Settle in for a mysterious story on this chilly Halloween…

By Sarah Pope – Executive Director

On a warm spring afternoon in 2009, a group of four archaeologists carefully removed a layer of dirt and mortar from a small nook between Menokin’s vaulted wine cellar and the exterior wall of the house.   A glimmer beneath the debris caught the eye of one of the investigators as he slowly worked with his brush.   What was revealed astounded the archaeology team and the staff of the Menokin Foundation.

The work diary of Thane Harpole and David Brown of DATA Investigations, the archaeology crew leaders, from the week of May 15, 2009 reads:

An amazing discovery occurred on Monday, when a small locket was found beneath the western first story window on the south façade, amongst rubble, but amazingly undamaged. The locket is porcelain set into a brass case with glass backing.  The object measures about one inch by 3/4” and is highly decorated with the bust of a Greek or Roman figure surrounded by consecutive borders of blue, gold, and 1-2 mm sized pink colored jewels. Within the locket, and visible through the glass backing, is a lock of hair. Based on similar objects in museum collections, this object dates to the late 18th-century and was likely associated with the Lees.   We have further research to conduct:  To whom did this locket belong?  Whose hair is encased in the piece?  Is it a mourning locket or a love token?  Many questions that we hope to answer in the near future!


The owner of the locket, the light brown hair lodged inside and the circumstances under which it came to be buried in that area of the house remained a mystery.   The following summer, Laine Crosby—an investigative medium who was staying at Stratford Hall—made a visit to Menokin.  Why not ask her to shed some light on the locket?   As Laine held the object, she brought forth several images she felt were associated with it: a young woman named Sally, who didn’t live at Menokin, but would visit for extended periods; the year 1794; and a strong uncle or brother figure.

None of these associations made any sense to me—Becky and Frank Lee didn’t have children, and a Sally and the year 1794 were of no known significance to the house.  The day following Laine’s visit, I dug around in the Menokin family genealogy and found that the second occupant of the house, John Tayloe Lomax who lived there from 1809 to 1818, had a sister named Sally, who was born in 1794.  Sally, her mother, and several of her unwed sisters came to live at Menokin after the death of her father.  I must admit, Laine’s reading of the locket took me by surprise—could it have belonged to Sally Lomax?

(Through my research to find “Sally”, I came to know her oldest sister, Judith Lomax—a real rebel who refused to come live at Menokin because she was “unwanted” there by her brother.  But that’s a story for another day!)

To read more about Laine’s visit to Menokin and the mystery of the locket go to this month’s House and Home Magazine.

Menokin has weathered the storm.

While Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc over much of the East Coast the past few days, the Northern Neck of Virginia seems to have thankfully dodged a big bullet. I am glad to report that the old girl is still standing and no worse for the soaking.

Other than a flooded  lane and some wet carpet in the Visitor’s Center, everything is shored up and just how we left it. That’s pretty good news for a mostly collapsed house.

I hope the rest of you fared as well.

Slithering hither and yon

Northern Neck Master Naturalist John Narney was in the Menokin woods last week, working on a flora and fauna survey for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grant.

He encountered some fauna alright. Of the reptilian persuasion. Luckily he had his camera handy and shared these shots with me.

Eastern Rat snake (formerly called a Black Snake)
“When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be.”
~ Kermit The Frog
This narrow green snake was over two feet long.

The Menokin Advisory Council shares its story

The Menokin Foundation is very fortunate to have an Advisory Council of professionals in the fields of architecture, engineering, historic conservation, museum programs and cultural landscape which has been established to assist in the decision making process of the Glass Concept.

Staff members sat down with some of these advisors over dinner last fall and interviewed them about why they love Menokin, and why they have dedicated so much time to this project.

The result is this video which attempts to encapsulate the spark of imagination, inspiration and innovation that is Menokin.

We hope you will enjoy and share the video.

Menokin photography contest deadline extended to November 15

What were we thinking? Having an October 15th submission deadline completely rules out the beautiful fall foliage for the photo contest.

So we have our heads screwed on straight now, and have extended the deadline for submissions to November 15th. The reception will take place on November 30th. All other rules still apply.

Come on by. The property is open, even when the Visitor’s Center is not.



No wild weather for this year’s “Go Wild” event

Yesterday was the 2nd annual “Go Wild” event at the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s Hutchinson Tract in Essex County, VA.

After the cold, windy, rainy day that greeted last year’s eventers, the clear blue October sky and 75+ degree temperatures were a welcome change.

The wind still  had a few tricks up her sleeve, however,  and there were examples of human ingenuity all over the place as exhibitors tried to hold down tents, brochures and displays. My husband Ben, the master of all things rigged, “Bengineered” this bungee bracing system to keep the Menokin display board upright and in place.

I was there representing Menokin, and informing visitors about our nature trails and waterfront on Cat Point Creek, and explaining that 300 of our 500 acres are, in fact, part of the refuge.

There were all kinds of exhibitors on hand – from Native Plants Societies, Master Naturalist and Oyster Gardeners, to bluebird house building, reforestation surveyors and wildlife rehabilitation experts.

Our booth was next door to The Wildlife Center of Virginia, where their educator and handler, Rayna, brought out a series of rehabilitated birds to share with the public. You can find out these birds stories on their website.

Grayson, a broad-winged hawk, gave me the stare down.
Edie, an American Kestrel, is very comfortable with humans.

The Raptor Society of Virginia was also on hand with a few of their birds. This little screech owl won me over with her big green eyes and haughty, knowing air.

Fire, an Eastern screech owl

Congressman Rob Whitman spoke briefly, after being introduced by Refuge Administrator Andy Hoffman and RRVNWR Friends President, Anne Graziano.

Rob Whitman addressed the crowd
Andy Hoffman and Anne Graziano both spoke

In case you missed it….

The Virginia Historical Society has posted a video of the recent banner lecture, Planter Oligarchy on Virginia’s Northern Neck, which was co-sponsored by Menokin. The video features a fabulous introduction by Menokin’s own, Sarah Dillard Pope, Executive Director of the Menokin Foundation.

Also includes a shout out to Tayloe Negus and Tayloe Emery, both Hampden-Sydney alums, who help established the relationship between Dr. Coombs and Menokin.

VHS Banner Lecture Video