Weekend at the Plantation

Aug. 22nd 2012

View through the main hallway to the Riverside side door
Belle Grove Plantation

Wow! What a weekend! By the time we got home late Sunday night, we just crashed! Monday found us both just dragging along so we hit the bed early again Monday night. But what a fun time we had over the weekend!

We were greeted by a family of wild turkeys

We arrived at the plantation on Saturday to see the caretaker working on the grounds after a storm had moved through earlier in the week. We had not heard about it, but apparently there had been a storm with high winds that swept up the Rappahannock River. We ended up losing another part of a tree that was damaged earlier this summer. Now this pretty old tree is lopsided and Brett and I both know one more good wind and it will be all down. We talked with the caretaker and he is going to get with the owner about going ahead and removing it. How sad it is to see it go! It is located along what would have been the road from the fields to Emmanuel Church before nature took over the road. You have to wonder how many people walked by this tree over the years.

Plantation side porch

We also lost a branch for two more trees along the field side of the circular drive way. One wasn’t too bad, just a small branch. But the other was from a Red Oak that had lost a small branch earlier in the summer. This tree, we have been told, was there before the Civil War. The branch we lost this time wasn’t too bad and the tree still looks strong so we hope it will continue to be that way.

Belle Grove Plantation

After assessing the damage and walking around in the house a bit, we sat outside on the front steps for awhile and chatted with the caretaker and his friend that had stopped by. His friend gave us more insight into the area. He currently lives just across the highway at the Walsingham plantation. He had worked on the Woodlawn plantation for a while, but as his family grew, he had to move to a larger place. We also took note that the “Babies” were gone. Dolley and James, our osprey are still around, but they are now “empty nesters”.

Late in the afternoon, we pulled ourselves away from the plantation and headed to Historic Fredericksburg. We have never been there, so we thought it would be good to go for the weekend to get to know the place. It only took us 25 minutes to get there! I didn’t realize how close it really was! As we drove into town, my mouth dropped open! Historic homes and buildings everywhere! We drove to Caroline Street which is kind of like the main street downtown. As we drove down Caroline Street, I was making notes of where the antique stores were. I had to stop counting because there are so many of them!

Schooler House Bed and Breakfast
Fredericksburg Virginia


As we pulled up to the Schooler House Bed and Breakfast, I knew I had picked the right one! What curb appeal this house has! It is a Victorian home with a wrought iron fence and small garden in front. Directly across the street is the Rising Sun Tavern that was built by George Washington’s younger brother, Charles Washington. It was built in 1760 and became a tavern in 1792. During the American Revolutionary War, this was a popular stop. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison stopped many times here.

The Rising Sun Tavern
Built by Charles Washington, brother of George Washington

We were warmly greeted at the door by the innkeeper, Andi. She invited us in and gave us a quick tour of the house. What a place she has! You can tell that she has given thought to each item there and how it brings this Victorian gem alive! When we shared with her that we were getting ready to start our own bed and breakfast, she expressed excitement and wanted to make time later that evening to sit down and talk. That is one thing I have to say about most innkeepers. They are so helpful to other innkeepers and aspiring innkeepers. It’s almost like becoming part of the club. I just love that part of about being in this industry.

Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Dining Room
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Dining Room
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Front Hall
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Front Hall
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

She walked us into the kitchen, the true heart of this house and introduced us to the new Inn dog, Enzo. At just nine weeks old, he would melt your heart with just one look! He was in the back yard and walked along with us as we toured her back porch area and garden sitting room.

Back Yard
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Back Yard
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Back Yard
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Side Yard
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

As we headed back to the staircase, I turned and looked at a pile of historic books sitting in the hallway for visitors to use. I almost fainted! There on top of all these books on the Civil War and history of Fredericksburg was a book about the diaries and letter of Helen Bernard Stuan and her sisters! Yes, the daughters of John Hipkins Bernard of Rose Hill Plantation (also known as Gaymont)! I knew then that we were supposed to be there! When I expressed my surprise and excitement, I explained to Andi that I had just posted a picture of Helen on our blog the night before. It was the first time I had seen her picture. And then to see her again was just magic! Andi also was excited for me and gave me the book to keep! I knew then that Andi and I would become fast friends.

Staircase and Front Hallway
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

War at Our Doors
The Civil War Diaries and Letters of the Bernard Sisters of Virginia
Rebecca Campbell Light

Andi walked us up the staircase and pointed out the artifacts that she and her late husband found when they had worked on the garden and in the house. She had them mounted in shadow boxes and frames just like what we want to do with Belle Grove! There was also art work everywhere! I didn’t get a chance to ask who they were by, but the style remained me of a Monet. They were bright colors and just gave the room a warm feeling.

Top of Staircase
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Then she showed us our room. Schooler house has just two rooms. Ours was Willie’s Room at the front of the house. I have to say, I think we got the best room! It has a white cast iron queen bed with wonder pillows! The room was filled with antiques and pictures of times past. There was a nice bathroom and just off the bathroom was a small sitting room. The room was warm and comfortable and I was so glad I had found it!

Willie’s Room
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Annie’s Room
Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

After we got our things settled, we asked Andi where she would recommend us to go for dinner. She quickly told us of a place called “Foode”. So after we got directions, off we went back downtown. We were going to walk, but decided to drive back, even though it was just about four or five blocks away. I am so glad we did! We got to drive back up Princess Anne Street that runs parell to Caroline Street. What beautiful homes we saw! But because Princess Anne Street is a little busier, we decide to come back later to take pictures.

Historic Fredericksburg

We parked close to the place where we came in on Caroline Street when we first drove in. As we started down the street, I started looking for an antique store to pop into. It was late in the day, around 5:30 so I was afraid we had stayed too long at the plantation and I had missed the antique stories in Fredericksburg. And I had so wanted to take home just one antique from here! We did find about three of them that were open. I quickly walked through them, mostly looking for teapots and plates and stopping to ask each one if they had anything “James Madison”. I struck out on all accounts.

Historic Fredericksburg

Historic Fredericksburg

Just before we got to our place to eat, we came across a wine store that sold Virginia Wines. Of course we had to stop there. I wanted to see if they carried Ingleside Wine, which they did. We found one of our favorites, “Sweet Virginia Rose”, which is kind of a sweeter red dessert wine. So I asked what time they closed and told Brett we would stop on the way back to the car. I thought it would be nice to share a bottle of “Sweet Virginia Rose” with Andi as we shared our experiences.

Historic Fredericksburg

We arrived at “Foode” just a block later. When I first saw it, it reminded me of some of the restaurants in New Orleans that are tucked away in small alleys. Our favorite one, “Courtyard of Two Sisters” in New Orleans French Quarters is that way. Sadly though, “Foode” was quite busy, a good sign that it must be great. So instead of waiting for a table, we headed back towards the car to another place we had seen.

