You’d be surprised how much water is used to produce and consume some of the most ordinary foods that we eat frequently.
Think you know the answers? Test your knowledge and take the Menokin Water|Ways Quiz.
You’d be surprised how much water is used to produce and consume some of the most ordinary foods that we eat frequently.
Think you know the answers? Test your knowledge and take the Menokin Water|Ways Quiz.
They’re all in Virginia. And they’re all hosting the Smithsonian Institution’s Water/Ways Exhibition.
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH), in cooperation with the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) and six organizations across the state, will help Virginians examine water as an environmental necessity and an important cultural element through “Water/Ways,” a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program.
From above, Earth appears as a water planet with more than 71 percent of its surface covered with this vital resource for life. Water impacts climate, agriculture, transportation, industry, and more. It inspires art and music. With VFH funding, the “Water/Ways” exhibition will explore this essential topic in six Virginia communities from May 2017 through May 2018.
July 15, 2017 / August 27, 2017
That’s right! The Menokin Foundation in Warsaw, VA is one of six sites across the state to host this traveling exhibit which will criss cross the state over the next 11 months.
This massive, colorful, informative and interactive exhibit will wind and curve its way through the Menokin Visitor’s Center (we measured; it’ll fit!), provoking contemplation, conversation and community awareness. Admission is free.
Check out the Water/Ways page on the Menokin website to learn about Community Paddles and a grand opening festival where the community is invited to paint Warsaw’s sidewalks to look like a river. And the Warsaw/Richmond County Main Street Program will be providing free popsicles and watermelon!
What will your next Menokin Experience be?
Last week, the 6th grade class of Westmoreland County Middle School visited Menokin as part of the TOTS (Think Outside The Sink) program. TOTS is one of several programs that make up the Meaningful Watershed Experience Program that is a joint venture between several natural resource conservation projects in the Northern Neck.
The class divided itself along the gender line, so while the boys started over at the house, the girls took place in an interactive math and graphing experiment design to measure the volume of water in a riverbed.
The exercise worked like this. The girls formed two rows (representing flowing water sources) that converged at a few points and eventually narrowed into one end point. The flowing water was made up of dried beans, which were passed from person to person, heading downstream at a quick pace. The people at the convergence points had the toughest job – receiving beans from two directions and then trying to get them on their way downstream at the same time. Naturally, a lot of beans got dropped at these points, which represented the tendency of water to overflow or flood at these points when the volume is greater than the channel.
What thrilled me beyond all measure was that they were ALL participating. No one was hanging back. No one whining about being bad at math or science.
I wished out load that the beans were magic and would grow a beanstalk so we could steal the golden goose and fund our building project. This daydream led to the naming of their project as The Menokin Magic Bean Stream.
The beans that made it all the way downstream were counted and subtracted from the original starting number. This information was calculated by season and other variables. That data was then plotted on a bar graph to visually represent the information gathered.
I was so thrilled to watch our STEAM program at work and targeting the demographic of students that is traditionally left behind in this kind of study. I would like to thank these girls and their mentors and teachers for taking advantage of our education programs at Menokin, and for making my day!
The Menokin Foundation is honored to be commemorated with a marking by our local DAR and SAR chapters. This marker now graces the front entrance of Menokin, honoring the home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his wife, Rebecca Tayloe. The marker was placed by the Henricopolis Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Rappahannock Chapter, National Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR).
Menokin’s Martin Kirwan King Visitor’s Center was filled with guests from neighboring DAR and SAR chapters, and from the Children of the American Revolution (CAR) Virginia Chapter, for the marking ceremony on Sunday, May 21, 2017. Opening remarks were made by the Rappahannock Chapter of the SAR’s President, Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, and
the Henricopolis Chapter of the DAR’s President, Barbara Sethmann, welcoming guests and recognizing visitors around the room who made this event a reality. Menokin’s Executive Director, Sam McKelvey, thanked the CAR, DAR and SAR chapters on behalf of the Foundation for their commitment to forwarding patriotic causes and commemorating the contributions of Francis Lightfoot Lee.
