Archive for July, 2013

The Oaks: From Amelia County To Richmond

July 31, 2013

Let’s recap.

Sugar’s great-grandfather William Starr Basinger from Savannah was stationed near Richmond, Virginia, during the Civil War.  While calling on the homes in the area to let the families know of the Confederate presence, he met the young woman that he would return to marry after the close of the war and his imprisonment.  She was Margaret Roane Garnett.

Basinger wrote the story of his life which was produced in six volumes, one for each of his children, and he writes the story as written to his children.  From Basinger’s “Personal Reminiscences”, which you can click here to read the typewritten pages as transcribed by his son from the original journals, or you can read below.



Arriving at Richmond, I supposed I would

have no difficulty in finding where the battation

had been sent.  But no one could tell me, even at

the office of the Adjutant-General.  I was in a

great dilemma about it, when I fell in with Genl

J F Gilmer, chief Engineer of the Army, whom I had

long known, and told him my trouble.  He suggest-

ed that Genl Bragg knew all about it; and he took

me to Genl Bragg’s office and introduced me.  I

found that Genl Bragg did know all about it, and

was at the bottom of everything.  He was trying to

re-organize the Army, and had conceived the design

of consolidating my battalion with the 12th, under

myself as Colonel.  I wished to be heard on this

subject, and stated some very serious objections to

it – but was cut short by the very peremptory state-

ment that I would be expected to submit to whatever

the Govt might order in the matter.  I was by no

means convinced that the Govt could lawfully order

any such thing; but we were not then in a position

to stand upon exact legal rights, and I contented

myself with replying that if the consolidation should

be insisted on, I would, after having entered my pro-

test, take command of the proposed new regiment, if

required.  But nothing ever came of this proposed

consolidation.  The two battalions were separated,

as the war went on, and never came together any more.

But I learned from Genl Bragg that the

Guards had been sent to Mattoax, where the Richmond

and Danville Railroad crosses the Appomattox River;

and, being informed what duty was expected of us

there, I hurried out next day and rejoined them.

(***FOOTNOTE*** I think it was on May 28th that I

arrived at Mattoax).  I found them there, sure

enough, quartered in box cars on a switch.  The

R & D RR was a very important one – because over

it supplies were transported to the Army from the


Gulf States.  It crossed the Appomattox on an iron

bridge, and Flat Creek, a tributary of the Appomat-

tox, a couple of miles from Mattoax, on a wooden

bridge.  The destruction of either of the bridges

would interrupt the transportation of the supplies.

Raids of the enemy’s cavalry had gone very near

these bridges – so near as to threaten them; and

the duty assigned to the Guards was to protect these

bridges against such attacks.  And a fort was in

course of construction on a hill commanding the

bridge over the Appomattox, which was intrusted (sic) to

us as a means, not only of defence, but of offence,

and which was armed with artillery suitable for the

purpose.  Some works had been thrown up at the

Flat Creek bridge also; but no guns were ever mount—

ed there.  We were to defend that the best way we


My first care was to acquaint myself with

all the roads leading to both bridges.  As my own

horse had not yet arrived, I had to be content with

borrowing a horse of a Mr. Boisseau, who lived

near by, and securing his services as a guide.  A num-

ber of days were spent in this reconnoitring (sic).  The

railroad station at Mattoax was on the right bank

of the river; and all the land on that side was part

of a plantation belonging, incommon, to Genl Sam

Jones, before-mentioned as being in command at Charles-

ton, and his sisters.  In riding about with Mr Bois-

seau, we had constantly to pass through the private

roads of this plantation; and he often endeavored to

persuade me to go with him to the house to call upon

the ladies there.  I, as constantly, refused – say-

ing that I had not been sent there to call on ladies,

but to defend those bridges.  But, finally, on his

representation that I was commander of the troops,

and that the troops were upon the property of those

ladies – that there was no man in the house – and

that I ought to give them some assurance that their

property would be respected, so far as my command

was concerned, I  consented to call with him.  I had

nothing else in view, and no other purpose than to

ensure the ladies that they would not be disturbed

by the troops under my command.  We were shown into

a parlor.  After waiting a little while, I heard

a quick step coming down the stairs, and to the par-

lor door, and then entered – your mother – in the prime


of her youth and beauty.  Soon after, she was fol-

lowed by Miss Emily Read, and then by her aunts Miss

Martha, Miss Eliza, and Miss Margaret Jones.

* * * * *


        These ladies have all died since then, ex-

cept Miss Read.  She is the sister of Mrs Genl Sam

Jones.  There were several sisters, grand-daughter

of that George Read, of Delaware, who was one of the

signers of the Declaration of Independence.  All

these sisters but Miss Emily married officers of the

1st U S Artillery – the eldest to Col Pierce, the

commander of the regiment, who was an older brother

of Franklin Pierce, President of the U S.  I have

since met two others of the sisters – Mrs French

and Mrs Reeves.  A daughter of the latter, Miss Min-

nie Reeves, as well as Miss Read, have, since the

war, betaken themselves to authorship, and have pub-

lished some very pleasant works of fiction.

