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A Web Exhibit produced by the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society.

The History of Belle Grove

Its builders, the David Coffman family, were a reflection of the early ethnic makeup of the Valley - Germans who had migrated south from Pennsylvania, intermarrying with English and Scots-Irish in the New World. This kin group was established as one of the earliest to settle in the valley, contracting a deed from the first grant-holder, Jacob Stover, in 1726 or 1727. Owning land and livestock, intermarrying with the area’s wealthiest families and serving in public office, the Coffmans had ample resources to build a grand house incorporating the most modern features of the day. In the 20th century, the home was the pride of the Liskey family for several generations. Later, it fell into disrepair.

The Coffman Family

The Coffman (Kauffman) family, builders and principle owners of Belle Grove throughout the nineteenth century, were among the earliest settlers in the area. They reflect the early ethnic makeup of the Valley-Swiss/German stock from Pennsylvania (near Lancaster) who intermarried with English and Scots-Irish. Land was deeded to Michael Kauffman (first member of the family to settle on Linville Creek) by Jacob Stover, pioneer grant-holder in western Virginia and grandfather to Michael. Belle Grove's owners, via the Stover connection, are kin to explorer Daniel Boone, President Abraham Lincoln and soldier/statesman Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The Coffmans amassed great wealth and were long part of the elite of Rockingham County, with family members building Mannheim, owning Inglewood and marrying into wealthy families, including that owning Bogota. Several generations of Coffmans were prominent religious, political, military economic and social leaders in Rockingham, Page, and Shenandoah Counties, as well as the state of Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Likely constructed between 1820-40, Belle Grove offered a grand view of the Massanutten and Allegheny mountain ranges. For over a hundred years Belle Grove was a special place to a succession of farmers, merchants and public officials who were a significant part of the Valley elite. In its detailed writeup of Belle Grove in 1936, the Virginia Works Progress Administration (WPA) Historical Inventory noted the gracious hospitality and social life that were so much a part of the estate, where "'weekends' meant more than just a day or night; more often being for the entire week and sometimes even longer."

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