Childhood Homes

22/06/12 9:32 PM

Ferry Farm – Childhood Home of George Washington

Yesterday had to be one of the most exciting days I have spent in my research of Belle Grove Plantation. I had been invited to a picnic by the King George Historic Society earlier in the month. Being that it is about 2.5 hours from our current home, I decided to take a half day and do some running around in the county while I was there.

Recently I had come across another blog on WordPress by an anthropology student doing her field study at Ferry Farm. Ferry Farm is located in Fredericksburg, Virginia and was the childhood home of George Washington. Recently they had uncovered the foundation of the house on the property and had been doing archaeological digs there. In her blog, Ashley talks about the artifacts she has found during her digs. This caught my interest in many ways.

Ashley – Ferry Farm

First they are digging on a property that is very close to our plantation, just about 20 minutes away. And it was a childhood home of one of the founding fathers. With all the artifacts I have been finding on our plantation, I decided to email her and see if she could help me identify some of the artifacts and also give me some suggestion on what we could do to preserve the artifacts we may discover as we are doing the landscaping. One thing Ashley told me was that it was hard to identify artifacts by pictures on an email. So I decided to make use of my extra time and head there to see if they could help me.

Ferry Farm

When I arrived, the first thing I saw was the students working on their dig site. My heart just leaped. I packed up my bag and headed into the Visitors Center to pay for my admission. The gentleman pointed out the self guided walking tour and things I might want to check out. So I headed out the door and straight across the field to the dig site.

Ferry Farms

When I walked up, one of the students greeted me and I asked for Ashley. She came over and thanked me warmly for coming. Then she and two other students showed me their finds for the day. One of these finds was a small piece of a wig curler. (You must read about these curlers on her blog!) But I got to hold it and she showed me the small lettering on the end, just like it had shown on her blog. Holding it was a thrill! I then showed them some of my finds from Belle Grove along with some of the pictures I had brought with me. There I was unloading my little zip lock bags of “artifacts” beside the dig site of the home of our first president, in 101 degree sunshine.

Ferry Farm

Jason and Mara – Ferry Farm

Jason, a Lab Assistant to the supervisor suggested that since I had a lot of glass and dishware, I might want to come to the lab and meet one of the resident archaeologists who would be better at identifying these pieces. Jason introduced me to Mara, an expert on glass and dishware. She was excited to see what I had. The first thing I showed her was our pictures and explained what we were doing with this historic property. Then I pulled out the artifacts and the fun began! She went through piece by piece and told me what it was and about what time period it comes from. It was almost like looking at lottery tickets to see if I had a winner! Below are some of the ones that turned out to be great finds and one that was quite a surprise. If you want to see all of them, we are going to start adding our finds to our Facebook page. Please check them out there.

Artifact from Belle Grove – Printed Pearlware – 1807 to 1830

Artifact from Belle Grove – Ceramic Sewage Pipe – late 1800s to early 1900s

Artifact from Belle Grove – Large Piece – Green Shell Pearlward – 1807 to 1835
Small Piece – Hard Paste Porcelain Saucer – Guilded over Glaze Painted – 1800 – 1835

One of the things we talked about was how I wanted to make sure we preserved items as we did the landscaping. She also suggested that I contact a college or university to see if we might be able to put together a field study for students through the college to uncover more of our history. I had mentioned that I wanted to contact James Madison University due to the fact that he was born on the property to see if they might want to do some exploring. I know right now they are working on the project at Montpelier. She gave me a name of someone she knew in the archaeology department that might be able to help us in the future. It won’t happen this year, but soon! One thing I had a little laugh about was watching Jason with our nails. As soon as I pulled the zip lock bag out, he picked it up and started separating them. Then he left and returned with small bags to place them in for me. Then as we pulled out the glass pieces, he would take them to another room and return with them. I wasn’t sure what he was doing until Mara told me that he was checking them for light refraction to help determine their dates and kinds. He was just about as excited as I was I think.

Ferry Farm

Once we were done, Mara took me downstairs through the inside part of their lab and I got to see some of the projects they were working on. How exciting to see objects that they had recovered and were painstakingly putting back together. One of the objects she picked up and showed me. She placed it in my hand and then told me that it was owned by Mary Ball Washington, George Washington’s mother! I was overwhelmed! To think I was standing there holding something that Mary Washington touched, or that George Washington could have held! As we walked out, Mara made a point to let me know that they would be happy to help us at any time and that I was welcomed to bring anything I find there for them to help me identify them. I really appreciated the time she and Jason had given me to identify the artifacts I had. I was most thankful for Ashley’s blog. If it hadn’t been for her writing about her experiences, I would have never found them! Thank you Ashley!

