April 30, 2010

Historic Westover Plantation

There are places that just about take your breath away. Westover Plantation is one of those. I first visited it on a field trip and later took my husband to see it. The grounds are gardens are lovely. We returned for Historic Garden Week in order to see the inside of the house, which is normally closed to the public. It overlooks the James River in Charles City County, Virginia.

The center section of the manor house was built around 1730 for William Byrd II, an important person in Colonial Virginia, founder of Richmond, well-known diarist, and a member of the still-influential Byrd family.

The James River was the site of the first successful English settlements in America, and a number of large plantations grew along its banks. Westover is one of several that can still be seen. It's convenient to Williamsburg and Richmond and next door to Berkeley Plantation, which is the birthplace of President William Henry Harrison (1773) and in 1862 headquarters and supply center for the Union Army.

Memorial to William Byrd II

Old Well House at Westover

"Indian Well House"

"Legend says that this dry well was connected to the tunnel which exits at the riverbank to provide a way to escape Indian attacks. Six people were killed on Westover in the 1622 Indian massacre."

The number of people listed as killed is in disagreement with the newer sign seen in a previous post and in this list from Jamestown records which lists two men killed at Westover. However, there were two other small settlements that were associated with this one and two men were killed at each; thus the total of six. The three plantations were owned by three brothers with the surname "West."

April 29, 2010

Garden With Cheerful Birds

Westover Plantation near Charles City, VA

Above: Here's a short video I made in the garden at Westover. Note the birds singing!

Link: Westover on GardenVisit.com

Iris and Azalea

Lavender, Red, Green

Pictures of Us at Westover

A week ago we went to Westover Plantation for Historic Garden Week. It was one of the rare days that the interior of the house was open for tours, and the gardens were even lovelier than they are in the summer. There is a gracious air about the house and grounds that is refreshing.

John Smith Marker at Westover

Just outside the main gate at Westover Plantation are two historic markers. One is a Civil War Trails marker which I described here. The other, shown below, is number 18 in a series on Captain John Smith's Adventures on the James.
marker at James RiverHere's what the sign tells us about Westover:
Westover Plantation was established in 1619, part of the rapid agricultural expansion that followed several years of mere subsistence for the English at Jamestown. Often, the English co-opted fields already cleared by Natives for farming or as fishing camps.
This brought strained relations to a boil in 1622, when Powhatan’s successor Opechancanough orchestrated an attack on outlying English settlements, including Westover, where two settlers were killed. The farm persisted, however. The house was built by Richmond founder, William Byrd II, circa 1730.
Gazing directly south from the riverbank at Westover, one sees Maycocks Point in the James River National Wildlife Refuge. Archaeological excavations there have revealed that Native Americans lived on the promontory more than 1,000 years before the English arrived.
The right-hand sidebar on the sign discusses Boating on the James, from Indian canoes to modern cargo ships.

April 28, 2010

Views of the James River

We're looking at the James River below Richmond. The James is 410 miles long, flowing from the Cowpasture and Jackson Rivers all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. It crosses the Blue Ridge through a gap east of Natural Bridge.

April 27, 2010

Buying Plants

Our last-frost date is coming up in a few days and I've been buying plants to put in the ground. I've purchased plants, seeds and bulbs at Lowe's, a couple of supermarkets, Southern States, a dollar store, and the native plant sale at James Madison.

There are some major plant sales coming up at the JMU arboretum in Harrisonburg (5/15) and at Blandy Farm in Boyce (5/8 and 5/9). There's also GardenFest at Belle Grove on June 5.

Register Now for NVCC Civil War Tour!

History Seminar: Civil War Guerrilla Warfare
2010 Field Trips May 21, 22, 23

Dr. Charles Poland will lead another series of field trips starting May 21 in Middletown, VA and traveling to Moorefield and Romney, WV, Cumberland MD, and through "Mosby's Confederacy" in Northern Virginia.

I've taken many of his courses in the past including the Mosby tour and this one promises to cover some new territory. Many of those who attend his courses are long-time fans who've been enjoying these trips for years.

Participants are advised to "Bring snacks and water each day and lunch for May 22 and 23. All three days bring rain gear, clothing and footwear for extensive walking. " Personally I always bring along sunscreen and spray my shoes with insect repellent. Maps and a GPS can also come in handy, although I've taken these tours for 19 years without a GPS and only got lost once.

We'll follow the exploits of McNeill’s Rangers, Mosby, White and Mobberly. Sign up now for HIS 298-036N – Seminar and Project: the Civil War, class number 13679 at Northern Virginia Community College.

April 26, 2010

Bobby the Tavern Cat

We stopped for lunch on Thursday at a restaurant in Charles City (which is not a city but a small town and also the name of a county not far from Richmond). I won't name the restaurant but it's called a tavern (although it's more of a quaint eatery in an old farmhouse).

We were dining out on the porch when a cat entered through a hole he had ripped in the screen. He looked cute when he begged from the floor, and also when he stretched out on the chair next to mine. I felt concerned though when he hopped up on the table, and when he put his nose down in the cole slaw, I'd had enough of his assertive style and picked up up and deposited him back on the floor. By the time our waiter reappeared the cat had gone back outside through the hole in the screen.

Flowers are Blooming

I love springtime in Virginia! And we're in a good place to enjoy it. From our windows and deck we can enjoy the dogwoods, and we planted bulbs in the yard so we have flowers.

We had enough daffodils and wild tulips to harvest a few for cut flowers. Deer don't like to eat these, although the more popular Dutch tulips are favorites of deer and don't stand a chance here in the mountains. Wild tulips are not as tall but have multiple blooms. This is the first year we've had them and I'm glad I found them.