Genl Jones and Mr B N Jones also are now


* * * * *

        As I afterwards learned, these three sis-

ters (Martha, Eliza and Margaret Jones), with Mrs.

James N Garnett, and Genl Sam Jones and his brother,

Mr Benjamin M Jones, were the joint owners of the

place, which was named “The Oaks”, from the splendid

oak trees in the midst of which the house was placed.

And, really, as seen from the hill at Mattoax, or

any other distant point, it was a perfect picture of

a baronial residence.  The house was an old-fashion-

ed one.  It consisted of a main house and two wings

each covered by its own roof, rising, in the form

of a four-sided pyramid, to an apex.  It was sadly

in want of paint, and had taken on a sort of gray

hue, which harmonized beautifully with the dense fo-

liage of the huge oaks surrounds it.  All round

the house, and under the trees, was a smooth carpet

of grass.  And, seen from any point, the whole as-

pect of the place was most attractive and prepos-

sessing in the highest degree.  The house still

stands; and a passenger on the Richmond and Danville


Railroad, going either north or south, may still see

it as the train passes.

I have stated that, on arriving at Mattoax,

I found the battalion quartered in box cars switched

off on a side-track.  Close to the track was a

small station-house, used buy the Agent of the Road

and the telegraph operator.  This had a very small

upper room, which I took possession of for my own

quarters.  But this little station house was in a

deep cut, and my quarters were fearfully hot.  I

think I suffered from heat there more than in any

place I have ever been in, before or since.  More-

over, the cars occupied by the troops were ranted.

And I very soon got some tents, and had the men quar-

tered in them on the slope of the hill towards the

river.  My own tent, and the Adjutant’s, were pitch-

ed together higher up on the hill, immediately under

the fort, in a position from which I could see every-

thing that was going on.

The construction of the fort was conduct-

ed by an engineer officer, with negroes furnished by

the neighbors; and my men had nothing to do.  There-

fore, after the daily duties of the camp were over,

as there was no need to keep them confined to the

camp, leaves of absence were freely given, and they

went visiting about the neighborhood, to their great

delectation – for they were everywhere most kindly

received and entertained, as was the wont in Virgin-

ia in those days.

My own time was very largely taken up with

a study of the country in the vicinity of the post,

with a view to the defence of the two bridges against

a possible raid.  And, as my own horse, under the

care of old Joe, the fifer, arrived after a while, I

could do this at my own convenience.  When I had en-

tirely learned the topography of the country so far

as was necessary to the defence of the two bridges,

I set the men to work to keep up their drill both as

infantry and artillery – guns, six and twelve pound-

ers, having been sent for the armament f our little


* * * * *



        This horse of mine, named Bessie, became

a great favorite with your mother.  She used to ride

her a great deal during our stay at Mattoax, when I

would get some other, either from the Quartermaster

or at The Oaks.  It will be seen later that my horse

was paroled at Appomattox.  She was faithfully tak-

en home by the man in charge of her, and put in a sta-

ble in Aunt Adeline’s yard.  Unfortunately, there

was a hole in the partition which separated her stall

from another.  She contrived to get one of her feet

through this hole, and in struggling to get it out,

was thrown down.  She was unable to get up again,

and, being very weak from a long journey and want of

food, struggled herself to death before morning.

* * * * *

        At first, after our arrival at Mattoax,

and the organization of the force for protection a-

gainst raiders, we were under the immediate command

of Brig Genl Martin.

* * * * *


        Genl Martin’s first wife was one of the

Read sisters, mentioned in a previous note, and again

later, which I had forgotten when adding that note on

going over my narrative for the purpose of supplying

any omissions.

Click on this link to see photos of The Oaks and its interior.  You’ll see the stairs where William Starr Basinger heard Margaret Roane Garnett’s quick step.

Here’s a beautiful find.  Thank you, internet.  It’s an old map of Amelia County on the Library of Congress site.  The map was made by Major General J. F. Gilmer, also mentioned in the “Reminiscences”.  When you manipulate the image and look at the northeasterly point, you can find the location of The Oaks at “Miss Jones”, and further north from there, you can find the location of “Mr. Boiseau”.  Do you see “Matoax Station & Bridge”?

The house at The Oaks was moved to 307 Stockton Lane, Richmond, Virginia, by railcar.

We found the house.  We followed the map, but went past it, as has been our protocol on this trip.  It’s for sale, which was a lucky bonus for us, because we were able to find the real-estate listing and to view the interior of the home.















Did you notice that I keep objects between myself and the house, as though I expect someone to burst forth from the house with blazing six-shooters?  Sugar is bold and walks right up to the house, but neither of us had the nerve to ring the doorbell.  I asked would he please call the realtor and explain who he is so we can get inside the house?  You know that the house would be in perfect order since it’s for sale.

There are some things that even I can’t imagine doing.