(Visit Ashley’s Blog and see what she is up to!

(Visit Ferry Farm’s web site!

Ferry Farm Garden

After I finished at Ferry Farm, I headed back toward King George. I had about one hour till the picnic and headed over to one of my favorite antique stores, McGinnis Barn on King Highway. I had been there two weeks earlier and had found some plates I wanted, but didn’t have the cash on me to purchase them. So Mr. McGinnis had put them aside for me until I could return. I had called him the night before, knowing I would be in the area and asked if I could stop by since he is only open Saturday and Sunday. When I arrived I paid for my plates and found a silver tea pot. When I asked how much, as he always does, he gave me a deal I couldn’t say no to. I went back to the car and to my luck I had just enough cash left to get it. I wasn’t sure before if I wanted to have silver tea pots as well as porcelain pots, but this one was so pretty and has some of the same decorations around the top as some of the cups I have. So home it came with the plates.

With just half an hour left, I made a quick stop at Belle Grove before heading over to the picnic. The picnic was being held at another historic plantation called Cleydael plantation in King George. This plantation has just recently been purchased and is under restoration by the new owners. This plantation is historically important as it was the plantation that John Wilkes Booth and David Harold had stopped at on their way through King George.

Cleydael – Back of House

This plantation was the summer home of Dr. Richard Stuart. Dr. Stuart was good friends with the Lee Family and had even sheltered Robert E. Lee’s daughters through most of the Civil War. When John Wilkes Booth arrived at the house and asked for assistance, Dr. Stuart refused to treat Booth, but offered both Booth and Harold a meal, which he served them on his back porch just like a common field hand. After they finished their meal, Dr. Stuart asked them to be on their way. From here, Booth and Harold made their way down to the ferry at Port Conway and on to Garrett’s Farm.

Cleydael – Front of House

The picnic was full of wonderful new faces for me to meet and some others that I have already met. The one thing I do have to say is that King George is very proud of its history, and rightfully so. This group continues to work to preserve that history and to bring it to the attention of others. Maybe soon we can have them at Belle Grove Plantation to help us celebrate the opening.

Cleydael – This is the back porch that John Wilkes Booth ate one of his last meals.

One last stop on the way out at Belle Grove Plantation. It was a wonder stop. It was just twilight and as I pulled into the long driveway heading to the house, I could see a deer in the field next to the house. I stopped just for a moment to look at her. She stood there and stared at me for a moment. I could see her white tail flicking back and forth. It was so peaceful. Then off she ran toward me and the driveway then across to the woods beside me. I continued up to the house and as I pulled in, two rabbits popped up and hurried away. Then I heard Dolley, our resident osprey. She was sitting up on the nest peering over at me and calling out “Who’s there?” I sat for a moment, not even getting out of the car, but listening through my open window. I listen to the quiet sounds of Belle Grove Plantation and wondered how it might have sounded during the time James Madison or George Washington could have been here. I wondered what “treasures” are we yet to find and what new and exciting people will come and add to the history of this grand plantation. A chill came over me as smiled and knew that the best is yet to come.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 55 Comments »

55 Comments on “Childhood Homes”

  1. With all the work you’ve done, looking at these photo’s makes me tired. I thought I had a lot to deal with! Great success! Have a great weekend.

  2. Thank you! It maybe hard work, but it’s a passion so we don’t mind! Have a great weekend too!

  3. Gotta love those childhood memories!! Keep it coming……

  4. We totally agree! Lots more to come! Thank you for stopping by!

  5. Yep, always!

  6. This gets more and more exciting and interesting.

  7. I know! I can’t wait to wake up each day to see what we are going to discover! I have to say, I don’t feel that way with my current job! But it is going to end soon and I will be 100% working with the plantation!!

  8. I love reading about the history of Belle Grove.

  9. Thank you! We enjoyed finding it! And there is so much more yet to learn about!

  10. Absolutely beautiful pictures, and as a former archaeology student it brings good memories, so thank you.

  11. Thank you! I am glad it brought back so good times for you! We hope we will have more to come on the artifact front soon as we start the landscaping! Stop back by to see what we find!

  12. Will do!

  13. baconbiscuit212 Says:

    Wow! How amazing! I can just feel how excited everyone must be. Really fascinating stuff.

