Here Comes The Turner Bride

Mar. 11th 2014

Since we have opened our doors, we have had so much very special weddings here at Belle Grove Plantation. All of them are unique and special in our hearts. But on Saturday, March 1, 2014, we were the host of a very special wedding.

If you follow our blog and know some of the history of Belle Grove Plantation, you know that from 1839 to 1894, Belle Grove was owner by the Turner Family. Carolinus Turner purchased Belle Grove in 1839 and was the owner who made most of the major changes to the current home. He increased the size by adding extensions. He also added the beautiful architectural details that has made Belle Grove one of the top 100 architecturally significant structures in Virginia.

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On Saturday, we hosted the wedding for Carl Matia and Terri Turner. From what her mother has told me, they are related to the Turners of King George. This means that Terri is more than likely a cousin to Carolinus Turner. I am still looking into it and hope to report more later.

It was a very beautiful and intimate wedding with just close friends and family. The photographers on hand were Chamberlin Photography. Chamberlin Photography has done most of the photographers on our website.

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The Officiant was Sam Frantum with No Ordinary Ordained.

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The wedding cake was made by Karen Seay of Cakes in Art.

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The happy couple spent their first night in our Turner Suite.

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Terri made a special point to have her photograph done beside our etching in the Turner Window.

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We wish Terri and Carl Matia a very happy and successful life together!

Thank you for selecting Belle Grove Plantation to share your special moment!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Here Comes The Turner Bride

SyFy Ghost Hunters visit Belle Grove Plantation

Feb. 19th 2014


We are excited to announce that Belle Grove Plantation will be featured on an episode of

Ghost Hunter on the SyFy Channel!

The show will air on

Wednesday, February 19th at 9pm (eastern).

There will be an encore of the episode on

Wednesday, February 26th at 10pm (eastern)

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The TAP Team and crew were here in November filming the episode. I have to say the TAPS Team and crew were so professional. They weren’t only mindful of our time, making sure they didn’t cause us to lose money, but they were very thoughtful when it came to the antiques in the mansion and the history that make Belle Grove Plantation so special. When they left, you would have never known that they were here.

I have to say it was surreal to walk into the mansion and see Jason, Steve, Tango, Amy, Adam and Samantha walking around. We have watched the show for years marveling at the locations they travel to and getting as excited as they do when they find something.


Jason is very much the professional. He is the leader of the group, but has a wonderful, friendly side. When I was walking around with him, he listened and answered my questions with an understanding that only years of experience would have afforded. It was also really sweet to see him guide his daughter, Samantha, through the walk through and reminding her of things she would need to remember.


Steve is just like you see on television. Very laid back and easy going. He soft manner that he shares really puts you at ease. He is great compliment to Jason. I have no doubt that Steve could step up as leader if needed, but I think his open and friendly nature helps keep things light. Steve was even nice enough to talk to my son, Tyler on the phone. Tyler is really a huge fan and I know it really thrilled him. One thing I found out from the crew, Steve loves Andies candies. Thank goodness I always have them on the Grand Hall sideboard!


Amy and Adam tended to hang together through the walk through of the mansion. But their walk through wasn’t so much about the ghost as looking at the antiques. I would point out pieces and explain where they came from and any history that went with them. They were impressed by some of our great buys and suggested that they should be shopping with me! Of course I needed to point out to Adam that none of the antique were to go home with him!


Tango wasn’t with the team during the walk through. I only briefly saw him here and there. He was mostly busy working with the crew and getting things ready. I have to say the crew worked like a well oil machine, but were just as friendly and kind to us. I would never have a question of having them return.

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Doing my filming was a little unnerving. I had some wonderful people guiding me through so I would know what to expect. And believe it or not, I didn’t have to do too many second or third times. The crew gave me an idea of what they were wanting in part and I just filled in the spaces with what I knew.