But don’t you love the love story?  It’s better than Gone With The Wind.


From Amelia County To Richmond

July 31, 2013

After the excitement of finding the Wigwam and not getting apprehended for trespassing, we headed on to Richmond.  We had reservations at the Museum District B&B, west of downtown.

We missed our exit.  Suddenly I realized the area we were in was sketchy, that we had gone far too far, and that we were almost into Richmond proper.  We found ourselves heading on a bridge over the Appomattox James River, and Sugar crowed, “It’s the Mayo Bridge!  That’s my people!”

Yes, of course, he’s related to the Mayo family, too.  And we would not have seen the Mayo bridge had we not missed the correct exit.  He was as happy as a pig in slop over that, but me?  I was nervous that we were stuck on a circular path in downtown Richmond.  We pulled over, and checked the map.  Again.

Somehow we found our way to where we were supposed to be.


We stayed in the garage.


Well, not exactly the garage. It was a cute little freestanding garage apartment.


It was behind the main building next to the parking area. There’s a little porch that looks out on the patio between it and the house.

Y’all, that was a lot of history for twenty-four hours.  I need a nap.

The Wigwam, Amelia County, Virginia

July 31, 2013

Sugar volunteered to drive.  Before the trip, he made sure that I had new glasses so that I could read the road signs.  It’s amazing to see (pardon the pun) how much I had been missing.  I could actually be a handy spotter instead of just blindly driving the van.

He said that we were to look for Giles Road.  Just like that, he said Giles Road.  He’d never mentioned Giles Road before.  How did he suddenly know that?  Was he saving up his smarts to trot out in a moment of crisis?

He was busting along at a good smart clip, and I saw it on the right.  Giles Road, also known as Route 636.  Sugar was right again, and he drove right by it, he was going so fast.

I really hadn’t believed that he knew what he was talking about with all the chatter about Giles Road, yet there it was.  He did a quick turnaround, and I got out the camera.  That’s right, I had put the camera away because we weren’t going to find anything good to photograph.


And as we drive along Route 636, we see the sign for Route 637.  There really is such a road.  It’s just not on the map.



The Wigwam
CIRCA 1790



Do you see a “No Trespassing” sign?


No.  No, you do not.




Notice the antenna.  I’m hanging out the passenger window.  When I was growing up in Tennessee, there was an unspoken rule that you do not turn around in someone’s driveway, even if it means that you drive for miles to find a turnaround.  I’m a bit nervous about this, this driving down a driveway thing.


I can’t believe we found it.



After a quick circle of the driveway’s turnaround, we stopped half-way back to the road to admire the horses from afar.


We found The Wigwam.  Who knew?


Onward To Amelia County, Virginia: On The Trail Of William Starr Basinger & Margaret Roane Garnett

July 30, 2013

From Petersburg to Amelia County, there is no direct route. It’s a good example of a classic dilemma in the South when giving directions: “You can’t get there from here.” Anyone not from the South can’t quite understand the logic, but it’s true, nonetheless. You have to go somewhere else to get to where you are going.

Day Two of the trip:  We puzzled over the map, Pop-eye style, and saw that we were going to have to sort out a path while we were on the way.  Google was no help; it sent us somewhere else to get to where we wanted to go, in true Southern fashion.

It wasn’t so much that we wanted to see Amelia Courthouse, but it seemed that we could reconnoiter when we got there.  Our true mission was to find the plantation The Oaks, even though the house had been moved from there to Richmond almost one hundred years ago.  And perhaps some lunch could be found.

We crossed over the Amelia County line.  Not far into Amelia County, we passed by an old building with an odd collection of items and a man in a recliner on the front porch.  He called out to us as we passed by, and Sugar said to turn around and go back to see if the man knew where Mattoax was.

Turns out, the man didn’t know where it was, so perhaps it didn’t exist any more.  If anyone knew where Mattoax was, it should have been this man, but after further conversation, he had only been out of the state of Virginia a few times in his life.  He asked where we were from, and when we said South Carolina, he looked wistful and said he had always wanted to go to South Carolina.  His name was Jimmy Olgers, and he was the high mayor and proprietor of Olgers Museum.  He said that this great-grandfather was in the battle at Saylor’s Creek.  Sugar didn’t chime in and say that his great-grandfather had been there, too.  He let the man have his moment and wax rhapsodic about the good old days.

He invited us into his museum, but declined to accompany us because of health reasons.  The museum was actually the house he grew up in; he said that he was born in the back room.  There were things there that should have been kept in a climate-controlled vault, like books and newspapers.  There were hand-lettered memorials to his family members where Jimmy had listed names and relationships and dates of birth and death.  It was the most unusual collection of items I had ever seen, like kewpie dolls, advertising signs, utensils, tools, and bric-a-brac.

There was a collection urn at the entrance for donations for the upkeep of the museum.  Sugar dropped in a donation.  After we finished the tour, we stopped back at the front porch, and Mr. Jimmy talked some more.