    Not to shabby for a little errand to Ferry Farm!

  14. Thank you and yes we are so excited. Each day brings new adventure and you never know what is going to show up or happen! Just like what happened at Ferry Farm. One thing I didn’t say in the posting is that on the way to Ferry Farm, I came across two guys working on a fence at the entry of Rose Hill (Gaymont), the plantation home of John Hipkins. They gave me the phone number for the caretaker and it looks like we are going to get a chance to see the father’s home too! This life is so tough!

  15. Dianna Says:

    That’s wonderful that the folks at Ferry Farm were so willing to help you with your artifacts! Good for the folks of King George – preserving these historical sites. Sadly, because of the economy and the decline in tourism, some of the ones in our area are beginning to suffer….. I worry about their future.

  16. Yes we are so thankful for the people at Ferry Farm! They are going to be a great asset to us as we start discovering the past. And to have the people of King George behind us is also a great asset! Many have volunteered to help us as we start the work on the landscape and even help with some of our public events! Yes, it is sad to see other suffer in our times. Hopefully things will pick up for them soon!

  17. Strayer Says:

    I didn’t know you were back. I am so very glad you are blogging. I did indeed miss you.
    I am waiting to hear about the last minute goings on before opening day.
    I am attracted to plates that have lovely patterns. They don’t need to match. The plates you got are beautiful.
    Are you going to serve Chess Pie?
    We are over the heat wave up here and I am groggy today.

  18. Yes we are back and going full on! Opening is still a few months away, but I am sure we will have tons of stuff happening between then and now! Being that Chess Pie is a Southern dish, you know we will have to make it! 😉 I’m with you on the heat wave. As I was standing at Ferry Farm, we had 101 degrees to bare with. Guess we will all need to consider a nice refreshing sip of mint juleps! But not before 5pm! 😉

  19. Debbie Says:

    Loved this post as my daughter is an archaeology/geoscience major! Maybe she can come dig at Belle Grove when you are ready for some excavations 🙂

  20. We would love to have her come and help! I am sure she will enjoy helping us discover our past! And while she digs, you can kick back on the balcony with a cool drink and watch!

  21. Debbie Says:

    Well, that sounds lovely and just about the right time for me to plan a visit also although she might enjoy the time more without her mom hanging around. Thanks again for documenting your journey for those of us who are wanna-be inn keepers!

  22. You are so welcome!

  23. What a great day you had! Thanks for sharing. Look forward to continuing the journey with you and visiting Belle Grove one day soon. Thanks for liking my post on Mount Vernon, as well. Always wonderful to “meet” a fellow blogger.

  24. Yes it was a wonderful day! And I hope we have lots more in the weeks, months and years to come! I look Mount Vernon, but Brett has yet to see it. It’s on our list of places to see before we open. Thank you for coming along on our journey… the more the merrier!

  25. I love Ashley’s blog too! Also love that you’re making such an effort to learn Belle Grove’s history. I’m jealous!

  26. Yes, Ashley’s blog is wonderful! I am so glad we found her! Don’t be jealous! What we learn, we are sharing with everyone as we are learning it! So you can say, you are discovering it along with us! And when we do get our field study started, you can come join in!!

  27. Nader Nazemi Says:

    Great blog.
    Following !

  28. Thank you! Hope you enjoy this journey with us!

  29. […] interesting posts found on, so far I’ve read this and […]

  30. Thank you so much for sharing our blog with your readers! We really appreciate it!

  31. jmmcdowell Says:

    It’s great to see there are archaeologists who could help you with work at Belle Grove. It would make a great thesis/dissertation project, and a field school for students would be an added bonus.

    An additional bonus would be an opportunity for your guests to lend a hand during any excavations. Some archaeologists are hesitant about outside help, but others are good at working with the public and explaining things so that non-experts can understand it. (Trust me, we’re not all good at that!)

  32. We are so glad too to have the help both from archaeologists and from guest. The most important thing is that we preserve it. But the added bonus is having others interested in it too. We hope to have a field school for students in the near future once we get our feet on the ground!

  33. verbalbanter Says:

    Photo with winding road (1st one) looks like a calm and peaceful place, I wouldn’t mind living there 🙂

  34. It was a beautiful place. I wouldn’t mind it either as long as I got to help with the dig! 😉

  35. I graduated from Mary Washington College in 1975 with a degree in Sociology and Anthropology. While a student, I took part in a number of archeological investigations along the Rappahanock and recall it as dirty and nasty work. More power to anyone who undertakes it.