The reveal came later. It was really very exciting to see what they would come up with. My biggest fear though was that our ghosts would be quiet and not really come out for them. Most of the time, the ghost here are quiet. They were moving around a lot when we first started making changes. But since things have settled down, they seem to have done the same.

Mind you they aren’t gone. We still have things that happen. The latest happened just this morning. I need to go back to an earlier event for this event to make sense.

Back in September, 2012, our caretaker and his family were living in our quarters in the mansion as their home was without power due to an electrical fire. They told us during their stay, they woke up around 4am in the morning to what sounded like a rubber ball bouncing on the floor. It really scared them. To this day, the caretaker’s wife doesn’t like to come in at night alone.

Just after this event, I started having “things” happen during our visits to the mansion. (This was before I moved up in April 2013) I had heard if you set down the “rules” with the ghosts, for the most part they would follow them. So that is just what I did. My rules are as follows:

1. You can’t call or whisper my name

2. I don’t need to hear footsteps or door slams to let me know that you are here, because I know you are here.

3. I don’t want to see you because it can scare me.

4. If we have guests that are afraid of ghosts, we ask that you don’t make your presents known. We don’t want people scare of the mansion because we have to make money to keep the doors open.

5. If a guest comes and is wanting to see or talk to you and you are up for it, then you have our blessing. Go for it.

6. When I am in my room (which is in the mansion) and my door is closed, you aren’t to come in. I don’t want to see you standing in the room or wake to see you watching me. This is my space and I need to feel safe.

Since I made the “rules” things have really calmed down. For the most part, they seem to understand and comply with them.

In December, 2012, we had a medium, Laine Crosby come through to give us her impressions of the mansion. During her visit, we were sitting in my room. She stopped our conversation and told me that there were two boys (twins) that were standing at my door (which was open). She told me that she had asked them to come in several times, but they replied that they couldn’t. They said,”Mama says we can’t play in there any more.” Laine then told me that they had a message for me. They wanted to let me know that they were the ones bouncing the ball. She asked me if I understood. Of course I did.

Since then, we have heard the ball bouncing on the second floor hall.

In July, 2013, one of our guest, who had stayed the night told me that she had heard a woman’s voice on the second floor, where she was sleeping. The woman called out, “Twins” in a song like manner. We figured the boys and their mom were now hanging out upstairs.

This morning, around 4am, I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep. I sat up for an hour and watch a little television to relax myself and tried to get back to sleep around 5:30am. Just as I got comfortable, I heard at the end of the bed, a rubber ball bouncing. I knew at once it was the twin boys playing. These boys have been a little more active over the last month. They have gone as far as to hide my kitchen utensils from me only to return them later. So I knew they were being mischievous this morning. So I called them out saying. “Okay, you know you aren’t suppose to be in here. Please leave so I can sleep.” Just after I said that, I heard a woman’s voice say, “Come”. So I guess the boys were called down by their mother and she got them out of the room.

I am asked time and again if I am afraid to be alone in the mansion at night. To be honest, no it doesn’t bother me. In fact it is almost comforting. Our ghost, if you see or hear them are very friendly and warm. The mansion has a warm feeling as if it has a happy disposition. We know people died here and I am sure there were some tragic things associated with the plantation, but I don’t thing it comes through with the ghosts. I like to think that they watch over me and the mansion. And that they are happy with us and with the fact that we are remembering and honoring their past.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on SyFy Ghost Hunters visit Belle Grove Plantation

Belle Grove Makes Press!

Feb. 17th 2014

Belle Grove Plantation appeared in the Free Lance Star today on the FRONT PAGE!



Who’s haunting Madison’s birthplace?



Is the King George County birthplace of James Madison haunted?

The Syfy Channel’s “Ghosthunters” show will be the latest to try to answer that question when it airs a “Dead Presidents” episode at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Feb. 19

“They called out of the blue,” said Michelle Darnell, who runs a bed & breakfast at Belle Grove Plantation in Port Conway. “We had paranormal tours in October; perhaps they found out through that.”

Madison, fourth president of the United States, was born at Belle Grove, but that house later burned. The center section of what was to become a handsome white frame mansion was built on its foundation in 1791.

Belle Grove became the home of a succession of families over the years. It was occupied by the Union Army during the Civil War and was a stopover for the regiment pursuing John Wilkes Booth after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in Ford’s Theatre.

Darnell said she has seen a number of apparitions at Belle Grove and theorized that some long-ago residents loved the place overlooking the Rappahannock River so much that they never wanted to leave.

“I’ve seen a lady dressed in white standing in the balcony and an African–American woman in a yellow dress wearing a turban step out of the kitchen. She was carrying something,” Darnell said.

She also said that she once saw the apparition of a Union soldier walking past her so clearly that she could even tell the color of his hair.

“At first, I thought he was a contractor, but he wasn’t,” Darnell said.

Last October, Laine Crosby of the Travel Channel’s “Mysterious Journeys” and Biography Channel’s “My Ghost Story” did a lecture/workshop at Belle Grove on using psychic abilities to learn about history. When Crosby returned last month, one of the people in her group took a picture in what Darnell has named the Turner room after one of the families that lived there.

“There were six orbs in the picture,” Darnell said. “You can see a face in one of them.”

Orbs, or spirit orbs as they’re sometimes called, are believed by some to be a spirit. Others say it’s a speck of dust reflecting light.

Another woman who was photographing the mansion last weekend had one photo taken from outside looking in that showed what appears to be a face.

“It was smiling, which is a good thing,” Darnell said. “We like happy ghosts.”

Perhaps “Ghosthunters” will have similar experiences. It stars Jason Hawes, leader of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAP), and his team. According to the Syfy Channel website, Hawes “has made it his life’s mission to help anyone with questions pertaining to paranormal phenomena and ghost hunting.”

Darnell plans to bring Crosby back on July 12 for another workshop and will probably have some paranormal-type events in October. But she said she doesn’t want to overdo that aspect of the historic mansion.

She also rents Belle Grove for weddings, meetings and teas and has lined up a number of other special events there. They include giving free tours of the mansion this Sunday and Monday to anyone who brings a book about James Madison, the Founding Fathers, founding mothers, the Constitution or the American Revolution.

There will also be a dinner and dessert event to celebrate Madison’s birthday on March 15.

Belle Grove has also garnered recognition from the Virginia Center for Architecture and Virginia Architects. They selected the mansion as one of 250 architecturally significant structures in Virginia in 2013. It was then picked from that group as one of the top 100 architecturally significant structures during a public vote last December.

Belle Grove will be featured in a yearlong exhibition opening April 10 at the Virginia Center for Architecture in Richmond.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 2 Comments »

New York Times

Feb. 12th 2014

We are excited to announce that our beloved Mulberry Tree has hit the big time!

If you have been following along, you know that we had to cut down a Mulberry Tree that dates back 200 years. This means that this tree was alive when James Madison was!

But instead of taking the wood and trashing it, we contacted two Woodworkers Guilds to save the wood.

Bob DeMartino of The Historic Pen Company created some of the most beautiful writing pens with the wood we gave him.

The Historic Pen Company

Bob contacted me a few days ago to let me know that he has found a new way to bring these priceless pens to the public . . . in a big way!

The New York Times Store

Our pens are now available in the New York Times Store in New York! You can also purchase them online!

The New York Times Store Online

The New York Times Store James Madison Pen

The spectacular James Madison Pen was created with wood from the noted mulberry tree that stood for more than 200 years at the fourth president’s Virginia birthplace.

Madison, often hailed as the “Father of the Constitution,” was born in 1751 in Belle Grove Plantation in Port Conway, Va. The mulberry tree stood as the focal point of the entrance at the plantation before succumbing to disease and infestation. It was taken down in April 2013 to prevent damage to the main house.

This beautiful heirloom pen with authentic “witness wood” was expertly handcrafted and features the highest quality rhodium hardware. Each pen is engraved “James Madison – 4th President 1809-1817” and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity. The pen also comes in a high-quality hardwood and glass display box.

The James Madison Pen is available in both a rollerball and fountain pen (nib has a medium German iridium point). Each pen is unique and grain textures vary.

This is a perfectly weighted “postable” pen –the cap screws onto the pen in an open position. It measures 6” open.

The pen is an outstanding collectible, but it is also made to be used and passed down to future generations.

The pen’s rollerball uses standard Schmidt rollerball refills and the fountain pen includes a piston, but it also uses standard fountain pen ink cartridges.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on New York Times

The Progression of Perfection

Feb. 2nd 2014

If you have been following us on Facebook, many days you get a view of our beautiful evening sunset. One of the things you may notice is that our sunset is ever changing. Not just day to day, but moment to moment. I thought you might seeing some of our beautiful “evening shows”.

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 6 Comments »

Dressed to Impress

Jan. 30th 2014

This morning, the trees at the plantation have “dressed to impress”!

With the ice crystals on the limbs and the morning light shining down through them, it is as if they are getting ready for the red carpet! But it won’t last long! We are at 14 degrees this morning with a high of 34 today. Tomorrow it is going up to 47 degrees and 55 degrees on Saturday.







Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Dressed to Impress

Winter Wonderland

Jan. 29th 2014

Brett had told me throughout the day yesterday that Chesapeake was going to have somewhere between 10 to 12 inches of snow. Brett said that the snow this morning was so high, Hurley even had to stop and wonder what was going on! Brett said that when Hurley went to walk down the stairs of the deck to the yard, he couldn’t make out the steps and wasn’t sure if he wanted to step down. As Hurley walked through the yard, the snow would brush up on his stomach because it was so deep. He decided he wasn’t into the cold stuff so he came in pretty quick.



Brett had as told me yesterday that Belle Grove should only get a dusting to one inch and be cold again. Well last night I went to sleep at Belle Grove. This morning I woke in the North Pole. We got about 3 inches, more than the first and second snow of the season. For the first time, the ground was completely covered. The temperature this morning was 11 degrees. At 1pm, its up to 15 degrees.


Looking at the river yesterday, we had a small section in the middle of the river that had frozen, our little “iceberg”. But this morning, most of the river was completely frozen. There was a flock of birds in the middle for most of the morning. Every time I passed the windows, I would wonder if they were “stuck” there. They have seen left.


Belle Grove is just beautiful dressed in white. And with the morning sunrise coming up over the trees, it makes it almost magical.










Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Winter Wonderland

A Stunning New Arrival!

Jan. 28th 2014

Today I made a trip to Fredericksburg to visit with a dear friend and fellow innkeeper, Andi at Schooler House Bed and Breakfast. If you follow our blog, you have heard us talk about Schooler House when we first came to the area as the place we first stayed in. It was exciting to see Enzo and Zeppe, their Spinones and to see how much they have grown!


My visit with Andi was wonderful and long overdue, but I was also there to see an old dress she had tucked away in her closet . . .

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This is a beautiful blue and gold silk with fringes around the neck line, sleeves and wrists. At the wrist, the sleeves flair. It looks to be Victorian, but I am unsure of the time period. Maybe Pre-Civil War or Post Civil War. But what ever time period it comes from, it is just stunning!

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I have placed it in the Turner Suite, our Victorian Bridal Suite. With the new blue and gold chairs, this dress fits perfectly!


Come take a tour with us at Belle Grove Plantation and see this stunning addition to the mansion!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on A Stunning New Arrival!

Virginia Center for Architecture

Jan. 23rd 2014

We are so proud to have been recognized by the Virginia Center for Architecture as one of the top 100 architecturally significant structures in Virginia. We will be apart of a year long exhibition that will open on April 10, 2014 at the Virginia Center for Architecture in Richmond, Virginia.

After being so honored, I of course wanted to know more about the Center. So on an off day, I traveled from the plantation to Richmond for a day of adventure. My first stop was for lunch with my dear friend, Terri at one of our favorite spots, Can Can Brasserie on Cary Street. Cary Street is a wonderful place full of shops and restaurants. I have eaten at the Can Can before and really looked forward to enjoying this visit.

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The last time we ate there, the sun was out and the temperature was warm with a nice breeze. So we chose the option of eating outside on the sidewalk cafe under the shade of the umbrellas. This visit, we weren’t so lucky. Rain had been coming down most of the morning and the air was crisp with winter’s breath. So when I arrived, I grabbed a small cafe table at the front inside so we could enjoy the view from the picture windows. Just outside was a flower vendor, near where we ate before. With the French Cafe interior and the flower vendor just outside, I could have sworn I just flew into Paris.

Our lunch was wonderful! I had just made my new dish, Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Hash with Poached Eggs and Thyme Hollandaise Sauce at the plantation the weekend before. So when I saw the Crispy Ham Crepe filled with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts on top of Butternut Squash Puree, I knew what I was having. Terri followed suit and ordered the Chicken Crepe. Oh how delicious it was! Of course you know I tried to get the recipe, with no luck. But in my mind I was already forming my recipe to try at home. We just may have to make it this weekend!

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Crispy Ham Crepe

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Chicken Crepe

After I said my good-byes to Terri, I programmed my GPS to take me to the Virginia Historic Society. I wanted to just see if there was something I might have missed when I “cleaned” them out before. Well, wouldn’t you know it, there was. I went in a different direction, looking for the portraits of three of the Bernard Family. I found out who donated the images and found that this family had also donated some paperwork. So I requested that they pull these papers. How I was rewarded!

I found out that the portraits of William Bernard and his wife Sarah Bernard were in fact large family portraits. And that these portraits were with a certain line of the family. So now I have a lead to chase to see if I can find the original portraits. I know these portraits are family heirlooms, but wouldn’t it be wonderful just to find them! I know from the family history that they once hung here at Belle Grove Plantation. I would give anything to see them return to hang here again.

William Bernard II

Sarah Dykes Bernard

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After I finished and as if I wasn’t already excited beyond belief, I head over to the Virginia Center for Architecture. I had never seen it before so I didn’t know what to expect. The homes in the area were older Victorian homes and were just beautiful. But when I arrived at the Center . . . well words just couldn’t describe it.

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The Center is housed in an English Tudor Manor Home called the Branch House. The house was designed in 1916 by the firm of John Russell Pope as a private residence of financier John Kerr Branch and his wife Beulah Gould Branch. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1967 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1997. One of the Branch family heirs gifted the home to a local charity in the 1950s and was later purchased in 2003 by the Virginia Center for Architecture Foundation. The Center opened in 2005 as headquarters of the Virginia Center for Architecture, offices for the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects and its publication, Informmagazine and as architectural museum.

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Walking into this magnificent home was just overwhelming. Fortune for me, one of the staff members were on hand to give me a personal tour through the house.

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After viewing this beautiful place, I just can’t believe that Belle Grove Plantation will be in an exhibition here! We are so honored! Of course I couldn’t get them to reveal the rankings. That will come on opening night of the exhibition on April 10th. But no matter where we fell in the rankings, we just feel so privileged to be apart of its history.

Don’t forget to vote for us!

The Virginia Living Magazine is holding their annual
Best of Virginia 2013 poll
and we need your help!

Help us by voting for us!

It’s easy! Just following the steps below!

DEADLINE IS January 24th at 11:59pm EST

1. Before you vote – Please share this photo with your friends and family on Facebook to help us get the word out.

2. Go to this link –

3. You will want to click on the “Eastern” region at the bottom of the page.

4. Scroll down to the bottom of the first page and enter your email address. This is not to add you to an email list but to make sure you don’t vote twice. After you enter your email address, click “Next”

5. You can vote for any of the catagories, but we as that you vote for us for these catagories:

#9 – Best Special Event Venue – Enter Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast, King George

#11 – Best Bed and Breakfast – Enter Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast, King George

#12 – Best “Do Not Miss” Attraction for Tourist – Enter Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast, King George

#16 – Best Historic Site – Enter Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast, King George

6. Answer the last questions and “Submit”!

Thank you for your help!

Don’t forget to share this with everyone! Don’t forget to comment here that you voted too!!

We truly appreciate your help!!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History, Food and Recipes, General History | Comments Off on Virginia Center for Architecture

Snow Bound and Frozen

Jan. 23rd 2014

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The Arctic Blast arrived at the plantation last night! We started the day before in the 50s giving us a taste of the start of spring. And then Mother Nature said, “No so fast!” It started around 12 noon with a light shower of what looked like ice, but quickly changed to snow at 1pm. By 4pm, the snow showers had tamper off and we were left with what looked like just a mild dusting.

During this whole event, I stayed warm and cozy in my room in the mansion, watching from my window as I worked on upcoming events for the Spring and Summer. Every now and then I would glance out to see if the pile was getting any bigger. News reports had said we would get 4 to 6 inches. But by sunset, it didn’t look like we were going to have more than an inch.

About 10pm, I wondered around the mansion to check on the rooms to make sure the temperatures were holding with the cold setting in. I haven’t told you, but about two weeks ago when we had our first Arctic Blast and we got down to 4 degrees, I awoke to a surprise. I walked out of my room into the Small Dining Room to see it “sprinkling” from the ceiling and wall. I rushed upstairs to find the Turner Suite’s bathroom floor covered in water. The ceiling in the bathroom had several places it was linking from and one spot even looked as if it was going to grow into a bubble of water. I ended up with four pots or trash cans in the bathroom to catch the water from the ceiling. I couldn’t even believe it, but water was even coming in from the top inside window sill!

I had to rush to get the water up to stop the damage to the ceiling in the dining room. I ended up with two pots down there. The whole time, I was making frenetic calls to Brett and the Property Manager to see what I needed to do. I finally got on the phone with the plumber company, who told me to turn off the main water valve. AH! I couldn’t remember where it was! Of course I started in the basement in the mechanical room and found it. Water off and pots catching what was left, I waited for the plumber.

Plumber arrived and isolated the water from the Turner bath so we could have water again. But they weren’t able to fix the issue for one week! Once they returned, we found out that it had been a joint that had busted during the subzero temperatures. The pipe was located in between the ceiling in the bathroom and the roof. According to the plumber, when they installed it, they didn’t place enough insulation around them and so … well you know. Today we have a one foot by one foot hole in the ceiling in the bath. We have to leave it open to allow it to dry. Then we fix it. Thank goodness Brett has experience in hanging dry wall!

But back to today . . .

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This morning, I woke to a beautiful sight! Snow all over the place! It was also 11 degrees when I got out to take pictures. Double clothes and sunglasses helped, but it was really cold! The one thing I love about our snow are the snow drifts. I could hear the wind howling all night. The wind passes over our chimneys and makes it sound like furniture being moved overhead. But as I walked around, I could see the snow drifts and the designs the wind had made in the snow.

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Surprising, the river side of the mansion didn’t have as much snow as the front. I know it was because of all the wind coming off the river, blowing it up against the mansion. As the day went on, you could see our mud flat in the middle of the river was frozen. It is only 3 to 4 feet in the middle.

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I ended the day watching the sunset over the river. Just as the last glow of the sunset lite up the sky, a flock of Canadian Geese flew over the river and landed in the field on the other bank. It was so magical. I stood there for awhile thinking to myself what it must have been like for former owners. We are lucky today because we have a geothermal system to keep us warm. But think about having to go out and cut wood and keep the home fires burning! Old homes are so drafty and I could just see them huddling together by the fire. I still wonder, are the sights I am seeing like those that were seen by the former owners. What would they have thought when they got up the next morning.

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 4 Comments »