State Highway Marker

State Highway Marker

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Artillery Duels and Cherry Picking- Forge Bridge 1862

Johann August Heinrich Heros von Borcke

The following day the work of saving, and destroying what could not be saved, out of the spoils at the White House, was continued, and then we moved off to join the army of General Lee, at that moment pursuing the enemy on his retreat to Harrison's Landing, on James river. We left behind one regiment as a guard over the property, estimated at millions of dollars in value, which we had collected to be transported to Richmond and the military depots of our army. While the operations I have just detailed had been going on under Stuart at the White House, General Lee had been very active-engaging the enemy and driving him further back every day. That we might regain the main body as speedily as possible, we marched for the remainder of the day without stopping in the hot sun, and encamped at nightfall upon the exact spot on the Chickahominy where, a few weeks before, we had made so narrow an escape. At daybreak next morning we received orders to move as rapidly as we might eight miles higher up the river, to ford it in the neighbourhood(sic) of Bottom's Bridge, and, falling upon the flank of the Federal army, to intercept its hasty retreat; but upon reaching this point we received counter orders, as the Federal army had already passed, and we rode back in full gallop to Forge Bridge, our starting-point. Here we found that the enemy, anticipating our movement, had posted artillery and sharpshooters in advantageous position on the river-bank, and we were accordingly received with a very determined resistance. Soon, however, Pelham came up with his horse-artillery, and, by a well-directed fire, opened a passage for us. The enemy retreated in precipitation, leaving their dead and wounded all along the course of their flight, and we were able to take but a very few prisoners. The sun was now pouring down with intense fervour(sic), and as our horses were wellnigh exhausted with our rapid marching and counter-marching, we were compelled to take a few hours' rest on the roadside. We lay down in a corner of the fence beneath the shade of some cherry-trees hanging full of their delicious fruit, the bunches unfortunately just a little too high to serve our parched mouths with grateful refreshment. Stuart and I were standing on the highest rail of the fence, trying with difficulty to pluck some of the cherries, when he laughingly said to me, “Captain, you charge the Yankees so well, why do you not attack this cherry-tree and bring it down?” Without hesitation I jumped from my elevated position, grasping the higher part of the trunk, and breaking down the tree, amid the loud cheers and laughter of the Staff and the soldiers around, who finished the spoil, now so easily to be gathered, in an incredibly short time.

-Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence, Heros von Borcke,

This was NOT during Stuart's famous ride around McClellan, but the later sweep through the county in late June of 1862 after McClellan's "change of base."

Saturday, June 8, 2019

He . . .


The Richmond correspondent of the Petersburg Index-Appeal, in the Sunday edition of that paper, says: A strange story was brought here to day from New Kent, the truth of which is vouched for. Last week Mr. J.H. Christian, an eccentric old gentleman, was taken very ill, and he thought he could not recover. He sent to Tunstall's for and undertaker to come and take his measure for a coffin, which was done. The casket was made and taken to Mr. Christian, who approved it. He is now much better and will recover, but will keep the coffin until he needs it.

 -Times (Roanoke)August 20, 1895

Interestingly, there are two "J. H. Christian"s buried at Emmaus Baptist Church. There is  John Harris Christian Jr. who died July 30, 1897 but who was only 42 in 1895 and so you would not think would qualify as "an eccentric old gentleman." The other is John H. Christian( John Harris' father?) who passed at 73 . . . on October 12, 1895.
So he was off by 50 days?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Bacon's Burial in the Pamunkey?

  . . .
As to Bacon's place of burial: When the writer was employed on the survey of the York River railroad in 1854 be heard from the lips of Mr. Cornelius Filbates, of New Kent, the tradition that the illustrious patriot's body was weighted with lead and sunk in the channel opposite the "White House," which is on the right bank. At a time when Bland and Chenoweth and Drummond, and a score of  others were hunted to their death., only a  secret grave could have protected Bacon's remains from insult and mutilation.                                                 F.P.L.

-Richmond Dispatch, 27 September 1891

A little investigating has led me to believe the author of this piece was Frederick Peabody Levenworth (1833-1920) who was a surveyor of the York River Railroad in 1854, and in 1891 was living in retirement in Petersburg.

Nat Bacon’s bones They never found,  
Nat Bacon’s grave Is wilder ground:  
Nat Bacon’s tongue Doth sound! Doth sound!. . . 