He eyeballed Sugar, and said, “How old are you?”

Sugar:  How old do you think I am?

Mr. Jimmy:  Take off your hat!

(Sugar removed his ball cap.)

Mr. Jimmy:  Seventy-one!

(One of the reasons I call him Sugar is because his hair is white like sugar.  There’s other reasons, too.)

Sugar:  (exhales loudly)

Sugar:  That’s right.  (Not true.)

Mr. Jimmy:  (Delightedly)  I knew it!  I’m always right!

Mr. Jimmy:  Why, that woman is twenty-five years younger than you!

YoursTruly:  Heh!  (Sugar clapped his ball cap back on his head.)

Mr. Jimmy:  She’s your *second* wife, isn’t she?

Sugar:  (Nodding his head.)  That’s right.  (He considered retrieving his donation.)

We said good-bye to Mr. Jimmy, who started talking about a Civil War battle that happened across the road at his ancestor’s house, and we headed in a westerly direction.

Somehow, we made it to Amelia Courthouse, the county seat where the historical society was located.  It was closed – the historical society, not the county seat – because it was Memorial Day, duh us, but also due to construction.


Well, now, that’s awkward.  The only day in our life to be in Amelia County for historical research, and we are going to have to rely on our notes, our memories, and Sugar’s great-grandfather’s Book of Reminiscences, and then we discover that he has forgotten the book.

At this point, it hardly mattered, because there is a historical marker for William Branch Giles, yet another one of Sugar’s ancestors.



Noted lawyer and statesman William Branch

Giles was born12 Aug. 1762 in Amelia County

and educated at Hampden-Sydney College,

Princeton, and the College of William and

Mary.  Giles served Virginia in the United

States House of Representatives (1790-1798

and 1801-1803) and in the U.S.  Senate (1804-

1815), where he was a chief Republican ally

of Thomas Jefferson during the Republican

and Federalist party debates of that era.

Giles was elected governor by the General

Assembly in 1827 and served until 1830.  He

participated in the state constitutional conven-

tion of 1829-1830.  Giles died 4 Dec. 1830

in Amelia County and is buried near the

Wigwam, his house, which stands to the north-

west on Rte. 637.

Hmmm, Route 637.  It’s not on the map.  We circled around the downtown area, which was quite small and closed up tight as a drum.  Sugar spotted a man outside what appeared to be a bed-and-breakfast, and he commanded the van to a halt.

The man said that it used to be a bed-and-breakfast, but when the economy failed, they started taking in long-term renters instead.  He didn’t know where Mattoax or the Wigwam or Route 637 were. and he produced a little map of the local area, which also did not have Route 637 on it.  There were some numbers that were close, and we wondered if the route number on the historical marker was incorrect.

He gave us general directions heading east, and after our goodbyes, we headed over to a four-lane divided highway.  We were looking for Chula, and thought that we had missed our turn, with that typical nervousness that lost people with poor directions have.  So we stopped at a sandwich shop, one of the few places that was open.

The sandwich shop has a good crowd of local folks, but we didn’t ask anyone, not even the police officers, where Mattoax or Route 637 might be.  We’d already struck out with Mr. Jimmy and the B and B guy, so it was beginning to look doubtful that local folks could help.

So we looked at the map of Richmond and the surrounding area ONE MORE TIME, and headed east again on the four-lane, Highway 360, also known as Patrick Henry Highway.

Highway 604, Chula Road, turned left off of Patrick Henry Highway, so we did, too.  A car behind us rode our bumper as we crept along looking for Mattoax Lane on the right.  This continued forever, or perhaps about 15 minutes, and as the car raced past us downhill, we saw it on the right.  Mattoax Lane.

There’s nothing left of Mattoax.  No train station, no post office, just a little lane that winds along to the Appomattox.  We followed the lane along to almost the end, a green, leafy amble past fields and trees and not much else.

The lane ended in a gateway for a restricted community.  No trespassing.  We were so close to finding where The Oaks was.  No trespassing.  We did not feel like going to jail on this day, so we turned around and headed back out Mattoax Lane.

We drove further along Chula Road where it stayed Highway 604 but became Genito Road.  We knew that it crossed the Appomattox at some point, so if we only had a boat, we could float down the Appomattox past the old location of The Oaks.

A photo of the Appomattox will have to do for now.  The bridge was quite high and cars were whizzing also.  This was a totally unsafe maneuver on my part, but I had to get the shot.


Our next plan was to find The Wigwam, even though we were feeling discouraged at not being able to get to The Oaks property.

We headed back toward Chula, and I pulled over to get a shot of the Mattoax Lane sign.

IMG_3986 (2)


Well, this wasn’t helping us find Route 637, so Sugar proposed another turn-around to head north of Chula to find The Wigwam.  We wound around a good bit, grateful for a large tank of gas, and Sugar pointed to another lane that headed south, which was not the direction we should be going in, but we are on vacation, and in no hurry, so why not?

