Over three centuries ago Furneau Southall established his three-hundred acre plantation on the very spot that the Chickahominy Indians had resided on in the years before the westward expansion of the English settlement at Jamestown. The flowing waters of Piney Springs have made this a desirable habitation for centuries. The original log portion of Piney Grove was built about 1790 when this was one of the many seats of Virginia’s prominent Southall family: Today Piney Grove is the best preserved example of Early Log Architecture in Tidewater Virginia. Nearby Southall properties included Mt. Airy, Milton and Vaughn’s: Further a field were the Southall homes of Chatsworth, Reveille, Westham and Young’s Island.
During the second quarter of the eighteenth century Furneau Southall served as deputy-sheriff of Charles City County, under Otway Byrd, son of William Byrd III of Westover. During the American Revolution Southall served on the Charles City County Committee of Safety with John Tyler of Greenway, father of President John Tyler of Woodburn and Sherwood Forest: He also held a captainship of one of the Charles City County companies under Benjamin Harrison of Berkeley. Furneau Southall was also responsible for the local administration of the first Federal Census in 1790.
During the late eighteenth century residents of the plantation included Furneau Southall, his wife and seven children, as well as sixteen slaves - Amy, Bess, Bristol, Critty, Dick, Dublin, Jack, Kate, Lucky, Nutty, Patsey, Pompy, Peter, Rippons, Rose and Silvia. Personal property tax lists reveal the handsome herd of cattle that once grazed on the property and an inventory of Furneau's estate details the furnishings of the plantation house, contents of the library and other luxuries, such as the chariot.
Piney Grove remained in the Southall family until 1857 when Furneau’s grandson, John Seth Stubblefield of Cypress Banks, sold the property to Edmund Archer Saunders of Moss Side. Following the Civil War, Saunders moved to Richmond and became a successful entrepreneur. Saunders returned to Charles City after "The War" to purchase properties such as Indian Fields, Weyanoke and Upper Shirley. A gift of E. A. Saunders, a handsome stone baptismal font, remains in use at Westover Church and a for many years stately portrait of Saunders hung in the drawing room of Evelynton, the home built by his grand-daughter, Mary Ball Saunders Ruffin.
Thomas Fletcher Harwood, a scion of the Harwood family of Weyanoke, resided at Piney Grove from 1874 until 1915. The Harwood Family Children's Cemetery, with elaborate cast-iron fencing, is located on the grounds. Also on the grounds are two unmarked graves thought to be slave graves, possibly belonging to two of the seventeen plantation residents known by name from the county personal property records of the 1780s. Piney Grove belonged to the Hughes family from 1916 until 1984, when the Gordineers began the restoration of this Virginia Historic Landmark and National Register site. Today the grounds also include Ashland (built 1835 - James City County, Virginia), Dower Quarter (built 1835 - Henrico County, Virginia), Ladysmith (built 1857 - Caroline County) and Duck Church (built 1917 - Dare County, North Carolina), as well as the Peace Hill Smokehouse (built ca. 1920 - Charles City County, Virginia).
The restoration of the site began with the five-year effort to return each of the interior spaces of Piney Grove to their appearances when constructed: This phase was conducted by Joseph and Joan Gordineer and their sons, Brian and Don Gordineer. In 1987 Joseph and Joan Gordineer, and Brian Gordineer undertook the relocation of Ladysmith to the property: Two years later the house had been restored to its 1857 appearance. Brian and Cindy Rae Gordineer reconstructed Ashland and Duck Church between 1993 and 1999: These buildings had been dismantled in 1992 and 1991 respectively, by Brian and Joseph Gordineer with assistance from friends of Brian's. A connection wing between the two buildings includes the reconfigured 1951 interior of the Cumberland Court House Post Office and an addition was constructed with architectural salvage from the Cross House (built 1917 - Henrico County, Virginia). Joseph Gordineer dismantled and reconstructed Peace Hill Smokehouse in 1992. Dower Quarter is the most recent addition to the property: This structure was dismantled in 1994 by Brian and Cindy Rae Gordineer, and Joseph Gordineer, and reconstructed in 1996 by Brian and Joseph Gordineer.
Today the grounds also include three interpretive displays. The Welcome Dependency at the parking area includes the exhibits "Piney Grove and its Owners" and "Four Centuries of Native American History in Charles City County." The Arbor includes the exhibit "Dower Quarter as Artifact" which focuses on slave quarters as artifacts of the antebellum South. The Nature Trail includes an exhibit about Piney Springs and Rippons Run and their role as part of the Chesapeake Bay region. The gardens and grounds also include numerous other interpretive plaques that reveal the history of the property, the local community, and the entire James River Plantation Country.