Jason and Casey
Jason and Casey purchased Mayhurst in February 2020 and have continued the restoration started by the previous owners. They have brought fresh viewpoints, new ideas and unbundled energy to this wonderful estate. They also brought the friendliest goats you will ever meet. Come enjoy Mayhurst with them.
Points of History
During the Civil War, in the winter of 1863-64, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was in the Orange area. General Lee camped on the east side of town with his 15,000 men. General Ambrose Powell Hill, commanding III Corps of Lee’s Army, headquartered at the Willis home (now Mayhurst Inn). He commanded over 18,000 men from his tent on the front lawn. His wife, Kitty, was with him at Mayhurst that winter as a house guest of John and Lucy Willis. The winter encampment provided many opportunities for social occasions, which most assuredly included General Lee at the Willis home. One of A. P. Hill’s daughters, Lucy Lee Hill, was born that winter. Her Godfather, General Lee, held her in his arms throughout the christening ceremony at Mayhurst on May 1, 1864. The christening scene has been recently recreateed by renowned historical artist, Mort Kunstler, in a painting entitled "Tender is the Heart". A Giclee Print of the scene stands in the Mayhurst Parlor where the ceremony took place.
Stonewall Jackson Stays The Night
Nearly two years earlier, General "Stonewall" Jackson's cavalry was in the Orange area fighting the Federal cavalry on Main Street on August 2, 1862. He remained in Orange for about a week. On August 6, the Willis household notices a man seated and resting on their gatepost. Someone is sent out to offer assistance. It is General "Stonewall" Jackson, who is invited to stay the night, he accepts. Two Jackson biographers, Robert Krick and James Robertson, Jr., confirm that he spent the night at the home of Mr Willis, three quarters of a mile south of town. Three days later while marching from Orange to Culpeper, General Jackson encounters General Pope and defeats him in the Battle of Cedar Mountain. The chance encounter is a scene of intense hand to hand fighting. At a critical stage of the battle, as Jackson is about to be outflanked, he charges in to rally his forces, waving the Confederate flag and his sword rusted into its scabbard. He is quoted as saying, "Jackson is with you! Your general will lead you! Follow me!" Jackson considered Cedar Mountain the most successful of his exploits.
Scattered Confederates Gather Around Front Porch of Mayhurst
Here's a story that brings the war to the front door of Mayhurst. In Major D. Humphrey's book "Heroes and Spies of the Civil War" (Neal Publishing 1903), Capt. Magruder relates "the scene at Orange Court House (Aug.2, 1862) when General Jones took the Seventh and Twelfth down there from Gordonsville, having heard the Bluecoats were moving that way...They scattered one-third of our men in the rear, while those in front did not know what was the matter in the rear, and drove their lines out of the town...General Jones said afterwards, 'that half of his men charged and half discharged.' On the grounds about the residence of Colonel Willis, in the south side of town, on a hill, many of our scattered men gathered. Seeing which, General Jones ordered me to take a squad and bring the men down into town and reorganize them. He ordered the killing then and there of any man who failed to obey the order. As I approached the house about fifty men were standing in front of it. On the porch there stood a pretty and noble looking girl, Miss Willis, who was urging the men to go to their command and do their duty. As I come up, I heard her say, 'Oh, I wish I was a man!' when one fellow, who had been down in the fire, said, 'Yes, Miss, and if you was, you would wish you was a gal again mouty soon!' This brought down the house, and I brought down the men."
The Willis Plantation
Construction on the Mayhurst Manor House began in 1859, just two years before the Civil War. Undoubtedly it was the most fashionable home in Orange county at the time. The house was built in the latest style, Italianate. It is not known who designed the four story Italianate home. An educated guess is a Baltimore architect, Mr. Starkweather, who designed Camden on the northern neck. The similarities are remarkable; even to the marble mantles and the elaborate window and door trim.
Colonel John Willis, great nephew of President James Madison, was 50 years old when he built the mansion for his family of 8 children. It would be his "full tide of prosperity", said his daughter. The Willis plantation raised corn, cattle, hogs and horses. Fifty enslaved African-Americans worked the fields, and tended to the needs of the Willises. The very fertile Davidson soil provided bountiful harvests and the plantation prospered.
Unfortunately, Colonel Willis lost his home and at least 1700 of his 2500 acres in 1868. He had supported the Confederacy very generously and was unable to pay taxes. It was purchased by a Northern carpetbagger sent by the Federal government to administer the county. An original 110 year old copy of his obituary, found in the attic in 1996 and now hanging in the front hall, states "He bore the loss of his wealth with a philosophical fortitude that almost amounted to indifference, and no one can say that they ever heard a murmur escape his lips that having been rich he had become poor." He is buried at Montpelier.
The Montpelier Connection
Mayhurst is linked with Madison’s Montpelier in several ways. Not only was John Willis a great nephew of President Madison, but, as the crow flies, the properties are only 2 miles apart and were contiguous.
