Archive for July 25th, 2013

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.

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CONCRETE BUNKER

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.

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PETER JONES TRADING STATION

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.

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PETER JONES TRADING STATION

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.

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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.

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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.

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Verbiage.

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

century.

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.

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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.

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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.

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More verbiage.

PETERSBURG’S ROLE IN TRADE

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.

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Sugar explores faster than I do.

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ROCK GARDEN

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.

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There’s our shadows waaaaay down in the hole.

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The tippy-top of the fireplace wall.

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TAVERN PARK

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.

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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.