Mystery in the Window

12/07/12 10:52 PM


Quick Update:   We got the draft of the contract! Yes and Argh! We are glad to have the draft, but in reading it, it’s like stereo instruction with all the legal jargon. Brett is reading over it tonight and making notes of questions and concerns. Then it’s off to our attorney to check it and to advise us on modification we would like to make. It’s all part of the process, nothing is simple any more. I think the hardest part is not to allow emotions to be involved. Brett and I are pretty new to some aspects of business so we tend to think as someone personal not as business. We have to learn how to control that part of ourselves I guess. But at least it is a step in the right direction. Onward and upwards.

The Turner Family lived at Belle Grove plantation from 1839, when a single Carolinus Turner purchased the property from the Bernard Family until his death in 1876. During their time at Belle Grove, they would go through one of the darkest times in American History, the Civil War.

Of the five children that Carolinus and Susan Turner had, only one was a son, George Turner. At the time of the Civil War, George Turner would have been too young to serve. When the war started in 1861, George was only nine years old. I am not sure if Carolinus served. He was 48 at the beginning of the war. Carolinus and Susan’s oldest child, Caroline “Carrie” Turner was thirteen at the beginning of the war.

When Brett and I first came to Belle Grove, it wasn’t until our second visit that an etching in one of the upstairs rooms was pointed out to us. In the window you can see clearly:

Carrie Turner

M Van den Burgh

May 18th /69

Carrie Turner at the time of this etching was just shy of her 21st birthday. She was born on July 10, 1848. She would marry Dr. William Jett, a local physician and widower on September 2, 1876 when she was 28. Carrie and William would have one son, George Turner Jett in 1876. Carrie died in 1883 at the age of 35. George was just 7 years old. Carrie Turner is buried at Emmanuel Espiscopal Church at the entry of Belle Grove Plantation with her family.

Grave stone of Caroline “Carrie” Turner

Window etchings were very common at that time. Generally a lady would etch her name and the name of her husband when she married. But in our research, we were not able to uncover who M Van den Burgh was. In the book, “Places I have known along the Rappahannock River” by Beverley C. Pratt, a relative of Carrie Turner’s from the Camden Plantation, he speculates that she etched her name and that of a girl friend who was there to help her celebrate her 21st birthday. But I don’t think that is right, because her birthday was month’s way. He also speculates that it could have been a rejected suitor who she had planned to marry. Now that could be. Generally young girls in the area married between their 14th and 18th birthday. But because of the Civil War, she would not have had much opportunity to court or marry with all the young men at war.

This was the house owned by Dr. WIlliam and Carrie Turner Jett. It would later be inherited by George Turner Jett. It was located on one of the half acre lots in Port Conway, Virginia

One of our theories is that she met someone during the war with the intention to marry. During the Civil War, Port Conway and Port Royal saw alot of action. The Rappahannock River at this point is very narrow and would have provided a good crossing point for troops. This area would go back and forth between the Union and Confederate control throughout the war. During this time, the Union had gunboats that patrolled the river. As they made their way up and down the river they would fire on the homes along the river bank. Many of the homes were lost (Hazelwood being one across the river from Belle Grove) or were heavily damaged. Camden Plantation lost its tower room because the Union felt it was being used as a lookout. But when Belle Grove was restored between 1997 to 2003, not one shot, not on bullet and not any damage could be seen to the house. We have theorized that this is because it may have been used as a headquarters for the Union army, and/or because the troops knew it was the birthplace of James Madison and declined to fire upon it out of respect for its historical significance. It would have been a very central point and would have provided a ferry at Port Conway for troops to cross.

Federal Evacuation of Port Royal
May 30, 1864
The house you see in the distance is Walsingham.

So the question is, was this suitor a Union or Confederate soldier? It is known that most area residents were Confederates, which includes Carolinus Turner. Could this have been someone that her father would not approve of?

Brett and I have searched long and hard and still have not been able to find the answer. Once we open, we would like to contact History Detectives to see if they can help us solve this mystery.

One last note. When we were naming the rooms, we decided to call the room with the etching the “Turner Room”. Carrie Turner chose her room back in 1869.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 47 Comments »

47 Comments on “Mystery in the Window”

  1. terry1954 Says:

    i loved this. i love history, and so am thrilled to have come across your blog

  2. Thank you! We are excited to have you come along on this journey! We love history too. And in this area, you just can’t get enough. 🙂

  3. terry1954 Says:

    i will b one of your biggest fans

  4. Thank you! That means allot!

  5. Interesting! But I’m confused – you say she married in September 1876 and gave birth in 1876, but that the etching was May 1869, when the wedding was “months away.” Do you mean she married in September 1869?

    I love History Detectives! It would be so neat to see that story!

  6. No wait! You said she was 21 in 1869, and married and gave birth in 1876! Scandalous! – but still doesn’t explain the etching does it?

