Day Off for Meeting

Jan. 9th 2013


On Tuesday, Brett and I had a meeting back at the plantation with several of the key people we need to get through our zoning process. As we drove up to the plantation, I spent the time playing with Twitter and learning some of the functions on my Twitter app. By the time we arrived at the plantation, I think I have figured some of it out.



I am not sure if you notice, but we also got “Pinned”!


The first person to arrive was Doug from Fredericksburg Paving. He is going to be doing the paving we need at the entry from the highway. Then we had two officials from King George arrive, followed the representative from the Virginia Department of Transportation. As we were waiting, we were talking with everyone about the history of the plantation. And just as if it were on cue, over our head flew five eagles.


As we walked down the long driveway, I was talking to the VDOT rep and Doug. I asked them if they knew who all had rode or walked down this plantation drive. It was so much fun watching their faces as I told them about General Ambrose Burnside during the Civil War and the escape route of John Wilkes Booth and the detachment that followed and had stopped at the plantation to rest. I have to say for me, I still get chill bumps knowing the history that has passed through our plantation.

After viewing the drive and entry and reviewing the plan for the parking area, we got our answer as to what we needed to do for each. For the entry from the highway, we are not going to have to move the entry twenty feet to the north…whew! We just need to widen it as far as we can without adding a new covert or moving any utilities. As for the long driveway from the entry to front gate entry, we will be expanding the drive to 18 feet. We are currently at 14 feet. We may have to trim some of the limbs of the Red Cedars that line the drive, but at least we won’t have to cut any of these historic trees down. As for the circle drive around the bowling green, we will need to expand it out to 16 feet. It is also at 14 feet like the long drive. We will use the circle drive as a one way so we won’t need to have places for two cars to pass.

After all the zoning talk, Brett and I walked everyone through the Mansion. Only one of the visitors had ever been in the house. He had come during the restoration, but had not seen it since it was completed. As we walked around, we shared history and our ideas for each room. Giving tours of this grand house is one thing I have to say I just love. To be about to share the history that walked these halls is just…. priceless.

Ferry FarmBoyhood Home of George Washington

Ferry Farm
Boyhood Home of George Washington

After we said our “good-bye” we decided to head to Historic Fredericksburg for a bite to eat. But being that we were here during the week, I talked Brett into stopping at Ferry Farm, George Washington’s boyhood home to see our favorite archaeologists, Mara and Jason. WE also got to meet a new friend Melanie. I brought along our new finds to see what we had. Of course, all the small items were all 2oth century, so no excitement there. But I know Mara is really into bottles, so I couldn’t wait to see if our bottle was something special.



First intact artifact!  Bottle with screw top

First intact artifact! Bottle with screw top

After examining it, she thought it could be an extract bottle or medicine bottle dating somewhere around 1925-1928. Ok, so it’s not Civil War or Colonial, but I could take that. Plus it was the first item we had intact. After we arrived home, she had sent me an update on the bottle. Here is her final outcome:

The bottle is indeed an extract bottle, although from what company remains to be seen.  It does not appear to be utilized by Sauers, however. The reason we can never be sure of what company utilized this bottle is that the form is still prevalent today. So, the company that made the bottle was the Brockway Glass Company.  This mark was utilized since 1925 so the bottle dates anywhere after that.  They merged with Owens-Illinois Glass Co. in 1988 and that’s when that mark when out of use.”

So it could be anywhere from 1925 to 1988. Darn! But that’s okay. We are going to find so much more as we start doing landscaping!

Capital Ale HouseFredericksburg

Capital Ale House

We decided to stop at Capital Ale House on Caroline Street in Historic Fredericksburg for a bite. We have been here several times and it didn’t take long to figure out what we wanted.

Bavarian Pretzel with Sweet Bavarian Mustard

Bavarian Pretzel with Sweet Bavarian Mustard

Fried Potato and Cheese Pierogies with Onion and Applewood Bacon Bits topped with Melted Havarti Cheese and Herb Sour Cream

Fried Potato and Cheese Pierogies with Onion and Applewood Bacon Bits topped with Melted Havarti Cheese and Herb Sour Cream

The best part was that we were able to see the manager we had meant the first time we came. Because it was in the middle of the afternoon and everyone else was at work, we were able to talk and catch up on things. When you come to see us, you have to stop in and see Jason and grab some awesome food!

As we headed home, we took a road that cuts through our plantation called Port Conway Road. We made a quick stop in an area called Dogue. Down the road from this area is another old plantation that dates back to the Colonial period called Cleves Plantation.

Cleves Plantation

Cleves Plantation

I had found it one day when I was exploring the area. You can’t really see the plantation house, but you can just image what it must look like. I found out today though that the original Colonial home burned down and that the house we saw was built in the early 1900s. I may have to do some research to find out more for you later.

As we arrived at our plantation and headed over the James Madison Bridge, I was able to catch the sun slipping down behind the trees across the river from our plantation.

Sunset as we cross the James Madison Bridge. Belle Grove is to the right on the opposite bank.

Sunset as we cross the James Madison Bridge.
Belle Grove is to the right on the opposite bank.

