Dominion Energizing Communities at Menokin

The Menokin Foundation would like to extend our thanks to the Dominion Foundation, Friends of the Rappahannock, and Wood Preservers, for their support to make Menokin a more engaging learning center.

The Menokin Foundation and Friends of the Rappahannock recently received a grant of $2,500 from Dominion as part of their Energizing Communities initiative. This grant will go towards improving the experience for school groups and visitors to Menokin through the addition of benches and picnic tables and grounds maintenance. On Tuesday, October 25th, the Dominion team will be on site at Menokin:

  • building 4 new picnic tables;
  • building 6 new benches;
  • re-roofing a shed in need by the Menokin house; and
  • cleaning up a picnic shelter for visitors to enjoy

In addition to the support from Friends of the Rappahannock and Dominion to make this community project possible, we are grateful for the support of Wood Preservers who will be donating supplies towards the project. Please visit Menokin on October 25th to see this project and community support in action!  Hike the trails, enjoy a picnic outdoors, and call ahead to the Menokin Visitor’s Center to schedule a hard hat tour of the house while you’re here!

Energizing Communities is a grassroots effort driven by Dominion volunteers across the many states and communities served by Dominion. Each year, hundreds of employee volunteers put their talent, time and efforts into improving their home towns in many different ways during a fall project blitz. Local employee volunteer councils work with parks, zoos, schools, shelters and other organizations to choose projects.

We can’t wait to share with you these improvements taking place to make your experience at Menokin more enjoyable!

Meet Sam McKelvey!

The Menokin Foundation Board President Hullihen Moore is pleased to announce that Samuel McKelvey of Richmond, Virginia, has been chosen to lead Menokin as Executive Director. McKelvey, selected after a comprehensive national search, will begin his appointment on October 24, 2016.

Sam McKelvey

Moore said that McKelvey is particularly well suited to complete Menokin’s innovative Glass House Project and to introduce new programming to the site. “Sam brings to the table an excellent mix of experience, leadership, initiative and enthusiasm,” Moore said; “he has a track record of bringing in diverse and younger audiences and he has shown himself to be a leader in creating new programs and events to engage the public in broad and meaningful ways.”

McKelvey currently serves as Site Manager for Meadow Farm Museum at Crump Park, an 1860 living history farm site and museum. During his tenure at Meadow Farm, McKelvey has significantly updated the site’s programs and re-interpreted a number of tours, bringing in new audiences, growing attendance, and making the site relevant to a new generation of students, families, and tourists.

McKelvey also serves as a Recreation Program Coordinator for the 150-acre site, which rests under the purview of Henrico County’s Division of Recreation and Parks. He has managed and developed a wide range of outdoor opportunities and experiences for the park’s thousands of annual visitors, including fishing, hiking and nature trails, picnicking, play areas, seasonal festivals and, most recently, adding more livestock on the farm.

McKelvey is an avid champion of community storytelling and bringing history to life. In 2014, he led the planning and execution of a 3-day re-enactment of the Battle of New Market Heights which brought 5,000 people to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle in which African-American soldiers from the “U.S. Colored Troops” won largely on their own their first significant battle close to the Confederate fortifications of Richmond.

McKelvey received his BA in History and Geography from James Madison University and his MA in History from Virginia Commonwealth University. He currently chairs the Historic Preservation Function Group for Henrico County Recreation and Parks and he has co-chaired or lead numerous other planning committees, including the Henrico Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee.

He believes Menokin offers the region and the country an extraordinary opportunity. “The Menokin Foundation has laid the groundwork for a totally new approach to engaging people with ideas and themes in American history,” McKelvey said. “The Glass House Project is like nothing else in historic preservation today – it encourages us to think in new and different ways. I am looking forward to working with the board, staff, volunteers, and local community to accomplish the Foundation’s goals. My wife April and I look forward to actively participating in the Northern Neck community.”

McKelvey succeeds Sarah Dillard Pope, Executive Director from 2005 until December 2015, when she became Dean of College Advancement at Rappahannock Community College. Leslie Rennolds has served ably as Interim Director since January 2016.

The search committee, co-chaired by Penelope Saffer and Ro King, included trustees and stakeholders: Moore, Dudley Percy Olsson, Candy Carden, Nancy Raybin, and past Board President W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr.

For the nationwide search, the Menokin Foundation retained Marilyn Hoffman and Connie Rosemont of Museum Search & Reference, an executive search firm in Manchester, NH, and Boston, MA.


