White Flint

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Probably built in the 1880’s or 1890’s, the “home house” on White Flint Farm (nee White Flint Plantation), was moved to its current location from somewhere nearby. Although its precise origins are obscured in time, we know the house was the home of Abraham Cooper White and his wife Alice Sparrow White, passing from them to their daughter Mattie Sue Slate and then to her son Frank Guerrant, Jr. Today it is owned by Bill and Cherie Guerrant and operated as an AirBNB farm stay.

The Old House

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Once part of a much larger and much older house, that had grown from a one-room cabin over time, the part that remains required extensive work to make it habitable again.

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The farm is in that part of Keeling once known as Slatesville.

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Tudor Hall

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Several historic homes have been preserved within Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg. Tudor Hall is among them.

The house is a good example of a home of a moderately prosperous upper-middle class Virginia planter family on the eve of the Civil War.

The home was built by William Boisseau around 1815. Originally it consisted of four homes, being 2 rooms wide and one room deep, typical for plantation homes on that time. In the 1850’s William’s son Joseph expanded the home, adding a central hall and creating asymmetry that would have maddened Mr. Jefferson.

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Out back is a typical slave quarter dwelling, that would likely have also served as the kitchen. The slave quarters were like modern duplexes, a single building with a wall separating the halves so that two families could share the building.

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In 1860, 66% of Southern farmers lived on farms that were 50-100 acres and on which there were no slaves. Four percent of Southern farms were large plantations with 500+ acres and 20 or more slaves. These massive plantations were mostly in the deep south cotton states. Approximately 30% of Southern farms were like Tudor Hall, 100-500 acres with (typically) 5-20 slaves.

During the Siege of Petersburg the house served as headquarters for General McGowan, and the federal breakthrough occurred on land that was part of the Boisseau farm.

After the war the family was destitute and the farm was ruined. The home and land was sold to Northerners and left the family–a familiar story at that time.

As part of the creation of the Historical Park the home was returned to its 1860’s appearance and is now a credit to those who built and cared for it.

Benjamin Bunn’s Hackney Brothers Carriage

The City of Rocky Mount, North Carolina has preserved the old Imperial Tobacco factory, setting an example that I wish more Southern communities would follow.

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Although the facility is primarily a children’s museum, there is a small collection of art and objects of historical interest. Among the latter is this beautiful carriage, once owned by Benjamin Hickman Bunn.

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Benjamin Bunn survived the Civil War and went on to be a leader in his community.

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Benjamin Hickman Bunn. Image available from The Graphic Chicago, 1893, Collection of U.S. House of Representatives courtesy of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Benjamin Hickman Bunn, of Rocky Mount, a well-known lawyer and public man, was born in Nash county, N. C., October 19, 1844, the son of Redman and Mary Hickman (Bryan) Bunn. His father was a grandson of Benjamin Bunn, who removed from Virginia to North Carolina soon after the revolutionary war.

At the age of seventeen years, July 20, 1861, he enlisted in Company I, Thirtieth North Carolina infantry, and was at once appointed orderly-sergeant. In September, 1862, he was elected junior second lieutenant of Company A, Forty-seventh infantry,
and was subsequently promoted to second and then to first lieutenant.

Eighteen months prior to the close of the struggle he was put in command of the Fourth company of sharpshooters of General MacRae’s brigade, a service in which he was distinguished both for personal valor and efficiency as an officer. He took part in the battle at Gettysburg during the three days’ fighting, and was slightly wounded; was in the Bristoe Station campaign, and at the Wilderness opened the fighting on the plank road with his sharpshooters.

For fourteen nights during the campaign which followed, including the Spottsylvania battles, he commanded the guard. At Second Cold Harbor, and the fighting about Richmond, including the battle of Reams’ Station, he and his company were in the thick of the fray. Finally, in the engagement at Burgess’ Mill, March 25, 1865, he received a severe wound which compelled him to go to hospital at  Richmond.

When advised that Petersburg was evacuated he rose from his bed, walked to Danville, and reached home on the day of Lee’s surrender. A few months later he began the reading of law at Goldsboro, and being admitted to practice in 1866,  embarked in the profession at Rocky Mount.

He has gained wide fame as a jurist, also as a State and national legislator; was a member of the constitutional convention of 1875, served in the general assembly as chairman of the joint committee on the code, was an elector on the Democratic
presidential ticket of 1884, and in 1888 was elected to the United States Congress, where his services gave such satisfaction that he was re-elected in 1890 and 1892. In the Fifty-second and Fifty-third congress, he was chairman of the committee on claims.

