The Holland-Duncan House

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Tucked among trees that mercifully shield it from the ugly sprawl that has overwhelmed Moneta, the Holland-Duncan House stands as reminder of Hales Ford before the lake arrived.

Asa Holland inherited the land on which the home stands from his father Thomas Scott Holland in 1816. Sometime in the 1830’s he had the handsome brick home built.

Asa Holland

Asa Holland

Over his life Asa acquired and managed large farms in Franklin and Pittsylvania Counties, on which he raised (primarily) beef cattle, hay, seeds and tobacco. The community was then known as Hales Ford, and he served as its postmaster–Federal before and after the war, and Confederate during it. He operated a general store in Hales Ford in partnership with John Booth and another one in Germantown in partnership with his brother Smithson Holland.

At his death in 1879 Asa’s home was inherited by his daughter and eldest child Sallie Elizabeth. Sallie had married William Erastus “Ras” Duncan in 1853. Ten years her senior, Mr. Duncan had been her tutor when they met. A classical scholar educated at Columbian College (now part of George Washington University) and the University of Virginia, he taught at Hollins College (Sallie’s alma mater), and Allegheny College, where he served as President. During the war he was a Captain and Confederate Quartermaster.

The Duncans founded and operated the Hales Ford Classical and Mathematical School, a co-educational school at a time when they were quite unusual.  From 1876-1881 and 1886-1889, Ras Duncan was superintendent of schools in Franklin County.

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I found this old picture here on our farm, but sadly I don’t know when it was taken and I can’t identify the people. Written on the reverse is “Old Holland Home, Franklin Co.”

Smith Mountain Lake was created in 1963 by damming the Roanoke River, flooding much of the land that once was owned by the Holland family. Over the past 20 years there has been another transformative flood–this one of real estate developers and builders of vacation homes. Other than the old Holland homeplace, there’s not much left that a 19th century Hales Ford resident would recognize today.

The Holland-Duncan house is on the National Register of Historic Places and these days is being used as a law office.

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One thought on “The Holland-Duncan House

  1. Dear Bill, I’ve been away from blogging for two months. It’s good to return to this blog of your in which I learn so much Southern history. The story of Sallie and Ras and their school reminds me of my favorite childhood book–“Little Men” by Louisa May Alcott. Peace.

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