A turn in the road revealed a brick church, which looked exactly like the church that Sugar’s cousin found perhaps twenty-five years ago as the location of where William Starr Basinger and Margaret Roane Garnett got married.





This was exactly the church where they were married, except it wasn’t.  Sugar’s cousin found the wrong church.  But this is exactly the church where Sugar’s cousin had his photo taken on the steps.

You might ask why this looks like the back of the church is facing the road.  You are very clever, and you already know the answer.  The road was not here when the church was built.  There was another road in front of the church which was further into the valley, and apparently was impassable from time-to-time, so a new road.


The true front.


Hickory nuts were everywhere, and we saw chipmunks scampering about.

Hickory nuts were everywhere, and we saw chipmunks scampering about.


We headed on in search of The Wigwam.  Did we find it?  Stay tuned.


The Folly Castle, Petersburg, Virginia: Or, Sugar Runs With Scissors

July 28, 2013

Sugar has a theory.

Sugar thinks that when you need a pair of scissors, nothing else will do.

Basically, I’m good with that.  More importantly, I believe that when you have sewing scissors, you do not cut hair or paper with them.  Just ask any seamstress, or your mother.

I, however, do not see the need to buy several more pairs of scissors just because we walk by the $1 bin at Lowe’s.  Apparently, at Sugar’s house, scissors go the way of safety pins and paper clips at other people’s houses.  Perhaps his dogs take them outside and do some minor landscaping and haircuts.

Sugar keeps a pair of scissors in the van.  I’m not good with that.  I imagine a flying projectile in an accident.  There’s a pair in the van anyway.


We found the Folly Castle  with no problem.  It was not what I expected, and I can’t find very much written about it that is not repetitive.  Sugar wanted to stay at Folly Castle, because it’s supposed to be a bed-and-breakfast, but the phone number was disconnected, and the last online review was written years ago.


We are facing towards Petersburg.


We are facing away from Petersburg, and the sign is identical on both sides.












Not a castle at all by today’s standards, but old terminology says that it can be referred to as a castle.

You can read more about the history of the neighborhood here.


For. Sale.



We found this property to be vacant/abandoned. This information will be reported to the
mortgage holder. The mortgage holder has the right and duty to protect this property. The
property may be rekeyed and/or winterized within 3 days. If this property is NOT VACANT,
please contact Safeguard Properties at 877-340-8482.
Code Enforcement & Building Officials: For any issues at this property please contact
Safeguard Properties Code Enforcement Dept. at 800-852-8306, extension 2173 or



Through the window.


Yes, through the window.


Over the fence on the left side of the house.


Over the fence on the right side of the house.


More over the fence on the right side of the house.


Across the street.

We got back in the van, and Sugar rustled around and came up with a pair of scissors.  He said, “I’ll be right back”, and he hustled back to the front of the house and disappeared behind the bushes on the left side of the front porch.


He had spotted a lone rose growing between the bushes and the house.  I never noticed it, and I wonder how a rose bush that needs at least 8 hours of sunlight could live in the shadows and produce this beautiful rose.


Have scissors, will travel.


Peter Jones Trading Station, Petersburg, Virginia

July 25, 2013

The Peter Jones Trading Station was not an easy thing to find.  We wandered around and around the streets of Petersburg.  I was driving, and I eye-balled the map one more time.  I found where we were, and where we wanted to be, and somehow the van found the ruins.  We don’t use GPS because we think that the search is part of the adventure.  That, plus the fact that we don’t have GPS.

There’s a parking area at the foot of the hill, near the river, although you can’t see the river for the dense foliage.  We parked and walked up and around the site in a clockwise fashion.



This monument stone sits on a 10’

deep concrete bunker that was

discovered during construction,

together with portions of an

abandoned railroad track.  The

bunker was used to store coal for

the furnaces in the large buildings

which once stood on the site.  The

coal was conveyed by use of a metal

augur which is still in place at the

rear of the bunker.



The building  before you was built as part of a trading station set up

during the middle of the 17th century by Peter Jones I and his

father-in-law Major General Abraham Wood.  The building is

known variously as Peter Jones Trading Station, Peter Jones

Trading Post, and Old Stone Lumberhouse, but it is only one of the

structures that made up the trading complex within the village

which began as Fort Henry.  Some old maps refer to this location as

Appamattuck, Wood, and Fort Henry.

Fort Henry was established in 1646 at the falls of the Appomattox

River as the last fort along the Virginia Fall Zone to protect English

settlers from Powhatan uprisings.  Peter Jones’ and General Wood’s

trading complex within the Fort Henry lands was at the limit of

navigations on the Appomattox River.  Eventually, a village grew up

along Old Street just east of here.  This location served as a supply

and administrative depot at the frontier for various exploratory and

trade ventures to the west and southwest.  The area to the immediate

west was laid out as the town of Petersburg in December of 1738.  In

1733 Petersburg had been named by William Byrd II partly for his

friend Peter Jones Jr.  Just behind you is what was the Upper or

“Oyster Shell” Landing which served during the 17th and 18th

centuries as a small river port.  The small bay and docking areas

were filled in during the building of the railroads to the mid 19th

century and later.