Capital Ale House
Historic Fredericksburg

We ended up at “Capital Ale House” on Caroline Street. When we walked into the door, my first thought was that it looked like an upscale Irish Pub. There is a long bar that extends down most of the front room with a refrigerator cases of almost every beer and ale you can think of. The store front has two open windows with high top tables for people to sit and watch the world go by. We were greeted and seated within minutes.

Captial Ale House
Historic Fredericksburg

Captial Ale House
Historic Fredericksburg

Our waiter warmly greeted us and explained that he was training someone as well. He took our drink order and allowed us time to read the menu. Brett decided to order one of the hard apple ciders and I stuck to iced tea. As we glanced over the menu, the first thing that caught our eye was an appetizer of deviled eggs. I don’t think I have even seen devil eggs on a restaurant menu before so we were intrigued. These deviled eggs offered not only the delicious taste we all have come to enjoy at Thanksgiving dinner and picnics, but included a topping of crab meat. We had to try them! When they arrived, I have to say that the presentation didn’t jump out at me, but the taste more than made up for it! They also had a sprinkling of Old Bay seasoning. It was a delight!

Captial Ale House
Historic Fredericksburg

Devil Eggs with Crab
Captial Ale House
Historic Fredericksburg

Brett ordered an entrée of Bratwurst and Knockwurst with white and purple sauerkraut and potatoes. I am not a fan of sauerkraut so I don’t make it often for Brett. He grew up enjoying it in Ohio so this was a treat for him. But I have say, the purple sauerkraut was surprising delicious. It lacked the sour pickled favor I have come to expect from the white sauerkraut. It had more of a sweet pickled favor and I think I could enjoy a plate of it.

Captial Ale House
Historic Fredericksburg

I ordered classic macaroni and cheese with Jamestown ham added. This macaroni and cheese was made with rigatoni and topped with bread crumbs. The sauce was a white cheese sauce that was hard to put down. It was a very enjoyable dish.

Captial Ale House
Historic Fredericksburg

As we finished, our “training” waiter came to take our dishes and offer us dessert. After he brought us the check, we got a chance to talk with him for a minute. Come to find out, he is a new assistant manager for “Capital Ale House”. Turns out when they hire a new manager, they train them in every aspect of the restaurant. So not only can he manage, but he can cook your meal! I was so impressed! We shared that we were working on “research” for our new bed and breakfast and that we wanted to find places that we could recommend nearby. After our visit here, this is going to be one of them!

We headed back to Schooler House to drop off the car and take an afternoon walk. As we walked, we saw historic houses as far as the eye could see! We walked down one side street and came upon the Rappahannock River that flows through Fredericksburg. It was so peaceful and beautiful, just as it is when it passes our plantation just down river from there. In the distance we could hear a call of a bird that wasn’t as familiar as the osprey at the plantation, so we were left guessing what it was.

The Rappahannock River

The Rappahannock River

We made our way back up to Princess Anne Street and started heading back downtown. The historic houses started out as small, simple Victorian homes. There wasn’t much in the way of architectural detail to them, but you could clearly see that they were from the late 1800s. As we started up a small hill, we suddenly were surrounded by larger historic homes. The front step on the first one caught our eye. Though it was white, it looks very similar to the Riverside step on Belle Grove. Each house we saw just took our breath away. Before long we found ourselves walking block after block looking forward to the next surprise.

Historic Fredericksburg

Historic Fredericksburg

Historic Fredericksburg

Historic Fredericksburg

When we arrived at Lewis Street, we got another wonderful surprise. It was the home of Mary Washington, mother of George Washington! This is the home that Mary Washington stayed in towards the end of her life. George Washington purchased this home for her in 1772 for $275. It was located close to her daughter’s home at Kenmore Plantation and her son’s tavern. It was here that George came to receive his mother’s blessings before he took the oath of office. She lived here until her death in 1789. We were not able to tour it or the Rising Sun Tavern because we got to Fredericksburg too late, but I am sure we will be returning soon.

Mary Washington’s Home
Historic Fredericksburg

As we walked over another block, we came up on the Fredericksburg Baptist Church. This church was used during the Battle of Fredericksburg as a Union Hospital. It was badly damaged, but through the efforts of the church congregation, it was repaired and saved.

Fredericksburg Baptist Church
Historic Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg Baptist Church
During the Civil War
Historic Fredericksburg

On this same street, we came across a colonial home built in 1817 called the “Dogget House”. As we were walking by the owner had just stepped out of the door. Being nosy as I am about historic homes, I peeked past him into the front hall. I introduced myself and told him about our love of historic homes and our plantation. He told us about the history of this wonderful home. One of the things he shared with us was that Doris Buffett had purchased this home in 1988. She is the sister of Warren Buffett. He also told us that the small dependency on the corner, which is currently being used as an office by a local judge, has Civil War graffiti on the side where soldiers scratched their names into the brick.

Doggett House
Historic Fredericksburg

Doggett House Door Knocker
Historic Fredericksburg

Doggett House Dependency
Historic Fredericksburg

Names Civil War Soldiers scratched into the wall
Doggett House
Historic Fredericksburg

We headed back to Schooler House and met up with Andi for the evening. Andi shared her experiences with running her bed and breakfast and knowledge of the area. I wasn’t aware of all the events that Historic Fredericksburg has! She told us a story about how during one of these events, she was on the phone with someone and there was lots of gunfire going on. The person on the line asked what was going on. Andi said she laughed and just said, “They are fighting the civil war…, again.”

I was also able to share some of our experiences as well as some of our food with her. I told her about our blog and about the fun we had sharing our experiences. She was so intrigued by the blog that she decided right then to start one for her house! So you will have to check out her house blog soon! I decided not to cover her history in this post so she has something to share with all of you!

After a wonderful night’s sleep, we woke to the smell of a delicious breakfast. Sorry, no night time visitors this time! We hurried to dress and came down to a beautiful table. We started with berries and yogurt. She also had a hot pot of tea waiting for me. I want to know how she knew I liked Earl Grey! It was so good! Then it was Spinach Quiche and a side of bacon. I am so sorry; it looked so good that I didn’t stop to take a picture! But believe me, it was to die for!

Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

After some wonderful conversation with the other guests and with Andi, it was time for us to head back to the plantation. But we couldn’t leave until I had a chance to just a couple of photos of Enzo. What a ham! He seemed to really enjoy his “photo shoot”.

Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

Schooler House Bed and Breakfast

If you find yourself in Fredericksburg, I would highly recommend a stay at Schooler House, if they aren’t booked! This bed and breakfast and its innkeeper will truly remind you what sets bed and breakfasts apart from staying in a hotel!


