Morning time

We decided to run over to Colonial Williamsburg to take the walking tour with Thomas Jefferson today (7/13/16).  When we went by the Lombard House to get tickets, we discovered the tour was full. We were bitterly disappointed, but decided to stay and see if we could just tag along.  I’m glad we did!

Making candles

While we were waiting to sneak in on the tour, we visited the candle makers, which was fascinating.  With an additional paid ticket, kids can make their own hand dipped candles.  But, just listening to the candle maker taught me a great deal.  First, there were three types of candles colonists would make: tallow (animal fat), beeswax, or bayberry. Additionally, whale oil lamps were used which burned 10-12 hours compared to 4 hours for the others. Candles were dipped with around 50 wicks per bracket. So, a candle maker could make 400 candles in about 3 hours. Molded or gauged molded only allowed about 28 at a time. Unlike today, they didn’t use dyes or scents–candles were practical, not decorative.


Our next stop was to the shoemaker.  This is always one of my favorite shops.  Here we learned that a pair of shoes takes between 3 and 7 hours to make. Boots take about 40 hours. As far as fixing shoes goes, repairing shoes costs about 1/5 of the price of a new pair and is just not worth the cost of the shoemaker. For those trying to save a bit, the saddle maker might fix your shoes for you or you could try a cobbler. But, a shoemaker was a 7 year apprenticeship while a Cobbler had no training, which gave rise to the expression “Cobbled together.” About half of the population just threw their shoes out when they wore out.  Most people owned 6 or 7 pairs and bought about 4 a year. The most common shoe was made from beef leather, so there was a lot to use. Sole leather was taken from the back of an ox or steer. Inner soles were made from the shoulder. Leather was curried with fish oil. They also made shoes out of goat leather, but these were usually slippers because the leather stretches too much. Turned shoes were sown inside out and turned which made them much more flexible for dancing, and as the saying goes, “Virginians must dance or die.”  A finer shoe simply meant there were more stitches per inch. About Shakespeare’s time, shoe makers stopped making right and left shoes because heels came into fashion, but within about 20 minutes of wearing shoe, the leather will mold to your foot, making your own individually tailored left and right shoes.

Grazing sheep

After leaving the showmakers, we went over to pet the sheep for a bit, then headed down to see if we could join the Thomas Jefferson tour.  Though they do collect tickets, the tour is entirely outside, so if you’re willing to stay on the fringes, you can share the experience.  Ticketed or no, this tour is a gold mine, and one I highly recommend.  So, I went on the tour while mom and Corban hunted for shells to take back to the family.

Bill Barker as Thomas Jefferson

Bill Barker has presented Thomas Jefferson for 32 years! (Check out his site here:)  He is as close as anyone can come to the real man with a knowledge of Thomas Jefferson that is unparalleled.  He began the tour with some information about Jefferson’s plantation, sharing that it took 2,000 yards of material to clothe his slaves.  When you consider that Cotton takes about 40 hours for seed removal and 60 hours to finish processing it to produce one pound of cotton which made 1 yard of fabric, the time commitment is huge!

Jefferson (as I will hereafter refer to Bill) shared often that Williamsburg was considered the capital of good manners–a key component of education. Though one of ten children, Thomas was given the privilege of an education.  Despite having three younger brothers, he himself was the oldest son who inherited the property. Yet, he often said the greatest legacy his father gave him–despite his inheritance of 700 acres and over 100 slaves–was education.

“Manners make the man”

Jefferson’s dad died at 49 when Thomas was just 14, which I’m sure affected him. He had initially been sent to James Murray Academy and later enrolled in The College of William and Mary (The first law school in America.)  While there, he worked with Dr. Small whom he said had gentlemanly manners.  Dr. Small said each student was a new mind. He realized that the educated mind always remained open to new ideas. Like Socretes, who believed “The unexamined life is not worth living,” Small would teach with questions.  He encouraged his students to “Go out and improve society because you are educated.” Small seems to have been a quite remarkable man who pushed for universal education while having the happy talent of teaching with humor.  Jefferson stated, “It was perhaps Dr. Small who more than anyone else shaped my destiny.”  Quite the compliment!

