Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ashlawn Home of James Monroe

Since we had visited the home of James Madison the previous time we were in the area. We decided that we would visit the home of James Monroe. Of the three presidential homes in this area, it seems to be the house that is the least impressive.

Also located near Charlottesville, Virginia, and adjacent to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, is the estate of James Monroe, fifth President of the United States. Purchased in 1793, Monroe and his family permanently settled on the property in 1799 and lived for twenty-four years. Personal debt forced Monroe to sell the plantation in 1825.

President Monroe simply called his home "Highland." It did not acquire the additional name of "Ash Lawn" until after his death.

Encouraged by his close friend, Thomas Jefferson, Monroe purchased a deed for one thousand acres of land adjacent to Monticello in 1793 for an equal number of pounds from the Carter family. The land formerly had been a part of the Blenheim Plantation owned by Champe Carter. In 1800, Monroe described his home as: "One wooden dwelling house, the walls filled with brick. One story high, 40 by 30 ft. Wooden Wing one storey high, 34 by 18 ft."

Following I am including some of the history of this estate.

Over the next 16 years, Monroe continued to add on to his home, adding stone cellars and a second story to the building. He also expanded his land holdings, which at their greatest included over 3,500 acres However, by 1815, Monroe increasingly turned to selling his land to pay for debt. By 1825, he was forced to sell his home and the property.

Edward O. Goodwin purchased Highland from Monroe at twenty dollars an acre and often referred to the property as "North Blenheim." At the time of the purchase, Monroe described Highland as containing: "a commodious dwelling house, buildings for servants and other domestic purposes, good stables, two barns with threshing machine, a grist and sawmill with houses for managers and laborers . . . all in good repair."

Goodwin sold the house and six hundred acres in 1834 and it was sold again in 1837 to Alexander Garrett. Garrett gave the property its second name which remained with it to the present day, "Ash Lawn." Over the course of thirty years, Ash Lawn–Highland was sold numerous times until 1867, when John Massey purchased it. It remained in the possession of the Massey family for the next sixty-seven years. In that time period, the family added to the house, whereupon it took on its present day appearance.

Ash Lawn–Highland was sold for the last time in 1930 to philanthropist Jay Winston Johns of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Johns family soon after opened the house to public tours and upon his death in 1974, Johns willed the property to James Monroe's alma mater, the College of William and Mary.

This house seems to be more remote than the other two presidents, but I am glad I can say we visited it. The drive is a few mile farther for the Jefferson house but was a beautiful route.

While another couple, who travels with us often, viewed the interior of the house, I soon departed the tour to sit down and later walked the grounds.

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.-- John 14:2 (KJV)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Charlottesville is a Must see

A trip to Charlottesville, Virginia offers you the opportunity to visit the homes of three early American Presidents, namely; James Madison, James Monroe, and Thomas Jefferson. No one should ever visit this area without taking two or three days just to visit the homes and plantations.

This was my second trip to the area, and we had planned to stay at a local hotel near the University of Virginia so we would be able to see this unusual city and the beautiful surroundings.

The first day we took an intimate look at the extraordinary house Thomas Jefferson built and furnished for himself and his family. The guided house tour covers the rooms on Monticello’s first floor and lasts about 30 minutes. The entrance hall contains recreations of items collected by Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition. The floor cloth here is painted a "true grass green" upon the recommendation of artist Gilbert Stuart in order for Jefferson's 'essay in architecture' to invite the spirit of the outdoors into the house. Your admission ticket also includes access to the grounds and two optional outdoor guided tours, of the Plantation Community and of the Gardens and Grounds, which are offered daily. The main house was augmented by small outlying pavilions to the north and south. A row of functional buildings (dairy, wash houses, store houses, a small nail factory, a joinery etc.) and slave dwellings known as Mulberry Row lay nearby to the south. A stone weaver's cottage survives, as do the tall chimney of the joinery, and the foundations of other buildings. A cabin on Mulberry Row was, for a time, the home of Sally Hemings; she later moved into a room in the "south dependency" below the main house. On the slope below Mulberry Row Jefferson maintained an extensive vegetable garden. The house was the center of a plantation of 5,000 acres tended by some 150 slaves.

It is a historical site and was the estate of Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia. Because of his importance in our early history, this place is a must see.

It is situated on the summit of an 850-foot peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap. Its name comes from the Italian "little mountain."