Once we got back to the plantation, we walked around and enjoyed our time as we waited for our appointment to arrive. We had set up an appointment to meet with a local couple who will be getting married soon. I had received a request through our Facebook from her asking if they might be able to do their wedding photos there. What was even more special about this couple is that the young lady has a relative that once worked for the Turner Family during the 1800s on Belle Grove! What a wonderful surprise!

When Jenn and Nick arrived, it was so wonderful to see the excitement in their eyes! It was just like Brett and I when we first saw Belle Grove. They had also brought along her “Nana”. I think Nana was more thrilled than all of us.  We walked around the house and I talked about the history of Belle Grove Plantation. For me, it is just so much fun to share this history with people that really love this plantation. It makes all the historic research worth it.

Jenn, Nick and Nana
Belle Grove Plantation

Once our daughter and her boyfriend arrived, Brett took Hurley for a run around the plantation. We tried to get some video of him, but he was just too excited to be there. It is so funny how Hurley seems to get all worked up when he arrives. I took Alexa and her boyfriend on a short tour of the house and grounds. By the time we finished, I think Hurley was finally tuckered out.

Plantation Dog
Belle Grove Plantation

We loaded up the cars with Hurley and Alexa in the backseat and we headed back to Chesapeake. It really was a great weekend. We met so many new people in Fredericksburg and had a chance to spend some time at the plantation we love so much. As we drove over the bridge, I looked back towards the banks of Belle Grove trying hard to see it through the trees. One day, I won’t have to look back for it. I will be there.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 25 Comments »

Belle Grove and The Civil War

Aug. 18th 2012

Belle Grove

From the time of the first purchase in 1670 to the present, Belle Grove Plantation would see many wars come and go. But none would make as big of an impact as the American Civil War.

In December, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union. In January, 1861, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana seceded from the Union. In February, 1861 Texas would seceded from the Union. It was also in February, 1861 that these states would come together in Montgomery, Alabama to adopt a Provisional Constitution and declare themselves the Confederate States of American. They would also elect Jefferson Davis as Provisional President and Alexander Stephens as Provisional Vice President. They would be inaugurated President and Vice President of the Confederate States of America on February 18th, 1861. Abraham Lincoln would be inaugurated on March 4, 1861as President of the United States of America.

On April 12, 1861 at about 4:30am, South Carolina militia would fire the opening shots of the Civil War on Fort Sumter. After thirty-four hours, the Union would surrender Fort Sumter. Just a couple days later, President Lincoln would call up 75,000 volunteers to put down the insurrection. This was followed by several more Southern states seceding from the Union. The first would be Virginia on April 17, 1861. An important note, Virginia had voted on this bill on April 4, 1861 and had voted it down. In May, 1861, Arkansas and Tennessee would secede. On May 20, 1861, North Carolina was the last Southern state to secede. It was also on this date that the Confederate Capital was voted to be moved from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia.

Just four slave states remain Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri. All voted down the secession and would remain neutral throughout the war. These states would become “buffer states” between the North and South. While they were considered neutral, they did provide troops to the Confederate forces.

In 1861, Belle Grove was owned by Carolinus Turner. He was a wealthy farmer with 92 slaves. At 48, he had a young family with wife, Susan, 34, Caroline “Carrie”, 12, Anna, 9, George, 8, Susan, 6, and Alice, 5. The Turner’s also had a live-in teacher, Mary Morrison, 23. His assets were listed in the 1860 Federal Census as being $272,500.00 in property. This would drastically change by the end of the war.

Plantations around Port Royal and Port Conway

The area around Belle Grove Plantation would become very important during the Civil War. On the east side of the Rappahannock River, there were six plantations, Natizco, Woodlawn, Oak Brow, Walsingham, Belle Grove and Millbank that lined the river. On the west side of the Rappannock, there were three plantations, Camden, Gaymont (known as Rose Hill today) and Hazelwood, along with the port city of Port Royal. While these plantations were productive farms, it was the port of Port Royal and its location on the Rappahannock River that would be its greatest asset.

Port Royal

The Rappahannock River in most areas is quite wide, but here between Port Royal and Port Conway, the river narrows, making it an ideal location for crossing for main road ways that had been in use since the late 1600s. Port Royal and Port Conway are also just 20 miles from Fredericksburg.

At the start of the war in 1861, the residents around this area would join the Confederate cause. Most men would enlist with the 9th Virginia Cavalry, the 47th Virginia Infantry or the Caroline Light Artillery. In the 47th Virginia Infantry, they would have been part of Company E and would have been called Port Royal Guards. They would report to Fredericksburg in June, 1861. The Caroline Light Artillery formed in July, 1861 and the 9th Virginia Cavalry would form in January, 1862. Most of these men would fight just within 75 miles of their homes.

47th Virginia Infantry

Between April, 1862 and August, 1862, Union Forces occupied Fredericksburg. It was in August that Acting Master Nelson Provost, commander of the steamer USS Anacostia conducted a two day expedition from Fredericksburg to Port Royal. He reported to General Ambrose Burnside that he and his crew, along with 25 men of the 9th New York Infantry had progressed down the river towards Port Royal because of reports of communications coming from Port Royal Confederates to both Baltimore and Richmond.

General Ambrose Burnside

In his report, informants had told of new recruits for the Confederate Army had been ferried across the river from Port Conway to Port Royal with supplies. They would then make their way to Richmond. The location of this ferry was part of Belle Grove Plantation once again. At the time, it would have been part of Port Conway, the town that Captain Francis Conway established in 1878, but was reincorporated back into Belle Grove, from where it came by Carolinus Turner as he purchased the half acre lots.

Port Conway, Virginia
Ferry House and Post Office

In this expedition, the Union detachment captured prisoners, destroyed several boats, including the ferry at Port Conway. In December, 1862, four gunboats were sent to Port Royal to support General Burnside’s campaign in Fredericksburg. These gunboats were under the command of Commander Samuel Magaw. General Daniel Harvey Hill and General Rooney Lee defended Port Royal. The Union fleet was forced back down river.

General Daniel Harvey Hill

General Rooney Lee

Just a few short days later, the Union Navy started shelling Port Royal to diverted attention from Fredericksburg. This attack lasted two days. The Confederate army held the Union navy at bay until General Hill was called to Fredericksburg. Two days later, General Magaw gave the Confederate army an ultimatum; either evacuate Port Royal or the town would be destroyed. Lt. Colonel Zachariah of the 10th Virginia Cavalry notified the civilian population of Port Royal to evacuate. On hearing the news, General Lee came to Port Royal’s defense and sent troops back to Port Royal. By this time, General Burnside had withdrawn from Fredericksburg so General Magaw did not go through with the mission. Port Royal was saved.

Port Royal Evacuation

General Robert E. Lee was born not too far from Port Conway and Port Royal at Stratford Hall. During the Civil War, he would have his wife’s cousin, Julia Stuart, wife of Doctor Richard Stuart of Cleydael, to keep his two daughters’ through most of the Civil War. Cleydael is just nine miles from Belle Grove Plantation.

