Mills Riddick (1780-1844) owned four plantations — Old Place, Sweet Retreat, Soldier’s Hope and Jericho — east of the town of Suffolk. In addition to these lands, he also owned stakes in the Albemarle Swamp Land Company and the Dismal Swamp Land Company. Mills Riddick made most of his personal fortune selling lumber, specifically cedar and cypress shingles, to Philadelphia and New York. He owned 3/4 of the stock in the schooner Washington docked at Constant’s Wharf in Suffolk that he used to transport his cargo.
Mills and Mary Taylor Riddick had fourteen children, ten who lived to maturity. In 1820 they moved from Old Place plantation to Main Street Suffolk with their children.
In 1837, a fire swept down Main Streetand burned several of Mills Riddick’s buildings including his own residence. The insurance settlement, some $5,600.00, paid for the construction of his new Greek Revival home – Riddick’s Folly.
Mills Riddick lived at Riddick’s Folly a short five years. He died in the ladies parlor now the office for the museum’s staff. After his death, Mary Taylor choose to move to a smaller dwelling about one block south of their grand home. Riddick’s Folly fell to their ten children in equal shares until one of her younger sons, Nathaniel Riddick, purchased his siblings shares and owned Riddick’s Folly outright at the young age of 25.
Nathaniel and his wife, Missouri Ann Jones Kilby Riddick, had moved into the house the same year his parents did in 1839. They had their first child, Anna Mary Riddick, in 1841 followed by four other siblings. Nathaniel was a lawyer with a growing practice that soon outgrew the gentlemen’s library which prompted him to construct a law office on the property in 1851. Nathaniel’s political reputation earned him 12 consecutive years representing Suffolk and Nansemond County in the Virginia House of Delegates. At the beginning of Civil War, in 1862, Nathaniel relocated his family to Petersburg, Virginia leaving his home to be taken by General John J. Peck as his Union headquarters. He and his family returned to Riddick’s Folly in 1865 to find it looted and vandalized.
After the war Nathaniel still sought out a role in public life, serving as a judge in the town of Suffolk in the late 1870’s. He also was the mayor of Suffolk for seven years. He died in his law office in 1882.
The Riddick line in Suffolk broke up after Nathaniel’s passing; four of his five surviving children with the Riddick surname did not wed. Only his fourth child, Missouri Taylor Riddick Withers bore Nathaniel and Missouri’s grandchildren. The Withers, Woolfords, and Rollings resided in the home.
Nathaniel and Missouri’s oldest daughter, Anna Mary Riddick, continued living at Riddick’s Folly with her new relatives for another 50 years. She passed away in 1936 at the age of 95. She was the first child born in the home and the last person to die there.
Check out our Flickr slideshow of Riddicks.