Colonial Williamsburg

The nice thing about having annual passes to both Jamestown/ Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg is that we can spend time in multiple places in the same day.

We started the morning (3/27/17) at Colonial Williamsburg to check out A Difference of Opinion. This program features three perspectives (Gowan Pamphlet http://www.history.org/almanack/people/bios/biopam.cfm, Robert Carter http://www.history.org/almanack/people/bios/biorcarter.cfm, and George Washington http://www.history.org/Almanack/people/bios/biowash2.cfm on slavery.


Gowan Pamphlet

Gowan Pamphlet began the discussion with his journey from being a slave and pastoring to being set free and continuing to pastor up to 500 people.  Other than himself, 10,000 slaves were freed in Virginia (by 1791) after passing the law of manumission (ability to free slaves). That may sound like a lot, but in actuality, it represents only 5% of Virginia’s slaves. He also shared about religious freedom, his church–which continued until it had to take a hiatus due to the Nat Turner rebellion, which made many nervous about African Americans gathering in large groups.  After both tragedies and reorganization, the church continues in existence today.


Robert Carter

Robert Carter was next to speak.  I especially appreciated him because he shared about his transformation from having an intellectual faith in God to having a personal faith in Jesus Christ and how that transition changed his view of slavery.  Initially, he was a slave owner, having inherited hundreds of slaves.  But, when he converted to Christianity, he first tried to battle slavery legally, but he eventually had to do something personally.  Robert emancipated over 500 slaves–the largest single emancipation until the Civil War.  Because the manumission laws required slave owners to pay a fee and provide support for free slaves so they wouldn’t become burdens to society, this emancipation was gradual, at a rate of fifteen/year.  Freed slaves were also given the freedom to continue to live and work on the property under a variety of relationships from tenants to hired help.


George Washington

George Washington was the last to speak and shared about an incident that occurred during the end of his presidency.  Martha Washington’s maid ran away and an ad was placed in the paper to give information at the president’s house. Washington, who kept his opinions on slavery largely out of the private view, was apparently embarrassed by this.  He personally was in favor of gradual emancipation, allowing slaves to be equipped to survive as freedmen able to adequately support themselves.  Because of the cost involved in freeing slaves, most people, including Washington, set their slaves free upon their death.  Washington has often drawn criticism for not setting his wife’s slaves free, but as they were part of her entail, he could not legally do so.  He also stipulated that his slaves’ freedom would take effect after his wife died.  But, when some events gave Martha reason to suppose some slaves were trying to hasten that time, she set them free.  Her own slaves were part of inheritance property and therefore were passed down instead of freed.

Afterwards, these three men were available to take questions from the audience about the issue of slavery, etc..  With it readily apparent that we still need to make strides in race relations, I love any format where open dialogue takes place, so I especially appreciated the candor of each actor, who stepped out of character (usually unheard of at Williamsburg) to discuss a difficult issue.

We then went to the coffee house.  This is one of our favorite tours for the simple reason that they offer incredible hot chocolate!  (In fact, we’re planning to return tomorrow for the chocolate making demonstration!)   One of the interesting things I learned over chocolate is that Handel wrote The Messiah in order to combat Deism and return people to true faith in God.  Very cool!


Finding slate

When we finished our tour, we headed to Historic Jamestowne to see what has changed there.  Because Jamestowne has ongoing archaeology, there is always something new to see!  I got to see a volunteer discover a piece of slate from a 1700’s roof.

One fascinating piece  of luck was the Roads Scholars tour we happened upon.  The tour guide who has taken groups around Jamestowne for the past 18 years shared many interesting pieces of information.


Colonial Grafitti

One of the coolest things she pointed out was the graffiti carved in the original tower bricks. She also discussed the way to tell original mortar (looks like sand and shells because it is) from different eras of reconstruction.  The church was abandoned when the capital moved from Jamestowne to Williamsburg, leading to the deterioration of the building accelerated by the removal of bricks to new locations in Williamsburg (early repurposing!). The church addition to the tower in Jamestowne was added on in 1907 for the 300th anniversary. When building the addition, many time period bricks were bought from people getting rid of their big brick houses in favor of different modern styles.


Interior of the 1907 church

Additionally, the guide pointed out that the pattern of bricks used is uniquely English from the 1760’s. The pattern varies between headers (width of the brick) and stretchers (length of the brick). It also boasts a stylistic feature known as the Flemish bond (a pattern of header, stretcher, header, stretcher, etc.)


Pattern of headers and stretchers

Leaving out of Jamestowne, we decided to take the nature loop to see if Jenny (the eagle) was moving around.  While the nest is still there, we didn’t see any activity.  All in all, it was a fun day catching up with some favorites.