General Robert E. Lee

Centre: Mary Custis, the General’s eldest daughter; left: Agnes, the third daughter; right: Mildred, the youngest. No well-authenticated picture of Annie, the second daughter, is known to exist.

Helen Bernard of Gaymont (known as Rose Hill today), daughter of John Hipkins Bernard and his wife Jane Bernard witnessed and wrote about her days during the Civil War. You might remember that John Hipkins Bernard was grandson of John Hipkins, the man that built the current center section of Belle Grove for his daughter, Fannie. Helen Bernard would write of dinners at Gaymont with Confederate officers General JEB Stuart and General Rooney Lee. She would also write about a raid that the Union army made on Port Royal in April, 1863. She would tell of five hundred Yankees pillaging the village, only to leave before the Confederate army arrived.

Helen Bernard
Daughter of John Hipkins and Jane Bernard

General JEB Stuart

In August, 1863, two gunboats, the Satellite and the Reliance were captured by the Confederate army and were kept at Port Conway. In September, Brig. General Judson Kilpatrick and his Union forces were sent to Port Conway to recapture or destroy these gunboats. He advanced from King George using three roads, forcing the Confederate forces to move across the river to Port Royal. Early the next morning, Captain S.S. Elder of Battery E, 4th U.S. artillery planted his guns just above and just below the gunboats and opened fire at a range of 700 yards, driving the Confederate forces from the boats. Two hours later, the Satellite was heavily damaged and started to sink. All weapons were fixed then on the Reliance. After another three hours, Brig. General Kilpatrick withdrew and moved to Lamb’s Creek Church, where he had a small fight with some Confederate forces. Afterward he made camp there. The Confederate army took advantage of this and stripped the gunboat of its machinery and guns. The gunboats were too damaged to save. One note; ironclads had been called to use during this fight, but had failed to show. Brig. General Kilpatrick reported only three killed and three wounded. There is no mention of a report from the Confederate forces.

General Judson Kilpatrick

This anchor was found within the last year just infront of Belle Grove Plantation in the river. Could it be one of the anchors from one of the gunboats?

By May, 1864, the Union army had control of Port Royal and made it a supply depot. Helen Bernard would write about General John Abercrombie of the Union army sending a guard to protect her family and remaining slaves. Instead the Union soldiers would take their mules and kill the remaining foals.

The soldiers from Port Royal and surrounding areas would see many from its ranks lost. The 9th Virginia Cavalry started with 1,815, but would be down to just 522 by the time they moved to Gettysburg. At the surrender at Appomattox, they would surrender 27 men, just one officer and 26 men. The 47th Virginia Infantry would start with 1,172 men. By April, 1862 it would be down to just 444 men. At Appomattox, they would surrender just two men. The Caroline Artillery start with 243 men and at Appomattox, they would surrender one officer and 11 men. 

As for the Turner Family, we know that Carolinus was involved with the war and was part of the Confederate cause because we have located his pardon issued by President Andrew Johnson. We have a copy of this pardon, but the original is housed in the library in King George, Virginia. We also know that he was part of the Memorial Association of the Confederate. Now to whether he served in the Confederate Army, I have not been able to establish yet. My thought is that he remained at home due to his age. The only son, George would have been too young to serve.

In the 1870 Federal Census, Carolinus Turner was still listed as a farmer. At the age of 57, his wealth dropped from $272,500.00 at the start of the war to $110,000 at the end in 1870. His family Susan, 33, Carrie, 22, George, 17, Susan, 15 and Alice, 14 still lived at Belle Grove.

You have to wonder what this family saw and what they endured during this war. It was just at their door step. Most girls were married by the time they were 22, but Carrie would not marry for another six years. It is no wonder with the loss of men from this area during the war.

We aren’t sure yet if Belle Grove served as a headquarters. What we do know is that during the restoration from 1997 to 2003, no bullet holes or scars from being fired on were found. We hope as we continue our research, we will be able to confirm its use during the Civil War.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 39 Comments »

Mystery in the Cemetery

Jul. 26th 2012

Emmanuel Church
Port Conway, Virginia

If you read “The Little Country Church” posting you know that in Emmanuel Episcopal Church’s cemetery, there are two grave sites that are just tombstones, no remains. That is a grave stone for Major Henry and Elizabeth Turner, which were moved to this cemetery from their original site, but the remains were left behind. The location of these grave sites is no longer known.

Tombstone of Major Henry and Elizabeth Turner
Emmanuel Church Cemetery

The third tombstone is a 6 foot obelisk monument for the Hipkins-Bernard family. The monument has a small bronze plaque that was added to it when it was moved to this cemetery.

This plaque reads:

“This monument, until 1983 located on the Belle Grove Lawn, 200 yards to the west identified the unmarked graves of John Hipkins, died 1804; his wife Elisabeth Pratt 1754-1829; their only child, Fanny Bernard 1775-1801 and her youngest children; Eliza 1794-1803 and William Bernard, Jr. 1796-1822; also five infant children of Jane Gay and John H. Bernard of Gay Mont, who erected the monument in 1849”

When I first started doing research on Belle Grove, one of my first stops was at Emmanuel Episcopal to view the tombstones. When I came across this monument, I realized that there was a burial site located on Belle Grove. I had walked the plantation and I knew there was not a marked area.

So the big question… where are they?

Frances “Fanny” Hipkins-Bernard

If you remember from a past posting, John Hipkins purchased Belle Grove from Captain Francis Conway in 1790 and built the current center section of Belle Grove. He gave Belle Grove to his only child, Fanny and her husband William Bernard. She would live only ten years at Belle Grove. Her husband would marry another and moved to Mansfield Plantation in Stafford County. John Hipkins, who owned Rose Hill Plantation died just four years after Fanny. His grandson, John Hipkins Bernard would inherit Rose Hill and would rename it in honor of his wife Jane to Gay Mont. Belle Grove would later be given to William Bernard Jr by his father. William Bernard Jr would die in 1822 at Belle Grove. Belle Grove would be sold in 1839 to the Turner Family.

William Bernard Jr
Youngest son of Fanny Hipkin-Bernard and William Bernard Sr

My search to solve this mystery lasted for nine months. My first clue was on the plaque itself. It stated that the burial site was located 200 yards to the west. Well I jumped on Google and tried to measure 200 yards west. This would put me somewhere around the house. But it was really unclear. Was it to the right or left of the house? It just wasn’t enough.

The second clue was that the family was buried together in a vault. So my first thought was maybe they were in an underground vault. I knew from visiting the plantation next door, the plantations in the area used a lot of bricks in their construction. So my thought was maybe they built a brick vault underground and placed their family members in. But this was really hard for me to figure out how they would have done so without having a clear door to go in and out of. I would learn later this was a “red herring” in my search.

