History Part IV


  The Sturgeon Residency

        In 1946, John and Betsy Gould Sturgeon, III, purchased the house, situated on 1400 acres, and employed prominent architect  Willis Irvin, Sr. (pictured right) to direct the completion of the house into an elegant home. During this restoration, the conservatory, which had originally been a bay window alcove that John Kirk replaced with a small music room for daughter Emily, was expanded to a large room filled with windows. The copper roof was sound, and Irvin "found original scaffolding still in place inside when he began the project." He stayed "within the original style in his additions" and the finished interior reflected the sophisticated taste of Mrs. Sturgeon.

        Descriptions of the house during the Sturgeon residency has been received from several sources, including The Island Packet articles, vertical files and letters:

        "It's interior floor plan is 'cruciform,' or in the shape of a cross. Eye-catching are its free-standing staircase in the entry hall, which has a domed ceiling 54 feet high from which hangs a magnificent two-tiered chandelier; the 18th Century, Chinese hand-painted wallpaper in the dining room; the Italian marble mantel in the drawing room; a solarium with an exquisite chandelier of glass day lilies with brass stamens, leaves and tendrils; a bath-dressing room with a fireplace surrounded by ceiling-to-floor mirrors and an intricate, hand-carved wooden mantelpiece of interwoven vines."

        "The free hanging staircase is of teak walnut and oak and leads to a balustraded balcony on the second floor. An early Louis XVI chandelier hangs in the dining room and another of strung crystal beads covering a gilded iron form is in the drawing room. A fine American breakfront in the hall houses part of Mrs. Sturgeon's complete collection of Doughty birds as well as other fine porcelains."


       In 1946, when John and Betsy purchased Rose Hill, it was no longer a working plantation.  The Sturgeons stocked the forests with wild turkey (not to be hunted), but also pheasant, quail and ducks all of which were hunted as a sport.  A vegetable garden was planted, hay was grown for market, and wheat & barley were grown for live stock.  Many old time residents of the area recall square dancing, parties and other frolics at Rose Hill.  Horses were Betsy's passion.  It is said that John Sturgeon would sit on the front porch and shoot at deer foraging in his garden beyond the trees in the front yard.

To see other photos of the house during the time of the Sturgeon residency, click HERE.

The Sturgeons:

        Betsy Sturgeon, nee Florence Amelia "Betsy" Bacon, was first married to Frank Miller Gould, son of Edwin Gould and the grandson financier and railroad builder Jay Gould. They were married at the home of Betsy's parents in Dallas, TX, on November 17, 1924. They had two children: Marianne Gould (1926-1957) who married John Wright McDonough of Galveston, TX, in March 1945; and Edwin Jay Gould, III (b. 1932). Betsy and Frank Gould divorced in 1944.

  (To see more details of her life before marriage to John Sturgeon, click )

       Betsy Gould Sturgeon married John Metler Sturgeon, III, April 4, 1945, and they moved to Muroc, CA, where he was stationed as a lieutenant in the Army Air Force. In 1946, they purchased the Rose Hill Plantation and lived there for the rest of their lives. They were both avid horse lovers.  Betsy died in 1966.

        John Metler Sturgeon, III, was the son of John and Mary Amos Sturgeon of Smith Grove (Warren County), Kentucky. Lieutenant Sturgeon, a graduate of The Citadel, received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and a Presidential Citation.  Born in 12-5-14, John died August 6, 1978.



        Betsy Gould Sturgeon died in 1966.  Later John Sturgeon remarried and remained at Rose Hill until his death in 1978.   After his death, the land was used for little else than growing hay  until 1981 when the estate was purchased by The Rose Hill Plantation Development Co., a joint venture of the Welton Corporation and Ontario Properties.

   To see Sturgeon photos & documents and photos of Rose Hill during the Sturgeon years ..... 

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       In January 2008, Rufus Akins (pictured right with Robin White) visited the Whites and told of his memories of Rose Hill when he was a child.  His father worked for Mr. Sturgeon who built a house for their family on the other side of the highway near where the present golf side entrance gate is now.  He fondly recalled how Betsy Sturgeon would "load up her big car and take all us kids to the store and buy us ice cream and candy."  

                               (For robin White's account of this visit,........Click here)


        In July 2008, Jim Ellington and his family from Kentucky visited the house.  He is the nephew of John & Betsy Gould Sturgeon and, while attending college in Savannah in the early '60s, he lived at Rose Hill with the Sturgeons.  Jim had answers for so many questions that had puzzled the Whites over the past years.  This was perhaps Rose Hill's most opulent of liftimes when, for the very first time in its history, all of Rose Hill Plantation House's construction (or rather reconstruction) was complete.  It was a Rose Hill that John and Caroline Kirk had hoped to one day enjoy.  It was so good to have Mr. Ellington and his family "come home."  After his visit, Mr. Ellington sent many items, articles & photographs, one of which (at left ) is of Mr. Sturgeon's WWII bomber squad. (For other photos, see red button below)

                               (For Robin White's detailed account of this visit - with photos, .....click here


        In September 2008, Ben Akins and his family visited Rose Hill.  Ben Jr. is the older brother of Rufus Aiken who visited us earlier this year, so his memories of those days were a little more detailed. While Rufus remembered Rose Hill as more of a playground, Ben's memories were those of an older child and teenager - of chores and responsibility.   His memories and some funny Rose Hill tales are detailed in Robin White's account of this visit.

                             (For Robin White's detailed account of this visit - with photos, ........ Click here)


     In July 2009, Randy Reynolds came over for a visit - his first time back in 30 years.  

Remember when I previously told y'all about a Mr. Lonnie Reynolds? He was Rose Hill's first security guard and caretaker back in the days when John Sturgeon owned Rose Hill Plantation (1946 - 1978). Mr. Reynolds had a house located near the entrance and his main job was to watch the place & protect it. He and Mr. Sturgeon grew to be friends and after Mr.Sturgeon's death, he continued to guard this place from harm.

This morning, July 24, Lonnie's son, Randy Reynolds, came over for a visit and brought his two pretty daughters with him. I'm sure I kept them here much longer than they had planned, but he was so full of memories of this place and this is, of course, my subject of greatest interest! He hadn't been back here inside the plantation in nearly 30 years. The last time was back when he and Jim Ellington (Jimmy as he called him) and others were doing an inventory of household items after Mr. Sturgeon's death. This was just shortly before the Weltons (our developers) bought Rose Hill.

                              (For Robin White's detailed account of this visit, .........Click Here)


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