John Smith and “John Smith”

After church yesterday (7/10/16) we decided to check out the sites at Historic Jamestowne. It’s always fun to see the progress they’ve made on the digs and continue to examine the artifacts they find.  It is, however, different traveling with a six year old instead of older kids.  For him, the joy was seeing turtles and tadpoles in the shrinking water under the bridge or just being able to wear his John Smith costume and see him and Pocahontas (a movie that he loves, despite its glaring historic inaccuracies–at least they made the Susan Constant look right.  If you’re wondering, “What glaring inaccuracies?” John Smith was actually about 40 and Pocahontas roughly 11–they weren’t romantically involved.)  Corban also enjoyed a scavenger hunt in the museum, but we didn’t stay a long time.

img_5005Today (7/11/16), we headed into Virginia Beach to give Corban a look at the Atlantic Ocean.  We drove to the end of Atlantic street where there’s easy, free parking right on the beach front.  Definitely one I’d recommend.  You take 264 to where it turns into 21st street, then go right on Atlantic.  It’s a tricky parking lot to get to, but if you stay to the right around 4th street (Keep on Atlantic), you’ll loop around to 2nd street where you can park.  It’s the Grommet Island park–right on the beach with a huge kids play place.  We literally unloaded our stuff in a sled on the bank (much better for pulling than anything with wheels), and walked about 50 yards to the water.

While there were surfers on the edges, it wasn’t too crowded, and the life guards kept everything in order (complete with Baywatch red suits and red rescue flotation devices.)  Other than losing one of my shoes to the ocean, it was a lovely day.

Ready to explore

This morning (7/8/16) we got up headed to Jamestowne.  We decided to do the history in order from Jamestowne to Williamsburg to Yorktown.  My nephew (6) wanted to dress up, and we had brought both an Indian costume and a John Smith costume, so we took them along for him to wear in the different areas.  Turns out, it was a great idea!

We bought our tickets and planned to head into the Indian village. One thing that has changed since previous trips is they no longer have the tour guides that lead you through each section, or at least not on a regular schedule.  You pretty much explore on your own and the guides are in the different areas.  I missed the added information of taking a tour.

The packed canoe

There is a special exhibition called “Bartering for a Continent,” which will be available until December 10, 2016.    It is a fun experience, which I recommend.   You begin in the exhibition area (Second floor of the visitor center). Corban was given a card with 5 challenges to complete.  He had to pack a canoe with provisions, put a puzzle together to learn Native American words, find another trading animal than a deer, figure an exchange rate for buckskin (why we call dollars “bucks”), and make a peace medal rubbing in foil.  After completing all the challenges, he was sent to the Indian village to get something to trade.

Grinding corn

In the Indian village, we received a small bag of corn, which we were told was to trade in the fort, not feed to the chickens (The temptation is great, and we met a girl who had already fed her “trade goods” to the them). In addition to the bartering challenge, the village still offers a variety of activities and interpreters to speak to kids. Corban got to grind corn, scrape skins, explore houses, see fish traps, rope, and pottery being made, and play Native American children’s games.

Learning about weaponry

One of the areas we especially enjoyed  was talking to the lady at the weapons place.  I asked her what had made her decide to work here. She said growing up, she had found artifacts in her back yard.  She’d always loved history, but as she was the first generation to go to college, she had pursued a medical career.  Eventually, she also added archaeologically, and fell in love with it.  Since that doesn’t pay the bills, she works here where she gets to be around history and still talk about it.

She shared that Native American society is matriarchal.  Wives built their house by  their mother-in-law’s.  She also explained that, while Indian tools work well, they took a long time to make.  This explains why the Powhatan trade for tools–not because they need them but for bragging rights.

From the Indian Village, we went out to the ships to climb aboard. We ate our lunch and headed to the fort.

Corban holding a “John Smith” sword

At the fort, we first stopped at the armory. Since Corban was dressed as Captain John Smith, the man there told him he needed one thing to complete his outfit–the Captain John Smith sword, which he let Corban hold.  He explained the gun racks in the armory. The leaders wanted the men to keep their weapons in a rack.  They didn’t want soldiers carrying their guns around because then they couldn’t get to them quickly in case of an attack.  Additionally, each man had his own place in the rack.  Unlike later years, guns at this time were unique, so you had to have your own so it would match your musket balls and allow you to actually fire.  He explained that in a battle, soldiers would hold several musket balls in their cheeks for quicker loading.  In battle, he explained, the corporals marked the position of the soldiers while the Sergeant gave the battle orders. The Commanding officer watched the enemy, not the soldiers.  He changed tactics based on position of enemy.  The man at the armory was only able to talk to us for a few minutes as he was the one to fire the musket, which occurs on a quarter til and a quarter after each hour.  But, he let Corban be the commanding officer since he was dressed the part.  That meant he got to call out the commands of “Prepare your piece, present your piece, and fire.”  He thoroughly enjoyed that!

Helping the joiner

A final person we got to meet was the joiner. As the name suggests, this is the man who makes joints consisting of two pieces of wood carved so one has a tab and the other has a slot.  These joints are connected by a simple peg passing through each. Because the joints are constructed with green wood, when the wood swells, the pegs are stuck so the wooden pieces will not come apart.  Since the joiner worked by the river, and his pieces are brought in, he numbers each piece for construction on shore.  The largest house in original Jamestowne had 57 joints. Interestingly enough, 75% of world today still uses this same joint.