The Menokin Foundation is a 500-acre National Historic Landmark site in the Northern Neck of Virginia that includes the collapsed home of Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lightfoot Lee and his wife Rebecca Tayloe. In 2015, the Menokin Foundation launched a multi-year, $7-million capital campaign to construct a groundbreaking, 21st-century glass structure that will preserve, protect and interpret the original house without reconstructing its 18th-century interior. The grounds and kayak boat launch are open daily 7 am to 7 pm and the Visitors Center is open Wednesday – Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is free. For more information, visit or call 804-333-1776.

Hard Hat Tours and Birthday Party

The Menokin Foundation is here to make your dream of wearing a hard hat and getting up-close and personal with historic preservation come true…

frank_flattenedJoin us on Saturday, October 15th from 1:00 to 4:00 for a birthday celebration in honor of Francis Lightfoot Lee’s 282nd birthday! (And he doesn’t look a day over 178.)  Tickets are $25 (children ages 6 and under are free) and are available for purchase online at

Your $25 ticket includes:

A hard hat tour of the current stabilization and construction at the Menokin house and the opportunity to meet the preservation team

One “Frank”furter and one tasting ticket for wine from two local vineyards: Caret Cellars and Vault Field Vineyards  (additional food available for purchase; Valid ID required for wine tasting ticket; Non-alcoholic beverages also available).

 The celebration features:

elliottA kissing booth with Elliott the weiner dog

Tastings and bottled wines for sale from local vineyards

Menokin hard hat tour t-shirts for sale



Make sure to enjoy:

Flat Frank selfies  (Move over, Stanley. We have a Signer!)img_4008

A hike to Cat Point Creek  (Bring your canoe or kayak and go for a paddle)

 Please join us for this opportunity to interact with history and preservation in a unique and fashionable way! For more information, call us at (804) 333-1776 or visit

We’re looking forward to seeing you October 15th at Menokin!

Rappahannock Retracing their Past (From Living Landscape Observer)

This article has been copied in full from the Living Landscape Observer website and was written by their guest writer, Joe McCauley.

In 1940, Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again, a novel about finding one’s identity in the modern world.  In popular American speech, the phrase has come to mean it is impossible to relive the optimistic expectations of youth once you have experienced the world as an adult.  Perhaps so, but through the Indigenous Cultural Landscapes initiative, the Chesapeake Conservancy and the National Park Service intend to turn that concept around for the American Indian tribes of the Chesapeake region, and demonstrate that in some respects, you can go home again.

The Indigenous Cultural Landscapes initiative (or ICL in short) is an attempt to identify and map geographic areas where Chesapeake tribes once lived, where they worked the land, fished and hunted, gathered materials for pottery, weaponry and utensils, and where they fought for survival against the English incursion.  ICLs are defined as trail-related resources for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail in its Comprehensive Management Plan. From the Park Service and Chesapeake Conservancy perspective, identifying and mapping these places help us achieve one of the Trail’s three goals, that being to “to share knowledge about the American Indian societies and cultures of the 17th century.”  Equally important, this initiative provides an opportunity for Chesapeake American Indian tribes to, in a sense, go home again.  This collaboration among the tribes, the Conservancy, and the Park Service is also critical to achieving another of the goals of the Captain Smith Chesapeake Trail: “to interpret the natural history of the Bay (both historic and contemporary).”

Chief Anne Richardson and the Author Courtesy: St. Mary's College of Maryland

Chief Anne Richardson and the Author
Courtesy: St. Mary’s College of Maryland

The ICL concepts and opportunities came together beautifully on a warm, blustery April day when six members of the Rappahannock Tribe, including Chief Anne Richardson, visited several sites along the Rappahannock River and two tidal tributaries.  Tribal members were joined by archeologists from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, along with staff from the National Park Service and Chesapeake Conservancy.  Stops included Sabine Hall, which may have been the site of the Rappahannock town of Toppahanock; Cobham Farm, where the Rappahannock dug clay for pottery even into the 1960s; and Totuskey Creek, which formed one boundary of the land grant to Moore Fauntleroy that resulted in one of many moves the Rappahannock were forced to make by the English.

The day was filled with excitement and discovery.  Most tribal members had never before visited these sites with the exception of Cobham Farm, where Chief Anne remembered digging clay for pottery when she was a teenager.  Vestiges of the Packett family campground that once thrived there along the Rappahannock River still remain and brought back memories

Fish scale motif and "X" carved into Menokin mantle piece. Photo by Leslie Rennolds
Fish scale motif and “X” carved into Menokin mantle piece.
Photo by Leslie Rennolds

from decades past.  At Menokin, the ancestral home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, the group toured the visitor center where artifacts from the original 18th century building are on display.  Of particular note for the Rappahannock was an engraved “X” in a mantelpiece that resembled one they had seen on a 17th century treaty.  Was it the same mark used as a signature by the tribal leader who signed the treaty?

