Gifts from the Heart

25/03/14 10:00 PM


Since Brett and I started working on opening Belle Grove Plantation, we have been so blessed with so many wonderful donations. These “gifts” have been given to us with love and passion for the history that occurred here and for the love of the plantation today.

Over the past weeks, we have received so many new “gifts”. Each came as a surprise and each will be treasured. What wonderful pieces we have been able to add, all with comments on who gave them. Just think, in the future, these piece will become part of Belle Grove Plantation history.

Please allow us to show you the “gifts” and tell you the story of how they came to be with us.

The Dress


Dress without Jacket


Front of Dress without Jacket


Dress with Jacket


Front of Dress with Jacket


Back of Jacket


Sleeve of Jacket


Back of Jacket (hanging)


Dress without Jacket


Closures on Dress


Close up of Dress Lace

In December, 2013, a wonderful couple came to see us for a “get away” weekend. While I was showing the mansion, I showed them the Turner Suite. While in there, I spoke of my hope to find just the right dress to add to the suite to show what they would have worn during that time period. To our surprise, the couple had a dress that was owned by her Great Aunt Katherine. They thought it might be a Victorian Wedding Dress. To our shock, they offered to donate it to us.

When we received it, we were so overwhelmed by how wonderful it is. We aren’t sure if it is Victorian or possibly early 1900s, but either way, it is just beautiful. We are working on getting it professionally cleaned and identified as to what period.

The Pictures



We have had guests that have come to the plantation who feel an immediate connection. It is one of the best parts of being a part of this plantation. One such couple came to see us about one month ago. They had selected the Madison Suite for their stay. As most that come to stay with us, this couple checked in on Friday evening and spent Saturday exploring the area. While in Fredericksburg, they decided to do some antique shopping.

Now if you follow our blog and facebook, you know antique shopping is one of my favorite pass time. When they returned that evening, the couple asked Brett and I up to their suite to show us something. To our surprise, they had found two pictures of President James Madison and Dolley Madison. They had purchased them for us to add to the walls of the Madison Suite. It would be the first portraits of them that we would add, making them even more special to us.

The Dishes



Just last week, we hosted a tour of the mansion for a local Sunday School Class. This tour was made even more special by adding a tour of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. (I will be writing more about that tour next). While touring the mansion, one of the ladies noticed our china that we use for our day to day ware. It is a set I found in the basement of an antique shop in Fredericksburg. It is Noritake China, Barrick Pattern. I have since looked for additional pieces, only to find them either hard to find or way out of our price range.

At the end of the week, I received a phone call from this lady. She told me that she noticed our set and thought she had one like it at home. Her set is Noritake China, Batista pattern. She told me that she was down sizing her home and that she would like to donate her incomplete set to us. We were again surprised and so excited. She and her husband delivered the set on Sunday. To our amazement, the patterns are almost the same. They just look beautiful together. Now we have not just 10 place settings, but 17 place settings!

The Books

When we first arrived at the plantation (April 1, 2013) we decided to conduct a “Virtual Housewarming Party”. This “party” was to help us fill our historic library with books selected by our supporters. We were just amazed at all the books that made their way to our doors. The best part is that most have the names, dates and places the books came from. So not only are the books a part of the history of Belle Grove Plantation, but the names of those who gave will endure as well.

Most of the books came from our followers on our Virginia Plantation Blog, which we started in May 2012. Since we started the blog, we have reach an amazing 162 countries and have just over 5,100 followers. We have received books from as far away as South Austria and England.

Even though the “Virtual Housewarming Party” has stopped, we are still accepting books. We have guests and visitors that come with books in hand, each as precious to us as any dollar given.

Here are just a few that we have recently received.


“Birthplace of a Nation: A Story Worth Telling” by Carl F. Flemer, Jr.

This book was donated by a very dear friend who has supported us almost from the beginning. The book was written by a local author who just happens to own Ingelside Vineyards and Plantation. We were so honored to have Mr. Flemer come to Belle Grove Plantation to tour it not long ago.


“Man Hunt – The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer” by James L. Swanson

This book was given to us by two dear friends who started as guests from Maryland. They knew we are preparing for our Civil War Day and John Wilkes Booth Trail, so this book was a great addition to our growing collection.


“James Madison – A Biography in His Own Words”

This book was given to us by a very special couple who conducted their wedding at Belle Grove Plantation in March 2014. This couple has a very special connection to the plantation as she is a “Turner”. They gave us this book in memory of their wedding.


“The Declaration of Independence” by Rod Gragg and “American Presidents” by Chuck Willis

These “Museum in a Book” books were given to us during our “Happy Birthday President Madison” weekend. Dr. Lynn Uzzell, the historic performer that plays Dolley Madison at Montpelier and is the Scholar in Residence for Montpelier. When she comes to visit Belle Grove Plantation, she always comes with books in hand. We love having her visit with us and the books only add as reminders for those special times for us.


“Six Frigates – The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy” by Ian W. Toll

This book also came to us during our “Happy Birthday President Madison” weekend. John Douglas Hall, historic performer of President Madison at Montpelier, like Lynn, always comes with books in hand. Biographies of James Madison or like this book, ones that talk about the founding of our country. This book was extra special because Brett served as a Corpsman for 21 years in the Navy.

AA-Thank you

Brett and I would like to thank each and every person who have given to Belle Grove Plantation. We appreciate all those that give freely to our project and that help us create a future filled with special memories and special pieces. We could have never done so alone and we are so grateful to all.

If you wish to donate books or other items, we would be pleased to accept them. Our library collection is truly lacking in our “James Madison” section as well as our “Founding Fathers and Mothers, Constitution and American Revolution” section. Our “General Interest” section is spilling over.

To send items to us:

Belle Grove Plantation

9221 Belle Grove Drive

King George, Virginia 22485

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Gifts from the Heart

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