The men who shaped America

Jefferson’s journey continued under the tutelage of Mr. Wythe, who helped to form Thomas’s idea of how one should behave.  “In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.”  Jefferson studied law for 3 years with Mr. Wythe, who only took one student at a time!   Other notable students of Mr. Wythe’s include John Marshall (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) and Henry Clay (The “Great Compromiser” who was considered a role model by Abraham Lincoln.)   Wythe’s manner of teaching law returned to Roman law under the Justinian Code stressing the principle that All men are born free–a lesson that clearly impacted Jefferson enough to put the concept in the Declaration of Independence. Initially, Roman slaves were voluntary apprenticeships to learn trades. Scribes and monks transcribed laws, but these laws were considered living and breathing with reasoning as the foundation of law. This helped set the model for our Constitution which gives the law of the land, but which may also be changed through amendment, giving rise to the idea that “Good manners dictate resolution and compromise.”

Other major influences on Jefferson include his mother’s uncle (mother’s father’s brother.)  Jefferson’s great grand parents had settled at Turkey Island. They modeled that it’s not aristocracy but meritocracy that matters. William and Mary Randolph were considered the Adam and Eve of Virginia. Their son Sir John Randolph was the only man the colonies to have been knighted. His son John II (who was his second son) inherited the title Attorney General. Payton Randolph, the first son of John Sr., became the president of the Continental Congress. Though both influential, John and Payton couldn’t have been more opposite, especially regarding the American Revolution.  Payton Randolph (considered an icon of fairness who listened to all sides) was strongly in favor of the new nation and, when he died, had the largest funeral until Ben Franklin’s. John, however, was a loyalist who returned to England where he later died. In an interesting twist, John’s son Edmund Randolph became first Attorney General in Washington’s cabinet.  Jefferson often said he learned how to act by following the example of these incredible men.

The Raleigh Tavern

He then launched into a discussion of the Declaration of Independence.  This incredible document was first printed on the printing press here in Williamsburg. It was read three times on July 26 from Raleigh Tavern.  One of the events leading to the need for this document was that Governor Nicholson disbanded assembly because they requested a day of fasting and prayer on June 1 over the closing of Boston port. (Of course, if you were fasting and praying, no work could be done, but still…)  It was the governor’s custom to declare religious observances, so he felt the assembly overstepped their bounds.  The Colonists, however, called for a Congress to be held in Philadelphia. Philadelphia had been proven progressive by offering the first free public school and the first free society for slaves. Jefferson was invited and wanted to attend but got sick. In his stead, he sent a printed document on law and called for abolition of slaves, but first called for a lack of importation. Though Jefferson was not at the First Continental Congress, he gained a lot of attention as an author because of his pamphlet.  I’m certain this reputation is part of what led to the choice to ask him to draft the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson did attend the Second Continental Congress, but in reality, his involvement in politics goes back much earlier to his time in Williamsburg. As a boy, Jefferson had attended Raleigh Tavern with his dad. Another fun fact is that in card game, his dad won 1,000 acres in Goochland County. The deed of land states it was traded for one bowl of Arrack punch. One of mountains on that land Jefferson went on to inherit is Monticello, meaning “Little Mountain” in Italian.


Monticello itself played a dramatic role in our nation’s history.  Williamsburg was made the capital in 1699. Though the Capital building was burned in 1740, the records were saved and afterwards moved to a public records building. To protect against fire, they made the walls double thick and designed them to be burn proof. When they moved the capital to Richmond in 1780, Jefferson oversaw the moving of historic documents. However, when the war broke out, Jefferson moved the public records to Monticello, thinking no one would ever look for them there. Later in the war, Tarleton was sent to capture Jefferson. (If you don’t remember Banastre Tarleton, he’s the villain in The Patriot.  The movie portrayed him fairly accurately–He killed men who surrendered and was nicknamed “The Butcher” for his brutality.)  To have him coming after Jefferson was not good!  Thankfully, a boy warned him, and Jefferson buried the documents under the floorboards at Monticello. Jefferson himself fled.  His servant Martin Hennings was asked to give Tarleton information. He said that everything of value had already been taken from the house. Tarleton burned the barns and tobacco fields but didn’t burn house. Later in France, Jefferson met him and asked why he had spared the house. He said it was because of the civility with which the Americans treated the Hessian prisoners of war. Because of good manners, that cardinal value of Jefferson, his house was spared as were the documents.

The “Special” shells

When asked about Jefferson’s impact on laws, he referred to the printed body of Virginia Law  Jefferson drafted with William Hennings. It introduced 126 revisals, especially to the penal code. He made it so part of the punishment was that criminals had to serve time in the penitentiary (designed to make a person penitent or sorry for their crime.)  He also helped end the importation of slavery in 1783. Another step against slavery was allowing that a slave who showed meritorious service could be freed (1785). There was, however, a $25 bond placed on slave to be freed before law. He also drafted the Religious Freedom Bill as well.  Free education, though Jefferson’s idea, did not occur until 30 years after his death.  One thing I especially appreciated is that Jefferson deemed History the most important course according to the bill. So why didn’t Jefferson free his slaves?  Initially, he was in France  when the bill came out.  Then, he was in debt so  he couldn’t.  Still, he did a great deal towards equality and preserving our freedom.