Work began on what historians would subsequently refer to as "the first Monticello" in 1768. Jefferson moved into the South Pavilion in 1770. Jefferson left Monticello in 1784 to serve as Minister of the United States to France. During his tenure in Europe, he had an opportunity to see some of the classical buildings with which he had become acquainted from his reading, as well as to discover the "modern" trends in French architecture that were then fashionable in Paris. His decision to remodel his own home may date from this period. In 1794, following his service as the first U.S. Secretary of State (1790–93), Jefferson began rebuilding his house based on the ideas he had acquired in Europe. The remodeling continued throughout most of his presidency (1801–09).

Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, and Monticello was inherited by his eldest daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph. Financial difficulties led to Martha selling Monticello to James T. Barclay, a local apothecary, in 1831. Barclay sold it in 1834 to Uriah P. Levy, the first Jewish American to serve an entire career as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy. Levy greatly admired Jefferson. During the American Civil War, the house was seized by the Confederate government and sold, though Uriah Levy's estate recovered it after the war.

Let me mention a few tid-bits you may have forgotten. An image of the west front of Monticello has been featured on the reverse of the nickel minted since 1938 (with a brief interruption in 2004 and 2005).

Monticello also appeared on the reverse of the two-dollar bill from 1928 to 1966, when the bill was discontinued. The current bill was introduced in 1976 and retains Jefferson's portrait on the obverse but replaced Monticello on the reverse with an engraved modified reproduction of John Trumbull's painting Declaration of Independence instead. The gift shop at Monticello hands out two-dollar bills as change.

Monticello, the only private home in the United States, along with the nearby University of Virginia, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

This stop is always a highlight for me due to its historical significance.

Dominion and fear are with him, he maketh peace in his high places. Job 25:2 (KJV)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Oldest Church in America

I love to visit old churches and learn there was one in Hampton near us. We set the GPS and soon found St. John’s Church, alleged as the oldest English-speaking parish in America, founded in 1610. The church of St. John’s is a 1728 worship building displaying beautiful colonial brickwork. It celebrated its 400th anniversary along with the City of Hampton, Virginia in 2010.

English settlers from Jamestown established a community and church on the tip of the Virginia Peninsula on July 9, 1610, one month after Lord De La Warr arrived at Jamestown with supplies that effectively ended the Starving Time in that settlement. This new settlement was named Kecoughtan after the Algonquian Native Americans living in the area.

Excavations in the Church Creek area of Hampton indicate that the earliest English settlements were near present-day LaSalle and Chesapeake Avenues. The first minister of the new parish was the Reverend William Mease who was appointed by the Bishop of London to lead the church at Kecoughtan. A historical marker on LaSalle Ave marks the approximate location of the first site.

In 1619 the settlement was renamed Elizabeth City. By 1623 the town had re-established itself east of Hampton River, where the second church of Elizabeth City parish was built. The site is included within the grounds of what is now Hampton University. Abandoned in 1667 after a third church was built, the foundations of the second church were discovered in 1910. It was a small wooden structure to which a vestibule was added later. Today, the original foundations and some of the brick floor have been excavated and can be seen at the second site, along with information, conjectural paintings, and a historical marker. Artifacts found during the excavation are on display in the St. John's Parish House museum.

The third building of the parish was constructed more than a mile to the west of the second church at "Westwood’s Town Quarter", indicating that there was growth of the town on the west side of Hampton River. Like the previous structure, it was made of wood and was of similar size. This building continued in use for about 60 years. The site is located off West Pembroke Avenue east of LaSalle Avenue and features a historical marker, building foundations outlined by bricks, several 17th and 18th-century gravestones, and a protective brick wall.

In the early 18th Century, activity centered about the busy port which has become downtown Hampton. The parishioners petitioned the Governor for permission to relocate their place of worship closer to the population center. It was granted, and construction of the fourth church on one and one half acre on the outskirts of Hampton began. Henry Cary, Jr. of Williamsburg completed the present cruciform building in 1728. A belfry was added to the west front in 1762. The building was damaged in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. After full restoration, on Saturday, 6 March 1830, Bishop Richard Channing Moore, Bishop of Virginia, consecrated the church with its new name St. John's.

The building was damaged again during the Civil War on 7 August 1861. In an attempt to keep the town from Union occupation, Confederate soldiers set fire to homes, businesses and the church. The great bell was destroyed, and only the blackened walls remained by the time Union soldiers occupied the town and camped in the churchyard. As a result of the fire, St. John's is the only surviving colonial structure in downtown Hampton. Restoration was finished around 1869/1870. Although the exterior's colonial appearance was restored, the interior reflects the late 19th-century Victorian influence. Early in the 20th century, the rear tower was added, the west gallery was built in 1957, the chapel completed in 1985, and the current manual tracker organ installed in 1993.

