Snowy Range Pass

Snowy Range Pass

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Plantation visit

20 November 2006

We headed out to the James River plantation row on the road between Richmond and Jamestown/Williamsburg. With a number of plantations to choose from, we decided on the Shirley Plantation, which is the oldest settled plantation in VA. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that it has been continuously owned and operated by the same family since the mid 1600’s. Certainly, that alone is more than can be said about most modern businesses and may well be the oldest continuous business in the country. While the physical facilities do not leave you with any real WOW factor, what is very impressive is the plantation’s long history both in length of time and the part it enjoyed in the history of this young country. Due to the wealth and influence of the various owners (in one family) and its strategic location on the James River, the plantation hosted many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and other notables such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and even Robert E. Lee. Lee’s mother was born in this home and where she married Lee’s father. Lee spent time here both as a child and after the Civil War was over. It has continued to be an operating plantation throughout its history. Indeed, while we were visiting, the harvesting of the cotton crop was in progress.

At its peak, it was over 4000 acres and had up to 150 slaves working the fields. The eldest of the family which oversaw this operation also owned a number of other plantations in a number of counties and reportedly had over 800 slaves. He was referred to as King, since he was thought to be the wealthiest man in the colonies.

When you reflect on the history that is embedded in this relatively small part of this country and the detail that is known about places such as Shirley Plantation, you realize how little you really know about the history of this country. I have always amused myself with the idea that I was fairly well informed about certain parts of our history, but I am forced to admit that I have never heard of this influential family or their relationship to many of the well known figures in US history. Looks like I need to keep traveling to improve myself!


ryan baxter said...

I will be anxious to hear more of your thoughts and stories from your adventures on the road. The house looks beautiful and the country side rich in appeal; I’ve never actually seen a cotton plant in the wild. I just wanted to post a quick comment about the subject in your journal, forgive my cluttering of your clean page. General Lee has made a considerable impression upon me and perhaps you would enjoy this little piece of history as it is one of my favorites.

On 20 April, 1861, three days after the Virginia convention adopted an ordinance of secession; he resigned his commission, in obedience to his conscientious conviction that he was bound by the act of his state. His only authenticated expression of opinion and sentiment on the subject of secession is found in the following passage from a letter written at the time of his resignation to his sister, the wife of an officer in the National army; "We are now in a state of war which will yield to nothing. The whole south is in a state of revolution, into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn; and though I recognize no necessity for this state of things, and would have forborne and pleaded to the end for redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I should take part against my native state. With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the army, and, save in defense of my native state--with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed--I hope I may never be called upon to draw my sword."

See you soon,


Kasaka said...

Now that you're writing about it, I remember, that we've visited that plantation some twenty years ago. You are seeing more of Virginia, than I have, we still need to visit the sites in Richmond en Fredericksburg. It's fun to read about your adventures in this beautiful state!

Wendy said...

You won't only improve yourself.. thanks.

blips said...

I see I have so much to learn and many places to visit. I like your weblog because my dream is to own a RV and visit places I never been also learn more of history.
Please tell us more, are you on vacation or are you selling your house and start living "on the road" and have your yard changed every once in a while. :)
I assume Anneke is Dutch.
Put a little map on your weblog once in a while so we can see where you are.

Happy Thanksgiving