The ten children born to NC Supreme Court Justice Richmond Mumford and Mary McClung Williams Pearson from 1833-1852, were a varied group: three boys and seven girls, with two boys and five girls living to adulthood. All were born at home and believed to have received their basic education there. At least three of the girls are believed to have held their weddings in Yadkin County at Richmond Hill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Of the boys, Richmond (1833-1834) lived only a year. John W. (1845-1885) served with distinction in the Confederate Army, 28th NC Regiment, and survived the war, only to drown in a hurricane near Galveston, TX. Richmond Mumford, Jr. (1852-1923) studied law under his father, graduated from Princeton University, married Gabrielle Thomas, raised a family, became a lawyer, served as US Ambassador to Persia and Montenegro, and built the third Richmond Hill in Asheville, where he is buried.
Of the girls, Eliza Melinda (1836-1868) married James Henry Bullock and is buried in Greensboro, AL, near the famous Magnolia Grove plantation. Ellen Brent (1839-1862) married one of her father’s law students, Daniel G. Fowle, who was elected governor of NC. After the birth of her fourth child, Brent died prematurely at 23 and is buried in Raleigh’s historic Oakwood Cemetery. Sarah Croom (1843-1904) married Judge James Marcellus Hobson, another law student of her father. They moved to Magnolia Grove, where she had seven children, and is buried there. One of Sarah’s sons was Adm. Richmond Pearson Hobson (1870-1937), who earned fame during the Spanish-American War and utilized his celebrity on the Chautaugua speaking circuit. He and his wife are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Laura Green (1848-1870) lived and died at home, did not marry, and was buried near her mother in the family cemetery near Richmond Hill. Margaret (1850-1862) and Fannie (1850-1860) may have been twins who died young. Margaret was buried at Allison Woods Plantation near Statesville and Fannie probably at Richmond Hill.
The mother of these children, the former Margaret McClung Williams (1811-1855) of Knoxville, TN, died apparently of a type of depression and was buried at Richmond Hill. Their father, Justice Pearson (1805-1878) remarried to a widow, Mary Louise McDowell Bynum (1813-1886) of Morganton. She brought to the marriage a son, John Gray Bynum (1857-1913), who studied under Pearson, married Henrietta Erwin, raised a family, and became a Superior Court judge. He and his wife are buried in Greensboro, NC.
There is a strong family tradition in the descendants of John Hector Pearson (abt 1855-abt 1835), a free man of Color, that Judge Pearson is also his father by a free Mulatto girl. He married Olive Johnson (1858-1945) of Sampson County, where he raised a family, owned his own farm and might be buried in Keathern Missionary Baptist Church in Harrells, North Carolina, where he lived.
Pearson (1805-1878) died suddenly on his way from Richmond Hill to Raleigh. He is buried under an impressive monument in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. He once said that he instructed over a thousand future lawyers. He presided over NC courts for 42 years, before, during, and after the Civil War.
After Pearson’s death, his widow sold Richmond Hill and moved to Morganton, where she died and is buried. The home was rented and later abandoned, and fell into ruins. From 1965-1990, Jimmie R. Hutchens and the Historic Richmond Hill Law School Commission of Yadkin County restored the house and grounds and re-opened them to the public. The commission now maintains and promotes the property.
Historic Richmond Hill Law School and Nature Park, 4641 Law School Road, East Bend, is open every third Saturday from April – October. For more information, contact the park at 336-699-3921.
Andrew L. Mackie is a local historian and active member of the Yadkin County Historical Society.