A Monument to Booker T. Washington

Virginia has been in the news this year for a violent alt-right rally centered around a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville.  Public opinion is mixed about how to respond. In fact, public opinion is mixed about exactly what is or what are the problem(s) that need to be addressed.  We have yet to be able to have a responsible dialog as thoughtful adults. Maybe we’ll get there. I hope so.

I don’t have an opinion on the statues so I am not going to offer one.  I do have an observation, however.  In the rural areas of Virginia, there are precious few monuments to anything other than the Civil War and that seems like an oddity to me.  Roanoke is not so bad.  It’s got some great monuments – like the firefighter monument at the Museum of Transportation and the monument to fallen officers in front of the police station.  Greensboro has the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park commemorating the Revolutionary War.  When you get into rural Virginia, however, there are pretty much only Civil War monuments.  It’s as if there have been no notable people or events in the past 150 years, although I am absolutely sure that that is not true.

One notable exception to this is the Booker T. Washington National Monument about an hour north of Henry County on the way to Smith Mountain Lake.  Continue reading “A Monument to Booker T. Washington”

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A Little Gilded Age Tobacco Money

I am fascinated by the Gilded Age.  The termed was coined in the 1920’s (credited to Mark Twain) and refers to a period from 1870 to 1900 when a few Americans made obscene fortunes and competed with each other in the ostentatious display of their wealth.  They thought that they were building monuments for all time in the elaborate homes that they built, quite often copying country estates in Europe.  Instead, they built albatrosses that succeeding generations simply could not afford to maintain.  While most of the mansions that I’ve read about were built (and often subsequently torn down) in New York or Newport, RI, at least one – the Biltmore – was actually built not far from here in Asheville, North Carolina.   Continue reading “A Little Gilded Age Tobacco Money”

Creek Bottom Brews – Galax

The leaves have been late to change this year but, like everyone else, we’ve been anxious to get out and see them anyway. We knew not to expect much last weekend so our plan was to stop at Lovers Leap Scenic Outlook in Meadows of Dan and see what the color looked like.  If it was impressive, we’d hit the Parkway.  If not, we’d drive past the Parkway to Galax and stop in at a new craft beer brewpub we’d found on the way to Damascus last time. The color at Lovers Leap was not impressive. Continue reading “Creek Bottom Brews – Galax”

The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum

Some of the prettiest pictures I have of Virginia in the fall are from the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum, Virginia.

These are photos that I took last year when the leaves were at their peak.  They are a little bit behind schedule this year and I’m afraid that I’ll miss this year’s festival so it’s been on my mind the last couple of days.   Continue reading “The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum”

Day Trip Down The Virginia Creeper

If you are looking for a fun, quick, and inexpensive way to make wonderful memories over a weekend (or a weekday), we have FOUND it.

Damascus, Virginia is about a 3 to 3.5 hour drive west from Henry County.  It’s a possible day trip but six hours on the road deserves a little bit of rest along with the fun, so we opted to take a leisurely drive out to Damascus on a Saturday, ride the Virginia Creeper Trail on Sunday morning , and then be back home by that afternoon.   Continue reading “Day Trip Down The Virginia Creeper”

The Other War

You have to understand that, when a Texan hears the words “the war for independence”,  the first thing that comes to mind is the Battle of San Jacinto,  the Alamo and Goliad, Santa Anna, and all that. For a Texan, “history” begins in 1836.  It takes a while for it to sink in, after moving to Virginia, that history does NOT start in 1836 and there was a bigger, much more important war well before that.

And so it’s understandable, when we recently took Mother down to see the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, North Carolina, that she assumed that it was related to the Civil War. It took a little while of wandering through the exhibits in the Visitor Center, seeing the red uniforms and the references to Generals Washington and Cornwallis, that she said, “Oh, this is that other war.” She has a way of dramatically understating things.  She was nonetheless quite impressed.

The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park is impressive.  There are two films in the Visitor’s Center, they have some fantastic exhibits, there is a walking tour and a driving tour to see the many monuments,  tour narrations on CD and via smartphone, and there are paths throughout the park that were virtually thronged with people on a hot September afternoon.  You could easily spend hours here.

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Monument to Major General Nathanael Greene at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, NC

When I first got to Henry County, Virginia, I wondered if there had ever been any British soldiers this far inland. We are, after all, around a five hour car ride away from the coast. What would that be on horseback through dense woods?

Guilford Courthouse pretty much answers that question. There were, at one time, quite a lot of them not far away at all. This battle was important to the American Revolution because, although the British won the battle, they lost so many men that it is seen as the turning point in the war.

One of the monuments there is to mark the spot where Brigadier General Edward Stevens was wounded during the battle while leading the Virginia Militia. There is remarkably little on the Internet specifically about this battle apart from the Wikipedia entry. Apparently, it wasn’t even named in the movie, “The Patriot”, even though it was a pivotal battle. I know that we shouldn’t use a Hollywood film to tell us about history but some things you just don’t expect them to get wrong or misrepresent.  It’s a shame, really.  A little more historical accuracy could have gone a long way.

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Monument to Brigadier General Stevens at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, North Carolina

A British “Red Coat” would seem pretty anachronistic at just about any event that I can think of in Texas, except for a 4th of July event.  Here, Revolutionary War reenactors are a common sight at even small community festivals.

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Revolutionary War Reenactors at Spencer Penn Pig Cooking Contest, April 2015

I love the connection to the colonial past that pervades life here on the East Coast.  It’s truly humbling for it to be pointed out that the USA was not a given; that there was ever any doubt that we, as a nation, would even exist.

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Revolutionary War Reenactors at Fieldale Heritage Festival, April 2015

I’d love to learn more about this specific area’s involvement in the Revolution as well as the Revolution itself. I’ve tried various books but keep getting bogged down in high-minded minutiae about the founding fathers.  My favorite history book, so far, has been “Lone Star: A History of Texas and The Texans” by T.R. Fehrenbach.  Does anyone have any suggestions for a good book (or books) on Virginia and its involvement in the American Revolution?