Fones Cliff Beverly Marsh Courtesy: St. Mary's College of Maryland

Fones Cliff Beverly Marsh
Courtesy: St. Mary’s College of Maryland

During the second of the two trips, the group visited Beverly Marsh, a special place whose history is unquestioned.  On August 18, 1608, as Smith’s shallop approached the narrowest part of the river at what is now called Fones Cliff, Rappahannock bowmen let loose a volley of arrows directed toward the English.  Smith had erected shields along the gunwales of his boat, so the arrows did no harm.  The event is exquisitely captured in Smith’s writings and there is little doubt as to the location, with the high white cliffs being a prominent feature in the story.  What remains in doubt is the future of this ecological and historic treasure as Richmond County has approved two development proposals that would place hundreds of homes and townhouses atop Fones Cliff.  While Beverly Marsh is permanently protected through the generosity of the Wellford family, Fones Cliff is highly threatened.

From Smith’s journals and maps, it is believed that at least one, and perhaps more, Rappahannock towns existed on the Fones Cliff properties, but no archeological work as been performed.  As Chief Anne noted during the May visit to Beverly Marsh, ” I was amazed to find the places we frequented on the South side of the River were directly across from historic towns on the North side of the River.”  But exactly where those towns were remains unknown.

The entire Fones Cliff ecosystem is within the boundary of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge and efforts are ongoing to bring the properties into public ownership, or at a minimum, protect them via conservation easements.  If they were to come into public ownership, it would provide opportunities for tribal members, young and old, to visit their ancestral lands.  It would provide equal opportunities for visitors from around the Nation and the world to experience what it must have been like to be there in 1608, since the landscape is remarkably intact with few intrusions of 21st century habitation.

Documentation is key to the ICL project and any similar archeological endeavor.  Investigators, in this case from St. Mary’s College, NPS, and the Rappahannock tribe, are attempting to piece together what is known from historic records with oral history to get as close to the “truth” as possible.  The St. Mary’s team is using geographic information systems to map the best corn growing soils, high-resource marshes, fresh water sources, and routes of travel among other key ingredients for pre-17th century survival. Those layers are augmented by reports of known archeological sites maintained by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. What sets the ICL initiative apart is the added layer provided by the Rappahannock themselves, adding their oral and written history to the mix, which will provide the most comprehensive mapping project of its kind for indigenous occupation along the river.

When completed, the Rappahannock ICL report will have multiple uses.  Areas mapped as having a high probability of being sites of occupation and utilization by the Rappahannock Tribe can provide another layer of information for those who wish to conserve their lands.  Adding this information to known priority areas for fish and wildlife for example, will help focus efforts to work with willing landowners who are interested in both habitat and cultural resource conservation.  Participation in the endeavor is encouraging the tribe in ongoing efforts to revisit their cultural heritage and relearn the traditional skills involved.

The ICL work will also help identify those sites that warrant further investigation by archeologists on public land, and with landowner concurrence, on private lands as well.  There is great public interest in the pre-17th century indigenous use and habitation of the Chesapeake Bay region, as evidenced by well-attended public lectures on the subject.  Public land managers have a duty to understand where important cultural resources exist on lands they manage, so they can both protect these sites and interpret them for the visiting public.  Private landowners too have shown great interest in knowing where on their property these sites exist, so they can avoid accidentally damaging resources that are vital to our understanding of the earliest days of what would become the United States of America.

And then there are the Rappahannock themselves, without whom the ICL project would be just another academic exercise.  Tribal members’ recollections, research, and willingness to become fully engaged in the process are what set the ICL initiative apart from more traditional archeological endeavors.  Where this path will ultimately lead, only time will tell.  But for now it offers hope for the Rappahannock and other Chesapeake tribes that you can go home again.

Joe McCauley retired in 2015 after 32 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and now serves as the Chesapeake Fellow for the Chesapeake Conservancy (, Joe can be reached at

First Day of Fall at Menokin

Fall is finally (kinda, sorta) in the air in the Northern Neck. A drizzly morning, that has since transformed into a sunny day, offered an extravaganza of autumny images for my itchy shutter finger. Enjoy my walk through the Menokin landscape.

And Happy Autumn!



SOAK(ing) Up the Fun

We’d like to thank SMS Instructor, Kevin Goff, for sharing Menokin’s treasures with his students, and for sharing these great pictures with us. Enjoy!
The girls participating in SOAK have been enjoying their afternoons! They took a trip to Francis Lightfoot Lee’s Menokin to do some kayaking. Here is a full gallery from the trip!

The best 2.5 minutes you will ever spend watching a video.

Have you watched this video? It doesn’t take long. Saving Menokin is important. This video tells you why. (Here’s a hint: there’s something in it for all of us.)

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