- "Nat Bacon's Bones" Archibald MacLeish

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Great Cock Match- 1755

William Hogarth, 1759, London. -Yale University

On Tuesday the 20th of this Instant, was determined at New Kent Court House, the great Cock Match between Gloucester" and New Kent, for Ten Pistoles a Battle and an Hundred the Main, there fell Eighteen in the Match, of which the New Kent Men won Ten and Gloucester Seven, one a drawn Battle: Some James River Cocks that fell on the New Kent Side, distinguished themselves in a very extraordinary manner.

-Virginia Gazette, May 23, 1755

A pistole was worth anywhere from 18 to 22 shillings at the time.

Here below is an account of cock-fighting during the time of the Revolution by the Marquis de Chastellux as he traveled through the state.

" . . .we arrived at one o clock at Willis inn or ordinary*; for the inns which in the other provinces of America are known by the name of taverns, or public houses, are in Virginia called ordinaries. This consisted of a little house placed in a solitary situation in the middle of the woods, not withstanding which we there found a great deal of company. As soon as I alighted, I inquired what might be the reason of this numerous assembly, and was informed it was a cock-match. This diversion is much in fashion in Virginia, where the English customs are more prevalent than in the rest of America. When the principal promoters of this diversion, propose to match their champions, they take great care to announce it to the public, and although there are neither posts, nor regular conveyances, this important news spreads with such facility, that the planters, for thirty or forty miles round, attend, some with cocks, but all with money for betting, which is sometimes very considerable. They are obliged to bring their own provisions, as so many people with good appetites could not possibly be supplied with them at the inn. As for lodgings, one large room for the whole company, with a blanket for each individual, is sufficient for such hearty country men, who are not more delicate about the conveniences of life, than the choice of their amusements. 
 Whilst our horses were feeding, we had an opportunity of seeing a battle. The preparation took up a great deal of time; they arm their cocks with long steel spurs, very sharp, and cut off a part of their feathers, as if they meant to deprive them of their armour(sic). The stakes were very considerable; the money of the parties was deposited in the hands of one of the principal persons, and I felt a secret pleasure in observing that it was chiefly French. I know not which is the most astonishing, the insipidity of such diversion, or the stupid interest with which it animates the parties. This passion appears almost innate among the English, for the Virginians are yet English in many respects. Whilst the interested parties animated the cocks to battle, a child of fifteen, who was near me, kept leaping for joy, and crying, Oh! It is a charming diversion."


* Willis' Ordinary was in Louisa County

A good article on the subject from the CW Journal of autumn 2008.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Pamunkey River. . . 1867 . . . Pirates!


A party of white men, consisting of the captain and four of the crew of a schooner from Baltimore, went a shore at Cumberland, on the Pamunkey river, Saturday evening, and breaking into the store of Colonel John C. Timberlake while he was absent, took from the moneytill about sixty dollars in United States currency. They also carried off with them a lot of wearing apparel and other articles valued at $100. They then returned to the schooner and sailed down the stream. The theft was immediately discovered, and a party of citizens, eight or ten in number, procured some small boats and gave chase. The race was a pretty close one, but the pursuing party overtook them about six miles below Cumberland, and boarding the vessel, arrested the whole party. They were lodged in the New Kent jail, and were to have had a hearing before a magistrate on yesterday, and as the evidence is direct and point blank, no doubt exists as to the decision of the court. 

-Daily Dispatch, 9 July 1867

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Colonial Relic on Ware Creek III: A Summing Up

We come to the present day (or there abouts) in our story of the Old Stone House on Ware Creek with a 1989 article in the Daily Press entitled, "Study Refutes Pirate Myths About Stone House."
Link here.

"It has been the stuff of legends and folklore for generations, but perhaps no more. 
Tales about the former Stone House overlooking Ware Creek took on such importance over the years that one of the county's election districts was named after it. Did Captain John Smith sleep there in 1608? Did Blackbeard the pirate ever store his treasure there? Who really built Stone House? When? Why?"

Monday, March 18, 2019

A Colonial Relic on Ware Creek II

Today we present a (rather laboriously transcribed) follow up to the March 13th posting, an article from the Daily Dispatch on the Old Stone House on Ware Creek This article was written as a response to the previous one and was published one week later. 