Of rubble stone construction, this building appears to have been  built

sometime between 1650 and 1750.  Its type of construction is unique to

the Fall Zone where stone can be quarried from the building site’s

environs.  Between 1785 and 1791 the building served as Petersburg’s

first magazine for powder and arms storage.  There was a disastrous

fire in this area in 1808.  Insurance records show another fire occurred

in 1840 followed by a renovation of the building in 1845.  The earliest

extant photographs show this renovated building.

The structure served as a detention facility during the Civil War

principally to house both recalcitrant Virginians and captured

northern soldiers.  At one point after the Battle of the Crater, the

facility housed captured Native-American Federal soldiers from

Michigan and Confederate soldiers serving punishment for military

offenses.  The brick addition may have been built during this period.

In the 20th century, the building served a variety of purposes, last

as part of a granary gutted by a destructive fire in 1980.


We saw this style of guttering throughout the area. A line of brick laid end to end form the lowest center part, and other bricks laid perpendicularly complete the trough.







This building is to our left as we head up the hill, and is not related to the site. Later pictures show this building again, because there is no way to take a photo of the site from certain angles without including this building.



You are looking into the bowels of this building from

near the attic downward to the second, first, and

basement levels.  You see a massive, rubble-stone

structure with stone walls approximately 2’8” thick

at the basement level which taper slightly toward the

top of the building.  About two-thirds of the stone

walls and a chimney with two fireplaces still stand.

Viewed through the open doorway is the brick

kitchen which was constructed at a later date using

pictures and brick wall remnants to restore as much

as the original.  Several fires and reconstructions over

many years have changed the appearance and use of

this building.  The building today consists mostly of

the remnants from a disastrous fire in the late 20th


The building was used to store trade goods.  Old

photographs show the remains of a block-and-tackle

arrangement to lift goods from one story to another.

The goods could be moved easily by cart down the

hill to rudimentary docks where small boats,

dugouts, and canoes could carry them downstream.

Some trade goods designated for settlers and Indians

in the West and South were carried by horse trains.

Goods acquired from the Indians and settlers were

brought back here by the traders for sale and

shipping principally to England.


Once again the sun in the western sky shows how the building is oriented. I’m imagining that these fireplaces were built against the north wall to dispel dampness and to add light to the dark corners. I don’t know that for a fact.


Now we’re at the top of the hill facing the opposite side of the chimney wall.  A mural is located here, with a plaque to its left which I have transcribed below.


More verbiage.


Immediately to your right is a mural adapted from a drawing

by William Waud which appeared in Harper’s Magazine during

the Civil War.  The mural is an artist’s impression of the Petersburg

waterfront on the Appomattox River – probably at City Dock just

downriver from here – showing how some of the wharves and

contemporaneous boats may have looked during that period.  At

that time, the City of Petersburg had about 18,000 inhabitants.

Five railroads had been established since the 1830’s heading in and

out of the city, as well as several important manufacturing industries.

Petersburg, formerly Fort Henry, was a bustling trade center from

its founding in the 17th century due to the good trails and roads

along the Fall Zone into central and western North Carolina, and a

navigable canal just above the harbor leading west.  The

Appomattox remained open to relatively shallow draft sailing

vessels, barges, and flatboats:  the railroads had taken over much

of the shipment of goods formerly carried by ships.  The “Peter

Jones Trading Station” had been an important part of Petersburg’s

trade and commerce in the mid-to-late 1600’s, for it served as the

locus of river and land trade.

One of the structures in the trading operation was the “Old Stone

Lumberhouse” to your front.  This structure variously served as a

headquarters for trade with western settlers, Indian tribes, and

foreign countries – especially England – and as a storage place for

trade goods, then powder and guns after the Revolutionary War.

It was the departure point for various explorations of the western

and southern regions of Atlantic America.  What you see here are

the remnants of the circa 1844 renovation of the building which

was destroyed almost completely during a fire in 1980.  The

building was probably built sometime between the mid-1600s

to the early 1700s of rubble stone.  It served as the City’s powder

magazine from 1785 to 1791.

During its long history, the trading station saw its commerce

carried by various types of vessels as far as London, to various

American coastal ports by barges, flatboats, ferries, canoes,

canoas (hollowed out logs), wagons, horse trains (as far as Alabama),

railroads, oxen-pulled tobacco hogsheads, and small rowboats.  From

the port, Petersburg exported such materials as deerskins, lumber,

ship’s masts, tobacco, foodstuffs including wheat and flour; and later

manufactured goods and seafood including caviar.

One block west on Grove Avenue Johnson’s Alley is the entrance

to the historic site known as Harvell’s (Jones’ or Bolling’s) Dam,

located where the great falls of the Appomattox River meet the

tidewaters of the ocean 100 miles to the east.  Approximately four

blocks to the west is the traditional site of Fort Henry.  In 1646, the

fort was given to Abraham Wood.  From it in 1650 Wood and Edward

Bland set out on an exploring expedition; and in 1671 Batte and

Fallam under Wood’s direction led the first expedition known to have

crossed the Appalachian mountains.