Camden Planation
Port Royal, VA

The first really big clue I found came from a visit to Camden Plantation, which is located across the river near Port Royal. Camden was built by the Pratt Family. This is the same family that Elisabeth Pratt came from. The Turner family was also connected to this family through marriage. I was very lucky to have a chance to see Camden for my birthday in January. The owner after showing me around the house and grounds sat me down to show me pieces of history that he had from the Turner family and any information he had for Belle Grove. One of these pieces was a letter that was written by James Patton to John Palmer Hooker in 1965. You may remember James Patton from the Rose Hill posting. He was the last owner of Rose Hill (then still known as Gay Mont) and was married to one of the last members of the Bernard Family. John Palmer Hooker was the owner of Belle Grove from 1930 to his death in 1974.

In the letter Mr. Patton was thanking Mr. Hooker for allowing him to come to Belle Grove for the Spring Garden Tour. He also spoke about the burial site of the Hipkins-Bernard Family located on Belle Grove. Mr. Hooker must have asked who was buried in the site and Mr. Patton was telling him about the members he knew. He also let Mr. Hooker know that the monument was purchased in 1849 by John Hipkins Bernard from a company from Baltimore. John Bernard was the last surviving Bernard family member that was born at Belle Grove.  The monument does not have the name of the family members on it. It has the date 1849 and John H. Bernard’s initials and a Latin phrase. Mr. Patton also asks about the twelve foot chains that were missing from the iron poles that marked the burial site. Mr. Patton was concerned that they were missing and hoped that it was because Mr. Hooker had removed them to cut the grass around the burial site.

So when I left Camden, I knew that there had been a section of ground marked by four twelve foot chains and the monument had been in the center of that section. So I was confused about the vault term I kept seeing. But I was still at the same place… where are they?

My next clue came from a survey I found at the Library of Congress on Belle Grove. This survey contained three photos and was conducted in 1937. So I was very hopeful that they had mentioned the burial site. None of the photos showed the burial site, but the survey stated that the burial site was located just west of the driveway. I was so excited… at first. Then I was disappointed. You see the driveway for Belle Grove is a circular drive. So what part of this circular drive is it west of? Ahh!!

Belle Grove
Library of Congress

Over the next few months, I would come across people who knew the Hookers and had been at Belle Grove and my first question would always be, “Do you remember seeing a burial site with a six foot tall tombstone?” Every time the answer was no.

In February, I located some new photographs of Belle Grove taken in 1906 during Captain J.F. Jacks’s ownership. (We haven’t gotten that far in our history of Belle Grove yet, but its coming) The photos were at a library in California (I found a reference to them online). I sent an email to this library and asked if it would be possible for them to copy them and send them to me. They answered two weeks later and let me know that they were on their way at a small cost to send them. Two weeks later, I received them. YES!! There were a large number photos of the house. NO!! None of them showed the burial site! Ahhh!!!

Belle Grove
Plantation side

In March, I found yet another letter at the Virginia Historic Society from Mr. Patton telling a newspaper reporter about the Hipkins-Bernard Family and talked again about the burial site. He spoke about the fact that it was 1/8 acres and that when Mr. Hooker bought the property that 1/8 acres was to still belong to the Bernard Family for all time. But again, it didn’t say where it was. Just west of the driveway. I think I must have lost a lot of hair during this time as I was pulling it out in my search.

April rolled around and my search reached its ninth month. Still I did not know where this family was. My biggest concern was by not knowing where they were, when we started landscaping and started putting in the irrigation system, I didn’t want to dig up poor old John Hipkins and his family. I had been digging deep into the Hipkins-Bernard Family hoping somewhere the answer would show itself. At this point, I had put together the information on who was in the burial site. The bronze plaque was partly correct. The only thing that wasn’t was the parentage of the infant children that were buried in the site.

By the time John and Jane Bernard started having children, they were already installed at Gay Mont (now called Rose Hill) Plantation. I knew from my research that there was a family cemetery located on their plantation so it would not make sense that they would have buried their infant children at Belle Grove. However, William Bernard Jr and his wife Sarah Dykes Bernard had several children, but only two daughters survived. The number of infants they lost was five, which matches the number in the burial site. One small note, of the five children, two sets were twins. They all passed before William Bernard Jr died in 1822. William was the last to be placed in the burial site. I also came to understand that during the 1800s all burial sites were called “vaults”, but that they did not mean vaults like you and I understand them to be today. It is just an area that the burial is at. See a “red herring”.

In mid April, I came across a reference to papers for the Bernard – Robb Family that was located at William and Mary College in Williamsburg. I knew that the Bernard family married into the Robb family so I knew this could be at least something that could help me. In the reference, it listed that there were receipts from John Hipkins Bernard. My hope was to find the Baltimore invoice and hoped that it would tell where to place the monument. The hours for the library only allowed me time on Saturday. So off I went to William and Mary. When I arrived, I was informed that the hours for the Special Collection was shorter than the hours for the regular library. So I ended up with only one hour. This didn’t help me much since there were fourteen boxes with five to ten folders per box.  So I tried to pull those folders that would have been around the time he purchased the monument.

I do have to say this about John Hipkins Bernard. He was a “clothes hound”. He purchased more clothes than I have ever since a man purchase. And he kept every receipt! Now I am not sure if you know this, but back in the 1800s receipts were nothing more than a torn piece of paper. There were some neat pieces that were more than likely those from larger companies, but most were just ripped from another piece of paper. And I have to say this too. Handling these pieces of history with his handwriting and knowing that he handled these pieces was such a charge! It could have been the handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence to me! I was just in awe! But I left that first Saturday empty handed. No receipt for the monument. Ahh!! I am never going to find these poor people!

John Hipkins Bernard
Oldest Son of Frances “Fanny” Hipkins Bernard and Williams Bernard

The following week, I went back over my notes hoping to find something I might have missed. I kept going back to the Bernard-Robb reference list though. I just had a feeling it was there somewhere. Finally I came to an addition that had been added to the boxes. It was a set of papers from James Patton that had been given to William and Mary after his death. So that next Saturday, I got up early and went back to William and Mary to search again.

When I opened the folder, there on top was a type written narrative about John Hipkins, Merchant of Port Royal. One thing I did come to understand about James Patton, he typed everything out. He kept good notes and even wrote names and dates on back of photos and painting so people would know who they were. Go Mr. Patton! As I read the narrative, it confirmed a lot of the history I had collected about the Hipkins-Bernard family. It also filled in small holes like who sold Belle Grove to the Turners in 1839. In case you don’t remember, William Bernard Sr. sold Belle Grove to his granddaughters from William Bernard Jr. for one dollar. Their husbands then sold it to Carolinus Turner. But the best part was that I got two more clues about the burial site. There in the narrative, Mr. Patton stated that when Fanny Hipkins-Bernard died, she was buried in “mother’s garden” at Belle Grove. It also stated that the burial site was located on the north side of the house. YES!! I knew where it was!

