Commentator Thea Marshall recently learned about a famous architect who’ll be putting back together again a famous pile of rubble.
Of course, the famous architect is Jorge Silvetti – of Machado and Silvetti Associates – and the famous pile of rubble is Menokin, a National Historic Landmark and the Commonwealth’s largest and most historic jigsaw puzzle.
This essay, as comfortable to listen to as a favorite tune, is chock full of information about Menokin – the place, the people who lived here, and what the future holds for this historic treasure.
Thea Marshall is the author of “Neck Tales: Stories from Virginia’s Northern Neck,” published in June, 2009. Along with her professional writing assignments, she is a broadcaster, actor, and producer, with life long experience in all forms of communication – from print to theater to radio and television. She writes and broadcasts original commentaries on and about the people, places, history, culture and current issues relating to the Northern Neck for WCVE Public Radio (heard on both WCVE in Richmond and WCNV for the Northern Neck).
"THESE Tourists, heaven preserve us! needs must live
A profitable life: some glance along,
Rapid and gay, as if the earth were air,
And they were butterflies to wheel about
Long as the summer lasted..."
Monarchs, tiger swallowtails, dragonflies and hummingbird moths all came to feast on the beautiful flowers in the Menokin Butterfly Garden.
Planted by a local Boy Scout as his Eagle Scout Project, and maintained by a local chapter of the Master Naturalists, the garden has provided pleasure for the staff, visitors and wildlife of Menokin all season.
Some of my first museum memories are from historic house museums, they are what some call sticky memories. I don’t remember the whole day, but I remember the red exterior of Gilbert Stuart Birthplace, the amazing elevator in Gillette Castle, the opulence of Rosecliff Mansion (okay, so at least the last two aren’t so house-y, but they followed the model at least back then, and they were houses to some people). I was between 6 and 9 when I went to these places, and that I at least remember some facet of them 20 years later means that those running the museums and leading the tours are…
Before the Menokin plantation was ever developed, this area along Cat Point Creek (also called Rappahannock Creek) was home to the Rappahannock Indian Tribe. In 1608, Capt. John Smith recorded 14 Rappahannock towns on the north side of the River and its tributaries. The general plantation site was referred to as “Menokin” by the Rappahannock, which likely translates to “He gives it to me” in the tribe’s Algonquian-based language. Francis Lightfoot Lee kept the name for his home. For more information on the Rappahannock Tribe, visit http://www.rappahannocktribe.org.
John Smith was one of the foremost leaders of early Jamestown. He’d had an interesting life before that, one which influenced the direction of this country and (as I seem to be constantly promising) which will be explored later in this blog. He was a controversial but effective leader in the settlement’s first years, and when health problems and an injury prompted his return to England in 1609, he spent his time working for the colony from there, promoting it and encouraging people to move there.
Robert “Councillor” Carter III – The Great Emancipator
Often referred to as “the first emancipator,” Robert Carter III of Nomini Hall in Virginia’s Northern Neck was an American plantation owner, founding father and onetime British government official. He also owned a large number of slaves as part of his vast estate.
Carter’s personal convictions and relationship with these enslaved families led to their manumission in a 1791 deed of gift. Nearly 500 slaves were freed, making Carter’s act of liberation the largest in the history of American slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation.
After the death of his wife, Frances Ann Tasker Carter, in 1787, Carter embraced the Swedenborgian faith. He instituted a program of gradual manumission of all slaves attached to his estate by filing a “Deed of Gift” filed with the county of Westmoreland in 1791. He designed the program to be gradual to reduce the resistance of white neighbors.
Frequently, Carter rented land to recently freed slaves, sometimes evicting previous white tenants in the process. In all, about 452 slaves from his Nomini Hall plantation and large home in Westmoreland County, Virginia were granted their freedom.