The sunset continued as we passed through Caroline County into Essex County.

Sunset across the Virginia  Country side in Essex County

Sunset across the Virginia Country side in Essex County

It was just so beautiful and wonderful end to our day of skipping work.

See more pictures and updates about Belle Grove on our Facebook Page!

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Cookie Contest 2013

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History, Food and Recipes | 40 Comments »

We are getting close, I can feel it!

Oct. 8th 2012

Etching in the Window at Belle Grove

Okay, this post was not planned! But I had to let you know about a find that I happened on today! As you have read in the past posting “Mystery in the Window”, we have an etching in one of the upstairs bedrooms that reads:

Carrie Turner

W (or M) Van der burgh

May 18, (18)69

This was done by Carrie (Caroline) Turner, the oldest daughter of Carolinus and Susan Turner. Back during this time, it was common for brides to be to etch their names and that of their fiancés in the window of their homes with their diamond engagement ring. The only problem with is etching is that Carrie Turner didn’t marry Van der burgh and she didn’t marry in 1869. She married Dr. William Jett, a widower and local doctor and they married in 1876.

So the mystery is who is Van der burgh? There have been many theories. One is that it was a close friend of hers that was at the house to celebrate her 21st birthday. Another is that it was a beau that she was to marry, but didn’t for some reason. I don’t think the birthday etching is right. The etching was marked May 18, 1869. Carrie was born on July 1o, 1848. It would have been a little early to be celebrating her birthday.  So could it be a beau that she was to marry?

I have spent the last several months trying to figure out this mystery. I first started looking for families in the area and in Virginia named Van der burgh. I hit a dead-end. No names under Van der burg in the state of Virginia during this time. It would have been kind of unusual since most daughters married within families of the area or close by. So then I started to think about the time and what was going on during this time.

The 1869 was just after the end of the Civil War. At the start of the war in 1861, Carrie would have been 13. She didn’t marry until she was 28 years old. For a young girl during the Victorian age, she would have been considered old. But after the Civil War, the local population of men had dropped dramatically. So her options would have been limited. That could explain her late marriage.

Then just recently, I found the hand written letter from Carolinus Turner asking for amnesty for being part of the Confederate side of the war. In this letter, Carolinus talks about how he met General Burnside and General Abercrombie, both Union Generals. He also states that he and his family remained quietly at home and that his home (Belle Grove) had been behind Union lines for most of the war.

We also think that Belle Grove served as a headquarters for the Union Army during their time in Port Conway. We think this is correct because the house bears no scars from shoots being fired at it from the river as it had happened to all the other plantations in the area.

So what if during the Union Army’s time in Port Conway, Carrie met someone named W (M) Van der burgh? It could have been a soldier from another state. But which state? What unit? What side? Until that letter I had no idea. I did have some help just recently too from another blogger who gave me a link for a family of Van der burghs out of New York. (Thank you!)

With the knowledge of General Burnside being in the area, I started looking for a Union unit from New York that may have been in the area. I found one from another bloggers post. Emerging Civil War is the blog and the post is “The Other Port Royal” posted on November 15, 2011. ( In the posting it states:

“On April 18, 1862, the Union army entered Fredericksburg and occupied it through August 1862.  In the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, is a report from Acting Master Nelson Provost, United States Navy, commanding the USS Anacostia to General Ambrose Burnside about the August 15-16, 1862 “Expedition from Fredericksburg to Port Royal, VA.”  The report states that Provost had the steamer with its crew and 25 men of the 9th New York Infantry (Hawkins Zouaves) proceed down the river toward Port Royal because of reports that the Confederates had held regular communication with Baltimore and Richmond. The expedition landed at several plantations along the way, which were deserted by their proprietors.  Contrabands told him that recruits for the rebel army were ferried across the river from Port Conway to Port Royal with arms, goods, and stores.”

Yes, I had a unit! Now I needed to find a muster list. It took me most of the day to locate one. Finally I found one. The 9th New York Infantry served the following in our area:

  • Expedition to Port Royal August 15-16 (Co. “H”)
  • Rappahannock River August 15 (Co. “H”)
  • Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 12-15.
  • (Co. “G”) at Burnsides’ Headquarters October 31, 1862, to January, 1863.)

Then looking through the muster list, I found ten companies (Co. A – C0. K). I slowly scanned through the list. Under Company A, I found the following:

  • Vanderburgh, Richard A 28 * Pvt.

Could this be the Van der burgh we are looking for? Could he have been on the Expedition to Port Royal or could she have met him when her father met General Burnside? If they met, she would have been 14 and he would have been 29. Could they have made friends and wrote to each other for three years? If they were to have married in 1869, she would have been just shy of her 21st birthday and he would have been 36. Could he have died just before they were to marry? Dying at 36 wasn’t unheard of during that time. Could he have been wounded and died due to those wounds?

Now my task is to look for personal information on Richard and see if I can confirm anything. And I also have been studying the etching in the window. Is that a “W” or “M” or a quickly etched “R”?

Close Up
You be the judge
Is it a “W” “M” or “R”?

If we hit a dead-end again on this, I think we are going to have to call the real History Detectives!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 46 Comments »