Considering a trade

Finally, it was time to make our trade.  We took the corn we had been given at the Indian village and went to meet with the clerk.  He was explaining how things were traded.  We presented our goods, and he proceeded to make a series of offers.  Finally, we settled on a trade of our bag of corn for a glass bead bracelet.  It was a fun experience for kids to see the way bartering works and have a souvenir as well.

All in all, we had an excellent time, despite the changes, and are looking forward to much more fun to come!

The road to Smith's Fort

The road to Smith’s Fort

Somehow, as many times as we’ve come to Williamsburg, we have never managed to be at Smith’s fort or Bacon’s castle when it’s actually open.  Today (7/17/15), we got our opportunity.  For those who would like to visit, both sites are usually only open on the weekends, though it doesn’t hurt to check the Preservation Virginia Website for information.

When we arrived at Smith’s Fort Plantation, we had just missed the start of the tour.  This is one of the difficult things about this location–you don’t know when a tour will be.  It’s basically, wait until there’s a group, then go.  The ranger told us to go on down to the fort and then come back in about a half an hour for the tour.  So we went down to check out the site.  When we’d come in the past, we had not ventured down to the fort because the rain had made the dirt road impassably treacherous.

Marker for remains of fort:  Earthworks behind.

Marker for remains of fort: Earthworks behind

Even in nice summer weather, there were still spots we could have gotten stuck in our low riding car.  Definitely something to be aware of if you plan a trip.  We still headed out in the car, though we passed a few families who opted to take the path on foot. When we arrived at the fort, I walked past the sign out to the tree line to see where the fort was.  Walking down the path a little ways–through a spiderweb) I determined it was not the way to the fort, so I went back to read the signs.  One of the signs informed us that the only thing that remained of the fort were the two foot earthworks behind the marker.  While there’s not much to it, this site was declared the oldest English structure in Virginia.  John Smith had chosen this spot as a retreat in case they had trouble in Jamestown — it was somewhere they can fall back to. They worked on the fort from 1608 to 1609. But, we were later to learn that the rats had eaten up all the corn stored here; otherwise, there might have been more to the fort, but they abandoned it when the stores were eaten up.

John Smith Plantation

John Smith Plantation

After seeing what was left of the fort, we headed back to the house to see if it was time for the tour.  After a few minutes wait, we were ushered into the house.  The ranger informed us that the Preservation Virginia (formerly the APVA) had been formed in 1889. Since that time, they have saved over 200 historic properties. They receive no federal or state funding, but operate solely on Membership, donations, and patrons.

This area was a dowry gift to John Rolfe and Pocahontas for their marriage in 1614. Rolfe probably didn’t live here, but he farmed tobacco here, starting the tobacco industry. Rolfe had a farming background and thought he could make it work here. He initially tried the local tobacco, but it was bitter, and he knew England wouldn’t buy it.  But, he was able to blend seeds from Trinidad with native plants to produce a sweeter leaf.

Rear of the Smith Fort Plantation

Rear of the Smith Fort Plantation

John Rolfe arrived in Virginia in the Spring of 1610 after being shipwrecked in Bermuda. His ship, the Sea Venture was the flagship of a 9 vessel fleet. Seven of them arrived in Jamestown. Unfortunately, the Sea Venture took on 9 feet of water–especially unfortunate since they had the supplies for the colony.  It’s crew was pumping the water out and realized they couldn’t keep it afloat. They surrendered themselves to the care of God, expecting to die.  But, the watchman spotted land, and they were able to ground the ship in Bermuda, which was uninhibited at the time. They were stranded for nine months. Amazingly, they were able to salvage enough of the ship to build two smaller ships, aptly named The Patience and the Deliverance. The voyage to Jamestown took 11 days with 150 people on board.  One interesting thing our ranger shared is that the wreck of the Sea Venture provided the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Tempest.  I doubted that was true because John Rolfe landed in 1610 and Shakespeare died in 1616.  But, on research, it is actually possible, since the Tempest was written between 1610 and 1611, and they had heard about the wreck of the Sea Venture.

Corner cabinet with butterfly shelves

Corner cabinet with butterfly shelves

Going through the house, the ranger told us that in 1613, the colonists were having so much trouble with Indians, they decide to kidnap Pocahontas and hold her for ransom. They were trying to build a stable relationship with Powhatan. They’re plan didn’t work, though.  Powhatan let her stay with the English. She probably could have escaped, but perhaps she was as curious about the English as they were about her.  While in captivity, Reverend Alexander Whitaker taught her English, converted her to Christianity, and renamed her Rebecca. Rolfe and Pocahontas met while she was in captivity and fell in love. Rolfe wrote a four page letter explaining why he wanted to marry her. The Governor gave his permission, and on April 5, 1614, they married. One year later, they had son Thomas. The Virginia company would pay their expenses to England.  The family stayed 8 months, and by all accounts, everyone in England loved Pocahontas. They had her portrait commissioned a portrait (thought they lightened her features.) They treated her as royalty. In fact, Pocahontas was invited to attend royal events that her husband was snubbed from.

