Circleville drawing (1)
Cosmelia Janney Brown Hughes (1872-1962) drew this sketch of the Circleville house where she was born. Her drawings are in a scrapbook now used with permission of Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA
text for Circleville (1)
Text written by Cosmelia and her husband, Daniel Hughes, describing the accompanying illustration (above) of the Circleville house and outbuildings. Permission of Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA 

Circleville was a small Quaker community two miles south of Lincoln. (Here is a map of Circleville’s location in relation to Lincoln and nearby Quaker farms.) Circleville got its name from the curving road that passed the village store, post office and school. Cosmelia Janney Brown Hughes, daughter of William and Lydia Neal Janney Brown, did drawings of some of the homesteads near Lincoln, including a drawing of the Circleville house where she was born (shown above.)

So much history is connected with Circleville;  Nest of Abolitionists has a Lydia Neal Janney Brown page, which covers some of William and Lydia Brown’s history at Circleville. Their house (shown below) combined a store and post office – all in one building –  burned in 1878. 

early circleville
early cville text
“Thus Began Circleville” writes Cosmelia of the illustration above this text describing the property and its owners. It is difficult to keep these two families with their similar names straight but here goes: Thomas and Emily Nichols sold this house to Thomas and Phoebe Nichols Brown, the parents of William Brown, Cosmelia’s father. Permission of Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA

The Browns rebuilt a new house at the same location in 1881.  That house, a red brick gothic style home, still stands.

A helpful view of the extended Brown family can be found at a link to their family tree page here  

Thomas and Emily Nichols family lived first in the “Thus Began Circleville” house, then moved in 1833 to the nearby house drawn by Cosmelia at the very top of this page. In 1848 the Nichols moved one more time, settling a short distance up Lincoln Road. 

Circleville on map (1)

This section (shown above) of Yardley Taylor’s 1853 Loudoun County map shows Circleville, with ‘T Brown P.O.’ for Thomas Brown Post Office written above it. The map shows Thomas and Emily Nichols – ‘T. Nichols’ – now lived slightly north of Circleville. 

The Nichols family were dedicated abolitionists. Acting against prejudice and injustice toward the enslaved or freedmen alike was a continuous practice within their household. We know this from court records and personal letters.  The best known example of their effort on behalf of blacks is found in the story of Nelson T. Gant (1822-1905). A short essay of Gant’s extraordinary life story is here.  His story is told in this paragraph from the Journey Through Hallowed Ground website:

Nelson Talbot Gant free man emancipated slave
Nelson Talbot Gant (1822-1905) emancipated enslaved man was forced to “kidnap” his wife in an attempt to gain her freedom. Photograph Courtesy of Nelson Gant Foundation, Zanesville, Ohio

“Nelson Gant was liberated in 1845 when John Nixon emancipated him in his will and provided money for resettlement of Gant and other freed people in Ohio. But Gant was reluctant to leave Loudoun County, as his wife Maria remained enslaved in Leesburg. Gant worked hard for the year he was allowed to stay in Virginia and tried to purchase his wife, but her owner Jane Russell refused to sell her. Gant joined his family and friends in Zanesville, Ohio, and became acquainted with abolitionists there. He raised more money and returned to Virginia, staying for a time with Underground Railroad activist Dr. Julius LeMoyne in Washington, Pennsylvania. Jane Russell still refused Gant’s offer, and the couple [Nelson Gant and his wife Maria] disappeared. They were betrayed by a black man and arrested in Washington, D.C., then transported to Leesburg for trial. Prominent attorneys, including John Janney, argued that Maria’s mistress allowed them to be married by a minister so she [Maria] could not now testify against her husband. Nelson and Maria Gant were released and local Quakers helped finance Maria Gant’s purchase. The couple worked off the debt on a farm near Goose Creek and then moved to Zanesville, Ohio. There, Nelson Gant served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, became an innovative farmer and successful businessman, and a leader in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.”

The ‘local Quakers’ mentioned in the above article were from the Lincoln area, and the ‘farm near Goose Creek’ was the Thomas and Emily Nichols farm at Circleville. 

Photo of Thomas Nichols' Wife
Emily Holmes Nichols (1804-1869) Picture “found in a scrapbook made by Mary L. Hogue, wife of Thomas E. Hogue, nephew of Emily” courtesy of Gertrude Little

Here is a picture of Emily Holmes Nichols. Hopefully a picture of her husband, Thomas Nichols will be found.

After the successful outcome of his Loudoun County trial for kidnapping, freedman Nelson Talbourt Gant and his wife Maria lived and worked at Circleville Farm with Thomas and Emily Nichols. Below is a letter Gant wrote from Circleville, on June 7, 1847. Transcript of the letter is below the scanned images.

Nelson Talbourt Gant’s June 7, 1847 letter to his friend Dr. Francis LeMoynes, of Washington County, Pennsylvania. LeMoynes was active on the Underground Railroad. Letter shown courtesy of Washington County Historical Society.

                                                                                                7th of June 1847

Respected Friend
                                    According to the promise I made your wife whilst at your house last fall I will now try to fulfill. I have seen and felt much of the horrors of slavery since that time. I found many friends in Pittsburgh among them Dr. Delaney who I consider one among the finest of men, with their assistance I reached Chambersburgh and from thence directly to Loudoun my old home, and from there to Washington where I met my wife we were directed to a colored man’s house and were betrayed by him and thrown in prison where my wife was kept 8 days and I was kept 13 days and stood a short trial then the case was removed to Leesburgh for further trial my wife was confined in Leesburgh jail 22 days and threatened by one of her owners to be sold to the far south if she did not testify against me this she refused to do then we were taken to court and they tried to force her into measures but she would only say she knew Nothing about it and would tell nothing my lawers [sic] pleaded on the ground that we were lawfully Married and with the consent of our master and mistress and upon these grounds we were acquitted by the county Court.
                                    The lawsuit and purchise [sic] of my wife amounts to upwards $775 with the assistance of my friends and borrowing about $225 from Thomas Nichols all is settled but the money I borrowed my wife and myself are both working with Thomas Nichols and my Brother in Law in the west and several other friends intend to assist me some and I hope it will not be long before we will reach a land of Freedom when we do come we intend calling on you give my best respects to your wife and also rember [sic] me to Dr. Delaney of Pitts[burg] Judge Leever of West Middletown.
                                   Before I close I must assure you I shall never forget with what kindness I was received by your wife and I hope I still retain a place in your memory with this short history I will now bring my letter to a close except [accept] my best respects
                                                                                    And believe me to be

                                                                                                Your humble servant

PS please write soon and direct your letter to Circleville Loudoun Va
                                                            Nelson Talbourt Gant

Circleville house as it now stands waiting for restoration. It is here where Nelson and Maria Gant lived in 1847 with the Thomas and Emily Nichols family, while working to repay debts accrued buying Maria’s freedom.