Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Berkeley Plantation

Virginia Highway #5 takes you past several of the James River Plantations. These plantations were set by as the Berkeley 100. Each plantation had to have enough land to sustain 100 families. These are working plantations. Today members of the family have living quarters upstairs in this house.

We chose to stop at Berkeley Plantation, proclaimed as the most historical. (But next time we will tour the Shirley Plantation on the James River!) Following signs we arrived at a narrow tree-lined gravel road. Later we found out that it was kept the same as the original buggy road. We could see fields of corn and hay and modern farm equipment on the way to the quiet parking area in front of the large brick Georgian Mansion.

Walking the grounds in the cool of the early morning we found formal gardens, a large vegetable garden, a view of the James River with barge traffic, a cool breeze blowing up from the river, the hand dug grass covered terraces between the river and the house, and 10 acres of formal boxwood gardens extending a quarter-mile from the front door to the James River!

Trees in this area are very tall! Interesting to see
ivy growing on the trunks of the trees.
Huge magnolia trees with their pineapple shaped
seed pods. The heavy scent of boxwood shrubs(spiders love to spin their webs across the path between these shrubs!) used as borders for buildings and formal gardens.The beautiful pink, lilac, and white blossoms onthe crepe myrtle tree accented all the green. The dogwood is considered the plantation flower.

We did not see the Berkeley Sheep ( Because of my past problem with the breeds of sheep, I will not say any more about these!)

First Thanksgiving in America

Capt. John Woodlife led a group of 38 settlers on the ship, Margaret, from England. After a 10 week ocean voyage they landed here on December 4, 1619, nearly two years before the first colonists arrived in Massachusetts, proclaimed:
"Impr wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantaeon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perputally kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to almighty God"
(Old English spelling is in original proclamation!)

Origin of Taps

During the Civil War in 1862 the Army of the Potomac, McClellan's Union Army was using this Plantation as its Headquarters & Supply Base. Brigadier General Daniel Butterfiled summoned Private Oliver Wilcox Norton, his bugler, to his tent. He whistled a new tune and asked the bugler to sound it for him. After repeated trials and changing time of some of the notes which were scribbled on the back of an envelope, the calls was arranged. It was used the first time that night. From that time it bacame the official call for "taps" and remains so.


Benjamin Harrison, son of the builder of Berkeley, and its second owner, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and three times Governor of Virginia.

William Henry Harrison, Benjamin's third son, born at Berkeley, was the famous Indian fighter known as "Tippecanoe," who later became the ninth President of the United States , in 1841. His campaign was the first to use a slogan, "Tippecanoe & Tyler too!" and the first to have a campaign banner or scarf (about the size of a very large handkerchief), which was the forerunner of the campaign buttons. John Tyler grew up on a Plantation near Richmond, Virginia. At the time Harrison & he were running for office Harrison was living at a fort in Indiana.

Benjamin Harrison, grandson of William Henry Harrison, was the 23rd President of the United States.

In 1862 President Lincoln visited Berkely and reviewed Gen. McClellan's Army of 140,000 Union Soldiers that were headquartered there. They used the Harrison Landing on the James River to receive supplies from ships.

George Washington, and later the succeeding nine Presidents of the United States, enjoyed the famous hospitality of Berkeley in the dining room with its view of the James River.

Thomas Jefferson directed the installation of the Adam woodwork and double aarches oof the Great Rooms in the mansion that were installed by Benjamin Harrison VI in 1790.

Berkeley History

A dock was built and called Harrison Landing.

One of the first Ship Yards in the New World was located near the Landing. 18 Gun Man-of-War Ships were constructed here for the Revolutionary War.

The original house was burned by Indians. The land changed hands several times in 70 years. In 1691 Harrison acquired the land and built the buildings. This house, too, was destroyed by fire.

The date, 1726, and the initials of the owners, Benjamin Harrison IV and his wife Anne are on a datestone over the side door of the present building. It is said to be the oldest 3-story brick house in Virginai that can prove its date and the first with a pediment roof. (has gables)

There is a cannonball embedded in the wall of one of the buildings from Jeb Stuart's cannon. He was a General with the Confederate Army.

The first bourbon whiskey in America was distilled at this plantation.

Tobacco was being grown year after year, depleteting the soil of its fertility. Harrison switched to other crops.

The Seven Days Battle, June 25-July 1, 1862 in the Richmond area was the first time that a balloon was used in warfare. A Scottish Professor, Lowe rented his to the Northern Army. Here in 1862 count Von Zeppelon, who had permission from Lincoln to come to Harrison's landing as a military observer, made his first ascent. He later said, "I have never been higher than a ship's mast before!"

In 1907 John Jamieson, a drummer boy for McClellan's army in 1862, purchased the rundown plantation and began to restore it. There are 100 acres of agriculture land being farmed.

Wow! So much history! We are thankful for the early colonists, for King James wanting to spread the Protestant faith to the New World and for the liberty to worship God, to work at a job, to make a living and raise our family in America.

Time to head west through the Appalachian mountains.
A view from a turn out on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

Papa Jim has always wanted to drive the entire 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is our second time on a small section of it. It winds through the mountains connecting the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in North Carolina. No commercial vehicles. It crosses the Appalachian Trail several times. Forests, mountain vistas, meadows, old farmsteads, camping areas, picnic areas and exits to main roads and towns.

See you in Ohio next!

Prairie Schooners

No comments: