Gloucester County

Sep. 9th 2012

Holly Hill Antiques

In the coming weeks, we are going to be up at the plantation with several activities that we have going on, so we took advantage of this down weekend. Brett caught up on a few chores at our house in Chesapeake as well as catching a few college football games. I decided to head out for a day of antique shopping. I have just a few more plates to match to tea cups to complete my sets for the afternoon tea at Belle Grove. So I headed up to Gloucester to hit a few places I haven’t been yet.

My first stop was in Yorktown at The House Key Antiques and Interior Design. This is the company that will be assisting us in filling Belle Grove with wonderful antiques and interior décor. I spent about an hour discussing my ideas and wants for Belle Grove and getting some “homework” for us to do in order to help Susie and George in fulfilling our desired look for the plantation. With us having to wait four months for zoning, we are going to do as much as we can to prepare and find what we need so we don’t have too much more of a delay in opening Belle Grove.

I then headed to a local flea market called “Stagecoach Market and Antiques” located in Gloucester, Virginia. We have driven past this flea market many times on the way to Belle Grove and I wanted to stop and see what they had. There were some nice permanent shops there. One of these shops called “Catherine’s Place” had some really wonderful pieces. It was there that I found my first treasure of the day.

Catherine’s Place

After looking through a few more shops, I headed out to the Historic Glouchester downtown area. This is another location we have seen signs for as we drove to Belle Grove that I have wanted to see. Gloucester is a historic town that was formed in 1651 in the Virginia Colony. The county was named for Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, third son of King Charles I of Great Britain. Before the English arrived this area was inhabited by a Native American tribe in an area called Werowocomoco, a stronghold of the Powhatan Nation.

The English settlers would at arrive at Jamestown in 1607. These settlers would soon come  into conflict with the Native Americans as they competed for resources. In late 1607, John Smith was captured and taken to Powhatan at Werowocomoco, his eastern capital in the present day Gloucester County. According to legend, Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas saved John Smith from being executed by the tribe there.

Gloucester Court House

The center of Historic Gloucester has an area called Gloucester Court House. Here you will find a main street filled with quaint shops and dining. There is also a Court House Circle that has several colonial buildings and the Visitor Center. It was in Gloucester Court House that I made my next stop. “Wisteria Lane” had been recommended to me by someone at Stagecoach Market. What a wonderful shop! They have artwork, books and tons of silver! I wasn’t looking to purchase silver pieces this day, but now I have a place to go to find what I am looking for.

Wisteria Lane

My last stop was up the road a ways from Gloucester Court House. Located about four miles up John Clayton Memorial Highway, I found a wonderful historic farm, called Holly Hill Antiques that was filled with antiques as far as the eyes could see. The house located on this farm was built in 1880. There is a large barn, a very old shed and several smaller dependencies behind the house and barn. Every one of these buildings was filled with antiques!

Holly Hill Antiques

Holly Hill Antiques

Holly Hill Antiques

I started in the barn and spent a good thirty minutes walking up and down areas with every kind of antiques. There was art work, furniture, house ware, and even several wooden mermaids from old boats. I found several tea cups, which I didn’t buy because I have all I need right now. But there were no plates really in the barn. There were a few silver tea pots, but just not the right kinds I wanted for Belle Grove.

As I stepped out of the barn, I met one of the employees who shared with me some of the information of the house and buildings. Tara told me that the house was also open and would have what I was looking for as far as plates. She also directed me to one of the dependencies that might have some plates as well. I stopped first at the dependencies, but it was filled with mostly old kitchen items like cast iron pans and such.

Holly Hill Antiques

As I made my way up towards the house, I came up to one of the trees in the yard. Looking at this tree reminded me of our trip to Mount Vernon. It was as large as the trees we had seen there. Standing nearby was another employee who it turns out lived in the house as a child. I told her that this tree reminded me of the trees at Mount Vernon and that I bet it was here in the early 1700s as those at Mount Vernon had been. She agreed and said that she had no doubt it was.

Holly Hill Antiques

As I walked into the house, I was amazed at the amount of antiques in each room. Dishes and artwork were abundant. It was in the dining room that I found my second treasure of the day.

Holly Hill Antiques

Holly Hill Antiques

Holly Hill Antiques

Holly Hill Antiques

I made my way up to the second floor passing homemade quills hanging on the landing rails. It was funny, but I found myself looking more at the house than the antiques most of the time.

Holly Hill Antiques

Holly Hill Antiques

Holly Hill Antiques

Holly Hill Antiques

Holly Hill Antiques

I think the wallpaper amazed me the most. What wonderful old patterns it had. Upstairs there were four rooms and a bathroom in the back wing of the house. It even had a servant’s staircase that was blocked by antiques. I think I spent a good hour or two just looking around. Another thing that amazed me was the family pictures. Albums and wall-mounted pictures were all over the place. Looking at them, I wondered if they had lived there and what their lives must have been like.

Holly Hill Antiques

As I walked back to the car, Tara wished me a good day. I know that I didn’t see half of what this farm has to offer. I can see another trip here soon! If you love antiques and want a true treasure hunt, I wound highly recommend a detour down John Clayton Memorial Highway to this historic farm.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 20 Comments »

Back to the Beginning

Jun. 19th 2012

Belle Grove Plantation – Plantation side – Front Portico

Since we skipped ahead for Father’s Day, we need to return to the beginning to fill in the first part of the story. The history of this land that would become Belle Grove started hundreds of thousands of years before the arrival of English settlers. This land was inhabited by primitive people known by the artifacts found in the surrounding area. On the plantation next door to Belle Grove, primitive tools, shear heads and pottery have been discovered. One of these items has been examined and is considered to be over 10,000 years old.

Stone Tool

Leather Tanner



Captain John Smith

In 1608, Captain John Smith, explorer and soldier, sailed up the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers searching for areas to expand the new colonies. In his log, Captain Smith spoke of weather, the waterways and land around him.

Sunset view of the Rappahannock River from Belle Grove Plantation

“The temperature of this countrie doth agree well with English constitutions.”

“There is but one entrance by sea onto this country and that is the mouth of a very goodly Bay, the wideness of which is near 18 or 20 miles.”

“Within is a Country that may have the prerogative over the most pleasant places of Europe, Asia, Africa or America for larger and pleasant navigable rivers’ Heaven and Earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s being of our Constitutions were it inhabited by industrious people.”

Captain Smith also noted the many Indian Settlements along the river banks. These Indians were part of the Powhatan Nation.  This was a confederation of Indian tribes within Virginia. At the time of the settlement of Jamestown in 1607, it is believed that there were about 14,000 to 21,000 people in this nation. Wahunsunacawh, also known as Chief Powhatan, father of Pocahontas had brought together this nation of 30 tribes within the eastern side of Virginia in an area call Tsenacommacah (“densely-inhabited Land”). Each tribe had its own chief, but all tribes paid tribute to Chief Powatan.

Chief Powhatan

It is believed that the Nanzemond Indians were the tribe that inhabited the land, but I have not been able to confirm this. Since we have never had any archaeological digs at Belle Grove, I can only go with what has been passed down through local lore.  The closest tribes I do know that were in the area were the Potabago Indians of Essex County, Rappahannock Indians of Tappahannock and the Nanzatico Indians of King George. In my research, it looks more likely that it would have be one of these tribes that inhabited the land. The Nanzemond Indians seem to have been primarily located in and around the present day cities of Chesapeake and Suffolk, Virginia. Maybe the name Nanzemond got confused with the name Nanzatico as it was passed down from generation to generation.

Sir William Berkeley

The next mention of this land came when a royal land grant was given by Governor Sir William Berkeley to Thomas Chetwood and John Prossor. Under the Royal Charter of 1649 on September 28, 1667, 5275 acres of land, known as “Nauzem” was granted to Chetwood and Prossor in consideration for transporting 163 persons from England. Of these 5275 acres, it is said that the land that would become Belle Grove was the heart.

On April 13, 1670, John Prossor sold a 1,000 acre tract to Anthony Savage. I have found two names for this tract, one being “Mangecemuzen” and the other being “Mongoheocala”.  Anthony Savage was thought to be the son of John Savage of Castleton, Debyshire, England. His birth date is unknown. The earliest record of him places him in Gloucester County, Virginia in 1660, when he was commissioned as a Justice or Sherriff. Anthony Savage (died 1695) was married to Alice Stafford Savage (died 1701). The Savages had two surviving children, daughters Dorothy (1635-1702) and Alice (1653-1692). By the time, Anthony had purchased this tract, his daughter; Dorothy was already married to William Strother I and was living next door on a 500 acre plantation that they had purchased just six months before. His other daughter, Alice would marry Francis Thornton (1651-1726/27). Dorothy and William had six surviving children. Alice and Francis had seven surviving children. Two of these children, Margaret Thornton and William Strother II would marry.

