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Descendants of the DeJarnette family gathered for the dedication Saturday of the highway marker for DeJarnette’s Tavern, one of the oldest buildings in Halifax County and at one time a mustering place for Civil War soldiers. (Sharon Kinsey photos) / May 14, 2018
Five generations of the DeJarnette family gathered Saturday to take part in the dedication of a state highway marker for the 18th century Nathalie-area tavern that bears the family name.

Speakers for the event included Mark Hubina, current owner of the building, Barbara Bass, president of the Halifax County Historical Society, Sonja Ingram, preservation field services manager for the Tobacco Barn Preservation Project, and Jennifer Loux, highway marker program manager for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

The marker’s location at 4080 Stage Coach Road (Route 40) lies just east of the tavern. Following the ceremony, Hubina provided tours of DeJarnette’s Tavern and a tobacco barn, refurbished as part of the Preservation Virginia 2014 Tobacco Barn Program.

DeJarnette’s Tavern — also sometimes called DeJarnette House, Daniel DeJarnette Tavern, or Staunton River Hunt Club — is a nationally registered historic building near Nathalie. The one and one-half story wooden structure with stone foundations and chimneys is thought to have been built about 1780. Most of the first floor was occupied by a large tavern room.

Considered one of the oldest buildings in Halifax County, the building has a long and storied past, serving as a farmhouse, stagecoach inn, tavern, and mustering place for Civil War soldiers.

According to an article found in a book by Faye Royster Tuck, Yesterday, Gone Forever: A Collection of Articles, the house was to have been a meeting place for slaves planning a revolt in May 1802, but this plan was foiled. Later, during the Civil War, the tavern was used as a mustering place for soldiers, including at least one DeJarnette.

In a 1947 article for the local newspaper (Union Star), J.D. DeJarnette, 91-years old and then living in the tavern, told of how he had ridden with his father to the establishment as a young boy to join the soldiers who were mustering for war there. It was there that his father, Daniel, rode off to war, never to return.

According to a 1980 newspaper story in the Union Star,

“The DeJarnette tavern is believed to have attracted a sports minded clientele — those interested in horse racing, card playing, cock fighting and the like. One rumor about the house that has been passed down through the generations is that a Yankee peddler was killed and buried there. One version of the legend has the peddler buried under the house, and another has him lying under the large rocks which go out from the front porch toward the highway.”

The DeJarnette family legacy began in Virginia with the arrival of Jean DeJarnette (1680-1765), a Huguenot who fled France to escape religious persecution. He arrived in America around 1699, and first settled in Manakin Town, an area assigned to Huguenot immigrants located south of the James River near Richmond.

It is unclear when the family first acquired property in Halifax County, as the county did not exist until 1752, when it was carved out of Lunenburg County.

Court documents show 1767 as the date for the first property recorded in Halifax for Jean’s son, James P. DeJarnette (1740-1826) — noting him as a “tavern keeper.”

Daniel DeJarnette, for whom the tavern is named, acquired the property from his brother in the early 1800s, ostensibly after winning a wrestling match.

When Daniel acquired the building, he utilized as a stagecoach station and a gathering and resting place for locals and travelers alike. The building was ideally positioned for a stagecoach stop as it was located on a well-traveled road between Competition Courthouse in Pittsylvania County (present-day Chatham) and Dinwiddie County, where one could get to Richmond and points north.

In the 1900s, the Dejarnettes used the building as a meeting place for locals and changed the building interior so it could be lived in.

The building has been unoccupied since 1978, when Lawrence DeJarnette passed away. DeJarnette left the home to his two daughters, who lived in Halifax County but chose not to live in their father’s home.

The tavern remained in the DeJarnette family for six generations before it was purchased by the Preservation Virginia Historic Properties Revolving Fund in 2001.

Hubina, who lives in Connecticut, purchased the property from Preservation Virginia in 2007 and plans to use it as a vacation home once renovations are completed. In its current condition, the building has no running water and very little electricity.

The property once boasted 600 acres, but only three acres remain with the tavern.

Virginia erected its first roadside historical marker in 1927 along Route 1 — considered the oldest highway in the country. Since then, more than 2600 signs have been installed across Virginia. When the state stopped funding the program in the 1970s, the program depends on private or organizational funding. As sponsor, Hubina paid for the manufacture of the marker.

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