Rives, Robert (1764 - 1845 VA)


Rives, Robert


Father: William Rives
Mother: Lucy Shands

Birth: 11 Mar 1764
Birth Source:

Death: 9 Mar 1845, Nelson County, Virginia
Death Source: Obituary

Spouse1: Margaret Cabell, m. 18 Jan 1790, Amherst County, Virginia


Children of Robert Rives and Margaret Cabell:
  1. Landon Cabell Rives, b. 24 Oct 1790
  2. Margaret Jordan Rives, b. 9 Jan 1792, d. 17 Jan 1862
  3. William Cabell Rives, b. 4 May 1793
  4. Lucy Shands Rives, b. 18 Nov 1794
  5. Paulina Cabell Rives, b. 11 Mar 1796
  6. Robert Rives, b. 17 May 1798
  7. Henry Rives, b. 29 Oct 1799
  8. James B. Rives, b. 5 Feb 1801, d. 25 Jul 1816
  9. George Rives, b. 24 Apr 1802
  10. Elizabeth Rives, b. 20 Dec 1803, d. 15 Sep 1804
  11. Alexander Rives, b. 17 Jun 1806

From Reliques of the Rives:
Robert Rives, born March 11, 1764, in Sussex county, Virginia, "joined the army in 1781, and served as a private at Yorktown"; after the war he entered the store of Col. Richard Baker at South Quay. The late Hon. Sterling Claiborne, of Amherst, used to say that this was done against his mother's wishes, but her old friend and legal adviser, Col. Augustine Claiborne, told her to let him alone, as he felt sure he was amply able, not only to make his own way in the world, but to achieve fortune and fame also.
"In the course of a few years he entered the store of Blow & Barksdale at Charlotte Court House. Here he is said to have worked very faithfully and energetically, laying the foundation of his commercial education.
"In the autumn of 1789, Mr. Alexander Donald (the friend of Jefferson), of the firm of Donald & Burton, London, England, spent some time at 'Union Hill.' He was very favorably impressed with the tobacco grown in this section for shipping purposes, and induced Col. William Cabell, Sr., to arrange to have all the good tobacco that came to Warminster warehouse bought up for him. Mr. Rives married Col. Cabell's daughter [Margaret Jordan Cabell on January 25], 1790. Prior to May 27 following, Col. Cabell turned this valuable agency over to him, and wrote a letter of recommendation to which Mr. Donald replied from Richmond on June 18: 'I think as you do of Mr. Rives, and as you have promised your friendly assistance to him, I cannot doubt of his conduct answering my expectations.'
"The house of Donald & Burton was one of the largest com mission houses in London.
"Mr. Rives had commenced business on his own account at Warminster before his marriage. After accepting this agency, he located stores, from time to time, as the opportunity presented itself, all over this shipping tobacco section, wherever there was a public warehouse for the inspection of tobacco. At Warminster, at New Market (now Norwood station), at Diuguidsville (now Bent Creek, near Bolton station), at Lynchburg, at Milton in Albemarle, at Ca Ira in Cumberland, etc. Prior to 1794, these stores were conducted on his individual account; but after this the business increased so rapidly and was so scattered that partners were taken in from time to time [amongst them his brother, Henry Rives]. The object was to 'kill two birds with one stone': to buy the tobacco and pay for it in merchandise as far as possible, to obtain the English commission on the tobacco purchased, and a profit on the goods sold.
"The warehouse at New Market belonged to Col. William Cabell, the elder. In 1794, Mr. Rives bought 720 hogsheads of the tobacco sold there, and, on September 27, he paid Col. Cabell £54 for the warehouse charges thereon. In the same year, Mr. Rives bought as much more tobacco at each of five other warehouses, and his purchases increased from year to year, until his partners and himself virtually controlled the tobacco trade of all this section.
"He transacted a great deal of business with Mr. James Brown, of Richmond, from 1790, both being agents in Virginia for the house of Donald & Burton, London, and they afterwards became partners, under the style Brown & Rives, in one of the foremost commission houses of the State.
"Mr. Burton, of the London firm, died about 1807, which made necessary a full adjustment of all accounts in the Rives branch in America, and the settlement was satisfactory to all parties.
"The firm was doing an especially large business about 1809-1812, owning or employing many ships in trade with the West Indies, England, Scotland and Spain. The members in Virginia were Thomas Higginbotham, James Brown, and Robert Rives.
On February 14, 1812, the General Assembly of Virginia incorporated 'The Nelson and Albemarle Union Factory, for the laudable purpose of manufacturing wool and cotton.' Mr. Rives was much interested in this enterprise. In May following, himself and others bought of Col. William Cabell, Jr., the present Variety Mills estate, on which Col. Cabell had already a corn-mill, a tannery, and a shoe maker's shop, and to which the company soon added a large flourmill, a saw-mill, a store, and the 'Union Factory for wool and cotton.' In the course of time Mr. Rives bought up the shares of the others and became the owner of the whole plant.
"During the Peninsular war (about 1813 I think), James Brown made a large shipment of flour on his own account to Cadiz, Spain, which was lost, and caused his failure. In settling the business of Brown & Rives, a great lawsuit arose between the two parties. Mr. Chapman Johnson and his son, William C. Rives (then a young man), attended to the suit for Mr. Rives, and gained it after great alarm, the amount involved being over $100,000, a large sum in those days.
