June 2011

 This morning (6/28/11) I got an Email from the man in charge of photography at Williamsburg. One of my biggest obstacles has been how to get the people pictures I want without having to sign wavers and all of that. Jim referred me to another man who is charge of the files at Williamsburg. He was able to send me to the director of the archives there. When they learned I had received a grant and the purpose of my project, they let me look through the entire database of commissioned portraits that have been done at Williamsburg—and they waved the normal cost of procuring these prints. They also gave me permission to use my own prints as long as I am attributing the professional ones to them and mine to me. (Unfortunately, I can’t post those on the internet.) So, instead of my having to try to catch actors without modern people around in positions that supported my poems, I was able to choose posed people who met my needs for the poems. That definitely saved me a lot of time.


Men's shaving set

I also went on a quest to find a Colonial razor set. One of Bolling’s poems is an apology for taking so long to return a razor set to a man from whom he had borrowed a razor when he left his in Williamsburg. I asked one of the tavern curators if there was a razor set inside. When I explained what I was doing, she told me of another of Bolling’s properties in Petersburg, which I will check out tomorrow. She also let me interrupt a tour and opened the glass door to actually let me walk into the exhibit to take a closer picture of the razor.


The remainder of the day I spent trying to decipher microfiche. Thankfully, I know how to interpret words in context, as it’s rather like playing Outburst. I read what I think he means, then look at the words around and the words with which it’s supposed to rhyme and figure out what the most likely word is. Slow going, but I’m through about 20 pages of my 49.



Copy of original drawing of Cobbs

 Today (6/27/11) was a day of great exploration.  I started off trying to find Cobbs.  I went to the Chesterfield Library, where I found more information on Cobbs, including the pictures of the original building, which was burned by Federals during the Civil War.  (Yet another reason to dislike Yankees….)  I also realized why the Bolling family tree is so hard to follow. Robert Bolling (The first to come to America) married Jane Rolfe (Pocahotas’s granddaughter) and had one son, John. Jane died, and Robert remarried, starting a new strain of Bollings (Thereafter distinguished as the “White” Bollings, as opposed to the “Red” Bollings which were Pocahontas’s line.) Each Bolling side of the family had Robert Bolling’s (in honor of the ancestor)–In fact, My Robert Bolling had a brother named Robert who only lived to be four and died two years before My Robert was born—Imagine that conversation: “Yeah, your brother died, so we gave you his name…” Eventually, however, the two sides rejoined when a “red” Bolling married a “white” Bolling. Complicated!


Col. Bolling's Grave

After trying to keep the history straight, I found a copy of vague directions to Cobbs, including such tidbits as “Proceed 1 ¾ miles southeast on 617, thence to…” And, it included streets which no longer exist. So, once again, I was left to chance and the GPS. I managed to find a street called Cobbs Point and explored from there out. Having received information that part of Cobbs was in the middle of a park, I was able to locate the Park Ranger, who pointed me to a subdivision. Col. John Bolling (Robert’s father) is buried in the middle of a subdivision, but I found it without too much difficulty. All the houses said no trespassing, so I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get some pictures, but I saw a man outside working on his car, so I went and asked him. Turned out, he was from England, and not only let me explore his land, but also told me that the remains of Cobbs had been removed off of the land adjoining his property. So that ended the quest for Cobbs.



Ruins of the Chimney ouside of Chellowe

I then decided to head back up to Dillwyn since I had discovered that Indian Plains had also been a part of Chellowe as well. I was able to take a few pictures around there (Ignoring another No Trespassing sign.), and I was able to capture the ruins of the chimney and some outbuildings. Then, I went back to the Buckingham County Library to see if I could locate any of Bolling’s other plantations. The Librarian sent me to the County Courthouse, designed, incidentally, by Thomas Jefferson. While there, I was able to see some of the land grants Col. Bolling received.


I drove down to Willis Mountain, where I had learned from the Courthouse that Robert Bolling Senior (Relative—Not sure “red” or “white” Bolling) had signed his name in a cave in 1700. I passed yet another No Trespassing sign to drive up Willis Mountain, which is now a mine. I got a few pictures, but didn’t see the cave, so I decided to stop in the mining office to see if they knew anything about it. The secretary was excited to hear all I had discovered about Robert Bolling. She promised to email the man who had bought Chellowe and owned Willis Mountain. He called me as I was driving to where I thought the other plantation was and told me that Chellowe was actually designed from Thomas Jefferson’s first plans for Monticello. I’d never heard that, but as Thomas Jefferson was Bolling’s brother-in-law, it would make sense. He mentioned that Bolling’s signature was indeed in the cave, but had been covered over with graffiti, so it wouldn’t be worth my time to drive back to see it, since they hadn’t restored it yet. We talked history for a few more minutes, and he told me I was welcome to come by anytime I was in the area (Score!) and to send him anything I found. Then, I took pictures of the Seven Islands area and drove home. So, a very full Bolling day.