The 1618 Communion Silver used today has the longest history of continuous use in America of any English church silver. The pieces were brought from England in 1619 and used in a church founded in 1618 located in Smith's Hundred in Virginia, which lay in the point between the Chickahominy and the James Rivers, eight miles northwest of Jamestown. The church was nearly destroyed in the Indian Massacre of 22 March 1622. The silver was carried by Governor George Yeardley to Jamestown and afterward, approximately 1628, given to the second Elizabeth City Church, which had just been built. St. John's continues to use communion silver on special occasions. The chalice has inscribed the London date-letter for 1618-1619 and the text THE COMMVNION CVPP FOR SNT MARYS CHVRCH IN SMITHS HVNDRED IN VIRGINIA. There are two patens with the same London date-letter. The first paten has the inscription Whosoever shall eate this bread and drinke the cupp of the Lord/unworthily shalbe gilty of the body & blood of ye Lord Cor Ixith. The second paten has written If any man eate of this Bread he shall live for ever John VIth.

In 1887 the Native American students from the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute made a stained glass window depicting the baptism of Pocahontas for their Church, although Pocahontas was not baptized there.

On the chapel wall to the left as you face the main altar is an Aumbry. The door panel consists of pieces of the 13th century stained glass from St. Helena Church, Willoughby Parish, Lincolnshire County, United Kingdom - the parish in which Captain John Smith was baptized. The panel was presented to the St. John's Parish by the rector of Willoughby St. Helena on Sunday, 14 July 1985, as part of St. John's 375th anniversary celebration.

We arrived at the church too late to enter into it, which was a disappointment to me. The ladies decided to remain in the car while my traveling buddy, Jim Lowe, and I walked into the graveyard that surrounded the church. The oldest grave site I saw the person was buried in 1701.

After getting back to the resort we were staying I gathered much of the facts for what I have recorded above.

It was indeed an eventful day for us.

And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. Acts 16:5 (KJV)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fort Monroe

Because of our interest in Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis we stopped at the old and famous fortress called Fort Monroe.
Fort Monroe is a Hampton, Virginia, military installation located at Old Point Comfort, which is on the tip of the Virginia Peninsula. Along with Fort Calhoun, later renamed Fort Wool, it guarded approach by sea of the navigational shipping channel between the Chesapeake Bay and the entrance to the harbor of Hampton Roads, which itself is formed by the confluence of the Elizabeth River, the Nansemond River, and the James River, the longest in Virginia.
In the earliest days of the Colony of Virginia, the site was identified as a strategic defensive location. In May of 1607, they established the first permanent English settlement in the present-day United States about 25 miles further inland from the Bay along the James River at Jamestown. The land area where Fort Monroe is located became part of Elizabeth City in 1619, Elizabeth River Shire in 1634, and was included in Elizabeth City County when it was formed in 1643. Over 300 years later, in 1952, Elizabeth City County and Fort Monroe's neighbor, the nearby Town of Phoebus, agreed to consolidate with the smaller independent city of Hampton, which became one of the larger cities of Hampton Roads.
Beginning by 1609, fortifications had been established at Old Point Comfort during Virginia's first two centuries. However, the much more substantial facility of stone to become known as Fort Monroe were completed in 1834. The principal facility was named in honor of U.S. President James Monroe.
Robert E. Lee also served here, married here, and had their first son here. The quarters occupied by 1st Lt. Robert E. Lee in 1831–34, and the quarters where President Abraham Lincoln was a guest in May, 1862 are still in use as military family housing.
During the Civil War, Fort Monroe was quickly reinforced so that it would not fall to Confederate forces. In cooperation with the Navy, troops from Fort Monroe extended Union control along the coasts of the Carolinas. Several land operations against Confederate forces also were mounted from the fort, notably the battle of Big Bethel in June 1861, Major General George McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign of 1862 and the siege of Suffolk in 1863. In 1864 the Army of the James was formed at Fort Monroe. Fort Monroe is also the place at which Major General Benjamin Butler made his famous “contraband” decision, by which escaping slaves reaching Union lines would not be returned to bondage.
Throughout the American Civil War, although most of Virginia became part of the Confederate States of America, Fort Monroe remained in Union hands. It became notable as a historic and symbolic site of early freedom for former slaves under the provisions of contraband policies and later the Emancipation Proclamation.
After the last Confederate cabinet meeting was held on April 26, 1865, at Charlotte, North Carolina, Jefferson Davis was captured at Irwinville, Georgia, and placed under arrest. He was briefly confined in an unheated, open casemate until the Union Surgeon John J. Craven recommended more humane care for Mr. Davis. General Nelson A. Miles approved changes and even moved Mr. Davis to more hospitable quarters. He was held at Fort Monroe for two years.
In poor health, Davis was released in May, 1867, on bail, which was posted by prominent citizens of both Northern and Southern states, including Horace Greeley and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who had become convinced he was being treated unfairly. The federal government proceeded no further in its prosecution due to the constitutional concerns of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase.
Completely surrounded by a moat, the six-sided stone fort is the only one of its kind left in the United States that is still an active Army post. Fort Monroe is one of several posts selected to be closed by September 2011.
Not far from here was where one of the most notorious pirates to haunt Virginia waters, William Teach, better known as Blackbeard was found. Teach, like many other pirates, was attracted to the lower Chesapeake Bay by the lucrative Virginia-England tobacco trade. It was here at the sight in Hampton, Virginia, where Blackbeard's head had its final resting place.
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; Deuteronomy 30:15 (KJV)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Famous grave yard in Richmond, Virginia

