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A Web Exhibit produced by the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society.
Barons of Rockingham
Belle Grove, Inglewood, Smithland, Mannheim - all storied landmarks of Rockingham County, all linked to gracious living and a landed elite prominent in economic, civic and religious life in the Shenandoah Valley. Each estate reflected the ethnic makeup and heritage of the Valley, for each was built or owned by German, Swiss, English, Irish or Scots-Irish immigrants who were attracted by the fertile land and religious and civic freedom and who intermarried to form a stable and prosperous society. Large land holdings, quality livestock, well-appointed homes with unique architectural detail, a complement of outbuildings, and sometimes slaves (brick slave houses still stand at Mannheim), documented a productive and ever-expanding farm-based economy which ensured an aristocratic style of living.
Located just north of Harrisonburg and, with Mannheim, along Linville Creek, these Valley "plantations" were home, over time, to educated farmers, merchants and professionals who studied law and medicine, participated in politics and the military and in the affairs of the church, and whose love of the land, and possession of it, earned them the title "The Barons.
Belle Grove was at the heart of this flourishing ante-bellum society. Together with Inglewood once comprising an estate of over a thousand acres, Belle Grove was a center for frequent gatherings and engaging social intercourse among the agricultural gentry. Through its primary owners, the Coffman (Kauffman) family in the nineteenth century and the Liskey family through much of the twentieth century, Belle Grove long remained a prominent estate. Coffmans and Liskeys served their country in war and peace. They were prominent ministers, physicians, lawyers, vice-admirals, and above all else, were successful farmers and businessmen. Procreation and intermarriage with like-types (Adelaide Coffman married Joseph Strayer of Bogata estate in Port Republic) insured influence and power for this baron aristocracy for well over a hundred years.
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