When it was time to come home, many of the Native Americans were sick.  Their immune systems were just not used to all the disease going around England at the time.  The group would board in London, but were not even down the Thames when Pocahontas was so sick she had to be carried ashore to Gravesend.

Bedroom in Smith Plantation

Bedroom in Smith Plantation

There, she died at the age of around 21.  She’s buried at St. George’s church. Thomas was left with Rolfe’s relatives in England. Rolfe never saw Thomas again. Thomas came back in 1635 to gain this property as his inheritance.  Though people currently lived on the property, they became his tenants. Thomas married Jane Jane Poythress.  They had a daughter named Jane (who incidentally married Robert Bolling, whom I was studying when I started this blog!)  By 1652, Thomas had sold the property to Thomas Warren. In fact, the first record of a dwelling on this property is by Thomas Warren. Thomas builds a 50 foot brick house–the only description in the registry. The building here is roughly 48 1/2 feet, so they originally thought this was the house. But, it is not.

King James Bible 1622 Edition

King James Bible 1622 Edition

Excavation showed the lumber used to build the house was cut between 1751-1763. So it’s not the Warren house. They also found the archaeological remains of some of the out buildings.

The building does have a lot of original material, though.  One interesting artifact was a King James Bible dated 1622–just 11 years after it was initially published.  Also, since the house was originally bought by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, it was also interesting to find some Williamsburg connections, albeit unfortunate ones.  The Faulcons, who owned the house around the 1750’s, had 5 children. One of them was termed “feeble minded” (retarded), possibly from lead poisoning. He was institutionalized in the mental hospital which is not the Dewitt Wallace Museum in Colonial Williamsburg.  He lived there for 35 years!

Antique mold with spoons made from it

Antique mold with spoons made from it

Finally, as we were in the cellar, we got to see some of the artifacts found on the property.  One of the coolest items was an 18th century antique spoon mold found in the ceiling over girls’ room.  The foundation still uses the mold to make spoons to sell in support of the foundation.  All in all, it was fascinating to walk through the house and hear about the history of it, even if Pocahontas and John Rolfe never lived here.

We had gotten the combination ticket for the Smith Fort Plantation and Bacon’s Castle, so we headed over there.  Bacon’s Castle holds the distinction of being the oldest British brick building in New World, and the only Jacobean dwelling.  The house was built by the Allen family, and actually should be known as it once was by the name “Allen’s Brick House,” especially since Nathaniel Bacon never lived here and barely visited.

Bacon's Castle

Bacon’s Castle

The Allens arrived in 1630. The house was built by Arthur Allen I, and is 5,300 square feet, making it the seventh largest in 17th century Virginia. Archaeologists have found evidence of 7 kilns, further proof that the bricks used in the house were actually made on site.  It was Arthur II (the son) who was the owner during Bacon’s Rebellion. Arthur II knew Bacon had targeted his house, so he buried his valuables and fled. Seventy of Bacon’s followers lived here for four months, which is what gives it the name Bacon’s Castle.

Initially indentured servants and then slaves helped work the 1,000 acres of tobacco planted here.  We know Allen brought three indentured servants with him from England and  his son had four slaves at the time of Bacon’s Rebellion.  Nathaniel Bacon also had support from indentured servants.  After Bacon’s rebellion, exterior quarters for indentured servants and slaves start being created to increase the separation.

Artistic detailing added by Elizabeth

Artistic detailing added by Elizabeth in the crossbeams of the ceiling

Elizabeth Allen was the longest living relative.  She was landed when she became an Allen and even had a legal note stating that she had the larger estate at the wedding, so that when her husband died, the inheritance would go to her. She was apparently a shrewd business woman and endowed a school in Smithville.  She was also apparently an amazing hostess and was incredibly hospitable.  She also lays claim to the oldest English formal garden in America.  In the 1980’s, they discovered the original garden, and the spot is now maintained by the Garden Club of Virginia.

A cool story we heard was about the names etched on windows. There is a “Louisiana” (Hankins) etched there, who apparently warned of the Civil War. She worried about the house and its safety.

Her son James also has his name there.  He survived Civil War and came home, only to die in a duel in 1866. He is buried on the property.

WWII Dogtags found on the Bacon's Castle site

WWII Dogtags found on the Bacon’s Castle site

One curious artifact among those found at Bacon’s castle was a WW II dog tag soldier from Minnesota. The Museum keeps it on display in hopes of one day finding the owner so they can return it.  I’ve posted a picture here to see if anyone has information on it.

All in all, it was an incredible house to see, but it is also evident that it is in need of restoration.  Since 2015 is the 350 anniversary of the house, the foundation has a goal to raise $350,000 for renovations to the site, including a roof, security items, and restoring the brickwork.  To donate, you can click on the Preservation Virginia website here.

Tomorrow, we head for home by way of Patrick Henry’s estate.  We’ll see what mischief we can get into there.