Previously on our trip we had seen the gravesite of Thomas Jefferson, and I had already seen the burial place of James Madison, therefore, a visit to the Hollywood cemetery was something we had looked forward to from the very beginning of our trip.

From the offset I was surprised of the beauty of this place because the Hollywood Cemetery is a large, sprawling cemetery located in Richmond, Virginia. Characterized by rolling hills and winding paths overlooking the James River, it is the resting place of two United States Presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler, as well as the only Confederate States President, Jefferson Davis. It is also the resting place of 25 Confederate generals, more than any other cemetery in the country. Included are George Pickett, Fitzhugh Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. I had especially wanted to see the gravesite of Jeb Stuart. Since I had gone to school with some of his descendents whose name was also J.E.B. Stuart. He also had a brother named Billy in the same high school with me in Arkansas. However I was impressed by the gravesites of all the Presidents and the Confederate section.

Founded in 1847, Hollywood is one of the oldest cemeteries in Richmond. Besides the Presidents, novelists James Branch Cabel, Ellen Glasgow, and 18,000 Confederate soldiers, 11,000 of them unknown, are a few examples of the historical figures buried here. Hollywood has the city's best view of the James River, and what a view of the river and city it was.

The monuments of CSA General George E. Pickett (of Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg) and his wife, Lasalle Corbell Pickett. Mrs. Pickett was relocated from an Arlington, Virginia mausoleum to Hollywood Cemetery in 1998. In announcing the move, the Richmond Times Dispatch said, "For the first time, a woman is to be buried in the soldier's section of Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. The wife of Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett will be buried in an area known as Gettysburg Hill, since casualties from the Battle of Gettysburg are buried there. Gen. Pickett earned fame during the Civil War for "Pickett's Charge" at Gettysburg, Pa., a crucial battle in 1863 that helped turn the tide of war in the Union's favor. At his death in 1875, 10 years after the war's end, Gen. Pickett asked to be buried among his men in his native Richmond."

The James Monroe's grave is particularly stunning as it is a cage of beautifully sculpted iron work that is like nothing I have ever seen before. Some of the stained glass is also worth coming to visit to see. Most notably, the tomb of famous Richmonder and philanthropist, Lewis Ginter is blessed with stained glass designed by famed Tiffany Studios.

The Cemetery was designed in the rural garden style, with its name, "Hollywood," coming from the holly trees dotting the hills of the property.

The Cemetery is one of Richmond's major tourist attractions and one can buy a book and map noting the location of where the famous are buried. There are many local legends surrounding certain tombs and grave sites in the cemetery, including one about a little girl and the black iron statue of a dog standing watch over her grave. Other notable legends rely on ghosts haunting the many mausoleums. One of the most well-known of these is the legend of the Richmond Vampire.

The first memorial in Richmond, Virginia to the Confederate soldiers, this 90 foot granite pyramid was completed in 1869 for 18,000 enlisted men buried there. Although it cost over twenty-five thousand dollars to erect, the pyramid was constructed without mortar, making the construction very dangerous.

In early 1862, CSA General James Longstreet suffered a serious personal loss when three of his children died of scarlet fever during an epidemic in Richmond. The children are buried in Hollywood Cemetery.

This cemetery was awe-inspiring in its vastness and history. We loved meandering through the streets and looking at the dates on the stones of the folks buried below us. The monoliths, headstones, crypts, tombstones - all in a vast array of design and size. Several times I was overwhelmed. We found the Confederate army section and many of the greats in history from the war.

Hollywood was one of the most fascinating sites we saw in Richmond.

I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. -- Genesis 23:4 (KJV)