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

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.

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  1. Shari D.

    What about Mr. Simon R. Curtis and his involvement?

    Could he have been a limiting factor in what Mr. Dozier did with the property, since they were apparently such close business partners?

    And yes, it is very odd that a Real Estate Developer would be reaching out to Dr. Goodwin about buying the same property immediately after it would have been paid off.

    Who were they representing in making the offer?

    Surely it wouldn’t have been the original DuPont ownership ~ could Mr. Dozier suddenly have come across some serious financial hardship after paying off the property, and needed to raise money quickly?

    It was too early for it to have any connection with the Market Crash, since that didn’t happen until October.

    Perhaps Dr. Goodwin contacted them first after hearing about the possibility of the land being sold again, and that letter is their response with an offer? A mystery indeed…..

  2. Sears Homes

    While the stock market crashed in October 1929, the ripples were not felt in the housing market for a couple years. It wasn’t until 1932 that housing starts collapsed.

    Mark Hardin has (again) found another very intriguing piece of this puzzle. He found a document that states that the National Park Service used part of this old Penniman land to build the Colonial National Parkway.

    More to come. 😀

  3. Dale Wolicki

    I will guess that Mr. Dozier had trouble with the project because he did not have clear title to the land.

    Many of these wartime projects were started with the federal government taking the property quickly over the protests of the property owner.

    Given the urgency of the project the paperwork for taking the property was probably pretty thin and vague.

    After the war the federal government sells off the land, but there is still the outstanding interests of the former property owner.

    Anyone buying a parcel could find themselves in court fighting with the previous property owner, thus the local title company won’t insure purchases.

    Clearing up title work on projects such as this could take years, by which time the Depression had killed any chance of making the project successful. Anyway that’s my guess.

  4. Sears Homes

    @Dale Wolicki
    Well Dale, as usual, you were on to something here.

    A property dispute arose because, a few months before Dozier bought Penniman, DuPont had sold the timber rights to Henrico Lumber Company. When Dozier bought the property, he started pulling up the 50 miles of railroad track, and that’s when Henrico jumped up and said, “STOP! How are we supposed to get our lumber out when the tracks are gone!”

    Dozier sued DuPont and the case was settled, with DuPont giving Dozier $7,500 because of the cloud on the title. Plus now, Dozier had to wait FOUR YEARS for Henrico’s (five-year) contract with DuPont to expire.

    By then, it was 1931, and the Colonial Parkway was being built from Williamsburg to Yorktown and right through Penniman. When the Parkway was built, it didn’t provide enough access roads into Penniman (as had been promised), and between that, and the Great Depression, Dozier’s land sat idle until the government seized it in 1942.

  5. Sara Lewis

    I am the park interpreter at New Quarter Park, which was 500 acres of a 2200 acre plot sold to DuPont by Daniel Cauffiel in 1918. The 2200 acre parcel was consolidated by Nathaniel Burwell of Carter’s Grove in 1777 and remained in Burwell hands until 1842. In tracing the title forward today at the York County Circuit Clerks office, I found out that Dozzier gifted the land to the Department of the Interior in 1931. The deed mentions Henrico Lumber’s timbering rights.

  6. Sears Homes

    Hi Sara,

    Thanks for the comment. I talk about that land conveyance and the timbering rights in depth in my book on Penniman.

    It’s a fascinating story.