Additionally, James Madison's personal slave, Paul Jennings, was married to a slave (Fanny Gordon) owned by Mayhurst - then called the "Howard Place". Paul Jennings and his wife had 5 children and, after Paul gained his freedom, three of the surviving sons and a daughter joined him in Washington, DC. All three sons served in the Union Army fighting against the Confederacy – Poetic Justice
Mayhurst Inn Baked Apples
A breakfast delight. Start your day with dessert. Hot Baked Apples with a brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and raisin filling that will have your guests' mouths watering and asking for more. Serves 6.
- 6 Gala or Fiji apples (They don't get "mushy" or fall apart when cooked)
- 1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon Nutmeg
- Peal about 2/3 to 3/4 down on apple
- Core (but don't go through bottom)
- Mix Dark Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Nutmeg
- Fill cavity with mix of dark brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg (Save the remainder for the next time).)
- Add a few raisins periodically as you fill the cavity (optional)
- Top with one Tablespoon of butter
- Place in baking pan with 1/2 inch of water in pan
- Bake at 375 for 45 min
- Remove from oven - top with French Vanilla Ice Cream or Heavy Cream and Serve
Mayhurst Inn Scones
Delightfully tasty raisin scones with crusty outside and soft inside. Perfect with homemade Blueberry Butter or Homemade Devonshire Cream. Serves 16.
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 4 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- 2 eggs - well beaten
- ¼ cup milk or ½ and ½ or cream
- ½ cup raisins or chopped almonds or choc. chips or cinnamon chips or chopped dried fruit , etc.
- Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together
- Cut in butter with pastry cutter or 2 knives
- Mix eggs with milk and add to dry ingredients
- Do Not over mix
- Add raisins or other ingredients
- Drop by spoonfuls onto un-greased sheet cake pan or onto parchment paper (my preferred method), or Press into 2 very lightly greased pie pans (I use glass)
- Bake 375 for 14 to 15 minutes
- Brush tops with butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar
- Can be frozen and reheated briefly, but never as good as fresh.
Mayhurst Inn Warm Mixed Fruit Compote
A warm and delicious way to start off breakfast on those cool days of Fall, Winter and Spring. Guests will always clean their bowls! Serves 6.
- 6 cups fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) and peaches- or frozen fruit and canned peaches if fresh is not in season or not available
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1 large egg
- 6 TBS butter
- Heavy Cream or Whipped Cream or Ice Cream
- Preheat oven to 375
- Pour 6 cups fresh berries and peaches in lightly greased 9 x 13 baking dish.
- Stir together 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour and 1 large egg until it resembles a coarse mixture.
- Sprinkle over fruit.
- Drizzle 6 TBS melted butter over topping.
- Bake at 375 for 35 to 40 minutes until lightly brown and bubbly. (If using frozen fruits increase the cooking time to 45 - 50 minutes.)
- Let stand for 10 minutes.
- Serve with heavy cream, whipped cream or over ice cream.
Mayhurst Inn Hot Buttered Rum
A delightful and robust winter drink. Warms you inside and out. Serves 20+.
- 1 lb dark brown sugar
- ¼ lb butter
- ¼ - ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ - ½ tsp cloves
- ¼ - ½ tsp cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- Beat Sugar and butter together until creamed and fluffy
- Beat in spices and salt
- Put 2 full tsp of batter into cup
- Add 1 jigger (1&1/2 oz or 2 tbs) of dark rum
- Fill with hot water
- Stir well
- Jack adds an additional thin pat of butter and stirs lightly.
Batter keeps well in refrigerator.
Mayhurst Inn Chicken Casserole
A delightful family dinner main course or a perfect (and easy) dinner when unexpected guests arrive. Serves 8.
- 8 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
- 8 slices Swiss cheese
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- ¼ cup white wine
- 2 cups Pepperidge Farms stuffing
- ½ cup melted butter
- Put chicken in a shallow baking dish.
- Place one slice of cheese on each breast
- Mix wine with soup and pour over chicken and cheese
- Sprinkle the stuffing over all
- Dribble the melted butter over everything
- Bake uncovered at 350 for 1 hour
Mayhurst Inn Bourbon Slush - The "Recipe"
Steep - 3 tea bags - plain black - Lipton type
2 cups boiling water
Mix - 1 12 oz can frozen lemonade (defrosted)
1 6 oz can frozen orange juice (defrosted)
1 cup sugar (or less)
6 cups cold water
Add - 1 2/3 cups Bourbon to tea and juice mix
Freeze in large plastic containers.
Place in punch bowl or serve directly from the plastic container. Use an ice cream scoop to scrape up a glass full of slush and serve with a spoon.
We have seen this served in a taller glass and mixed with ginger ale and sipped. But we like to eat the slush. It won’t last long enough to completely melt.
Small group of 10 to 12 people
Double for 20 to 25 people.
Holds beautifully in freezer for later. We keep it on hand all summer.