The Ghosts of Bellgrade

When entering the front door of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, you enter a home built in 1732 as a one and one half story farmhouse. Several families have lived in the home, since its construction until 1824, when Edward Friend purchased it from Edward Cox. During the period that the Friend family lived in the home, the family expanded in both size and wealth. The farm grew to approximately one thousand acres. To accommodate the larger family, the home was remodeled by adding the wings, moving the front door and the fireplace, and adding the front porch and columns. The farm was now called Bellgrade plantation. In 1840, the Friend family sold the home to a forty-three-year-old French bachelor named Robiou. Robiou, in search of a bride, met a young girl who lived on Old Gun Road. She was the fourteen-year-old daughter of a prominent attorney and wealthy landowner named Wormley. Robiou requested and was given her hand in marriage. Marrying shortly thereafter, they moved into Bellgrade. One afternoon, during the first few weeks of their marriage, Robiou arrived at this home unexpectedly to find his new bride in a compromising situation with her previous nineteen-year-old boyfriend, Reid. Incensed by what he had found, Robiou threw his new wife out of the house and demanded a divorce. Angered and humiliated, the girl’s father, Wormley, talked young Reid into helping him retaliate against Robiou. Late one evening, the two awaited Robiou’s arrival home. As he reached his porch, he was fatally shot. Wormley and Reid were arrested and taken to Chesterfield Courthouse and jailed. Reid was released, because he had been duped into the plot by the older and more cunning Wormley and he had not pulled the trigger. Wormley was tried for murder. Having many acquaintances in the judicial system, Wormley talked the clerk of the court into giving whiskey to several members of the jury in hopes of getting a mistrial. He got his mistrial, but the case had gained so much notoriety that the judge decided to retry him. This time he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.

During the months that followed, Wormley appealed his conviction. His daughter, the widow of Robiou, who had been neither divorced nor disinherited, married her boyfriend, Reid, and moved back into the plantation. Her father, having failed at his appeal, was hanged before a crowd of six thousand people, the largest group at that time to witness a hanging in Virginia. Within two weeks of the hanging, Robiou’s widow, the new bride of Reid, fell down the front stairs in the plantation home and was killed. There are two accounts of how she died. One account is that she fell on a sewing basket and scissors punctured her heart. The other account is that she broke her neck. Since this tragedy, there have been hundreds of stories of sightings of the ghosts of Robiou and his young bride roaming the boxwood gardens behind the home.

During the Civil War, Bellgrade was used by General A.P.Hill as his headquarters while engaged in a campaign located between Richmond and Petersburg. It was also utilized as a hospital for southern soldiers. General Hill was killed during this campaign and his body was buried in the nearby Winston Farm cemetery.  After the war had ended, his body was moved to Hollywood Cemetery and buried. When the statue in his honor was created, his body was moved for the last time and laid to rest underneath the statue's base.

Later residents of Bellgrade changed the name of the plantation to Belvidere and, after that, Alandale. The last residents of the old home were the Hoppers. In the living room, you will find Friend family memorabilia, donated by John Friend, the great grandson of Dr. Edward Friend. John Friend retired from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He passed away in 1995. A biographical history of the Friend family composed by John Friend is available for viewing on the desk in the living room.