Category Archives: The People

Bill Moore – Tidewater Musician

Both Warsaw and Tappahannock can claim a little piece of Bill Moore’s fame.

Born in Georgia, William “Bill” Moore was a barber and farmer in Tappahannock, although he also worked across the Rappahannock River in Warsaw in Richmond County.

The following biography by Eugene Chadbourne gives a good look into the life and career of Bill Moore.

Bill Moore
Bill Moore

Half of the recordings done by this artist may have gone the way of Jimmy Hoffa’s corpse, but the eight tracks that were released in the late ’20s and subsequently reissued time and time again easily maintain the reputation of William “Bill” Moore as an elite country blues multi-instrumentalist in the elaborate syncopated East Coast blues or Piedmont blues style. There is also a blues conspiracy theory in which two different people named William Moore actually created the body of work more often attributed to one, yet even in this case the instrumental dexterity of half of them is never questioned.

Historic marker in Tappahannock, VA
Historic marker in Tappahannock, VA

In the ’20s and ’30s, many commercial record labels looked for country blues and classic blues artists to make recordings with. Representation was light on the southeastern seaboard in comparison with other areas of the nation such as Appalachia or the Mississippi Delta. Moore hailed from the so-called tidewater area of Tappahannock, VA, and was enlisted by Paramount in 1928, the project involving his traveling to Chicago in a frozen and frosted January for a single recording session. This event stood in contrast to Moore‘s normal life; he ran several barbershops, the inspiration for his brilliant “Barbershop Rag,” and also made some income as a farmer.

Moore made the most out of his face-off with a microphone: even the most dogmatic of Delta blues devotees will admit that his music is an instance where it is actually worthwhile moving the phonograph out of the cotton fields. Like his contemporaries in the Deep South, Moore‘s performing circuit consisted of events such as house parties, fish fries, and community dances, his repertoire a mixture of traditional songs and ragtime material. Some of the music he performed came out of the minstrel scene, including a pair of ditties written by Irving Jones, a late-19th century black composer and entertainer. Moore‘s abilities on piano, guitar, and fiddle were impressive.

Moore relocated to Warrenton, VA, following the Second World War, remaining there until he died of a heart attack in the early ’50s.

Sherwood Cemetery is the local spot for blues fans to pay their respect to the artist whose initial series of 78s was released first under the name of William Moore, then Bill Moore. This detail along with concerns about vocal styles and what might be simple bookkeeping errors — one of the recorded titles was copyrighted under the names Moore and Williams rather than just plain William Moore — all gave rise to the theory that these were two, two, bluesmen in one.

Ragtime CrazyOnly a collection released by Document entitled Ragtime Blues Guitar (1927-1930) contains all the existing material attributed to Moore. On this and all other sets featuring his material, tracks by similar stylists are also featured, including Blind Blake, one of Moore‘s major influences. Minneapolis traditional blues performer Dave “Snaker” Ray recorded a piece entitled “Rappahannock” for which Moore receives songwriting credit; it is actually a reworking of motifs from Moore‘s recordings, but is not actually one of the titles originally released under his name.

To purchase and download the songs of Bill Moore, visit this link:  http://www.folkways.si.edu/virginia-traditions-tidewater-blues/african-american-folk/music/album/smithsonian

Menokin “Sleepover Conference” features Frank Vagnone and Joseph McGill

Friday, September 22 – Sunday 24, 2017
Sleepover Conference

Education Coordinator, Alice French and Menokin Trustee, Dudley Olsson, have organized a Sleepover Conference, which will include Frank Vagnone, international thought leader in innovative and entrepreneurial non-profit management and his blog series, One Night Standand Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project.

Franklin Vagnone co-wrote the book: Anarchist’s Guide to Historic House Museums. This book is a groundbreaking manifesto that calls for the establishment of a more inclusive, visitor-centered paradigm based on the shared experience of human habitation. He is the President & CEO of Old Salem as well as President of Twisted Preservation.

Bringing together these two important historians and their unique ways of exploring and interpreting American history is a huge win for Menokin. Through this collaboration, we will be able to construct and provide authentic programming experiences in line with our goal to continue to explore ways of interpreting the lives of all the people who once inhabited the site.

More details about programs will be released as they are confirmed.

#MenokinSleepoverConference  #MenokinSleepoverExperience

 

 

 

 

Joseph McGill and the Slave Dwelling Project

Now that I have the attention of the public by sleeping in extant slave dwellings, it is time to wake up and deliver the message that the people who lived in these structures were not a footnote in American history.

– Joseph McGill, Founder of the Slave Dwelling Project

joseph-mcgill


The Menokin Foundation is pleased to announce that Joseph McGill will be coming to Menokin on September 22, 2017.

Education Coordinator, Alice French, has organized a Sleepover Conference, which will also include Frank Vagnone, international thought leader in innovative and frank-vagnoneentrepreneurial non-profit management and his blog series, One Night Stand.

Make sure to follow us for details of the Sleepover Conference as programming and events are developed.