Sugar explores faster than I do.




The disastrous fire of 1980 destroyed the

roof and interior wood components of the

building which caused the huge stone walls

to collapse mostly into the interior.

Approximately 4,700 cubic feet of stone

walls were part of the rubble.  A view of

the 3 ½ story structure existing at the time

of the fire can be seen on the north side of

the building.  As a part of the history, most

of the rocks and stones have been preserved

and can be seen behind you on the hillside.

The stones used in the construction were

from the immediate area.  Many of the

variations in rocks can be viewed in the

“Introduction to Rocks” pictured here.  A

close inspection of both the interior and

exterior of the stone structure will find

examples of these rock classifications.  The

reflection of light from embedded mica

crystals in many of the stone give the

appearance of sparkling diamonds.



There’s our shadows waaaaay down in the hole.


The tippy-top of the fireplace wall.



You are standing within Lot Number One of the Old

town of Petersburg, as laid out for Abraham Jones,

Jr., in December of 1738.  The first owner was

William Byrd II of Westover.  William Pride

purchased the lot in 1745, and, entrepreneur that he

was, very likely constructed the tavern that stood

here during the Revolution and afterwards, known

as James Durell’s Tavern for its operator, and, after

1791, owner.  The tavern was prepared to entertain

George Washington on the second evening of his visit

in 1791, but the President rose at 3:00 in the morning

and rode north out of town.  Both Pride and Durell

owned both the tavern and the Upper landing (or old

stone warehouse) lots.  The tavern complex continued

in that usage through the 1820s.  B the 1940s, the lot

was occupied by Ritchie’s Seed and Feed, which

abutted and wrapped around the Peter Jones

Trading Post.  The seed and feed establishment

burned in a spectacular fire in 1980, substantially

destroying the Trading Post in the process.




Now we’re back at the parking area at the base of the hill looking upwards toward the site. You can just see the topmost fireplace over the roof of the addition.

Now we go in search of food and Folly Castle.  Folly Castle?  Truly a good name.


Blandford Church, Petersburg, Virginia

July 24, 2013

Sugar’s great-somebody-or-other was Peter Jones. I’ve seen through various sources that Petersburg was named for three Peter Jones. Instead of Jonesburg, we get Petersburg. Seems like a simple enough concept.

We had a plan.  Really, Sugar had a plan.  We would go to Petersburg, spend the night, take a tour of the Petersburg area in the morning, then head over to Amelia County for the afternoon, then on to Richmond that evening where we would check into the B&B that we had found online.


So we’re packed and ready to go, but first, we have to go to the Sugar’s Grooming & Boarding business to walk and feed the boarders.  It’s what we do every Sunday morning.  Business as usual.

Sugar had a momentary bit of panic when he realized that we were really making this trip, and he slammed the accelerator as we entered the business’s parking lot.  We careened through the parking lot, which isn’t paved with concrete, but with recycled asphalt which is supposed to pack down.  Some parts were more packed than others, resulting in an uneven surface.  Dear Lord help me.

My head slung around like a bobble-head doll, and I remember screaming, “Stop the car!”

He didn’t stop the car, but kept busting through the parking lot, which thankfully was empty except for the one insane vehicle that we were riding in.

My yelling “Put on the brakes!” did not cause the car to stop, either.  Sugar gained his sanity and foot-stomped the brake, and I bobble-headed towards the dashboard.

He calmly explained, “I drive like this all the time at work.  I’m in a panic all day long to deliver the mail on time.  I have to shortcut.”  I screeched something about riding with him for years, and he’s never driven like this.  It was clear that I was going to have to drive to Petersburg.

So we settled down, and took a deep breath, and took care of the boarders, then on to Petersburg.


I don’t remember anything special about the drive, thank God, and we arrived at the southern end of Petersburg in good order.  We decided to go ahead and head on into Petersburg, which was quite a radical plan, seeing as how it was on the schedule for the following day.  Sugar, deviate from a plan?  The world might stop.  Me, deviate from a plan?  What plan?


We’ve circled around the church from the main entrance. It’s quite hilly here.















This shot is from the rear of the church. Note: Western sun. We have plenty of daylight.







We didn’t find Peter Jones, but we did find General Joseph Jones.


In Memory




Cedar Grove Petersburg

1749 – 1824

Churchman, Patriot, Soldier.

Vestryman Bristol Parish 1773.

Member of Committee of Public

Safety 1775.

Captain Virginia Line 1776 – 79.

Colonel of Militia 1793.

Lieutenant and Member of

House of Delegates

Dinwiddie Co. 1793.

Major General 1802.

Postmaster of Petersburg and

Collector of the Port 1821 0 24.


This stone is part of the original

Tomb at Cedar Grove.

