surely an impressive home for his new bride. She bore him thirteen children…eight sons and five daughters Their son Thomas was a United States Congressman. Augustine Claiborne passed away in 1787; and early use of the name Cousiac is evidenced in the original affidavit, hand-written and signed by John Bassett (best friends of George Washington), transferring ownership of the the land and marsh in “New Kent, called Cousack Neck, from Augustine Claiborne.”
The first First Lady, Marth Dandridge Custis Washington, was a close neighbor of Cousiac; she was born at Chestnut Grove, just a couple of miles west of Cousiac on the Pamunkey River.
Cousiac was sold to the Burnells, then was purchased by Williams Winch of London, who ran his mercantile business from this location, ideally situated on the highly navigable Pamunkey River, which joins with the York River to the east and makes its way via the Cheseapeake Bay to the sea. Winch married Fanny Parke, daughter of John Custis. After his death, Fanny married Capt. Thomas Dancie, who operated a ferry, known as Ruffin Ferry. Captain Dancie’s father-in-law was Martha (Dandridge) Washington’s uncle.
Cousiac passed into the ownership of General William Chamberlayne. He was born in New Kent County, Virginia, and became a militia man, public servant, and landowner. Chamberlayne operated several business ventures; a gristmill and fishery, in addition to operating plantation estates he inherited from his family in New Kent County. He married Margaret Wilkinson in July 1784, in Henrico County and added to his holdings there through his father-in-law. The majority of his life was spent at his home “Poplar Grove” and community of New Kent. He was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1789 and a member of the vestry of St. Peter’s Parish in 1792. He had a long career in the militia, rising from captain in 1793 to being elected brigadier general by the General Assembly in 1807. In that capacity, he commanded Virginia militia during the War of 1812. He served New Kent County in the House of Delegated from 1791-1796, 1801-1802, serving on many influential committees. He was elected to the first of four consecutive terms in the senate, 1805 for the districts of Charles City, James City, and New Kent. He retired from his career of public service in 1818 and became a full time planter. Chamberlayne died on September 2, 1836.
The records of the Chandler family line of New Kent County, Virginia, show that Sarah Elizabeth Liggan of Richmond, Virginia married Colonel Oliver Mitchell Chandler of “Cousiac,” New Kent County, Virginia on October 15, 1851 in Richmond, Virginia.
Who cannot think but that Colonel Chandler’s wife, as she was hanging her family’s sheets and clothing to dry in the river breezes, must have pondered who would follow her here in the path of time; who else might find peace and and joy in the unspoiled views over field and marsh; enjoy a calm quiet that was infused with whistling waterfowl wings overhead, the meadowlark, quail and marsh hen calling unseen from the brush and reeds; wonder what young woman in the future would stand on the riverbank, imagine her own daughters, and daughter’s daughters, drinking in the same view; and whether they would think about her, in return.
I think Mrs. Chandler would be pleased to know the happiness that Cousiac will now provide to many a daughter who will come to share this same view as she takes the hand of the one she loves. She would imagine the sound of the vows exchanged drifting across the waters of the river, blending with the whisper of the marsh grasses, and carried aloft on the wings of wild geese, and would certainly be smiling
In 1947, Cousiac was purchased by the Hechler family of Richmond. It has in recent decades been preserved as a hunting and wildlife habitat., it’s beauty and privacy maintained. The Hechler’s descendants have now opened Cousiac for weddings and special events on a seasonal basis.
*Historical Information and Article credit to Terri Aigner, Aigner Graphics, 2014.