Journal

Shirley Plantation 400th Anniversary

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in Blog, History, Journal, Uncategorized | 3 comments

Julian Charity and Carrie Fancett Pagels

Julian Charity and Carrie Fancett Pagels

Last week I had the opportunity to tour Shirley Plantation with Carrie Fancett Pagels, author of “Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance” and several other writers. Historian and tour guide Julian Charity and Carrie gave us a fascinating tour of the property and the Great House. This beautiful home is occupied by the 11th generation of the Hill Carter family that dates back to the 1650s. Shirley Plantation, and many of the others, is located along the James River in Charles City County, Virginia.

King James I of England granted 4,000 acres of land on the banks of the James River (named for him) to Sir Thomas West, Virginia’s first royal governor in 1613. The property was initially named West and Sherley Hundred, incorporating his name and his wife’s, Lady Cessalye Sherley. “Hundred” was a term in the 17th century used for many of the outpost settlements.

Cotton

photo courtesy of Carrie Fancett Pagels

The plantations in Virginia in the 16th, 17th, and 18th century were used for agriculture, first worked by indentured servants and later by slaves. Tobacco cultivation was Shirley’s original crop. That changed over the years to include corn, wheat, barley and oats. Cattle, Sheep and hogs were also raised. As we drove in for our tour we observed beautiful fields of cotton in bloom.

Shirley Plantation

Shirley Plantation

Sir Thomas’s heir and wife sold the property in 1618 upon his death. The new owners changed the name to Shirley Plantation. Captain Edward Hill I purchased the property in 1638 and built Hill House for his family. Captain Hill served in the local militia, as Speaker of the House of Burgesses as well as other positions in local and regional government.

Shirley Plantation continued to pass down through the generations of the Hill family sons. Since Edward III lost his only son during childhood, and the oldest daughter moved to England upon her marriage, the plantation would ultimately pass to his youngest daughter, Elizabeth. While this young lady might have been a target for fortune hunters, she married John Carter, the attractive and educated son of the wealthiest man in North America, Robert “King” Carter. Robert Carter attained that nickname because it was said that his wealth rivaled that of the King of England. When these two great families were joined in marriage in 1723, they began construction of the Great House on the plantation. It has remained in the family ever since. Many other familiar names are part of this family such as Light Horse Harry Lee, Robert E. Lee, Mary Nelson, daughter of Thomas Nelson, who was governor of Virginia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Shirley was used as a supply depot late in the Revolutionary War, when Lafayette’s troops traveled to Yorktown. During the war of 1812 the lead roof from the Great House was sold and melted for bullets. During the Civil War, the James River was a strategic route to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. When General McClellan took over the land of Shirley Plantation and used it as a field hospital, Louise Humphry’s Carter, wife of Robert Carter, provided care for the Union solders encamped in her yard. In appreciation for her humanitarian efforts on behalf of his men, General McClellan issued a Federal Order of Safeguard protecting the residents and the plantation.

Other than the metalwork, stone and marble, all the materials for the Georgian and Queen Anne style Great house and outbuildings were produced onsite. One remarkable feature of the house is the remarkable four story square-rigged “flying staircase” in the front hall. The only other “flying staircase” I’ve seen is a circular one at Carter Hall (part of the same family) located in northern Virginia near Millwood. These staircases have no visible means of support, yet they have stood the test of time.390 Year old Willow Oak

I was also intrigued by a magnificent Willow Oak, now estimated to be 390 years old.

Shirley Plantation is one of 33 plantations listed in the National Register of Historic Places located along the James River and its tributaries in southeastern Virginia. Many are open to the public and provide a rich view into America’s past. To learn more about Shirley Plantation or to plan a visit, see: http://www.shirleyplantation.com

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Maximizing Your Influence

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, Devotions, Journal, Uncategorized | 6 comments

I have to admit it, creating and maintaining my own website was not on my bucket list. My preference would be to spend my “computer time” catching up on news, communicating with friends and family, or working on writing projects. However, successful writers, agents, and publishers stress the importance of having a web presence, a platform, where we can maximize our influence.

