The Riddick family first came to North America between 1630 and 1650 when James Riddick arrived in the rapidly growing Virginia Colony. He immediately began buying land, and by the time of his son's birth (also named James), he had already established himself as a prominent land owner and businessman. In the generations that followed, the Riddicks grew in number and influence, settling in the lands around Nansemond County (now the City of Suffolk).
Mills Riddick (1780-1844) owned four plantations -- Jericho, Old Place, Sweet Retreat, and White Marsh -- that surrounded the dusty town of Suffolk. In addition to these lands, he also owned stakes in the Albemarle Land Company and the Dismal Swamp Land Company. But despite these businesses, Mills Riddick made most of his personal fortune selling lumber, specifically shingles, throughout the United States. He owned part of a schooner docked at Constant's Wharf in Suffolk that he used to transport his cargo, as well as himself to the busy ports of the mid-Atlantic.
In 1837, as Mills may have been thinking of retirement, a fire swept through Suffolk and burned several of his buildings there. His insurance settlement, some $5,600, paid for the construction of his new home -- Riddick's Folly.
Mills and his wife, Mary Taylor Riddick, had fourteen children together, ten of whom lived to maturity. Though Mills' new home was certainly large enough to accomodate them with its twelve bedrooms, it was more of a retirement home for the aging patriarch where he could enjoy the last years of his life with his numerous grandchildren.
Death came for Mills in 1844, and his widowed bride chose not to live in the large house by herself. She moved into a small, three-room dwelling (that stood at the modern-day intersection of Mahan and Church Streets in downtown Suffolk), taking with her thirty-four side chairs from the house. Riddick's Folly fell to her ten children in equal shares, until one of her younger sons, Nathaniel Riddick, purchased his siblings' shares and owned Riddick's Folly outright at the young age of 25.
Nathaniel and his wife, Missouri, moved in with their two children (four more children would come later). Nathaniel was a lawyer with a growing practice, and the large, prominent mansion likely served him well in the earliest years of his business. In fact, his practice outgrew the parlors and sitting rooms of his home fairly quickly, prompting him to build a separate office on the property, one of the first new buildings there since the fateful fire in 1837.
Nathaniel's reputation earned him 12 consecutive years representing Nansemond County in the Virginia House of Delegates, the last four of which took place during the American Civil War. During those last four years of service, Nathaniel relocated himself and his family to Petersburg, Virginia, leaving Riddick's Folly unoccupied when the Union Army arrived in 1862.
Nathaniel and his family did not return to their home until November of 1865, a full six months after the war had ended in Virginia. The cause for delay had much to do with Nathaniel's newfound status as a traitor to the United States government from his service in the Virginia legislature. The simple act of moving back to Suffolk required a lot of paperwork and red tape, and the Riddicks' return to their home was hardly a happy one when they found it looted and vandalized.
Nathaniel still sought out a role in public service, serving as a judge in the town of Suffolk in the late 1870s. In one final election in 1882, he lost in a bitter contest to an upstart from "the party in power," likely the Republican party. Some that knew him said that, from that point forward, he was "quietly awaiting a summons to the other world." He died in December of 1882.
The Riddick line in Suffolk broke up after Nathaniel's passing. His five surviving children all bore the name Riddick, but those who had children were his daughters; his sons had no children. The Withers, Woolfords, and Rollings now lived in Riddick's Folly.
Nathaniel's eldest daughter, Anna Mary Riddick, continued living in the house with her new relatives for another fifty years. When she passed away in 1936 at the age of 95, she was the last direct descendent of Mills Riddick who also bore the name Riddick. She is believed to be the first person born in Riddick's Folly, and the last person to die there.
Mills Riddick (1780-1844)
Nathaniel Riddick (1819-1882)
Anna Mary Riddick (1841-1936)
Check out our Flickr slideshow of Riddicks.