The Richmond History Podcast

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Who is Fulton Hill Named After?

James Alexander Fulton of Mt. Erin
Pastel on cream colored paper
Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin, Brooklyn Museum

Looking south east over Gillie's Creek Park from Chimborazo Park this time of year you can see a large building with big white columns. It is the old Robert Fulton Elementary School built in 1916, now it is Fulton Hill Studios on the peak of Fulton Hill.  Robert Fulton must be the name sake of the hill right? Wrong.  The name Fulton relates to the Fulton's that built their home "Mt Erin" on the hill.  Virginius Dabney's Richmond: Story of a City says the home was built by James Alexander Fulton around 1800 but genealogical charts point to Alexander Fulton, James' dad.  James wasn't born until 1813.  The elder Fulton was born in Ireland, married Eliza Mayo in 1803 and built Mt. Erin his home on the hill.  At the time, what is now Fulton and Fulton hill seems to have been a rural area outside of the city yet not far from the port of Rockett's Landing, making it a very nice piece of real estate.

Alexander died in 1823 in Henrico shortly after what seems to be some financial trouble (more to come about that. I need to find more information).  James seems to have moved out to Caroline County where he dies in 1886.1

The Robert Fulton reference must come from Rockett's Landing.  Robert is credited with inventing the first steam boat2 and Robert Rockett ran a ferry across the river starting in 1730.3  I haven't found any information about who decided to go with Robert when naming the school or why.  If you have any clues comment below.
Robert Fulton
Inventor of the steamboat

1. (seems to be the most consistent consensus among the dates I've found)

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  1. Wow!!!! Preparing a paper on Fulton and just came across your article. You might be interested in what I found, including a copy of a clipping (Valentine History Center) from The Richmond News Leader, Monday, April 23, 1934, that states: "The Fulton referred to was Edward S. Fulton, whose wife was Elizabeth Bland Mayo." Someone scratched through "Edward S." and hand wrote "Alexander" underneath. I also read Dabney's Richmond: The Story of a City, "....Fulton Hill is named for Irish-born James Alexander Fulton, who married Eliza Mayo about 1800 and built for his bride beautiful "Mount Erin", where Powhatan Village once stood." I have also read in other places that it was James Alexander Fulton (probably also taken from Dabney's book.)

    Check out this post:

    In this post, the person is indicating what they found in the the Photograph Index of the Va. Hist. Soc., which lists includes:

    "Fulton, James Alexander 1774-1823"

    Very interesting!!!!

  2. I found a document from about 10 years before Alexander died on the VA Historical Society Web site that the site says is a document showing the sale of three slaves but I transcribed it and it seems like a good bit of the Fulton property, not only slaves were given up to pay off debts. Then Alexander dies in Caroline County. I don't have the evidence to prove my hunch either way yet, but I have a feeling Alex had to move out to Caroline under financial problems while James Alexander is still quite young. From what I can tell I the Fultons don't own any of that land by the Civil war. I would love to see what you have found. If it is too lengthy to post please e-mail it to me. If you are writing a paper on Fulton I would love to see that as well and I may want to post it if that is ok.

  3. Also see the other Fulton posts by clicking on Fulton and Fulton Hill in the topics on the right