So, almost two years ago when I was invited to become a regular contributor to a group blog, Colonial Quills http://colonialquills.blogspot.com/ I was thrilled. Most of the other writers who contribute to this site were multi-published authors and all share a common interest in our colonial past. This would give me a chance to write about topics dear to me, our incredible history and the Christian faith.  Terrific! Now I had a web presence.

In 2012, Michael S. Hyatt, the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, one of the largest trade book publishing companies in the U.S. produced a bestseller on just this topic. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Wanting to be current, I read this excellent book about getting our message out, and getting Platform 1noticed. http://michaelhyatt.com/platform

Perusing the web and checking out many author’s blog and websites was fascinating with so much talent, creativity, and my goodness, so many published books on display. Hmm, I would certainly need to get a website as soon as my manuscript was picked up by a publisher. It didn’t take long to notice that almost all the writers that I knew, published or not, already were on the web. I needed to take the plunge and not put it off any longer

Now, two weeks after launching my website, I’ve learned so much, and like so many other things in my life, I’ve learned some important lessons the hard way. My first lesson was; after you post, ALWAYS review it again to be sure it is ALL there, no missing paragraphs, words, or letters.

In addition to reading Jesus Calling every morning, I also receive a wonderful devotional from Nicky Gumbel, the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, the largest Anglican Church in Britain. He pioneered the Alpha Course, an evangelism ministry that I was involved with for many years. http://www.alphausa.org/Groups/1000065342/Alt_Home_page.aspx

On August 14th, the very day my website went live Nicky’s devotional was waiting for me in my inbox. Now, why would I be surprised at the timing of his message?

“Maximizing Your Influence”

(used with Nicky’s permission)

1.  Use your influence for the good of everyone   Psalm 96:1-13

2.  Use your influence to spread the good news 1 Corinthians 9:1-18

3.  Use your influence to plant good seeds Ecclesiastes 9:13-12:14

          •        Watch your words

          •        Take risks

          •        Spread your efforts

          •        Take your opportunities

I particularly appreciated his closing prayer.

“Lord, help me and help our community to make the most of every opportunity that you have given us.  Help us to fear you and keep your commandments.  Help us to use our influence for good and not for evil.  Help us to make the most of every opportunity that you have put before us.”

‘Of the making of books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.’ 

Ecclesiastes 12:12  NIV – UK

http://www.htb.org.uk/bioy

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Why Do I Write?

Posted by on Aug 14, 2013 in Blog, Journal | Comments Off on Why Do I Write?

When a friend recently asked me how long I’ve been interested in writing, I would have loved to have said that I wanted to be a writer since I was a child.  So many of the writers I admire can claim that; however, that wasn’t the case with me. In school, I received good grades in writing, and I had done some journaling over the years, but it wasn’t until my thirties that I was bitten by the writing bug.

In 1983, I was a stay at home mom with two boys under four when I saw an article in Redbook Magazine by Judith Viorst inviting reader’s to enter the magazine’s Great Embarrassing Moments Contest. It caught my eye because I enjoyed reading books and articles by Viorst, but I had never entered a contest in my life, so why would I give it a second thought now? The contest promotion rules stated the story had to be 500 words or less; the first prize winner would get five hundred dollars and the possibility of having it printed in a future issue of Redbook. Normally, I’d have only grinned and moved on, but an excruciatingly embarrassing event that occurred to me ten years earlier popped into my mind.

Hmmm. That episode was one of those times when you wish the floor would open beneath you and swallow you up. Yet, as embarrassing as the occasion was, I remembered laughing at myself only an hour later when I retold it to my parents. Could I write about it? I decided to give it a go.

My Writing Space

I did not win that contest, but by entering it, I enjoyed the process of writing about the event, and the seed to write more was planted.  It would be another two years and a move before I would get my first job writing a regular column in a local paper which led to other opportunities. During that same time, a story began to form in my mind, one in which I could share my faith. I sought the Lord’s guidance when I contemplated taking my writing efforts in a completely new direction. I made a covenant with Him regarding the time I would devote to the task relative to my primary jobs of being a wife and mother. In the course of writing that story, I learned a lot about myself, gained knowledge of the craft, and developed the discipline required in pursuing my goal. I also found joy and fulfillment in the journey.

 

 

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