Built in 1840, the plantation was purchased in 1843 by Edmund Ruffin, a Virginia planter and a pioneer in agricultural improvements; he also published an agricultural journal in the 1840s named the Farmer's Register. One of a group of intellectuals they called "the sacred circle", he worked to reform agriculture in the South, promoting crop rotation and soil conservation; he is considered to have been "the father of soil science" in the United States. Ruffin experimented with agricultural methods and mixed marl, defined as "a friable earthy deposit consisting of clay and calcium carbonate, used esp. as a fertilizer for soils deficient in lime" to add to soils.
He and his friends: James Henry Hammond, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, George Frederick Holmes, and William Gilmore Simms, were pro-slavery and promoted a moral reform of the South. They published numerous articles in literary and short-lived magazines, promoting a stewardship role for masters to improve conditions under slavery.
Later Ruffin gained more attention as one of a number of secessionist fire-eaters; he traveled to South Carolina and is credited with firing one of the first shots at Fort Sumter in 1861. Despondent after General Lee's surrender in 1865, he left a note proclaiming his "unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule—to all political, social and business connections with Yankees, & to the perfidious, malignant, & vile Yankee race" and committed suicide at Redmoor in Amelia County. He is buried on the grounds of Marlbourne.