  7. No but I wasn’t sure if anyone would catch the fact that she was married in September 1876 and gave birth in 1876… four months doesn’t add up to nine months 😉

  8. I can’t help it. I love the scandals!

  9. Well, I think there must have been a few within the Turner family! I have more to come on them!

  10. hermitsdoor Says:

    I believe that pre-marital sex was pretty common among “engaged” couples since the colonial era. They usually did get married eventually. In the Frontier, where we now live (i.e. west of the Blue Ridge Mountains), often couples might live together for several seasons and have children before the traveling minister would come along to marry them and baptize the children. Of course, some were just up to making wooppy, which is much more interesting for novels 🙂

  11. It would be interesting to know if that was common for the society class. I can understand the necessity if you did not have a preacher in the area, but these folks had a church right down the road. Of course, even if it wasn’t “proper”, you always have the ones who just couldn’t help themselves!

  12. You know, I don’t think it was because of lack of a preacher in this case. The Turners had the church right on the property. And in reading some of the newspaper articles with their names in it, I know they were considered society. I think maybe it was more of an “oops”. The fact that she was so far along in the pregnancy tells me that she could have tried to hid it from her famliy. Sounds more like a shotgun wedding to me. 😉

  13. I don’t think that this was planned or that they lacked a preacher. They had a church right there on the plantation. I think it was an “oops”. The fact that she got married so late in the pregnancy makes me think she might had hid it until the last second. Of course times after the war were tough. She could have been a victom of a crime and Dr. Jett could have stepped up to save her good name. I don’t think we will ever know for sure.

  14. Pat Says:

    Wonderful History,I enjoyed the read,looking forward to more.Have a good night and I do appreciate your visits.
    Love you 😀

  15. Thank you! We enjoying “seeing” you! Can’t wait to meet you in person some day!

  16. This is amazing! The bed and breakfast is stunning! I would love to come visit! I’m a history major so this place would be like heaven for me!

  17. Thank you! I know you will love this place as much as we do! The history of it is every where you look!

  18. pileofbabies Says:

    What a great story!!!

  19. Thank you! We have really enjoyed sharing it with everyone!

  20. belocchio Says:

    Carrie Turner. What were you up to? M. Van den Burgh was her lover. Perhaps he died or worse, changed her mind. All the makings of a great mystery. Lay some roses on her grave. So young to die. Virginia

  21. Virginia, I have to say Carrie Turner has been one of the past residence that I have really connected with. I hope one day we can fully tell her story.

  22. Yummygal Says:

    Once again, another great story!

  23. Thank you! 😉 It’s one of my favorites.

  24. lazylauramaisey Says:

    I didn’t even see the etching when I first looked. When it becomes clear, it is quite magical, like someone from history reminding you they existed.

  25. We say that she picked her room in the bed and breakfast 143 years ago. 😉

  26. Jennifer Says:

    Woohoo, another step closer to the goal 🙂

  27. Yes! But one of the hardest part.

  28. Hey, result! Good luck with the legalese 😉 It will be interesting if you ever find out who the suitor was.

  29. Thank you! We hope to find out one day.

  30. jmmcdowell Says:

    Great news with the contract, and I hope you’ll be able to solve the mystery in the window! 🙂

  31. Thank you! We hope to get through this part soon. Move on to bigger and better things.

  32. Thank you for the Like!
    What an amazing adventure you are on. I look forward to reading about your grand opening. Wonderful story about the previous inhabitants.

  33. Thank you! We are glad you enjoy the history of the house. It has been so much fun finding it. We hope you will come along for the ride as we work towards opening a world class bed and breakfast! We also look forward to seeing more of yours!

  34. seniorhiker Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this fascinating history (and mystery) with us. I hope you don’t get too many headaches trying to work through the contract.

  35. Thank you! We hope you enjoy the history and mysteries we have at Belle Grove. The headaches aren’t too much fun, but nothing great comes easy. 😉

  36. Jane Sadek Says:

    Great news that you’ve gotten the contract, looking forward to its mutually satisfactory execution.

  37. We hope to make it quick. Like pulling a band aid off, make it fast so it hurts less 😉

  38. Such fascinating history. I really enjoy reading all of this!

  39. Thank you! We enjoy sharing it!

  40. weddingspice Says:

    What a wonderful slice of history you have there! Enjoyed the read…see ya next post 🙂

  41. Thank you! We are glad you are joining us for this journey!

  42. Reblogged this on katherinehpurdy and commented:
    This is so cool! More Virginia History surrounding the Belle Grove Plantation B&B. Check it out!

  43. Thank you again for another reblog! We can’t tell you how much this means to us!

  44. hermitsdoor Says:

    Throughout history people cave carved pictures, names, and dates on rocks and other solid surfaces. I had not heard of etchings in windows…somewhat symbolic for looking back to the past. Of course, while we are fascinated by these clues to time, we decry such modern statements as “vandalism”. What will future generations find of our culture 200 to 20,000 years from now?

  45. I can’t say it would be considered vandalism if you owned the property. It was very common to etch in the window to remember a special date. I see it as like carving your names in a tree. It is a reminder of something special that will long endure. What will future generations find? Our cell phones and blogs! 😉

  46. mfullington Says:

    I really enjoyed your post. I wasn’t aware of the practice of window etching. Thanks for sharing a little bit of history.

  47. Thank you! In seeing many historic homes, I have seen several of them. We really do enjoy sharing the history of our great country!