"After this suit, and after the death of his wife, he gradually retired from active commercial affairs, and began to devote himself more and more to his farms; but during life he retained an interest in (furnished funds to partners in) the country stores at Bent Creek, Variety Mills, and possibly elsewhere, and in the commission business in Richmond, of Rives, Clarke & Co., to the retirement of Mr. Clarke, then Rives & Ferguson to the death of Mr. Ferguson in 1833, and then Rives & Harris to the death of Mr. Rives in 1845.
"Mr. Rives was a communicant of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and in 1833 or 1834 he built a brick church for that denomination on land given by him just west of Oak Ridge. It was long called Rives' Church, and it should have been preserved as a memorial to him. It is now called 'Trinity Church.'
"'He was a small man about 5 feet 9 inches tall, well set; very neat in dress; very inquisitive and talkative; very polite; very hospitable; very much respected by all who knew him; and very much beloved by the slaves, of whom he owned a large number.'
"In the division of his father's estate after the death of his mother early in the [nineteenth] century, he received a good many slaves, and their advent in this region was an event in colored society. In many respects the low-country negroes differed from those of the mountains, and these were long designated in the county as 'Sussex negroes'; indeed, the grandson of one of them living near me is even now known as 'Sussex George.'
"Mr. Rives owned a large estate in Albemarle, of which I know but little. He also owned between 10,000 and 15,000 acres of land in Nelson, all of which, I believe, has passed out of the hands of his descendants, and of these I [i. e., Alexander Brown] am the only one now living in the county which was for so long his home.
"He was one of the first justices, and was for many years the presiding magistrate of the county. Although remarkably well versed in political information, and an ardent politician, he never yet allowed himself to be a candidate for a political office, and the magistracy was almost the only public office held by him. Many thought, however, that he would have been as successful in the political arena as he was a merchant and farmer. Many of the old people told me that they thought he would have been more successful in politics even than his son William. This was the opinion of his contemporaries."
The following obituary notice of Mr. Rives appeared soon after his death:
On Sunday the 9th of March, 1845, at Oak Ridge, his residence in the county of Nelson, Robert Rives, Esq., in the 81st year of his age. All who knew this venerable and remarkable man (and he was well known personally or by reputation throughout the State) will unite in the sentiment that few, if any, in their day and generation, have led more useful and honorable lives, or left behind them more enduring testimonials of the high moral and intellectual qualities which distinguished his career on Earth. Bred in the school of strenuous and self-denying virtue, which ushered in the era of our Revolutionary struggle, in the closing scene of which he was just old enough to take a part as a volunteer on the plains of Yorktown, he moved forward in the paths of life with that firm and undeviating step, and with that resolute energy of will and purpose, which enabled him always to reach the goal he aimed at. Throwing himself at an unusually early period of life, with a manly self-reliance, on the resources of his own industry and genius, he engaged, while yet a youth, in commercial pursuits, which he continued to prosecute for many years on a scale of extended enterprise, amid the vicissitudes and hazards of the unsettled state of the commercial world which attended the period of the wars of the French Revolution, and with a skill, sagacity, judgment, and success, which placed him deservedly in the first rank of American merchants.
Retiring from the more active scenes of commercial adventure, while his faculties of mind and body were yet in full vigor, he devoted the last thirty years of his life mainly to the care and improvement of a large landed estate, in which the same perseverance, guided by intelligence, liberality, and taste, was crowned with a like success. His country seat which he loved to beautify and surround with every useful and tasteful improvement, was the abode of an elegant and munificent hospitality. Nowhere were its rites administered with a more genuine and warm-hearted Virginia Welcome, as the many who have received and enjoyed that Welcome, can testify.
But the crowning grace of his life was that which gilded with a heavenly sunset its closing scenes. In the midst of the blessings, with which he was surrounded, he recognized the bountiful Hand, from which they all proceeded. He professed the religion of our blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and the "peace which passeth all understanding" was brightly and abundantly manifested in the serenity, elevated composure, and divinely inspired hopes and faith of his last moments. Surrounded by his numerous family, and bestowing his blessing on each and all of them, he was gently gathered, like the Patriarchs of old, to his fathers, in favor with God, and in charity with all the world.