Statue of John Smith

Statue of John Smith

Because of the potential for rain and needing to pack the car to head back home, we decided to return to Historic Jamestowne for the archaeology tour. Our $5.00 passes were good for the week, and this tour was something we’d wanted to do. I couldn’t be happier that we chose to return.

Our tour guide, Matthew Summers, was not only incredibly knowledgeable, but he also had an amazing gift for telling stories. In today’s discussion, his stories centered on John Smith. Teaching history, I had studied more about John Smith than most (enough to get mad at Disney’s Pocahontas for portraying him as in a romantic relationship with her when she was actually about 10 while he was 30 something…). I had also known about his fits of temper and the fact that he spent most of his voyage to America in the brig after being accused of mutiny and almost hanged for it.

One of four barracks described by Smith

One of four barracks described by Smith

But, Matthew shared more of Smith’s early life that I’d never considered. First, he explained that Smith had come from Lincolnshire, England, which was a rural area. He compared him to a “good ol’ boy from Kansas,” explaining that this fact might have underscored Smith’s dislike for the “gentlemen” at Jamestowne. But, if Smith was just a country boy, that would shape only one aspect of his character. Add to that the fact that he had been a mercenary (soldier for hire), had fought against Henry IV in France and against the Turks in Hungary, had been captured and made a POW, killed his master and escaped back to England, and John Smith starts looking a bit more like Chuck Norris and less like Huckleberry Finn. Matthew compared him to “one of those military men who’d done four tours in Afghanistan, knows how to survive, and likes being in charge–you may not like him, but in the trenches, there’s not a better man to have beside you.” Looking at John Smith in this light rounds out his character and other events in his life.

Cannon positioned for war against the Spanish

Cannon positioned for war against the Spanish

Another interesting thing Matthew said is “People don’t lie about the boring bits. If it’s not important, he’s probably telling the truth.” He shared this because a lot of the archaeology that’s been discovered is exactly as Smith said it was. The dimensions match, and the description is the same. The first thing Smith had described was a series of barracks, made in the same style as similar ones still existing in Lincolnshire =, England. The fort itself had been hastily constructed, not so much for protection against the Indians, but against the Spanish. The French fort in Florida had been previously overrun by the Spanish, and it was no coincidence that the Spanish called Virginia, “Florida Norte (Northern Florida).” Lest we think the Spanish were not a real threat, there was a map of Jamestowne found in Spanish territory–you can see it here: http://www.georgescoville.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/640px-Zuniga_map-300×194.jpg
Though the Spanish attack never came, the threat was real, and since Jamestowne was a site used in the subsequent wars including the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War, it obviously was a strategic choice.

Boundaries of the Wooden Church.  John Rolfe and Pocahontas would have stood in front of the four crosses.

Boundaries of the Wooden Church. John Rolfe and Pocahontas would have stood in fromt of the four crosses.

From the barracks, we moved on to the foundation of the old church. The brick tower was a later addition to Jamestowne. The first church was a wooden structure which would have been the first building viewed upon entering the fort. Once again, referencing journals of the time, archaeologists were able to know where to look and found a building 60 foot by 100 foot foundation (differing only 6″ from the description in the journals.) This spot is significant as it is the church that John Rolfe and Pocahontas were married in. Matthew brought up what I had previously learned about John Rolfe having lost his wife and child (He also showed archaeological evidence of Rolfe’s quarters due to the presence of limestone from Bermuda, where John lost his first wife and daughter.) He also mentioned Rolfe’s letter wrestling with his feelings for Pocahontas, but he explained another layer of the story. John Rolfe hadn’t actually lived through the starving time in Jamestowne. He had been on one of the supply ships headed for Jamestowne which had been stuck in Bermuda. When he finally arrived, it was just after the starving time, and everyone was giving up. In fact, they had boarded a ship returning to England. Fortunately for us, they only made it about 10 miles before another supply ship bringing with it Lord De la Warr arrived and turned them around, enabling the new colony to establish. De la Warr imposed martial law and cleaned up Jamestowne from the disease and destruction. Additionally, he wanted to make a buffer around Jamestowne, which he did by inciting the tribes not under Powhatan to join in fighting against him. It was one of these tribes that succeeded in kidnapping Pocahontas and holding her for ransom in exchange for English POW’s. They hadn’t counted on Rolfe falling in love with her. Their marriage, however, would ensure 7 years of peace until their deaths.

Storehouse, kitchen, and church

Storehouse, kitchen, and church

Our final stop was the excavation currently underway in the Kitchen/Storehouse. (The skull of Jane was found in the “Kitchen garbage” here.) This area had also been described by Smith. Here, Matthew shared with us the cause of the starving time. In addition to the drought, the trouble with Indians, the supply ships not arriving as scheduled, and the ships that did arrive bringing more people than supplies, the major factor Matthew mentioned was the loss of John Smith. While Smith could not have prevented certain aspects of it, he was skilled at securing supplies from the Indians, whereas his successor would be kidnapped and tortured to death. Additionally, he gave evidence that Smith’s injury could have been a set up. Gunpowder, the way Smith carried it, would not have randomly exploded while Smith was sleeping–not a tough military man used to survival. Apparently, someone wanted him out of the way–and Smith had a lot of enemies. But, they were also committed to keeping him out of the way. Smith tried many times to get permission to come back to Jamestowne, but was repeatedly denied. Matthew shared an interesting insight on this. “For a man used to survival and war, John Smith received the worst punishment possible: to die in his own bed. An adventurer should never die in his own bed. He should be part of the action. He should have gone down swinging in the massacre of 1622–that’s what he would have wanted. They wanted to keep that from happening. But in the end, he wins. He’s the one with the statue.”