In the meantime, read about Joseph McGill’s visit to Belle Grove Plantation on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog.


Programs such as the Sleepover Conference are made possible, in part, by the 56 Signers Society of Menokin.

 

Research of Enslaved Families Brings Ph.D. Candidate to Menokin

BY GUEST BLOGGER: Mariaelena DiBenigno

My name is Mariaelena DiBenigno, and I am an American Studies Ph.D. candidate at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

headshot
Mariaelena DiBenigno

My research focuses primarily on how enslavement manifests at public history sites in Virginia’s Tidewater and Northern Neck regions. I study how these histories emerge on the museum landscape in both material and narrative form. Often, these histories involve communities still overlooked by public and academic history.

In February 2016, I learned of an opportunity to research enslaved families at Menokin. I had long appreciated Menokin’s interdisciplinary focus and its insistence on telling diverse, multilayered narratives. It is a site committed to collaboration and community.

During my initial Menokin visit, I learned about the Gordon family and their ties to the local landscape. Daniel Gordon, whose biography I was asked to trace, was the grandfather of Evelyn Taylor Parker and Juanita Taylor Wells; these two sisters had shared their story during an oral history outreach program hosted by Menokin.  According to Evelyn and Juanita, their great-grandparents, Alexander and Nellie Gordon, may have been enslaved at Menokin along with their son, Daniel. Their family had compiled a family

cookbook that contained an extensive genealogy and family history. I also had access to several primary and secondary documents that, coupled with Evelyn and Juanita’s interview and family cookbook, provided substantial assistance for my research into the Gordon family’s connection with Menokin’s nineteenth-century past. Throughout this spring and summer, I worked with genealogists, historians and family members, and I learned far more than I ever expected about local history projects and genealogical research techniques. I also thought long and hard about the implications of interpretation at historic sites and who has a role in the decision-making process.

Currently, I am exploring Daniel’s parents, Alexander and Nellie, in order to concretely tie Daniel to the Menokin property. So far, I have discovered much about Daniel and his wife Maria. They owned extensive property in Richmond County, and they were involved in local religious and social life. However, I have yet to definitively link Evelyn and Juanita’s Daniel Gordon to the Daniel Gordon found in Menokin’s inventories. There is an age discrepancy between the Daniels, but this does not mean the families are not linked to Menokin’s landscape. My work will now track the earlier generations to find a common ancestor who might link the two family lines. I have more censuses to transcribe, birth and death certificates to analyze, circuit court records to explore, and church archives to examine.

There is also the fascinating angle of DNA testing among Gordon family descendants. Overall, this is a project that requires diligence, close reading, and perseverance. It is a necessary endeavor. The Gordon family’s relationship to Menokin deserves focused attention and it is an honor to conduct such research.


Maria also serves on Menokin’s African American Advisory Work Group (AAAWG).

Down and Dirty

Westmoreland County students spent the day at Menokin participating in the TOTS (Think Outside The Sink) education program. They learned about watersheds and the relationships between people, the landscape and the watershed. 
The students also learned about the natural elements that Menokin is made of – wood, stone, clay (brick) and shell (lime mortar). The lesson culminated in painting with dirt, which was a BIG HIT! 

Thanks for coming!

Menokin African American Advisory Workgroup

In 2016, the Menokin Foundation  spearheaded the formation of the African American Advisory Work Group (AAAWG). The primary goals of the AAAWG are to assist the Menokin Foundation in:

  • telling the story of African Americans at Menokin to inspire a fuller understanding of and appreciation for their central role in Menokin’s story.
  • engaging and involving the African American community in ongoing efforts to preserve and interpret Menokin, and developing the historic site into a cultural learning center.
  • acting as a leading pilot or prototype for engagement of any community type.
  • telling the big picture story. (What are the lessons to be extracted from our local history?  How do we relate this history to the state in general and, in bigger terms, the world?)

The group now consists of the following advisory members:

MENOKIN

  • Alice French – Menokin Staff; Education and Outreach Coordinator
  • Dudley Olsson – Menokin Board; Education Committee chair
  • Tom Duckenfield – Menokin Board; Education Committee member

MUSEUM AND HUMANITIES PROFESSIONALS

  • Bessida Cauthorne White – Genealogist; Member of Middle Peninsula African American Genealogical Society
  • Lauranett Lee – Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Trustee; former curator of VHS African American exhibits
  • Mariaelena DeBenignio – College of William & Mary history doctorate and researcher

GORDON FAMILY DESCENDANTS & LOCAL COMMUNITY MEMBERS

  • Evelyn Parker
  • Juanita Wells
  • Mark Cox
  • Brenda Leigh Wells
  • Beatrice Robinson Ball
  • Vera Robinson Rich
  • Skip Taylor
EDUCATION AND PROGRAMMING INITIATIVES AT MENOKIN ARE MADE POSSIBLE – IN PART – BY THE 56 SIGNERS SOCIETY OF MENOKIN.

 

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
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.

ABOUT THE MENOKIN FOUNDATION

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 http://www.menokin.org or call 804-333-1776.