All in all, it was an incredible tour.  I returned to find mom and Corban, who had acquired a great number of shells, and we headed home to pack.  All in all, it was an incredible experience!

Visiting friends

Visiting friends

When long time family friends called last night to say they were coming to visit and had planned on going to Dollywood, we together decided to spend today (3/25/15) with them.  Though they are “ride people” and we are “show people,” we decided to do a bit of both, and everyone had a wonderful time.

We first went to ride the Thunderhead–They rode, we were the supportive people waving on the ground.  Then, since we still had time to kill before the show we both wanted to see, we headed down to the Country Fair area.  We never spend a lot of time in this area, so it was neat to check it out.  We even joined them on the “moderate thrill” rides like Skyrider, the Scrambler, the Wonder Wheel (Swings), and the Carousel–and it was actually very fun.

Next, we headed to The Rhythm of the Dance, which we had both wanted to see. The crowd was better, but still not as “into it” as I would like.  I also realized how much music (without dance) is in the show.  I think almost half the numbers are strictly musical–a lot more than I had remembered.  But, we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Los Pampas Gauchos

Los Pampas Gauchos

We got out in just enough time to make it over to Los Pampas Gauchos (My recommendation).  Having seen the show previously, I noticed they showcase different dancers in each show, so it is possible to see the show multiple times and see something different each time.  They also came out to the lobby to take pictures with audience members, but we were moving on, so didn’t take time to do that–a neat opportunity, though. Our friends agreed, they are a definite favorite! (Maybe we’ll get to see them one more time before we leave…)

One thing I love about Dollywood is their partnership with The American Eagle Foundation.  So far, they have provided a sanctuary for wounded eagles who would not survive in the wild.  These eagles are kept safe and are still able to breed.  At the time of our visit, over 133 eagles have been released back into the wild from this sanctuary, and eagles have moved from around 400 pairs to over 1500 pairs, allowing them to be taken off the endangered species list.

One of the rescued Eagles.

One of the rescued Eagles.

What an amazing opportunity to preserve this symbol of America!

After browsing in a few stores, we ended the day with the Alash Ensemble.  My mom recommends this group to everyone she possibly can–mostly because it is something you have to see to believe.  This show was also different.  For the last number, one of the band members recommended they teach the audience a song.  It was such a fun experience to learn a little bit of the Tuva Language–albeit a phrase with no English translation.  The audience here was incredible, and everyone participated well.  I think it’s a tradition that should continue!

We thought we were finished for the evening–we were all happily exhausted. So we parted ways with our friends and headed for home. Along the side of the road, we saw three Chinese ladies and a fifth grade boy in various positions around a car with its hood up. “Do you think they need help?” I asked. My mom pulled the car over, and I got out to ask. Their engine had started shaking, so they had called a repair place and were waiting for the tow truck to arrive. We decided to wait with them, since they might need a ride somewhere if the car were really in trouble. I’m so glad we did.

Map at Dolly wood showing the represented nations

Map at Dolly wood showing the represented nations

One example my parents have consistently set for us is to help out those in need–it’s something that was not just an idea in the Bible, but something they lived out in front of us. And here was our opportunity to serve. When the tow truck arrived and led us through varying degrees of not so nice neighborhoods to arrive at the ultimate of stereotypical hillbilly garages (looking like a used car lot), we were skeptical, and didn’t want these kind ladies and boy to get “taken for a ride”–especially when we found out that same garage had worked on the car just that morning. To make a several hour story very short, the car had a ruined oil pump. The diagnosis was it had probably ruined the engine. Not knowing much about cars, I snuck off to Google the information. Unfortunately, the diagnoses sounded logical. So, these dear Chinese ladies, one of whom has only been in America for three weeks, are stuck about 5 hours from the colleges at which they are studying with a car they can either sell or pay $2500 to fix (to replace the engine.) Not a nice time.

Blooming trees at Dollywood

Blooming trees at Dollywood

But, we spent a lovely meal with them, took them back to their hotel, helped them negotiate a way home, and discussed with them the different options they had to choose from. We were so blessed to meet them and were hoping they would get to stay with us while we waited for the repairs to be done.

For me, it was another reminder that, just as God has put people in the right place at the right time to help me navigate through many other countries, He also chose to honor us with the privilege of helping out these wonderful visitors to ours. What a great way to celebrate the Festival of Nations!