In 1871 he was married to Harriet A., daughter of Dr. James J. Phillips, to whom have been born nine children. Two brothers of the foregoing served in the Confederate armies: William H., the eldest, a graduate of the University of North Carolina, who left the practice of law at Wilson to enlist, became captain of a company of cavalry, and was killed at Burgess’ Mill, October 27, 1864; and Elias, who left the university to become adjutant of the Twelfth regiment, and was killed at Hanover Court House,  May 27, 1862.

 

 

 

The American Spirit

At the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh there are a couple of painting that exemplify, I think, the American spirit.

Sadly, the photos don’t do them justice (oh, how I miss Picasa).

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William Keith, Mono Pass Sierra Nevada Mountains, California (1877)

Amid the wild magnificence of untamed nature, two riders are crossing a river–one pausing to allow his horse to drink. In this picture I see boldness, a spirit of adventure and courage, men determined to be their own masters.

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And here a homestead, tucked into the wilds of New England. I see a spirit of self-reliance and pluck. I imagine this scene in winter, the family’s hard work and skills keeping them fed and warm.

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Jasper Francis Cropsey, Eagle Cliff, Franconia Notch, New Hampshire (1858)

I see the people depicted in these paintings as heroes–people with unconquerable spirits. I see them as representatives of the American experiment.

I see it also in these familiar faces.

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Rembrandt Peale, Portrait of George Washington

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Joseph Sifred-Duplessis, Portrait of Benjamin Franklin 

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Messrs. Jefferson

Last week we returned to Poplar Forest, and I was able to replace my lost photo of the front of the house.

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But, as satisfying as that was, it was not the principal purpose of our visit. What brought us back so soon was the opportunity to see the young Thomas Jefferson in conversation with the older Mr. Jefferson.

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Poplar Forest hosts an event every year featuring a Jefferson interpreter, in honor of Mr. Jefferson’s birthday.

This year’s event was exceptional and inspiring.

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Poplar Forest

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The restoration of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest home is proceeding beautifully.

Because of Mr. Jefferson’s love of symmetry, and my carelessness, I don’t have a direct shot of the front of the home. When reviewing the photos I deleted those I took, believing them to be duplicates.

But there is an important difference between the view from the front and the view from the rear. In the style that Mr. Jefferson was following, it was fashionable for homes to appear to be only one story high. So from the front Poplar Forest only seems to have one floor. The second floor is clearly visible, however, from the rear.

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A front view, lifted from the internet

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From the rear the second story is plainly visible

Photography is not permitted inside the home, unfortunately. The kitchen was in the wing and was state-of-the-art in the late 18th century.

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An excellent way to spend a few hours, and getting better all the time.

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Sutherlin Mansion

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When the Army of Northern Virginia was forced to abandon the defenses of Richmond in April 1865, the Confederate government evacuated the city and fled south. Jefferson Davis and his cabinet retreated to Danville, Virginia. Because of their time in the city, during which the final Confederate cabinet meetings occurred, Danville has since claimed to be the “Last Capitol of the Confederacy.”

During his time in Danville, President Jefferson Davis stayed at the home of Major William T. Sutherlin, a prominent Danville politician and businessman. When the home was sold by the family in 1911, it was purchased by the City of Danville and the UDC. For many years it served as the Danville Public Library. Since 1974 it has been operated as the Danville Museum of History and Fine Arts.

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The principal rooms of the home have been well-preserved for their historic importance.

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The Parlor

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The Dining Room

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The “Davis Bedroom”

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Mementos of the Davis stay

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It was at this table that President Davis wrote what would be his final proclamation to the people of the Confederate States.

To the People of the Confederate States of America

Danville, Va., April 4, 1865.

The General in Chief of our Army has found it necessary to make such movements of the troops as to uncover the capital and thus involve the withdrawal of the Government from the city of Richmond.