I have to go back a little to explain how I knew. When Brett and I first went to Belle Grove to see it for the first time, I took note of a place in the yard that looked strange to me. It was a depression that was perfectly square and slightly sunken in. I called Brett over and pointed it out saying that I thought maybe there might have been another building there or maybe a foundation was left there. It was too perfect just to be a depression left by rain water.

When I got home I informed Brett I knew where the family was. With the clue of it being on the north side of the house, it placed the burial site on the side closest to the dependencies. Now you have to remember when Fanny died, the extension wings were not there. Just the center section. The extension wings came in 1839 almost seventeen years after the last family member was added to the burial site. With the clue that Fanny was buried in “mother’s garden” I knew it would not been on the Riverside of the house. The Riverside is considered the front yard so the garden would have been on the Plantation side where the driveway is now. So west of the driveway and north side of the house placed them where I first saw the depression!

That next weekend Brett and I head to Belle Grove to walk through the house with our interior design team. We took our tape measure not only to measure rooms, but to measure that depression. If it turned out to be twelve by twelve, then we had our site. I think the design team must have thought we were crazy. We jumped out of the car and walked over to the depression and measured…… TWELVE BY TWELVE it was! We found the Hipkins-Bernard family! But as we were standing there, I looked up at the house. It was then that I realized that one of the Junior Suites windows was located right behind the depression. Now here is the kicker! We decided to name the rooms from the very beginning after the families that lived, struggled and died at Belle Grove as a way to honor them for their sacrifices they made to make Belle Grove what it is today. Back eight months before, we had named this Junior Suite the Hipkins-Bernard Room. It was as if they were trying to tell us all along where they were.

By the time we met with the current owner of Belle Grove, we had the whole story of what happened and how the monument got to Emmanuel. Seems the letter from Mr. Patton to Mr. Hooker was right. Mr. Hooker had removed the twelve foot chains, but not to cut the grass. He would later remove the iron rods that held the chains and marked the corners of the burial site. Then sometime between 1954 and his death, the monument was pushed into the wooded area that lies between Route 301 and the house. We aren’t sure who moved it to the wooded area. Could it have been Mr. Hooker or maybe someone that worked on the property helping the Hookers. That part is not clear.

It was there in 1983, after the death of Mrs. Hooker in 1981, the parishioners of Emmanuel Church rescued the monument and placed it in the cemetery along with the plaque telling about who the monument was for and where it had come from. In our meeting with the owner, we asked if we could move that monument back. We told the owner that we would not be replacing the iron poles, but laying a garden space around the monument to keep others from walking on it and marking its corners with concrete footers. We have found two of the iron poles that were removed. Those will be part of the history that will be kept for Belle Grove.

Iron Poles that once marked the burial site

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 53 Comments »

Big Changes

Jul. 11th 2012

Belle Grove July 1894
This is the oldest photo we have of Belle Grove

After the death of William Bernard II in 1822, William Bernard I became the trustee of Belle Grove. He held on to Belle Grove until 1839. By this time, William Bernard II’s two daughters Eliza Bernard and Sarah Ann Bernard were married. In 1839, William Bernard I sold Belle Grove to their two husbands for one dollar. Shortly after that sale, they sold the property to a member of a very prominent family in the area, Carolinus Turner.

The Turner Family dates back to Thomas Turner, who first appeared in the records on February 14, 1725 when he purchased 200 acres in Hanover Parish. He would continue to purchase parcels and by 1753 he had amassed 2300 acres, which he named Walsingham. This plantation is next door to Belle Grove on the opposite side of the present day Route 301. It is unclear just when Thomas Turner arrived in Virginia.

Thomas married twice in his lifetime. Both of his wives, Martha and Sarah were the daughters of Richard Taliaferro, who lived in Caroline County at Taliaferro Mount. Richard Taliaferro was a ship’s Captain. His wife, Sarah Wingfield was from Barbados. Together Richard and Sarah had four children.

Thomas married Martha in 1714 and they had two sons, Harry and Thomas II. Harry Turner married Elizabeth Smith of Smith’s Mount, near Leedstown, Virginia and they had one son, Thomas Turner III. Thomas Turner III married Jane Fauntleroy of Naylor’s Hole and they had seven children.

Thomas Turner III would inherit Smith’s Mount from his mother and Walsingham from his father. He would then add another 2400 acres plantation called Nanzatico, which is next door to the Walsingham plantation. The Nanzatico Plantation’s home had been built by Charles Carter in 1769. At the death of Thomas Turner III, his three sons would divide his property. Richard Turner would inherit the Walsingham Plantation. George Turner would inherit the Nanzatico Plantation. Thomas Turner IV would inherit the Oaken Brow Plantation, which was originally part of the Nanzatico Plantation.

George Turner

George Turner would marry Caroline Matilda Pratt, who was the daughter of John Birkett and Alice Fitzhugh Dixon Pratt of the Camden Plantation, across the Rappahannock River from Nanzatico Plantation. Their youngest son was Carolinus Turner. When his mother was pregnant with Carolinus, the Turner’s had already had two sons and were sure that Carolinus was going to be a girl. They had selected the Caroline, which is a family name. To their surprise, their new daughter turned out to be a new son. So they named him Carolinus.

Rose Hill Plantation
(also known as Gaymont) Belle Grove would have looked like this before changes

In 1839, Carolinus purchased Belle Grove Plantation. Carolinus Turner would take this modest Federal style home and convert it into a Greek Revival style home. If you look at the old photos of Rose Hill Plantation (also known as Gaymont Plantation), which was built by John Hipkins (also who built the orginial Belle Grove home) in the 1790s, you can imagine what Belle Grove Plantation started out as. Carolinus would extend the sides and add a small extension on the second floor of the extensions. He would add the porticos that stand out from the house on both the Plantation and Riverside. He would add the curved porches on the Plantation side with circular steps at the front and two side doors. The circular steps in front and the scrolled steps on the Riverside of the home were thought to have been purchased and made in England. He would add the architectural details all along the roof line as well as on the exterior walls.

Back Portico Stairs

Ferry House and Post Office
Port Conway 1925

He would also make changes to the town of Port Conway. In 1860, he set aside a one acre lot that he donated to the local parish for use as an Episcopal Church. This church would become Emmanuel Episcopal Church, which is still in use today. He would also start acquiring the half acre lots of Port Conway and would fold them back into the Belle Grove Plantation.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Port Conway

In 1847, Carolinus married Susan Augusta Rose at Belle Grove Plantation. They would have five children, Caroline “Carrie” Turner, Anna Augusta Turner, George Turner, Susan Rose Turner, and Alice Pratt Turner.