Ginny's nest--She's in there somewhere

Ginny’s nest–She’s in there somewhere

After our tour, we spent a great deal longer discussing further stories with Matthew, who is doing his PhD on religion in the colonies. He’s striving to prove not only Jamestowne’s high church heritage, but also that there was a strong Puritan heritage in men like John Rolfe who will quote the Bible extensively and focus on evangelism of the Native Americans–something not generally associated with high church Anglicanism. Interesting, to say the least. Before heading home, we decided to make a quest to see Ginny. We had slightly vague directions, but as I stopped at one potential location, I heard a noise in the trees and looked up to see a large bird in flight, clutching twigs. We continued searching and found the nest, though Ginny never showed her face, despite us calling. Another man who was there had seen her fly in about 3 minutes before we arrived, which put the time right for when I saw her leave the other location. For those who want to see if you have better luck, here are the directions: Take the Island Route short route (Turn right out of the visitor center). When you cross over the curved bridge, pull out at the second pull out and face the second sign (Has “Plants” on it). Facing the sign, the nest is at 2:00.

Tomorrow, we head back home, leaving more adventures for another time. So, until then, may your own journey bring you the delights of new discoveries and more questions to pursue!

Baker's and Blacksmith's area

Baker’s and Blacksmith’s area

We had anticipated a lazy day at home, but when the anticipated rain/snow was promised to hold off until about 3:00, we decided to head into Historic Jamestowne to see what has changed. Even though it’s been two years since I’ve been, I was not prepared for how much has changed in my absence.

The first thing we noticed was the massive amounts of construction that has been done. I’ve been used to Jamestowne being full of various pits and roped off areas due to archaeology, and there are still spots where archaeology is underway. (Here’s the link for what Jamestowne is digging now: http://apva.org/rediscovery/page.php?page_id=26)

Fence and newer graves at Jamestowne

Fence and newer graves at Jamestowne

But, there has been a great deal of construction based on the findings of previous digs. The first and most obvious change was the fencing. Because of the research done, archaeologists have been able to determine the exact placement of posts, and have recreated the original boundaries. I felt the difference immediately. I’m accustomed to Historic Jamestowne being open and free, but with the fences being put in place, one can feel how claustrophobic it must have been for the early settlers, especially during the times when they couldn’t leave the fort due to trouble with the Native Americans. Additionally, there is a reconstructed Storehouse, described by John Smith, the church where Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married (more on that later), and a blacksmith and baker’s areas, not to mention another well and more grave sites.

Confederate earthworks at Ft. Pocahontas (Jamestowne)

Confederate earthworks at Ft. Pocahontas (Jamestowne)

We continued through the new fencing to one of the Civil War areas of Jamestowne. Many people are not aware that Jamestowne was known as Fort Pocahontas during the Civil War. Just as the Civil War began, Captain William Allen, who owned and farmed Jamestowne, had his slaves and troops (raised at his own expense) construct earthworks. In 1861, Confederates housed more than 1,200 troops there, trying to block off a federal attack of Richmond. Robert E. Lee even visited troops here. The fort never saw any action, however, and was abandoned in 1862 when Confederate troops were moved to Richmond. They burned a bomb shelter and powder magazine constructed at Jamestowne before they left. It is fascinating to see so much history overlapping in one place!

Storehouse and standing church tower

Storehouse and standing church tower

In the archaearium, we found three intriguing stories that piqued our interest. Our first stop was the gift shop, where we had been directed by a staff member to check out information on our ancestors. The guide directed us to a few books, where our ancestors were indeed mentioned. One of our relatives (potential?) was listed as being on the ship with John Rolfe and being present at the christening of his daughter Bermuda. What?!? The history I knew referred to John Rolfe’s son Thomas with his wife Pocahontas. I was already reeling from the revelation in reading the previous evening that Pocahontas had been married before she married Rolfe (No, Disney lovers, it wasn’t John Smith…John Smith wrote that she was 10 when she befriended him, not shapely and seductive). Apparently, though, she’d had an Indian husband who had died (they speculate) before she married Rolfe, and now, it turns out he’d had another wife and child as well. Yet, John Rolfe’s first wife and daughter were listed among those buried in Bermuda. It’s easy to forget how often people were widowed and remarried at this time. John and Pocahontas will move on from these losses to build a life together which would ensure peace for a short time. For anyone in the Jamestowne area, the four hundredth anniversary of the marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe will be celebrated at Historic Jamestowne on April 5.