April 25, 2010

Genealogists Will Like This!

Google has indexed countless articles from old newspapers. Try it out: www.google.com/archivesearch. (Tip: put your name in quotes and search.) Many of the articles are from papers that charge you for reading them, but you can glean a lot from the glimpse that Google offers.

Second Winchester Marker: West Fort

signI've stopped at the Virginia Farm Market on 522 before but a Civil War Trails marker has been added since I was there in 2004. (See my 2nd Winchester Field Trip pages for photos taken then.)

Excerpts from this sign:

Second Battle of Winchester
Louisiana Tigers Capture West Fort
— Gettysburg Campaign —
In June 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee marched his infantry from Culpeper County to the Shenandoah Valley to launch his second invasion of the North. First, however, he had to capture Winchester... which Union Gen. Robert H. Milroy and a 9,000 man garrison occupied... After heavy skirmishing on June 12-13, Milroy ordered his command into three fortifications: Fort Milroy, Star Fort, and West Fort.
West Fort, smallest of the three, is on the high ground to your distant front... Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early, seeing that West Fort was vulnerable to attack from the west, marched three infantry brigades and Lt. Col. Hilary P. Jones’ 20-gun artillery battalion to the ridge on your right...
Four Union guns were knocked out, and Hays' men charged. The Ohioans fought stubbornly but soon abandoned their guns and fled toward Fort Milroy and Star Fort.
See HMDB for the complete text.
Related Book: Plagued By War: Winchester, Virginia During the Civil War by Jonathan Noyalas

April 24, 2010

Shaffer House, Bedford, PA

This is the reconstructed Shaffer house in Old Bedford Village. The original house was in Bedford Township. An 1813 deed called it a "log mansion," apparently because it was larger than many homes in the area.

A Glimpse of Old Bedford Village

early american townHere is a quick look at Old Bedford Village in Pennsylvania. The video quality is shaky because I was using my digital camera with no tripod, and the camera is designed for good still images with the video capability just an added bonus.

Bedford is just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and is west of Breezewood.

April 23, 2010

We Were Tourists in Bedford

When we go to a tourist attraction like Old Bedford Village, we take plenty of photos. Sometimes we pose for a few, maybe even some silly ones. Doesn't everyone?

Old Time Schools

There are two reconstructed schools at Old Bedford Village. The school room above may be very old-fashioned but it still has the atmosphere of classrooms I remember.

Left: The "Eight Square School." I really liked the octagon shape of this school house. Supposedly it was easier to heat than the more common rectangular room, and the windows let in plenty of light.

Blacksmith Shop, Whitesmith Shop

Above: Blacksmith Shop
Below: Whitesmith Shop

Reproductions at Old Bedford Village


A whitesmith is someone who fashions tin into objects, although the dictionary says it can also be someone who polishes items made of iron. I imagine you already know what a blacksmith is.
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April 22, 2010

Church in Old Bedford Village

This is Christ Church, inspired by a church near Schellsburg, PA. It is sometimes rented out and can be seen on the village map as building 5.

Wishing Well

Tossing a coin in a wishing well may seem superstitious, but at times it may move you closer to your dreams. Why? Because verbalizing what you want is the first step toward setting a goal.

A Very Brief Video Taken at Old Bedford Village

April 21, 2010

Views with Windmill

Old Bedford Village, PA

Old-fashioned windmill seen from two directions.

April 20, 2010

Duck Pond at Old Bedford Village

Old Bedford Village is not officially open in April, but it is available for special events and there was a muzzle-loading gun show on the Saturday that we were there. After a brief visit to the show to see the ornately-carved guns and some flint-knapping exhibits, we were able to tour the village. I was surprised to find most of the buildings open even though few staff members were around.

Normally the village features lots of folks wearing historical costumes but they are are not present in the off-season. (No, nobody really lives there. The village is a re-creation; the buildings are brought in from elsewhere and reconstructed.)

Bridge at Old Bedford Village

Claycomb Covered Bridge

This bridge was moved to Old Bedford Village in 1975. In the upper left corner of this photo you can glimpse trucks traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

April 19, 2010

Truck or Minivan of Old Times

Bedford, Pennsylvania: Covered Wagon

I believe this is a Conestoga Wagon, so named after the Conestoga River and valley in Pennsylvania. We saw this at the Old Bedford Village.

April 18, 2010


Seen in Pennsylvania April 10, 2010

April 17, 2010

Shawnee Lake in Pennsylvania

After we looked at some of Bedford County's covered bridges, we passed Shawnee Lake near Schellsburg, PA. We decided to drive into the Colvin Area parking lot and take some pictures. At first the light was flat due to the overcast sky, but as I busied myself trying to get some shots with geese in them, the sun showed itself and the sky and water brightened.

April 16, 2010

Bedford's Bridges

A week ago we were in Bedford County, PA. We arrived too late in the afternoon to visit the museum so we checked into the Quality Inn and drove off to sample the covered bridge tour.
Unfortunately the weather had turned rainy so our photo ops were limited. In a way, the rain was appropriate because the main reason bridges were covered was to protect them from rain and snow, which could warp and rot the wooden boards.

There are many covered bridges in Pennsylvania, and I noticed that a lot of them look alike. I liked Cuppett Bridge, shown below, because it was distinctively different.

Ryot Covered Bridge

When we drove through the Ryot Covered Bridge, the rain had moved on and we had enough light to take some pictures. I got shots in both directions.