She Has A Name!

Aug. 28th 2013

The Naming Contest is complete

and our elegant lady has a name . . .


Sara Elizabeth

Thank you to Suzanne W. for suggesting the name and to Dolley Madison for narrowing the choices to the top ten!

Let’s have more fun!

Now that Sara Elizabeth has a name, she needs history!



Belle Grove Plantation’s 1st Short Story Writing Contest!

Using our Lady’s new name and picture, we would like you to create a history for her.


1. The Short Story must be between 2,000 and 7,500 words.

2, The history must be set some time between 1670 to 1790.

3. She must have had some connection to Belle Grove Plantation and the families that were here during this period. See below for the time periods and family. You can’t change the course of history for these people.

1670 – Captain Anthony Savage, his wife Alice Stafford Savage and young daughter Alice. He also had an older daughter, Dorothy Savage Strother who was married and lived next door at Millbank Plantation with her husband, William Stother I. Belle Grove Plantation wasn’t called Belle Grove, but “Mangecemuzen” an Indian name. There was 1000 acres at the time of purchase in April.

1695 – At Captain Savage’s death – Granddaughter Margaret Thornton (daughter of Francis Thornton and Alice Savage Thornton’s daughter) who had married her first cousin, William Strother II at Millbank Plantation received 300 acres of the 1000 acres. The other 700 acres to Elizabeth Thornton Conway, second daughter of Francis Thornton and Alice Savage Thornton. By this time, Alice Savage had died in 1692.

1698 – Edwin Conway passes and Elizabeth Thornton Conway holds on to the property until their son, Francis Conway I becomes of age and inherits the property.

1717 – Francis Conway I and Rebecca Catlett Conway marry and Francis inherits the property.

1722 – Francis Conway I and his wife Rebecca Catlett Conway welcome their second child, Francis Conway II. Francis Conway II would inherit the property after the death of his mother in 1761.

1730 – Francis Conway I and his wife Rebecca Catlett Conway welcome their sixth and final child, Eleanor Rose Conway who is also known as Nelly. She would go on to marry James Madison Sr. when he comes to Port Royal to ship out his tobacco. She would return in 1751 to have James Madison Jr. at her mother’s home.

1736 – Francis Conway I passes. Rebecca will remarry to John Moore in 1737 and hold the property until her death in 1761. John Moore renames the plantation “Belle Grove”.

1748 – Francis Conway II and his wife Sarah welcome their first son, Francis Conway III.

1751 – Nelly returns to Belle Grove to have her first child, James Madison Jr. at her mother’s home. Her brother Francis Conway II and his wife Sarah also live there. Their home is just next door.

1761 – Rebecca Conway Moore passes. Francis Conway II also passes away this year. Francis Conway II’s wife Sarah remarries in 1765 and holds the property until her death.

1784 – Sarah Conway Taylor passes away and Belle Grove goes to Francis Conway III and his wife Elizabeth Fitzhugh Conway.

1789 – Captain Francis Conway III (former Minuteman during the Revolutionary War) sets aside 13 acres of Belle Grove Plantation to establish the village of Port Conway.

1790 – Captain Francis Conway III sales Belle Grove Plantation, without the rights to Port Conway, to John Hipkins. John Hipkins would remove the Conway homes and build what is now the center section of the current mansion at Belle Grove Plantation for his only child, Francis (Fanny) Hipkins Bernard.

4. The contest will run for one month. It will start on Thursday, August 29th and end at 12:00am (eastern) September 30th.

5. All writings must be submitted in word document to our email address at

6. Submitted stories should be sent to We will confirm receiving it by email.

7. No stories will be entered if received after the deadline.

8. By submitting your story, you are giving up all rights to the story to Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast.

9. You agree to allow us to publish on blog, facebook or any other form media or paper your story including your name as author. Full credit for the writing will be given to you.

10. Any of the rules that are not met will cause your story to be rejected.

11. Include the following information with your Short Story:

Full Name


City – State – Zip

Phone where we can reach you:

Email Address


The Winning Short Story Prize

On October 5th, we will announce the winner of the Short Story Writing Contest on Facebook and our Blog. If you are selected, you will receive a Free Night in the Conway Junior Suite where our Lady now lives. We will also contact you by phone of your selection.

You story will be published on our blog and promoted throughout our media resources.

Good Luck and Happy Writing!!

To see what we are up to at the plantation

Facebook Link

Please visit our Facebook Page!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 4 Comments »

Brides at the Courthouse

Jan. 28th 2013

Our trip to Manassas, Virginia and the “Key to the Courthouse” Bridal Showcase was so much fun!

There are were so many brides there!

And so many vendors!

We are never going to be able to choose!

The Co-Host for the Event was

Wedding Event Host

Davis Talley Events & Design

Davis and Talley 2

Davis Talley Events & Designs
Lindsay Davis and Monica Talley
Contact them at 571-721-1538


The Prince William County Division of Historic Preservation


The Prince William County Division of Historic Preservation or call 703-792-5546 to learn more about this and other historic location rentals

It was a great event and we can’t wait to meet with some of the vendors and brides in the coming months!


The Old Manassas Courthouse

The city of Manassas originated in 1852 at the junction of the Manassas Gap and the Orange & Alexandria Railroads. This Romanesque Revival courthouse was designed by James C. Teague and Philip T. Marye, of Norfolk and Newport News. It was completed in 1893 and served the county until 1984 when a new courthouse was built nearby.


Staircase inside Courthouse




Graphic designed by Raygan Ketterer
Contact her at 540-317-5516


Flowers designed by Brigitte Morrow
Contact her at 703-615-5128 or email at


Flowers designed by Brigitte Morrow
Contact her at 703-615-5128 or email at

We didn’t get a photo of this vendor’s table, but we wanted to make sure we told you about them to!

Half Light Studios
Rachael Boyd
Contact her at 571-201-9537 or email at


Music and Master of Ceremony was performed by
Perfect 4th Entertainment
Chris Campbell
Contact him at 540-746-0405 or visit his blog at


Hair and Make up Stylist
Enlightened Styles
Jacquelyn Rodriguez
Contact her at 540-560-2957


Marine Corps Heritage Foundation / Marine Corps Museum
A Venue for Event is Washington DC
Pamela Dodson
Contact her at 703-649-2350 or


Ciao Bella Photos
Dan or Mona
Contact them at 540-349-0035


Shirley’s Catering


Shirley’s Catering


Shirley’s Catering


Distinctive Cakes and Desserts
Lora Vennettilli Gookin
Contact her at 540-347-9188


Distinctive Cakes and Desserts


Distinctive Cakes and Desserts


Distinctive Cakes and Desserts


Distinctive Cakes and Desserts


Distinctive Cakes and Desserts

See more of Belle Grove Plantation on our Facebook Page!

Facebook Link

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History, Food and Recipes | 42 Comments »

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!

Facebook Link

Have you sent in your Cookie Recipe? 

Don’t forget! 

Deadline is January 31st!

Cookie Contest 2013

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