Reynolds Homestead

Historical Significance

The Reynolds Homestead is the former Rock Spring Plantation House, the birthplace and boyhood home of tobacco manufacturer R.J. Reynolds. Built in 1843, the two-story brick home has been restored to its nineteenth century state and includes many of the original family furnishings. The grounds include the original brick kitchen, a brick milk house, a log ice-house and a log granary. The family cemetery is located near the house, while the slave cemetery is located across a field from the main house.

In 1850 Hardin W. Reynolds owned 42 African American individuals, ranging from a new- born baby to a 60-year-old man. Two individuals were listed as "mulatto," while the rest were identified as "black." [Note that these 'racial' categories are based on the perception of the census taker and are not always an accurate reflection of the individual's sense of self]. About half of the community was under the age of 12. A study of the age distributions of the community members suggests that there were probably five to eight family groups living on the plantation at this time.

In 1860, the number of African Americans owned by Hardin Reynolds had grown to 58 individuals, with the oldest member only 45 years old, and the youngest age 1. Presumably the older individuals (who would have been 70 in 1860) had died, although it is possible that Reynolds sold them.

Poet Anne Spencer's mother was born on the Reynolds plantation in 1866.

There is a slave cemetery located across the field from the Reynolds home and their family cemetery. Most of the burials are marked with uninscribed fieldstones. In 2001, 61 graves were identified by a state archaeologist with the Department of Historic Resources; only 4 of those burials were marked with an inscribed marker. The four identified individuals are: Kemp Penn (circa 1842-1914), most likely formerly enslaved on the plantation with an inscription that reads "Thy memory shall ever be a guiding star to heaven;" Will Lee Reynolds (December 18, 1851- May 24, 1936), born enslaved, with an inscription that reads "At Rest;" Mary Bell (Marybelle) Penn (1889-1939), born two generations after the end of slavery, buried next to her husband, Valle (Valley) Penn (1885-1958). Valle's father was Kemp Penn.

Family history maintains that Harry Penn (unknown dates), another son of Kemp Penn, is also buried here, although no inscribed stone remains. Accordingly to Harry Penn's grandchildren, Harry went to West Virginia to work in the coal mines but was brought back to the Reynolds Plantation for burial in the 1930s. 

Physical Description

The Reynolds Homestead is an outreach facility of Virginia Tech located in Critz, Virginia. The site includes a Continuing Education Center, which hosts a wide variety of programs and classes. The slave cemetery is surrounded by a wooden fence in a grove of trees.

Geographical and Contact Information

463 Homestead Lane
Critz, Virginia
Phone: 540-694-7181
Fax: 540-694-7183