Mr. Robert Rives' wife, Margaret Jordan Cabell, was a daughter of Col. William Cabell, Sen., by his wife, Margaret (whom he married in 1756), daughter of Col. Samuel Jordan by his first wife, Ruth Merideth. Col. Cabell, who was born March 13, 1730, was for several years a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and commander of the Albemarle county militia. He was a member of the Committee of Public Safety in Albemarle in 1774; a member of the Conventions of 1775 and 1776; a State Senator throughout the Revolution; and, as a member of the State Convention of 1778, voted against ratification of the Federal Constitution. He died at his residence at Union Hill in Nelson county on March 23, 1798, where he owned an estate of some 30,000 acres. Col. Cabell was a son of Dr. William Cabell, born March 20, 1700 (son of William Cabell, the emigrant, a native of Warminster in Wiltshire, England, by his marriage on Nov. 15, 1697, to Rachel Hooper), who is said to have been a surgeon in the British Navy, and who settled about 1724 in Goochland county, Virginia, where he married Elizabeth Burks.

The obituary included in Reliques is from the Richmond Enquirer. Much of the above quoted biography comes from the book The Cabells and their kin.

The following entries from the diary of William Cabell are contained in the book The Cabells and their kin:
  • "Jan'y 25th, 1790. My daughter Peggy was married to Mr. Robert Rives by the Rev. Mr. Isaac Darnielle at Union Hill."
  • "May 27th. Paid Robert Rives £242. — the bal. due Alex. Donald for money sent me to purchase tobacco — pr. Mr. Donald's order. For which I have Mr. Rives' receipt and Mr. Donald's letter to warrant the payment."
  • "August 20th. Mr. Rives and wife visit Charlotte County."
  • "Octr 23rd. My daughter Rives delivered of a son about 5 o'clock in the evening."
  • "Octr 28th. Doctor George Gilmer left this place after being here six days with my daughter Rives, who is in a most distressing situation."
  • "Jan'y 19th, 1791. Mr. Robert Rives and his wife went home after living with me about twelve months."
  • "Jan'y 9th, 1792. My daughter Peggy Rives delivered of a daughter about ten o'clock at night."
  • "May 4th, 1793. In the morning my daughter Peggy Rives delivered of a son."

Robert Rives was involved in some land transactions in Amherst County. In a deed from 1793, William Cabell gifted "to his daughter Peggy Rives" 800 acres "from a desire to place her in as comfortable a situation as the means which providence has put in his power will enable him."

Richmond Enquirer, 30 Aug 1815
Departed this life, in the 45th year of her age, on Saturday morning, the 19th inst. Mrs. Margaret Rives, daughter of the late Col. William Cabell, and consort of Mr. Robert Rives, of the county of Nelson.

Robert made a will in 1843 which named most of the above listed children and devised numerous slaves and land holdings to them.

Son James B. Rives is buried in the Rives family cemetery on Robert Rives's estate lands. Dates given on headstone match what is stated above.

Research Notes

This is probably the Robert Rives listed in Campbell, Richmond County, Virginia in 1810.

Although his household was listed in Nelson County in 1830, he appears to be the Robert who is listed (by agent), with no individuals listed, in Albemarle County and again in 1840.


Marriage1:  Virginia, Compiled Marriages, 1660-1800 (Ancestry)
Death:        Obituary, Richmond Enquirer, 14 Mar 1845

1820 Census:  Nelson County, Virginia
1830 Census:  Nelson County, Virginia
1840 Census:  Nelson County, Virginia

Obituary of Margaret Rives, Richmond Enquirer, 30 Aug 1815
1793 Deed - William Cabell to Robert & Peggy Rives - Amherst County, Virginia Deed Book G, p225
1843 Will - Robert Rives - Nelson County, Virginia Deed Book G, p103
Childs, James Rives. Reliques of the Rives, p565
Brown, Alexander. The Cabells and their kin, p220