    A professor of anthropology at MWC (now universtiy), Margaret Williamson, may be able to put you in touch with someone (other than the kids you met) working the area today. Also, you might contact the state Archeologist in Richmond who is presently investigating the Jamestown site. Dianne

  36. Thank you for the information! We love when someone can point us in a new direction! It always leads us to more adventures! Yes, I have to say that it looked pretty dirty work when I stopped by. But I don’t think I would mind getting dirty or even standing in the heat as long as I found something special. 🙂

  37. Nice blog. I love early American history. I was looking for a Like but or a Share and couldn’t find. Thanks for sharing what is apparently a love of yours.

  38. Thank you! We love early American history too! And we can’t wait to see what we might find once we start doing the landscaping! We hope you will continue to join us on this big adventure!

  39. How exciting! I love archeology. Keep us posted on your finds!

  40. We will be posting more as we find things. We should have some exciting things to find once we start the landscaping. The artifacts I have found are ones that were just sitting on the ground! Image what we might have just under the surface!

  41. rickbraveheart Says:

    As a landscape photographer who has photographed many of America’s historic buildings & homes for groups like the National Park Service, I am having a great time following along on your adventure. I greatly admire your dedication to restoration, your desire to care for the land and any artifacts you discover, and your passion not only in your house project but in this blog. I’m already looking forward to the next post. Best wishes.

  42. Thank you so much! We really do have a great passion for this house and the land and history of it. We hope once we open you might be able to come and experience it as well. This plantation has so much to offer!

  43. JulesPaige Says:

    We have a friend who lives in a home here that the first part was built in the 1700’s – the addition was I think the 1840’s. They have found some interesting things while digging to put in gardens. My neighborhood has a home that has been somewhat renovated but it’s bones are over 200 years old.
    Thank you for sharing such wonderful historical information.
    I actually got to participate on a real dig when an older building was being moved. The home was supposed to stay on public property, but the sponsor and funds didn’t work – but the home was saved – It got moved and attached to a private home, I think the home belonged to the MEYER family (Lancaster, PA).

  44. How wonderful! We love old homes. Our first was a Federal style built in 1885. Sadly we didn’t get to finish the restoration. We are really glad that the home was saved! Lancaster has such wonderful places. Brett and I have been up into PA, but I don’t think we have ever stayed in Lancaster, just drove through. We hope you will continue to enjoy the blog!

  45. Very interesting.

    A few months ago I used Google Earth and Google Street View to track down all my childhood homes, not that I’m in the same league as George Washington you understand….. lol

    History is fascinating to me, though.

  46. That is great! History is history though! Even if its not George Washington or James Madison. The world around still has important things happening and its the common houses that capture those time periods! So in a way you are in the same league as GW!

  47. Thank you for the wonderful effort you put into this. It is a pleasure to read. Thank you, too, the the link to Ashley. I’ll head on over to her blog after church. And I see I have one more of yours to read yet.

  48. Thank you! I know you will enjoy Ashley’s blog! Oh but there is going to be a new posting or two tonight… Hope you enjoy the reading!

  49. Oops, meant to mention how beautiful the tea pot is. I know you’ll enjoy it.

  50. Thank you! The tea pots are really beautiful! Maybe one day you can stop by and enjoy a spot of tea!

  51. Mara Kaktins Says:

    Happy to help! And we’ll be happy to look at any more ceramics and glass you want to bring us! -Folks at Ferry Farm

  52. Thank you! We have had so many people that enjoyed hearing about my adventure there!

  53. chrisstov Says:

    Well that was certainly an exciting adventure and what an extraordinary building at Ferry Farm with that chimney stack built on the side of it like that.

  54. […] Domain; Lincoln assassination illustration, Public Domain; David Herold, Public Domain; Cleydael, VirginiaPlantation; African American cabin, Public Domain; Garrett’s farm in 1865, Public Domain; The hanging of […]

  55. I do like your blog! We are about to put up the information on John Wilkes Booth next week or so. Did you know that the location of the ferry that carried them across to Port Conway is now located on Belle Grove Plantation? Of course the ferry house is not there any more, but we hope to find the foundation one day. We also know who owns Cleydael and have been there a few times. One thing in your blog about Cleydael. When Booth and Harold were given dinner, they were not allowed inside. They had to eat on the back porch, which is the view of the house you have posted. Dr. Surratt didn’t want anything to do with them since he was keeping Robert E Lee’s daughters. Thank you for sharing us with your readers.