Clover Forest, located in Goochland, Virginia between Richmond and Charlottesville, is an authentically restored Federal home on the upper James River, in the Piedmont. It has a Federal-style mansion, with portions dating to pre-Revolutionary America; terraced landscaped grounds, and a private lake. The property lies in a large bend of the James River.
With the neighboring farmsteads, it is part of what has been called the Golden Horsehoe, from East to West: Blythewood, Orapax, Bolling Hall, Pocahontas, Dungeness 1931, Rock Castle, Deer Lodge, Mannsville, Bolling Island, Snowden, Clover Forest, Howard's Neck, Harrison's Elk Hill, and Jefferson's Elk Hill. Since 2003, Clover Forest has been operated as a bed & breakfast. It is also a venue for special events such as weddings and receptions, and operates a catering business.
In 1714, the land on which Clover Forest stands was initially included within 2,000 acres (810 ha) patented by Charles Fleming, extending along the upper James River from what were developed as Rock Castle to Elk Island farms. Bolling Island was also developed along the river. This territory was eventually divided and developed as the neighboring estates of Rock Castle, Snowden, and Howard’s Neck, and the site of Elk Island. Because of the later colonial and antebellum history of this area, as well as several extant properties, it has been proposed for designation as Fleming's Part Rural Historic District in a 2003 architectural survey prepared for the state's Department of Historic Resources.
Fleming was unable to develop it rapidly enough, and portions "fell back" to the Crown of England. In 1739/1740 Lieutenant Governor William Gooch authorized the sale of 2,590 acres (1,050 ha) for £13 to John Woodson, Gentleman. Woodson split the purchase with Joseph Dabbs, but Woodson and Dabbs failed "to make such cultivation and improvements" to the land as required, and the land reverted again to the Crown.
In 1745, the land was sold again, for £13 to Philip Webber. Webber could not fulfill his obligations for development and again the land reverted. It was resold, this time for £11 15/-, to Arthur Hopkins in 1753. Hopkins apparently accomplished more with the land; under his ownership only a portion reverted to the Crown.
On August 7, 1761, the Reverend William Douglas and his wife (née Nicholas) successfully patented 1,134 acres (459 ha) for £4 10/-. Their purchase of the property in 1761 has been considered the start of development of Clover Forest. Douglas and his wife may have occupied the house at Clover Forest as their residence, or used the farm to provide produce. They are credited with building what is today the oldest section of the house (the lower part of the west wing). Twenty months later when they sold the land, houses and orchards were conveyed with it.
Douglas is noted, at least locally, as author of the Douglas Register, an important resource for historians and genealogists. He was minister of the vast St. James Northam Parrish of the Church of England, the established church in the colony. It encompassed today's Virginia counties of Goochland, Fluvanna, Louisa, Orange, and Spotsylvania. The original Dover Church in Goochland, no longer standing, was his home church.
As the only legally authorized clergyman of the established church, Douglas compiled (nearly) all births, marriages, and deaths during the period from about 1750 to 1797. He also recreated some miscellaneous records dating to 1705, as no register was maintained before he was called to the parish.