Tomorrow – Mystery in the Window

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 23 Comments »

Reds are red, Dishes are blue, the Plantation is sweet and Babies make two!

Jul. 9th 2012

Rose Hill Plantation

Wow, what a weekend we have had! First let me give a little update on our progress. As of Friday, the property manager informed us that he had been guaranteed by the attorney that we would have our long overdue contract. Today is Sunday and we still don’t have it. Argh! Let’s hope we will get it on Monday. (fingers crossed) Also just a reminder, the plantation is not open to the public yet. If you happen to be in the area, please don’t drive back to the house. The caretaker and his family are there and we don’t want them over run with visitors… yet.

On Saturday, we had an appointment at 11am at the plantation with our landscapers, Arrowwood Landscape Design (www.arrowwoodlandscape.com) to discuss the grading of the property around the house, bluff and driveway. We are also working up the design for the landscaping around the property and putting in sidewalks. At the same time, we had the owners of Enon Hall in White Stone, Virginia ( www.enonhall.com ), Bill and Gay stop by and we showed them the plantation.

Gay’s Chow Chow Relish

Gay brought us a really nice surprise, homemade Chow Chow. If you aren’t familiar with Chow Chow, it is a Southern recipe for a type of relish. It can be made with green tomatoes, cucumbers or cabbage. Its main ingredient is hot peppers. The ingredients are all chopped up and pickled in vinegar.  It’s kind of a sweet and hot favor. I grew up eating it on collard greens, but you can add it to anything from greens to beans to hot dogs to anything you want. I don’t have a good recipe for it, but after tasting Gay’s Chow Chow, I might have to see if I can entice her to giving it up. (Thank you Gay!) Another good thing about their visit was that Bill has the name of a local contractor that works on restoring old dependencies and is going to get us his name. Our poor dependencies, they are in bad need of some attention.

Back wall of the Summer Kitchen
Please don’t forget to help us Save these priceless treasure by visiting our site at
http://www.indiegogo.com/bellegroveplantation. A small donation will help us restore and preserve the history at Belle Grove Plantation!

After our appointment and time we spent share Belle Grove with Bill and Gay, we headed over to another plantation on the other side of the Rappahannock River called Rose Hill Plantation. This plantation has also been called Gaymont Plantation. The house of this plantation was originally built in 1797 by John and Elizabeth Pratt Hipkins. You may remember their names from “A Father’s Love” post. John was who bought Belle Grove in 1790 from Captain Francis Conway. In 1791, he built the center section of our current home for his daughter, Fannie Hipkins Bernard and her husband William Bernard. You can see Rose Hill Plantation from the Riverside of our house on a hill across the river. I always say that when John placed his house there, it was to watch over Fannie.

When John passed away, the plantation passed to his grandson and namesake, John Hipkins Bernard and his wife, Jane Gay Robertson Bernard. When John Bernard took possession of Rose Hill, he renamed it Gaymont in honor of his wife, Jane. The recent owners decided to change the name back to the original when they purchased it. John Bernard and his wife, Jane, traveled quite a bit in their life time. When they visited Europe, they brought back furniture and items as well as ideas for their landscaping. Of the four children of Fannie and William Bernard, John Hipkins Bernard was the last surviving member.

Rose Hill Entry
For more picture of Rose Hill not shown in this posting, please visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Belle-Grove-Plantation-at-Port-Conway/

I was lucky a few weeks ago when I went to Ferry Farm to come across the entry to Rose Hill and found two workers there. They were able to give me the name of the caretaker, who I contacted about seeing Rose Hill. Douglas took time out of his busy Saturday to come and walk us around the plantation. I didn’t know at the time, but we couldn’t have had a better guide.

View from Rose Hill’s front yard

Rose Hill Main House

As we pulled up to Rose Hill’s main house, our jaws must have scraped the floor. The main house sits on a hill that overlooks the river valley. What a beautiful view it has! To the back of the house, there is a large, I mean really large English walking garden laid out.

Rose Hill – This is only half of the English walking garden! I couldn’t get the whole thing in the picture!

To the left of the house, you could see a small brick house, which we learned later was their Summer Kitchen. It later serviced as the caretaker’s house. Woodson Jones was a African-American caretaker of the Bernard’s. He lived in this one room house, which has only one fireplace and a small loft, with his wife and twelve, yes I said twelve, children. He and his wife lived there until his death in 1925 at the age of 72. He was so loved by the family that they allowed him to be buried in the family cemetery on the plantation. His grave site is in the cemetery, but is sectioned off by fence to keep it separated from the family.

Small House (was Summer Kitchen) that belonged to Woodson Jones

Douglas had be friends with the last owner of Rose Hill for many years. The last owner was James Patton. His wife, Frances Bernard Upton Patton was related to John Hipkins Bernard. James Patton took Rose Hill (then still called Gaymont) and work tirelessly to bring back all the family furniture and items that he could. He also worked to restore Rose Hill to what it was before. Rose Hill had burned in 1958, and all of the house that remained was the frame of the house. During the fire, the family had been able to get most of their belongs out before the fire destroyed them. By the time of his death, he had filled all but one bedroom with the Bernard belongs. He had also compiled the family history which is now preserved at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. James and Frances passed away with no children. James gifted Rose Hill to the Preservation Society of Virginia, who were to safe guard it and to sell it as one whole piece, furnishing and all. Today, you can see the fruits of James’s labor.

Rose Hill’s Fron Doors

As Douglas walked us through the house, he was able to tell us story about some of the furnishing and décor. In the dining room, the wallpaper was from another home. It was going to be trashed until James Patton saved it and brought it to Rose Hill. In the library, you can see all of John Hipkins Bernard’s books that he collected in his lifetime. The painting in the library is of the USS Virginia. It was purchased and brought to Rose Hill by the current owner.

Rose Hill’s Dining Room

Close up of the wallpaper

Rose Hill’s Main Hall going back to the Music Room
Does the arch look familiar? Our arch in our Main Hall is the same. Could they have had the same builders? Our house was built in 1791 and Rose Hill was built in 1797.

Rose Hill’s Music Room

Rose Hill’s Main Hall from Music Room to Front Door

Rose Hill’s Library. All these books belong to the Bernard Family

Rose Hill’s Library

Rose Hill’s Library – The painting is of the USS Virginia

Our first big surprise at Rose Hill came in the first bedroom. There we saw the painting of Sarah “Sallie” Bernard Lightfoot. I have a copy of that painting, but never knew where the painting was. You may remember that I also have copies of Fannie Hipkins Bernard, William Bernard II, his wife Sarah Dykes Bernard and Jane Gay Robertson Bernard.

