November 30, 2008

Palmer Marker, Port Republic

This marker stands in front of the park on the South River at Port Republic, VA. Next to the picture below (of the periwinkle-covered foundation) is the text of the sign.

Palmer Lot at Middle Ford
Ford was site of Jackson's temporary bridge

Parallel to South River is seen the bed of the lower millrace which brought water power to several village industries. The Galliday Tannery was located on the far left; the Dundore/Downs Tannery on the adjoining property on the right. The Robert Waller Palmer house, known as Green Isle, stood between the race and the river. Its foundation, now covered by periwinkle, exceeds the measurement of sixteen by sixteen feet, the minimum allowed size of houses built on the first lots sold in the newly chartered town of 1802.

The ell-shaped limestone foundation near Water Street remains from the mid-nineteenth century house, store and post office of Palmer's son, John. An 1837 invoice describes his merchandise as "French, English, German and American Fancy Goods."

On the site was a slab bridge over the millrace which led to the middle ford of the South River. On June 8, 1862, Union soldiers under Col. Samuel Sprigg Carroll invaded the village by fording South River and cross the bridge. After the Federal invasion had been repelled, Confederates hurriedly constructed a temporary bridge during the night of June 8-9. Captain Claiborne R. Mason's African-American engineer troops performed the difficult job by dragging wagon beds into the flood-swollen river by means of a complicated pulley system, putting rocks atop the wagons, and then fastening lumber together to provide a precarious walkway. The next day Confederate soldiers, hurrying into the Battle of Port Republic raging just downstream, crossed gingerly. Eventually the temporary bridge broke down, leaving many obliged to wade through the deep water, holding their weapons and ammunition up to keep them dry.

Across the street are the Town Hall and the James Patterson log house built in the early 1800s. Patterson's home was later owned by Marshall Jones, the first freed African-American in Port. Also visible are some of the oldest remaining structures in the village.

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