It would be unwise, even were it possible, to conceal the great moral as well as material injury to our cause that must result from the occupation of Richmond by the enemy.  It is equally unwise and unworthy of us, as patriots engaged in a most sacred cause, to allow our energies to falter, our spirits to grow faint, or our efforts to become relaxed under reverses, however calamitous.  While it has been to us a source of national pride that for four years of unequaled warfare we have been able, in close proximity to the center of the enemy’s power, to maintain the seat of our chosen Government free from the pollution of his presence; while the memories of the heroic dead who have freely given their lives to its defense must ever remain enshrined in our hearts; while the preservation of the capital, which is usually regarded as the evidency to mankind of separate national existence, was an object very dear to us, it is also true, and should not be forgotten, that the loss which we have suffered is not without compensation.  For many months the largest and finest army of the Confederacy, under the command of a leader whose presence inspires equal confidence in the troops and the people, has been greatly trammeled by the necessity of keeping constant watch over the approaches to the capital, and has thus been forced to forego more than one opportunity for promising enterprise.  The hopes and confidence of the enemy have been constantly excited by the belief that their possession of Richmond would be the signal for our submission to their rule, and relieve them from the burden of war, as their failing resources admonish them it must be abandoned if not speedily brought to a successful close.  It is for us, my countrymen, to show by our bearing under reverses how wretched has been the self-deception of those who have believed us less able to endure misfortune with fortitude than to encounter danger with courage.  We have now entered upon a new phase of a struggle the memory of which is to endure for all ages and to shed an increasing luster upon our country.

Relieved from the necessity of guarding cities and particular points, important but not vital to our defense, with an army free to move from point to point and strike in detail the detachments and garrisons of the enemy, operating on the interior of our own country, where supplies are more accessible, and where the foe will be far removed from his own base and cut off from all succor in case of reverse, nothing is now needed to render our triumph certain but the exhibition of our own unquenchable resolve.  Let us but will it, and we are free; and who, in the light of the past, dare doubt your purpose in the future?

Animated by the confidence in your spirit and fortitude, which never yet has failed me, I announce to you, fellow-countrymen, that it is my purpose to maintain your cause with my whole heart and soul; that I will never consent to abandon to the enemy one foot of the soil of any one of the States of the Confederacy; that Virginia, noble State, whose ancient renown has been eclipsed by her still more glorious recent history, whose bosom has been bared to receive the main shock of this war, whose sons and daughters have exhibited heroism so sublime as to render her illustrious in all times to come – that Virginia, with the help of her people, and by the blessing of Providence, shall be held and defended, and no peace ever be made with the infamous invaders of her homes by the sacrifice of any of her rights or territory.  If by stress of numbers we should ever be compelled to a temporary withdrawal from her limits, or those of any other border State, again and again will we return, until the baffled and exhausted enemy shall abandon in despair his endless and impossible task of making slaves of a people resolved to be free.

Let us not, then, despond, my countrymen; but, relying on the never-failing mercies and protecting care of our God, let us meet the foe with fresh defiance, with unconquered and unconquerable hearts.

                                                                                                Jeff’n Davis.

Six days later, having received the news of General Lee’s surrender, Jefferson Davis and the rest of the Confederate cabinet left Danville, fleeing south. A month later Davis was captured in Georgia and thereafter was imprisoned in Fort Monroe for two years, awaiting a treason trial that never occurred.

 

 

Celtic Festival

Many of the immigrants who found their way to our part of the world originated in the Celtic Fringe. So the stories of the Celts are our stories too.

Yesterday the Sedalia Community Center hosted a Celtic festival. It was an enjoyable event, despite the bitterly cold weather, and the snow that arrived mid-afternoon. I’m hopeful that it will become a tradition here.

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Representing Clan Henderson

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Powhatan

Wahunsenacawh, better known as Powhatan. Father of Pocahontas. Supreme king of Tsenacommacah.

In the county that bears his name, in the bowels of a mall in Short Pump, stands a statue in honor of the man. In front of Nordstrom’s.

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I can’t help but wonder what the great chief would think of what’s happened to the land he once ruled and loved.

The Crossing of the Dan

On February 14, 1781, General Nathanael Green got his beleaguered Patriot army safely across the Dan River. By marching his men 19 hours a day, he had won the “Race to the Dan” with British General Lord Cornwallis, saving them to fight another day–a crucial and essential step on the road to Yorktown, and to American independence.

Today we attended the ceremony honoring the Crossing of the Dan, at the site where it occurred 237 years ago.
Following an interesting lecture by author and Revolutionary War expert Mike Cerece, which put the event within the greater historical context of the War in Virginia in 1781, there was a commemoration and presentation of colors by a group of re-enactors and a local cadet color guard, honoring the bravery and sacrifice of those to whom we owe our independence.
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