Originally named Rock Spring Plantation and developed in 1814, this plantation was home to the Reynolds family, a group of prolific tobacco manufacturers. Notably, this homestead served as the childhood home to Richard “RJ” Reynolds, an entrepreneur who would start RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, a company that would grow into a massive producer of a wide range of products, including Camel cigarettes, Reynolds aluminum foil and Nabisco food products! In 1970, the homestead was donated to Virginia Tech after reconstruction efforts by Nancy Susan Reynolds, in an effort to preserve the history of the homestead and its impact on Virginia and the wider Appalachians.
This image was taken from the interior of the Reynolds Homestead and shows an interpreter dressed in historically accurate clothing sewing up a quilt. The furniture contained within the Homestead has been included in an attempt to appropriately capture the luxuries the Reynolds family may have had while living on the plantation as a result of their successful tobacco farming and manufacturing business. This photo represents what the average day may have looked like for a member of the house, as they performed basic tasks around the house.
Notable Reynolds Family Members
Katharine Smith Reynolds
After marrying R.J. Reynolds in 1905, the two moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1917 and lived in an estate now known as the Reynolda House, which Mary Katharine helped design. There, she focused heavily on agriculture, and offered literacy classes to farmers and workers in her husband's factories. She pushed for reform in tobacco factories as well, making them offer lunch and water to the workers and had a nursery built for the women working in the factories. After R.J.'s death, she continued various philanthropic works, including building schools and churches in the area, along with serving as the president of the local chapter of the YWCA. Today, a monument to her memory exists as a 20-foot tall obelisk that sits on the grounds of Richard J. Reynolds High School, one of the schools she helped construct.
Born on Rock Spring Plantation, R.J. Reynolds grew up working in his father's tobacco manufacturing business before moving to Winston-Salem, NC to begin his own company in 1874. This company, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, grew to be a major producer of chewing tobacco and cigarettes, including Camel cigarettes, which still exist today. After his death, the company grew to hold stakes in many different industries, including food and aluminum. Today, R.J. Reynolds' company survives as Reynolds American, Inc., a large corporation that owns many sub companies that specialize in tobacco production and research.
Nancy Susan Reynolds
Daughter of R.J. and Katharine Smith, Nancy Susan Reynolds continued her parents' philanthropic ventures throughout her life. One notable example includes the donation of $500,000 and 350 acres of land from the Reynolda estate to move Wake Forest University from Wake Forest to Winston-Salem. In 1970, Nancy Susan donated the deed to her father's childhood home, Rock Spring Plantation, to Virginia Tech for agricultural research and historical preservation. This location is now known as the Reynolds Homestead.
Who was Kitty Reynolds
Born on October 15, 1838, Kitty was among the 88 enslaved people that lived on Rock Spring Plantation by 1863. Following the emancipation of slaves, she served as a nanny in the surrounding area, and maintained close connection with the Reynolds family.
In 1878, two of Kitty's sons, Burwell and Lee Reynolds, were charged with the murder of a white man. They were defended by Andrew Lybrook, son-in-law to Hardin and Nancy Reynolds, and the subsequent trial led to the Supreme Court case Ex Parte Virginia, which ruled that jurors could not be excluded from serving on a trial on the basis of race.
Today, the Reynolds Homestead continues to discuss the life of Kitty Reynolds and the other enslaved people that lived on the plantation.
Love letter from a 10-year-old
This is a letter written by Willie Reynolds to an anonymous girl, referred to only as “Sugar-Pie.” Typed in 1919 on a Danville and Western Railway Company letterhead, the letter appeals to the anonymous woman romantically, requesting that she write back and asking if she has feelings for the sender, Willie. At this time, there exists little information on who Willie is in relation to the Reynolds family - while there was a Willie Reynolds alive around that time, the boy was only around 10 years old at the time the letter was written. However, the letter still provides an interesting insight into the love lives of people in the early 1900s, and how the process of courting contrasts to modern methods.
Celebrating 50th Anniversary (1970-2020) as a campus center of Virginia Tech
It all began on June 17, 1970. A host of Reynolds family members, descendants of Hardin and Nancy Reynolds, traveled to Critz, Virginia for the dedication of Reynolds Homestead, formerly known as Rock Spring Plantation. They had been invited by Nancy Susan Reynolds to join her in a family reunion and the dedication of their ancestral home she had lovingly restored, with the assistance of other relatives who contributed furniture and other family heirlooms.
Reynolda House Museum of American Art
Richard Joshua “R.J.” Reynolds (1850-1918), founder of the Reynolds Tobacco Company, married Katharine Smith in 1905. Shortly afterwards, the couple constructed the Reynolda House on a plot of 1,000 acres of purchased land, moving from Critz, Virginia to Winston-Salem, North Carolina upon its completion in 1917. Starting construction in 1912, Katharine Smith Reynolds contracted and assisted Charles Barton Keene, a Philadelphia-based architect in designing the house and the surrounding farm buildings. Landscaping of the area, including gardens, farms, and creation of a 16-acre artificial lake was initially drafted by New York landscape designers Buckenham & Miller and completed by Philadelphian landscape architect Thomas W. Sears, who replaced them. Today, the Reynolda House is a museum for American art ranging from the colonial period to the present day.
These archival books are from the Reynolda House Museum of American Art.
These books are currently not available in text format. Please contact us if you need text format.
Major Reynolds History
1843 - Rock Spring Plantation built in Critz, VA by Hardin Reynolds
1850 - Richard Joshua (R.J.) Reynolds was born on the plantation
1874 - R.J. Reynolds moved to Winston Salem, NC to begin a tobacco company
1890 - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is incorporated
1899 - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco becomes part of James B. Duke’s Tobacco Trust, creating a massive monopoly on US tobacco manufacturing
1911 - Sherman Antitrust Act breaks up tobacco monopoly - RJ Reynolds Tobacco becomes independent again
1918 - R.J. Reynolds dies
1956 - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco company begins acquiring companies in the food and other various industries
1970 - Company becomes R.J. Reynolds Industries, Inc. Nancy Susan Reynolds, daughter of R.J., deeds Rock Spring Plantation and 717 acres of land to Virginia Tech and dubs the location "Reynolds Homestead"
Tobacco and Beyond
Although started on tobacco, the Reynolds' family influence extends into many different markets. Since 1956, when the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company began acquiring companies in other industries, they have influenced many industries, most notably the food and metal industries. To the right are some of the brands the Reynolds company has at some point owned the rights to. Do you recognize any of these?
- Canada Dry
- Del Monte
- Reynolds Wrap