Marble Hall was constructed in 1846. The date was chiseled atop one of the marble drains. It was a towering structure with 22 rooms and 3 floors, not counting the basement and attic. A circular stairway reached from the first floor to the last. Orville Rice constructed the home four miles southwest of Rogersville, beside what is 11-W today.
The primary building material was brick, but marble was used throughout. Rice decided to name the place, “Marble House.” Not only did marble money build it, it was the main accent. The home had marble throughout its entirety, lintels for doors and windows, flooring, fireplace mantels, windowsills, exterior drains, the balustrades, finials, shelving, and a host of other details.
Orville’s son, Horace, was born in 1835. Orville named his son after his brother. Horace eventually became Colonel Horace Rice. The Confederate leader participated in some of the largest Civil War battles, including Chickamauga. Col. Rice also fought at the Battle of Franklin, where he was shot and taken prisoner in November of 1864. He survived the bullet wound, but was then held prisoner until May of 1865.
As a result of his son’s participation in the war, Orville’s property and assets were seized by Crawford W. Hall, a Lincoln-appointed U.S. District Attorney. The government didn’t stop with Rice, they also seized properties from George and Samuel Powell, as well as Audley Anderson.
It took months of paperwork as well as an attorney’s assistance. All of them even contacted President Andrew Johnson to ask for pardon. Samuel was pardoned in October 1865, but his brother George wasn’t until July of 1866. Rice wasn’t pardoned until January of 1866. Anderson likewise had to wait on the sluggish system.
Another Sudden Loss
Rice’s property was returned to him, but he wouldn’t enjoy it for long. Rice was always looking for the next investment and thought he found one in Southwestern Virginia. He used the majority of his assets to purchase huge pieces of property in the neighboring state. He was convinced that copper was the next big industry and hoped to find several copper mines on his new property. Unfortunately, it was a big assumption that didn’t pan out.
He lost everything. Debtors sold Marble Hall in 1972. He even lost his quarry. Rice and his wife moved to a small house on Caney Creek. Horace recovered from the old war wound and moved on, but tragedy came to the family again in 1871. Horace died in Lexington, Tennessee, in September of 1871. He’d just been elected to the Senate, but died before he took his seat.
Orville was buried in the Presbyterian Church in Rogersville, in 1879. His wife, Margaret, died in 1881. The Rice family had completely moved out of Hawkins County by the middle of the Twentieth Century.