Mystery in the Window

Jul. 12th 2012


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 »