NB: Blisland is typically spelled with one 's,' that being the spelling of the original parish in Cornwall.

from Howe's Historical collections of Virginia(1852)


Something More About the Mysterious Old Stone House- The Devil's Wood-Yard-Some Interesting Points About Old Blissland Parish- Ancient Epitaphs.

To The Editor of the Dispatch:
In last Sunday's issue of the Dispatch your Williamsburg correspondent "W." writes of visit recently made by him to the Old Stone House in James City county, and gives an interesting description of this "mysterious relic of colonial days." His picture of the ruin and its wild surroundings has not been overdrawn. This writer has spent many hours on the wild, weird spot- not, however, in searching for Blackbeard's buried treasure, but in endeavoring to recall the traditions connected therewith, and in speculating upon the origin and history of the Old Stone House.

Before the war the "Devil's Wood Yard." surrounding the building, was a primeval forest, so dense and dark in its deep gorges that it was a favorite hiding place for runaway slaves. Local tradition made it the scene of many mysterious occurrences, and deeds of blood are said to have been enacted in its unexplored recesses.

The superstitious avoided the place where it was said the ghosts of Blackbeard's murdered victims walked in the dim daylight and held high carnival when the shadows changed to gloom.
In 1865 the north and east walls of the Stone House were in a state of preservation and the chimney end next to York river showed but little dilapidation. Many names, dates, and initials were carved in the the stones, but most of the dates were comparatively modern. One, however, over the fire-place, thus; "J. Mon--, 1775," left little room for doubt that it was carved by James Monroe, afterwards President of the United States, when he was a student at William and Mary College. The name was probably written out in full, but the stone containing the last three letters had been displaced. 
Your correspondent '"W." revives the tradition that the house was built by the famous, or rather infamous, pirate BlackBeard. This, however, is nothing more than tradition without a particle of historical authority to support it. This theory of construction robs the ruin of much of its credit for antiquity. Blackbeard "ravaged the seas" about the years 1717-18, and the Stone House probably antedates this period by fully one hundred year. 
 In Howe's History of Virginia there is a cut representing the house and it also contains several pages descriptive of the ruin. The author quotes from an article written by C. C. (Charles Campbell, Esq.), in which that writer adduces proof wellnigh conclusive that this "fort " was built by a Captain John Smith, as early as 1608-'9.* If his theory of its origin is correct, then the stone house is the only remaining material monument of the labor and enterprise of the "Father of Virginia." and it is the ruin of the oldest house built by English hands in America. Howe, in 1845, erroneously locates the ruin in New Kent county. As stated by "W.," it is on the lower side of Ware Creek, and consequently In James City county. It was in New Kent until the year 1766, when the eastern boundary of that county was changed from Scimino creek to Ware creek. And just here it will be observed that "W.," gives to this latter creek the spelling adopted in our recent statutes, The proper spelling is not Weir, but Ware. The creek was named for Robert Ware, who patented large tracts of land on both sides of the stream in the early days of the colony, and this spelling is uniformly employed in Henning.

There are many other objects of interest to the Antiquarian in this section of the state. New Kent, although not one of the original shires, was one of the oldest counties in the Old Dominion, It was created in 1654, and extended from Scimino creek, some distance below Williamsburg, to the heads of the Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers and thence down on the north side to Poropotank creek, embracing within these bounds the land included in in its present limits, the counties of Hanover, King William, King and Queen, and a portion of James City and Caroline, The county was divided into three parishes. Bishop Meade says: "On the north of the York and Pamunkey rivers there was a parish called St. John's, and on the south one called St. peters. About the year 1684 or 1685 a parish east of St. Peter's, on Pamunkey and York rivers, was formed by the name of Blissland, which continued to have a minister until alter the Revolutionary war."

He further says, page 388:
"Of Blissland parish a few words will suffice for the little we have to say of this. No vestry-book remains to tell its history. What has become of its church. I am unable to say. Perhaps I may yet learn."
In the appendix on the last page of Volume two of the second edition of his work he continues:
"Since the first edition of this book I have received a fragment of the vestrybook of this (Blissland) parish * * *. The services of its ministers are supposed to have been divided between Warre church, so called from the swamp of that name about ten miles below New Kent Courthouse, which has entirely disappeared, and Hickory Neck church, in James City county, which is still standing."
It will be perceived that Bishop Meade gives the year 1684 or 1685 as the date of the formation of Blissland parish, and states that it was formed from St. Peter' s parish. Blissland parish certainly existed before the dates here given, as the following extracts will show, and it is probable that St. Peters was formed from it. 
In the 1st volume Calender of Virginia, State Papers, page 11, a copy of the following document may be found : 
"At a Gen'l Court held at James City April 29th, 1679- present, &c., * * *_ the Parish of Blissland petitioning yt, by unanimous consent of ye whole pariah a division by sufficient men by them chosen is made of ye s'd, p-'ish and praying that ye Division be confirmed, and ffowre of ye vestry appearing and affirming that ye Division was made by consent of ye parish, this court therefore confirmed the s'd Division. "
          Vcr. cop. teste: W. P. EDWARDS, e'l'k Gen'l C't."