Location of the first landing

Location of the first landing

While mom was looking up information, I heard the cashier talking about an eagle sighting with two other patrons. Fascinated, I went over to see her pictures and hear her story. I won’t spoil it, since I sincerely hope she takes the gentleman’s advice and publishes it, but I will hit the highlights. This lady encountered an eagle with whom she developed enough of a relationship that the eagle will respond when she calls her by the name she selected: Ginny (after Virginia.) Through some pretty spectacular circumstances, she believes this eagle was God’s gift to help her through an incredibly difficult time that shook her faith and almost ended her life. What a riveting story! Listening to it was almost like watching a movie, which I hope it will eventually become. She has donated a picture of the eagle to Historic Jamestowne. Ginny is now commemorated in a key chain or a book mark (which I now own to remember the story). Traci gave us directions to her nest, so we may go on an eagle sighting adventure before we leave!

Jane Courtesy of Historic Jamestowne

Jane Courtesy of Historic Jamestowne

Finally, we toured the archaearium. It was here that we encountered another dark side of history by the name of Jane. This newest exhibit at Jamestowne is grisly, yet riveting. (Warning for the faint of heart or stomach…) In one of the archaeological digs, they found a skull and leg bone of a teenage girl. While this wouldn’t normally be a unique experience, finding such items in a family trash pile instead of a grave is disconcerting to say the least. It has long been suspected that there was cannibalism at Jamestowne during the starving time, but this was conclusive evidence. But, it gets worse. I suppose there could be plausible explanations for finding remains in the trash at an archaeological level known to be “the starving time,” but an examination of the skull shows carving marks, in addition to large implement (such as a meat cleaver) marks.
View of Historic Jamestowne from the ferry

View of Historic Jamestowne from the ferry

The skull and bone are both on display for the viewer, but what really got to me was the wax rendering of what this girl would have looked like. This beautiful child was probably 14, given the fact that her molars had not yet come through, but were still visible in her jaw. This is the age of the students I teach. I can’t imagine how desperate I’d have to be to carve up and eat someone I knew. Apparently, however, there was a man who was tried for murder for killing and eating his pregnant wife. Others were known to dig up graves and eat those interred there. The horrors these early settlers must have experienced during this time is extreme.

My first thought is May we never experience this kind of hardship. But, my next thought is of the many millions for whom starvation and lack is a daily way of life. May we never forget them either.

By this time, it had started raining, so we headed back home with many more mysteries still to be explored.

Westover Plantation

Westover Plantation

We set out early this morning (3/24/14) for the library in Charles City County, hoping to dig up some information on our Peebles connections there. As we set out, we discovered that we would arrive an hour before the library opened, so we decided to detour by some of the plantations along the way.

The first place we stopped was Westover, built in 1730 by William Byrd II, founder of Richmond. The house is not opened to the public, but the grounds are available for viewing with an “honor system” payment outside the gate of up to $5.00, depending on age, military standing, etc. The grounds are beautiful and peaceful, though it feels a bit odd walking around someone’s yard and seeing things like basketball hoops. It also makes it a bit confusing to know where you can and cannot go. Still, the architectural features are amazing, it was well worth the experience. I’d love to explore a little more when the weather is nicer.

Berkeley Plantation

Berkeley Plantation

After Westover, we headed down to Berkeley Plantation. Berkeley is simply steeped in history. The building itself dates back to 1726, but the history of the plantation starts long before that. On December 4, 1619, early settlers came ashore here and observed the official first Thanksgiving. If you walk down to the river, there is a small monument to the event. I was a bit disappointed by the fact that it is really just a picture and a plaque inside the archway–a bit scant for such a momentous event.

Taps Monument Berkeley

Taps Monument Berkeley

In addition to its Colonial history, Berkeley also has a great deal of Civil War history. Union troops were encamped here in 1862 under the leadership of McClellan (This is the plantation he was trying to get to when he left wounded men at the Shirley Plantation.) In fact, Abraham Lincoln himself visited McClellan at Berkeley two times during the summer of 1862. But, that’s not the end of the Civil War history of the house. First, between the house and the river, there is a monument to Taps. It sounds weird, I know, but the music we know as “Taps” was composed and first played on Berkeley land during the Civil War. General Daniel Butterfield composed this variation of an earlier bugle call. Apparently, Butterfield whistled it for his bugler, who helped him work out the rhythm and notes. This monument, as well, is small, but boasts an audio explanation of the story of “Taps.”

Benjamin Harrison's Grave Berkeley

Benjamin Harrison’s Grave Berkeley

The last Civil War connection comes in 1907. Unable to regain it after the Civil War, the Harrison Family (Declaration of Independence Signer Benjamin Harrison inherited it from his father who built it, and William Henry Harrison was born here) lost the house to others. After a series of owners allowed it to fall into disrepair, the house was purchased by John Jamieson, who incidentally had been a drummer in the Union Army during the Civil War. His children would restore the plantation to its former glory. It’s an incredible site (though we had to pay $7.00 to tour the grounds, while admission to the house and grounds is only $9.00.) Yet, one could easily spend many hours exploring here.

