Turkey Island on the James River east of Richmond is the ancestral home of George E. Pickett. George Pickett, the grandfather for whom the General was named, became a successful businessman after he had served in the Revolutionary War. He was one of the principles in the mercantile firm of Pickett, Pollard and Johnston in Richmond. During 1814, he purchased the entire 1,000 acres of Turkey Island, its mansion and dependencies from Bowler Cocke for $21,000. At his death in 1821, George Edward Pickett left the property to his son Robert, General Pickett's father.
The acreage was vast, encompassing land to its north that adjoined what later became known as Malvern Hill battlefield. The mansion was often referred to as the "bird cage" because of its ornate appointments and, more particularly, because of an elaborate cupola that could be seen by river travelers passing the property. The mansion house and most of the dependencies were casualties of the War Between the States. Fire from Union gunboats and artillery fire destroyed the buildings.
Today, Turkey Island is still privately owned, but there are several owners. In 2001 and again in 2003, they were gracious enough to allow members of the Pickett Society's Board of Directors to visit Turkey Island. An ongoing archaeological excavation being conducted at the site of the Pickett mansion by the College of William and Mary made the visits there intriguing indeed.
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