Most Lunenburgers are familiar with Maymont in Richmond, a 100-acre Victorian-era estate and public park that surrounds Maymont Mansion, now a historic house museum. The elaborate mansion, built in 1890, was the home of Major James H. Dooley and his wife Sallie.
What many Lunenburg residents may not know is that Sallie May Dooley was a native of Lunenburg County. Her childhood home, now known as Waverly Estate, still stands proudly in the heart of the county seat. Sallie’s parents, Dr. Henry May, a local physician, and his wife, the former Julia May Jones, raised nine children there.
Sallie 0 May, the couple’s eighth child was born in 1846. Sallie married James H. Dooley, a wealthy Richmond lawyer and philanthropist, and in 1890, they completed the building of their elaborate home on a bluff overlooking the James River on what was then the outskirts of Richmond. Dooley named their home MAYmont in honor of his wife, using her maiden name. The couple had no children, and upon their death, they bequeathed their estate to the people of Richmond.
Without specified funds for the city to care for the property, Maymont fell upon hard times. Enter Dale Wheary, who retired as curator in 2019, after 40 years at Maymont. It was through her planning and hard work that the house has been carefully restored to its Guilded Age elegance.
In late September of 2021, Mrs. Wheary planned a visit to Lunenburg for a cadre of former Maymont docents to explore Sallie May Dooley’s hometown. They found the village of Lunenburg to be an excellent source of local interest.
Following their lunch at Rosewood, a charming building dating from 1799, the group of approximately 19 visitors, strolled on the beautiful fall day to Dr. May’s home, just down the street (routes 40/49).
There the visitors were greeted by members of the Lunenburg County Historical Society, “Cookie” Currin, Anne Hamlett, and Steve Israel. Israel, president of the Society, dressed in period attire, spoke to the visitors of Dr. May’s life and times at the county seat.
While in the village, the Maymont delegation also visited the county’s historic 1827 court house, where Circuit Court Clerk Gordon Erby conducted a tour of the building.
The final stop on the tour was at the two law offices dating from the 1800s that are located on the courthouse square . These buildings were preserved and modernized nine years ago by the Lunenburg County Historical Society under the leadership of Steve Israel who conducted the tour there. The society continues to maintain these two buildings that are owned by the county.
After a quick return to Rosewood, the Maymont visitors left for their homes in Richmond with a better idea of what life was like for Sallie May Dooley who grew up in the county seat of rural Lunenburg County.