One small note, I have been told that Lawrence Washington, grandfather of George Washington, grew up at Mattox Creek, just 9 or 10 miles from Belle Grove and he was childhood friends with William Strother II and Margaret Thornton.

Belle Grove Plantation

At the death of Anthony Savage, the 1,000 acre tract was divided into 700 acres for the Thornton family and 300 acres to be given to Margaret Thornton Strother and William Strother II. By this time, Alice Savage Thornton had passed and Francis Thornton had remarried. Francis Thornton, an attorney and land owner, was a very prominent attorney. In my research of archived items, I came across a large number of items with his signature. He also increased his land holding into Stafford County. At his death, most of his Stafford County land holdings went to his sons, but the 700 acre tract went to his eldest child, Elizabeth Thornton Gibson Conway (1673/74-1732). I believe she was already living on the tract prior to his death. She first married Jonathan Gibson (1672-1729) and had two surviving children. At Jonathan’s death, she married Edwin Conway (1653-1698). With Edwin, she had one more child, Francis Conway I (1696-1736).

(To Be Continued Tomorrow – the Conway Family)

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 30 Comments »

Adventure to Ham Town

Jun. 10th 2012

Ok, after my disappointment with the lawyers, I need to do some retail therapy. This time, I decided to venture to a new place for some new finds. Brett and I have lived in Chesapeake, Virginia for 20 years now. But in all of this time, we have never gone to Smithfield, Virginia. Well, we have gone there, but only to someone’s house in the outlying areas. What we haven’t seen is the Historic District in downtown Smithfield. So our daughter, Alexa and I headed there for a day of fun. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Our plantation is not in or anywhere near Smithfield)

Smithfield, Virginia – Historic District – Main Street

Now you may know the name Smithfield from the hams that come from there. Paula Dean has recently started promoting them. (Brett asked me if we got to see Paula Dean while we were there. Sorry Brett, Paula is in Georgia.) But there is a whole different side of Smithfield we had yet to discover. According to the brochure “Smithfield Virginia, Historic Downtown District Walking Tour” that we picked up at the Visitors Center along Main Street here is a little about Smithfield:

“Born on the banks of the Pagan River and nurtured by the trade and commerce that sailed on its tides, Smithfield was, from its very beginning, a “river town” and its whole life and growth have been conditioned by the river. On our walking tour of Smithfield’s old town district, you will see a harmonious blend of the 18 century Colonial, Federal, Georgian and Victorian period houses and buildings side by side. Settled primarily by British merchants and ship’s captains, Smithfield, a river port town, thrived for more than 20 years as a British colony before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Today the town boasts fifteen houses that are authentically 18th century, ten of which are brick and ten of which pre-date the Revolutionary War. In the early 19th century, a number of excellent Federal period homes were built, but it was after the Civil War, in about 1876 that the big building boom began. It was in this era of steamboats and the flourishing peanut industry in Smithfield that many of the elaborate Victorian homes were erected. Their ostentatious elegance of turrets, towers, stained glass windows and steamboat Gothic trimmings is easily evident. After the Warascoyak Indians, the first person to own land was Arthur Smith in Isle of Wight County. On September 10, 1637, he patented 1,450 acres of Isle of Wight County, described as ‘a neck of land running southeast along a creek behind the Pagan Shore. It was Arthur Smith IV, who in 1750 had the land surveyed and laid off as a town. Smithfield derived its name from this Smith family, not from John Smith of Jamestown. The town consisted of four streets and 72 lots. The principal streets, as shown on the original plat, are now Main Street to Institute Street, South Church Street to the bridge at Smithfield Station, South Mason Street and Cedar Street from South Mason Street to South Church Street. Within two years after the town was established, 59 of the 72 lots had been sold, and before the Revolutionary War all of the lots were sold. Each lot sold for four pounds, six shillings.”

When Alexa and I arrived I was struck by the homes along Main Street. As you roll into town, first the homes and then store fronts greet you. It is everything you would imagine as a small town. The first place we stopped was “Smithfield Gourmet Bakery & Cafe”. This cafe was in a small older building that once served as a retail store. We were greeted by the wait staff as they rushed to help the large number of guests in and outside the cafe. We were seated in the front window area, which gave us a good view of the street and traffic that passed by. This cafe served some of the best food! And it was not little town style food you might expect. The chef created a sandwich for me of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil and focaccia bread. Alexa had a turkey and roast beef with cheddar cheese on focaccia bread. The bread was made fresh and tasted it!

Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella on Focacia Bread – Smithfield Gourmet Bakery and Cafe

After we finished we headed out to shop. Our first stop was “Laura & Lucy’s”. This was a large antique store that once served as a retail space for a large department style store. It was beautiful inside with items arranged in “room” settings. I think I could have bought almost everything in there.

After this stop, we headed to the next shop, “Return Engagement Antiques and Consignments. This store was in an old house along Main Street. Each room was set up as a store area for consignments. Here we walked the main floor, then headed down into the basement. There I found our first find of the day. A beautiful blue salad plate.

Then we headed back up to the top floor up some of the narrowest, steepest stairs I have ever climbed. At the top, Alexa and I got a little laugh that they had even used the bathroom as a store front.

Up here is where we found our second find of the day, a lovely pestle cup.

Next stop was the house next door, “Olive’s”, where I met Donna Lowery. Here we made a find we weren’t expecting! A gift for Brett for Father’s Day. Sitting on a shelf, tucked behind some other pieces was a blue, white and gold plate from Penn State University. Brett is really a devoted Ohio State fan, but just last year he completed his masters from Penn State. So we thought this would be something neat he could place on his desk. Donna was very helpful! We talked about our B&B and she let me know that she could help us locate some of the items for the house. We look forward to talking to her soon!

We headed down Main Street towards more shops, but took a moment to enjoy the beautiful old homes along the way. Brett and I have a passion about old homes. Our first home was built in 1885 and we spent our first two years restoring it. So to see these homes brought back memories of our old historic neighborhood.

Our next stop had to be one of our most pleasant visits. We stopped at “Olde House Antiques” where we met Pasty Privott. Pasty warmly welcomed us as we walked up the stairs to her front porch. We explained our mission and she right away showed us in to view her wares. She pointed out pieces that she thought I would like and allowed me to wander around, looking for those just right pieces for our plantation. We found most of what we purchased here. While she checked us out, we had a grand conversation and I really look forward to returning to see her!

Our last stop of the day had to be one of our greatest surprises! We found a tea shop, “Olde World Tea Company” where we met the owner, Jacki. We discussed our needs for the plantation and she informed us that she could do some research and come up with a blend that they would have used back in 1790! What a great addition to our teas!

After our shopping, we strolled down Main Street and viewed the homes and took more pictures. The homes here all have great charm and we even found an Inn and a Bed and Breakfast! May be sometime soon, Brett and I will have to come back and do some more “research” before we jump into our own project.

Smithfield Inn

Mansion on Main Bed and Breakfast

Today, I did make one more trip out to look for more finds. This time, it was off to Norfolk and the Ghent Historic District. Here we found five more pieces to add.

All and all, therapy kept me busy and helped me forget, if only for moment that we are still waiting. Maybe this week will be the week! Fingers crossed and holding my breath!

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

Antiques Shopping and Hint #2

May. 26th 2012

My husband had to travel this week and weekend, so I took advantage of his absence to do some antique shopping. I ended up coming home with a bunch of new tea cups for the plantation. This brings my total to 15 tea cups and saucers. I just have 25 more to collect! I wanted to share the newest ones.

I can’t wait to have our first afternoon tea party!


who is going to be first to come enjoy four courses and tea?


We know everyone is getting anxious about revealing the plantation. We are too! Soon… we hope!

Here is another hint for you to ponder!

Did you guess the first one?

Hint One:

Captain John Smith sailed up the river that runs by this plantation in 1608 and noted the Indian settlements along the river banks.

Hint Two:

George Washington was a frequent visitor to this plantation.

Bonus Hint!

It’s not Williamsburg or the area around Williamsburg.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 20 Comments »


May. 23rd 2012

Update! We got a call today that our LLC package is on the way to the house. As soon as we get it, we can get our Federal Tax Id Number. Wow, we are starting to feel more official! Sadly, checked on the contract for the house, still no word. The lawyers are drafting the contract so we are at their mercy. And until we sign that contract, we can’t reveal anything about the house. I hate legal stuff, but we have to do it right. We are just eager to get started! I know that a lot of others are eagerly waiting to see the big “reveal” too. Believe us, it will be so worth it!

But for fun, we thought we might give you some hints to see if you might be able to figure it out. (Those of you that know us personally can’t tell!)

Hint One:

Captain John Smith sailed up the river that runs by this plantation in 1608 and noted the Indian settlements along the river banks.

More hints to follow in future post!

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