Erected by Frances Bland Randolph

Chapter D. A. R.




Now we’re looking at the front right corner of the church.







Next stop:  The Peter Jones Trading Post.


Sugar Plans A Vacation

July 24, 2013

Sugar got a bee in his history bonnet.  He wanted to look up some of his dead ancestors, but that meant we had to go to Virginia.  That is nowhere near where we live.  It’s as far away as the moon.

The sketchy plan involved a stopover in Petersburg to see the Blandford Church, then on to Amelia County where William Starr Basinger met Margaret Roane Garnett, then on to Richmond.  We did not know at the time that you can’t go from Petersburg to Amelia County without going somewhere else first.

Moon, here we come…


Mother’s Day, 2013, at Laurel Grove Cemetery

July 23, 2013

Sugar and I went to Laurel Grove Cemetery on Mother’s Day, 2013.  Neither one of us have a mother there.  We simply wanted to check on the crape myrtles that he pruned in January.

We had checked on them on Easter, and they were growing back from the severe pruning he gave them.

Today, we find that they are indeed growing.




A little ladybug down in this clump of foliage ran further down into the clump, presumably to go check on her children.


One of Sugar’s cousins reconnected with him because of this blog. Whenever I’m at Laurel Grove with a camera in hand, I try to take a photo of her mother’s and father’s grave.





Another shot of the previous grave markers. I like the pattern of the morning sun through the fence.



This mockingbird on the roof of a nearby mausoleum calls out, “Happy Mother’s Day!”, although it sounded like “tweetle tweetle tweet”.


When we headed back to the car, another mockingbird was attacking the mirrors on the van. He flew into a nearby tree.

While we watched from the back of the van, he went from side to side, attacking the intruder in the mirror.








Sugar thinks that maybe the mockingbird was a juvenile trying to establish territory and to protect his property.

It’s good to know the cemetery plot will be protected.  Apparently birds love history and dead people, too.


And Finally: A Kitten Post

July 22, 2013

Everyone knows what happens on April 15, don’t they?

That’s right!  It’s when kitten season begins for real.  I got the first call of the season to bottle-feed 6 newborn kittens on April 15 of this year.

There’s a story behind every new litter.  Sometimes we know the story, and sometimes we just make things up.  A lot of people have only bad things to say about people who put out litters, or move away leaving their animals shut up inside the house or apartment or trailer, or want to give away puppies or kittens or dogs or cats – free to a good home.  I say that desperate people do desperate things.  I’ve been desperate before.  I stole a roll of toilet tissue once from a public bathroom.  That’s desperate.  Can anyone judge another?  Of course we can, but let’s not.  Let’s help where we can.  Enter kittens.

The shelter called me to ask if I would bottle-feed 6 newborn kittens.  You’ve already heard that part of the story, but the story behind that is this:  Someone put a this newborn litter into a small dog bed, covered them with a blankie, put them into a cardboard box turned on its side, and set them out on a popular nature trail, perhaps on the evening of April 14, a Sunday.  That night was a downpour, which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the rain caused the predators to stay home and not go out in search of food, like newborn kittens with the umbilical cords attached.  The next day, Monday, April 15, someone found the box, and the kittens, still huddled on the bed under the blankie, made their way to the shelter.

This photo is 6 babies, brand-new, tucked into a towel which is tucked into my green wool hat.  Two calicoes, two blacks, one tuxedo, and one white with black markings.

This photo is 6 babies, brand-new, tucked into a towel which is tucked into my green wool hat. Two calicoes, two blacks, one tuxedo, and one white with black markings.

I made a deal with the shelter.  I would feed the kittens at night if they could feed them during the day.  I’ve bottle-fed kittens before, and after 48 hours of round-the-clock feeding, I. am. goo.  So the split-parenting worked out really well for two weeks, when the shelter found a nursing mother.  Oh, my heart be still.

The mother rejected them.

And it just so happened, because it is kitten season, that there was another nursing mother who took them in.

Mama & babies

Sadly, the two calicoes did not make it out of infancy.  One died at about one week, and the one in the photo above died later that night.  But she was with me.

Then I got a single neonate, who died in twenty-four hours, then another litter of four, who also died in twenty-four hours.  They had no nursing instinct at all.  Then a litter of five, four of whom died over the course of four weeks, and lastly a little orange babe found by a drainage pipe, who also died in twenty-four hours.


We sat with our basket of kittens outside Panera Bread in Savannah on Father’s Day after visiting the Laurel Grove Cemetery. Kittens need to learn about history and lunchtime, too.

And now the “Soul” survivor of the litter of five is living at Sugar’s grooming salon until he is big enough to be neutered and then he will be ready for a home.






So for now, it looks like it’s near the end of kitten season.  Sugar and Soul sit under the oaks at the nature trail near where the first litter was found.  If you click on the image of Sugar and Soul, you should get an enlargement.  You have to look closely for Soul, even though he’s right by Sugar’s side.

Full circle?  I hope so.