Charles City County Courthouse

Charles City County Courthouse

But, we were now an hour late (instead of an hour early) for the opening of the library, so we set off. We first went to the Charles City County Visitor Center and Courthouse. This Courthouse is the third oldest courthouse in the country, so it was fun to be able to see. When we went in the Heritage Library, however, we quickly discovered it was not what we were looking for. They had only two books that were genealogical in nature, though patrons were able to access computer data only available at this location. But, they kindly directed us to the Charles City County Center for Local History right down the road.

Robert Bolling Court Case

Robert Bolling Court Case

We walked into a room lined with records and knew we were in the right place. Those on duty were very helpful to bring us a number of books to go through. While I didn’t find much on our immediate ancestors, I hit the Robert Bolling Jackpot. Despite being away from my project on Robert Bolling for almost two years, I still have a fondness for him, so seeing his name in writing gave me another trail to go down. I think my favorite thing about seeing his name was that in almost every case, it said, “Witness: Robert Bolling.” Obviously, having studied him, I knew he was often in court as a member of the House of Burgesses, but to see how many cases he was involved in was incredible. In addition to witnessing a number of cases, he was involved in a few disputes of his own which made the ledgers. The first was a suit against Owen Gilmore for a debt Gilmore owed. The suit read, “Suit of Robert Bolling, Gent., vs Owen Gilmore for debt. Gilmore absconded. Bolling to recover from estate of Gilmore in the hands of Thomas Williams.” The second case was even more interesting. This one stated, “Francis Epes claims 200 lbs tobacco for taking up two runaway negro women belonging to Robert Bolling of this county.” I hadn’t really concentrated on the fact that Bolling had slaves. It brought a whole slough of questions. What job did they do for him? How did he treat them when they were returned–after all, he’d had to pay 200 lbs of tobacco to get them back? Additionally, the family had more trouble involving slaves. Apparently, Robert’s son sued his brother-in-law over slaves that were taken which should have been part of the estate. (The entry is in the picture above) Fascinating new information to consider.

Lee's nephew's Prince George Map

Lee’s nephew’s Prince George Map

The Historical Society directed us to the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center. There, we met Carol and hit the jackpot. Not only is she living in Aberdeen, next door to Bon Accord, which was part of our Peebles connection, but she also was incredibly helpful with information. So, we spent the next few hours looking up information about some of our ancestors. The Prince George County also houses a small museum of their own. One of the coolest things for me to see was a map of Prince George County carried by Robert E. Lee’s nephew as he fought in the war. After the Civil War, maps were so rare that he sent it back to Prince George County. Looking at it, you can still see where he had folded the map to transport it. The museum also has a court ledger from the early 1700’s–the full versions of the summaries I had previously looked at in which Bolling played such a prominent role. This book also was a gift from afar, as it had turned up in someone’s attic in Ohio, and they graciously sent it back to the town. A wonderful treasure trove of history.

New Flowerdew

New Flowerdew

At last, we headed out of town. We swung through Shirley Plantation again to get some pictures in the sun, since yesterday had been such a dreary day. Then, we made the quest for Flowerdew Hundred. It’s a hard place to find, as it’s located in James River National Wildlife Refuge, but if you stay on Flowerdew Hundred Road, you can’t miss it. Flowerdew was a land grant of Governor George Yeardley (of Jamestowne) in 1618, named in honor of his wife (Thankfully, that was her maiden name–her first name was Temperance. So, he quite possibly named it for her wealthy father.) In addition to being another of the oldest plantations, Flowerdew played a part in the Civil War as well. It was here that the Union army under the command of Ulysses S. Grant camped before making the Seige of Petersburg in 1864. They had crossed over the James River on a pontoon boat bridge which, though constructed in one night, would hold the record as the longest pontoon boat bridge until World War II. Unfortunately, the original house is no longer on the property, and the mansion there was built in the late 1990’s and is not open to the public. Neat to see, regardless.

Bacon's Castle

Bacon’s Castle

We ended our day with a trip to Bacon’s Castle. While the house is only open on the weekends (admission $8.00), we knew that this weekend is supposed to be rainy, so we wanted to get some pictures on a nice day. Bacon’s castle is not only one of only three houses of the high-style Jacobean structures in the Western hemisphere, but it is also the oldest datable brick building. The name, however, is deceiving. Not only did the house not belong to Nathaniel Bacon (famous for Bacon’s rebellion), it is doubtful he even went there. The house derives its name due to the fact that when Bacon and his men rebelled, Nathaniel sent his men across the river to establish a stronghold in Surrey County. They chose Major Arthur “Allen’s Brick House,” as it was previously known, as their headquarters. They apparently made themselves quite at home in Major Allen’s house, the major himself having fled since he supported the Governor instead of Bacon. They ate his cattle, drank his wine, and generally destroyed his property. Apparently, it was bad enough that he sued the men for the damages!

Finally, we headed back across the ferry and home to curl up for a potentially yucky day tomorrow.

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