Willis Mountain





Yorktown Beach

Today (6/25/11) I spent the day exploring Yorktown.  As it was the common departure point for most people leaving the area, it was no doubt the launch point for Robert Bolling’s love, Anne Miller.  I first went to the reenactment area of Yorktown, where they have a working farm, so I could get some character photographs.  Then, I went down to get some views of the sea.  Finally, spent the remainder of the day working on transcribing Microfiche.  I had planned to look for Cobbs today, but had a change of plans.  Still haven’t worked out the photograph possibilities for Colonial Williamsburg. One week to go!


Inscription to Bolling's "Scrapbook"

Yesterday and today, I have spent most of the day transcribing an old scrapbook of Robert Bolling’s where he kept (and sometimes corrected) articles he had published in the newspaper as well as bits of music he had written.  It is extremely tedious work, and not my favorite thing to do, but as I on hold waiting for the man in charge of photography here to get back with me, it seems to be the best option.  Hopefully, when I am done with this, I will be able to leave a copy with the collection here, so other scholars don’t have to deal with the hassle of trying to decipher what words are in the creases.  Tomorrow, I head to Petersburg to poke around there and see if I cannot discover the location of a few other family homes.



Today (6/21/11), I had intended to spend the day in the library since it was supposed to rain (which incidentally, it has been supposed to rain EVERY day I’ve been here and has managed thus far to avoid hitting me.), but as it was a gorgeous day, I decided to head around Williamsburg instead. I have yet to hear from my contacts in Colonial Williamsburg, so I decided to take pictures around town. I went first to the House of Burgesses, knowing that Bolling had been a member there. Next, I got a few picture of the actors in a show, which I thought might serve my purposes. By then, it was hot and time to move my car from short term parking, so I headed over to the library.

Bolling signed his own newspaper


The John D. Rockefeller library has some of the most helpful staff of anywhere I have been. Not only did they pull files from their amazing file capacity, they also have an unbelievable special collections department. Most of the items I initially found were things I had already seen, though it was fun to see a copy of Bolling’s original edition of his account of his courtship with Anne Miller (a book which I purchased before coming.) I also came across the book binder’s ledger which included a few entries of purchases made by Robert Bolling.


But, the real gold mine was an original—for lack of better word—scrapbook of Bolling’s, in which were clippings of the Virginia Gazette containing his articles and poems and a number of songs he apparently wrote. I can’t believe I didn’t have to wear gloves to touch it! It contained his treatise on the freedom of the press, in addition to a long poem about Winter which I had been unable to locate up to this point. The kind man who helped me assures me I can bring my laptop in and transcribe the articles and the poem, so that’s a job for another rainy day.


The main librarian also found the location of the Draper house, where Robert Bolling spent 18 months studying law (Documented in his Memoirs). I went by there on my way home, and the current owners were nice enough to let me take pictures around the grounds. All in all, another good Bolling day. Tomorrow (6/22/11), I’m off to Washington D.C., where I’ll visit an old friend.


Robert Bolling's estate as it looks today

Today, I went to Dillwyn, Virginia in search of Chellowe, Robert Bolling’s estate.  Because he is just beginning to become popular again, there isn’t a lot of information out there, so all I knew about the location of Chellowe was the name of the town it was  in.  So, I headed out this morning with a GPS and a prayer that God would give me favor.  When searching for the town, I noticed that there was a Chellowe Street and put 2 and 2 together and figured out it may be where Chellowe was located.  Driving down the winding road, I drove past a house that looked like the internet drawings I’ve seen.  So, I drove into the driveway and over the dirt road to the house.  I had read on the internet that they were doing construction on the house, so I went looking around and found the construction crew in the back.  The head man came out, and when I explained what I was doing, gave me about an hour tour all over the house and grounds.  He showed me the parts of the house that were original and the amazing amounts the new owners had added on (They have WAY too much money.)   When we first began the tour, I showed him the picture I had of Robert Bolling’s drawing of the house.  He stopped me on one of the other pictures of Bolling’s doodling because there is a similar image in the basement carved into the wall plaster.  It was amazing how much it looked like Bolling’s doodlings.  After we toured the grounds and looked at all the amazing things in the house, he told me they have been working on the house for 15 years.  He said I was lucky to get in now, since once the owners move in, there won’t be tours.  Then, he took me to the Bolling cemetery, where I found the graves of the Bolling and Hubbard family (also unrecorded and in the middle of a cornfield–I never would have found it without him.)  There, he left me, and I went to the Buckingham County Library, where I found more information on Bolling in the records of the town.   All in all, and exceptional day of Bolling progress.



The Lovelorn

by Robert Bolling



Tis said indeed, but tis not true

That mighty Sorrows mortal are

And that if Life they don’t subdue

We well such gentle Grief may bare



I feel beyond Description Grief

It came with Polly’s parting Breath

My Pains in Life deny Relief

Yet distant seems composing Death



Alas! in so much Torture, I

Am scarce alive, but cannot die!




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