Posts Tagged ‘Dick Velz’

What Exactly Did You Have in Mind, Mr. Dozier?

April 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

It was Mr. J. M. Dozier of Lee Hall, VA that purchased Penniman after World War I ended.

Thursday, after spending many hours at the York County Courthouse, I learned that Mr. Dozier bought Penniman from DuPont in April 1926, after the U. S. Army left.

J. M. Dozier and his wife Annie paid $84,375 for the whole kit and caboodle, which included 2,600 acres, and all tenements, hereditaments and appurtenances.

DuPont even financed the sale for Mr. Dozier with no money down.

The first payment of $28,125 was due in April 1927, the second payment due one year after that, and the third (and final payment) due in April 1929.

It was a pretty sweet deal.

According to an article that appeared in the January 1926 Virginia Gazette, Mr. Dozier had big plans for Penniman.

“The development of [Penniman] will entail the expenditure of a considerable sum,” said the article in the Virginia Gazette (January 15, 1926).

And yet, it never happened.

In 1926, $84,375 was a tremendous sum of money. Surely Mr. Dozier had plans to develop this 2,600-acre tract on the York River. Did something go wrong?

Did they discover that the land was uninhabitable for some reason? Or did they find a few too many buried live shells, left over from the U. S. Army?

What happened?

After 1926, Penniman disappeared from the pages of the daily papers until 1938, when Dick Velz with the Richmond Times Dispatch did a retrospective piece on this “Ghost City,” which had been left largely undisturbed since the U. S. Army cleared out in the early 1920s.

Penniman is a fascinating piece of Virginia’s history but there are days (like today) when the mysteries pile up so high and so deep that I fear I may never figure out enough of its story to write a worthy tome.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

If you have a theory as to what happened to Mr. Dozier’s big plans, please leave a comment.


January 16, 1926

Sounds like these two "outstanding Peninsula business men" had big plans for Penniman. ("Virginia Gazette," January 16, 1926).



What happened after Mr. Dozier paid $84,375 for 2,600 acres of choice real estate on the York River? Did something go terribly wrong? Did they learn that the land was unsuitable for residential development? (This appeared in June 1938 in the "Richmond Times Dispatch.")



Amongst the piles of papers I have collected on Penniman is this treasure asking Dr. Goodwin if he's interested in buying Penniman on the York River. And look at the date. It was after Mr. Dozier had paid off his note to DuPont.



Penniman was situated between Kings Creek and Queens Creek, on the York River, and during WW1, it was home to about 15,000 people. It was probably one of York County's finest pieces of land. This map shows the village of Penniman as it looked in Spring 1918. Map is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.


To read more about Penniman, click here.

*     *      *

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Missing: “The Projectile”!

October 21st, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

The hunt is on.

We’re working on a new book about a piece of Virginia’s regional history that is utterly and wholly captivating.

Penniman: Virginia’s Own Ghost Town.

In 1916, DuPont opened a new munitions factory on the old Bechtel Farm, on a piece of land east of Williamsburg. Less than three years later, it would be an impressive facility with scores of buildings, dozens of dormitories and hundreds of homes. By 1920, it was gone. The “War to End All Wars” was over, and there was no more need for this munitions factory on the York River.

The property was turned over to the U. S. Government and in later years, it would come to be known as Cheatham Annex.

To read Part I of this story, click here.

To read part II of this story, click here.

To read part III, click here.

To read more about Old Hickory, click here.

But there’s a piece of the puzzle that we really need. According to this article in the Richmond Times Dispatch, a full accounting of the building of the houses at Penniman can be found in a 1916-ish publication called, “The Projectile.”

There are a whole lot of history buffs that read this blog every day and if anyone has any clues where to find “The Projectile,” please let me know.

Additionally, we’re also looking for a weekly employee newsletter written for the workers at the DuPont Munitions Plant in Penniman. It was called, “The Polka Dot” (yes, really).

Last (and this may be the easiest), I’m hoping to find a copy of “Old Hickory,” a reprint of a 1920 booklet with extensive information on the DuPont munitions  plant in Tennessee. It was reproduced in 1987 by the Hadley Bend Historical Association. I have a paper copy, but would love to have the original document.

Thanks in advance to the many smart people who read this blog every day!  :D


Lots of good clues in this article from 1938, but the best is the very last paragraph. About 300 houses were built in Penniman, and from what I've gleaned, most were moved (not destroyed) into "nearby towns." We've located about 50 of them in Norfolk and one in Williamsburg. That leaves 250 missing. If we could find "The Projectile," that would be a good start!


The only photo we have of the houses in Penniman

The only photo we have of the houses in Penniman is the grainy image above, from the 1938 newspaper article shown in the prior picture. According to the photo's caption, this (and other photos shown in the article) came from the collection of Drewery Jones, who apparently worked at Penniman for a time. Thanks to David Spriggs, we've found that Drewery (also spelled "Drewry") lived in one of the Penniman houses that was moved to downtown Williamsburg. Mr. Jones passed on in 1977, but I'm thinking that he did not take these photos with him. The clearer image (shown above here) is "The Haskell" which was one of the houses found in Penniman. The houses shown in the grainy image are both "Haskells" (with one turned 90 degrees). So where are Mr. Jones' photos of Penniman?

To read more about Penniman and see vintage photos, click here.

*      *      *