Rose Hill – Original Painting of Sarah “Sallie” Bernard Lightfoot, daughter of Fannie Hipkins Bernard and William Bernard. She was born at her grandparent’s home before moving to Belle Grove with her mother and father in 1791.

Our next big surprise came upstairs in the last bedroom. There on the wall, I saw two prints of a man and woman. As soon as I saw the woman, I knew it was Jane Gay Bernard from her other painting I have. But I wasn’t sure who the man was. I told Brett; wouldn’t it be so cool if it is John Hipkins Bernard? I have long searched for his picture, but have never been able to find one. This is really unusual since he was such a well-traveled and educated man. Douglas told us to look on the back of the print, since he knew James Patton was good about noting who painting were. There we saw it was indeed John Hipkins Bernard! Our long lost picture! I was so excited!

Rose Hill – John Hipkins Bernard, son of Fannie Hipkins Bernard and William Bernard. John was born at Belle Grove Plantation and died at Rose Hill Plantation.

Rose Hill – Jane Gay Robertson Bernard, wife of John Hipkins Bernard. Rose Hill was renamed in her honor as Gaymont by her husband.

After our tour the house and small brick house to the side, we walked back to the front of the house. I took the steps, made of four mill wheels, which Douglas said were original to the plantation, down to the lower terrace to take some pictures of the house. As I started back to the steps, I looked down and there at my feet was a plate shard! It was larger than the ones I had found at Belle Grove and from the markings looked like a Flow Blue plate or saucer. I walked back up to Brett and Douglas and showed them. When I went to hand it to Douglas, he told me to keep it! I said I couldn’t because it belonged to this plantation. But he told me that the owners wouldn’t mind if I took it with me. I was so excited! If it dates to the time I am thinking, it could have belong to the daughter of John Hipkins Bernard!

Rose Hill – Caretaker’s home and former Summer Kitchen

Rose Hill – Mill Wheel Steps

Rose Hill – Front view from second terrrace

Rose Hill – Plate Shard found. The markings look like Flow Blue.

From there we walked down the drive to a grove of large Tulip Poplar Trees that from their looks were ancient old soldiers that have been watching over this plantation for years! I almost tripped and fell as I walked under them, looking up through their out reached “arms”. It was so breath taking! As we passed through them, Douglas told us that there are pictures of Civil War soldiers sitting under them eating their meals.

Rose Hill – Tulip Poplar Tree

After we passed through the trees, we head down a slope into a wooded area. Here we came to the family cemetery. As we walked through, I saw names like Bernard, Lightfoot and Robb. I knew these names from my research of Belle Grove. The first person we came across that I knew was France Bernard Upton Patton. She was James Patton’s wife. Then we saw James beside her. We also saw the fenced off area with Woodson Jones. Then we saw them, John Hipkins Bernard and his wife Jane Gay Robertson Bernard! I just knew they were here! I had known that John Hipkins, his wife Elizabeth Pratt Hipkins, France Hipkins Bernard, William Bernard II, Eliza Bernard (Fannie’s youngest daughter) and five of William Bernard II’s infant children were buried at Belle Grove. But we had never known where John Bernard and his wife Jane were.

Rose Hill Cemetery

Rose Hill Cemetery – John Hipkins Bernard

Rose Hill Cemetery – Jane Gay Robertson Bernard

As we drove out, my heart was so full. It was such a great day for us. The house give us some inspiration on how to decorate our plantation and it filled in holes of my research to help us come closer to knowing these families that curved out Belle Grove. We could have been more appreciative of the time Douglas gave us!

Once we left Rose Hill and grabbed some lunch in King George, we had some time to kill as we waited for our son and his girlfriend to arrive. Our son, Tyler wanted his girlfriend, Leah to see our plantation. So with an hour or so to kill, I dropped Brett off at Belle Grove and yes, headed out to a new antique store! It’s call A Unique House and it is located in King George, Virginia.


It is an antique mall with lots of things to see. The most important thing was the level of service I got at this store! Most antique malls, you just walk around and never see anyone. But the owner came up as I was browsing and asked if there was anything I needed. I thanked him and said no. He then asked me if I would like something cold to drink. With it being 100 plus outside, I have to say I was a little thrust. He ran and got me a bottle of water, for free, that had been allowed to ice up inside! What a welcome that was! And what a surprise at the customer service level! I did get to look for about an hour and Score! I found a tea pot, ten butter pats and four tea cups! What else could have made this day more perfect?

Butter Pat Plates

Belle Grove – Our son Tyler and his girlfriend Leah on the Plantation side front portico

When I got back to the house, we walked the kids through the house and grounds. While we were up on the Riverside balcony, I was able to capture some pictures and a video of our new babies! Yes, James and Dolley our resident ospreys have two babies. They are big enough now to peak out of the nest and be seen. Earlier in the day, while the landscapers and Bill and Gay were at the plantation, we saw two eagles come in towards the nest. It was a tense time as Dolley flew over and sat on the nest and James challenged the eagles. Finally James was able to lead the eagles away from the nest and all were safe.

Belle Grove – Our baby ospreys

Belle Grove – Our baby osprey
Check out the video of the babies on our Facebook page!

After we finished at the plantation, we head with the kids over to Port Royal for some dinner. We have found one of the best new restaurants in the area! It’s called River Haven.


River Haven – Steve and Dave, owners

River Haven – Port Royal, Virginia

It just opened in March and we have had several opportunities to eat there. Dave and Steve, the owners, were two chefs from Fredericksburg that decided to open this place. Their food is to die for! For dinner I had the Supreme Macaroni and Cheese, made with three cheese, penne pasta, and applewood bacon and bread crumbs. Brett had a Crab Melt on an open face English muffin and fries. Tyler had Stuffed Flounder with Scalloped Potatoes and Cheese. Leah had Pull Pork BBQ with Baked Beans and Cole Slaw.

River Haven – Port Royal, Virginia – Tyler’s Stuffed Flounder and two side orders of Scallop Cheese Potatoes

River Haven – Port Royal, Virginia – Brett’s Crab Melt and Fries

River Haven – Port Royal, Virginia – Leah’s Pulled Pork BBQ, Baked Bean, Fries and Cole Slaw

River Haven – Port Royal, Virginia – My Supreme Mac and Cheese. You can’t tell it, but this bowl is huge!

And you couldn’t beat the view of the Rappahannock River and our plantation just across the way! We have jokingly considered a ferry that travels to and from our places so they can deliver their food for us!

River Haven – Port Royal, Virginia – Just to the left of the window, you can see a little of Belle Grove Plantation.

As we drove home, hearts and stomachs filled, I just couldn’t image any better day than this. That was until we got up the next day and decided to go look at antique furniture in Gloucester, Virginia and ended up somewhere new.

More tomorrow on our Sunday surprise!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 41 Comments »