That Blissland was the mother parish of the county is more than probable, and this view is strengthened by the fact that the first settlements were made in the lower end, or that portion of the county nearest to "James City" (Jamestown) and Williamsburg. While on a recent visit to lower New Kent the writer determined to ascertain, if possible, the exact location of the church alluded to by Bishop Meade, Accompanied by Mr. A. P. Richardson, who is probably better acquainted with the country than any other inhabitants, search was first made for Warren church. Its exact location is known to but few, and it was only after persistent questioning that Old Peter, an octogenarian darky, was "brought to his remembrance," and piloted by him through thick undergrowth, the spot was finally reached.

The site selected for the church is on a commanding eminence about two miles west of Eltham. On the brow of the hill, in a beautiful grove of oaks, were wen unmistakable evidence which marked the spot where, more than two hundred years ago, our forefathers met to worship God. Portions of the foundation walls still remain, and the form and size of the building could easily be traced. The church was built of English bricks, and was 36 by 60 feet, with a transept at the northern end 25 by 20 feet. 
The course of the wall which surrounded the church could also be traced, it enclosed something more than half an acre, which was the burial-ground, and two well-preserved granite slabs marked the spot where two sleepers slept.

There are probably other tomb-stones, but if so they have been covered by the leave and trees and debris of more than a century.

The epitaphs on these stones are as follows:
"Here lies interred the body of Mr. John Long, of Ramsgate, in the county of Kent, in Great Brttain, late commander of the ship John and Mary, who departed this life the 24th of July, 1736 aged twenty five years." 
Above this epitaph is the coat-of-arms, which the Writer will not attempt to describe in technical language, because he does not know how to do so. It represents a helmet with flowing plume resting on a shield, in the centre of which is a lion rampant. No motto or other device than that described can be perceived. The other is as follows: 
"Here lyeth interred the body of Doctor Thomas Arnott, who departed this life the 29th day of .January, 1745, aged thirtyeight years.
Here, as at the Stone House the work of the "vandal hand" may seen. The Old church has been entirely demolished, and all the whole bricks above the surface of the earth, even those supporting the tombstones, have been carted away. These bricks, imported from beyond the seas to serve the pious purpose of erecting a temple for the Lord, have all been "appropriated" to serve the "utilitarian spirit of the age" in paving a barnyard or erecting a kitchen chimney.

The church at Hickory Neck, in James City county, about twelve miles from Williamsburg, is still standing and well preserved. Around this church there are two tombstone of black marble containing the following inscription; 
"Here lies Interred the lindy of Col. John Taliaferro, of Snow Creek, in the county of Spottsylvania, who departed this life the third day of March, A. D. 1744,, in the 57th [or 87th] year of his age. He left issue 2 sons and 3 daughters.
The second reads:
"Here lies the body of Lawrence Taliaferro, son of Col. John Taliaferro, of Snow Hill, in Spottsylvania county, who departed this life the first day of May, 1748, in the 27th year of his age, He married Susan Power, daughter of Maj. Henry Power, of James City county, and left issue by her one daughter.” 
Much more might be written of other places of interest in this section of the state- of Eltham, the seat of the Bassetts, where George Washington and his charming bride were entertained by old time "dinging" on the day succeeding their marriage; of the Brick House opposite West Point, the seat of the Lewises and later of the Robinsons, with its desecrated family vault, and the solitary tombstone in a corn-field of Captain John King, who was buried in 1701: but this communication is already to lengthy, and probably is enough of the past to be of any interest to those of the busy, bustling present.                 
D. C. R.
-Daily Dispatch, 26 August 1883

*The conclusions about John Smith should be treated as skeptically as the claims in the previous article about Black Beard.