The room was filled with excitement and readied cameras as the marker was revealed by DAR member, Anita Harrower. Following the revealing of the marker and dedication,
wreaths were laid in commemoration from various CAR, DAR and SAR organizations. Remarks were made on the histories of Francis Lightfoot Lee and Menokin by the Virginia Society SAR President, Michael Elston. Elston was then joined by the Society’s Secretary and Assistant Treasurer, Wayne Rouse, for award recognition of military service to two members of the Rappahannock Chapter. Lt. Gen. Carl Strock was honored with the War Service Medal and Gregory Burkett was honored with the Military Service Medal. At the event’s conclusion, guests enjoyed a reception followed by hard hat tours of the Menokin house.
Thank you to all who visited for this ceremony and made this marking possible.
I am lucky enough to go to a high school which gives seniors a month off from school to work on a project of their choice. When I started to plan how to spend the month of May, I didn’t expect to end up in Warsaw, Virginia. I discovered Menokin through a family friend, who knew about my interest in historic preservation. She sent me an email one day saying that there was a really interesting place called Menokin right down the road from where she lived, but that she hadn’t gotten the opportunity to visit it yet.
I clicked on the link she sent me, and was immediately fascinated by Menokin. The uniqueness of the project is what drew me here, instead of somewhere closer to home. I really admired the decision to preserve the house as a ruin, instead of trying to restore it to how it once looked. I love being able to see the full story of the house. I decided that Menokin would be a great subject for my project. Coming all the way from Maine, my internship here has been a really interesting way to learn about architecture and history in a setting that is completely new to me.
Now, halfway through my second week here, I’m enjoying making videos about topics like archeology at Menokin, and the descendants of slaves who were here at Menokin. I found it especially interesting listening to an interview with two descendants of a slave who might’ve been at Menokin, Evelyn Parker and Juanita Wells, about their lives growing up in Warsaw. They had some very interesting stories about their family.
I also love getting to walk through the ruins, and see all the pieces of stone and wood from the house spread out on the lawn and in the barn. I love that this is a “touchy-feely kind of place,” as Alice (Menokin Education Coordinator) says, because it’s nice to get to see and touch all the pieces of the house up close, which is so unusual for historic house museums. It also feels great to be in the sun when it’s 40 degrees and raining at home. I’m can’t wait for my next week and a half here at Menokin.
Immediately south of Stephens’ property, (see Part II) Thomas Beale II settled on 929 acres at Chestnut Hill about 1673. Like Fleete and Fauntleroy, Beale had true Cavalier origins which gave this neighborhood even at its earliest settlement an incongruous aristocratic air amid a near wilderness. His elegant tombstone (probably carved in England c. 1680) is emblazoned with the family’s coat-of-arms and was the oldest standing marker in the county until it was recently removed from Chestnut Hill for safekeeping. (Further research on Chestnut Hill plantation, especially deeds and plats, may provide clues for understanding Menokin better in relation to its roads, fields, etc.)
It seems likely that the earliest “road” to Menokin entered from what became the Chestnut Hill property to the south and originally may have been an Indian path linking the sites of the so-called “ Mt. Airy burials” and the “Town of the Great Rappahannocks,” both identified on Figure 7. Keep in mind that in the mid-seventeenth century most travel in the vicinity was by water routes. Even so, the open character of the understory did not impede travel through the virgin forests. Robert Beverley in 1705 described the “Oaks, Poplars, Pines, Cedars, Cypress and Sweet-Gums; the trunks of which are often Thirty, Forty, Fifty, some Sixty or Seventy foot high, without a branch or limb.” Using GIS technology, the Virginia Department of Forestry has located
a trace (which it judged to be “over 250 years old”) that “extends from the high ground at Menokin . . . south, southeasterly and today terminates in Muddy Run marshlands” (see Fig. 11). In the 17th century, that track likely crossed Menokin “swamp” below a beaver dam that had accumulated there.
The initial “opening” (i.e., clearing and cultivating) of land at Menokin occurred perhaps as early as the late 1650s, following John Stephens’ 1657/58 patent of the original 1,000 acres. Of course, the Rappahannocks, if indeed they were resident there, may have cleared and cultivated part of the land prior to Stephens’ patent. Stephens returned to England for a brief period (c. 1662-1664?) and after his death in 1678, his heirs sold the property to John Grymes of Gloucester County in 1685.Grymes eventually owned sizable acreage in Middlesex, King and Queen, and Richmond counties, as well as his home plantation in Gloucester. At his death in 1709, Menokin passed to his second son Charles Grymes along with another plantation, Morattico, lower down the Rappahannock River. Charles Grymes was among the foremost gentry planters in early eighteenth-century Virginia and erected an imposing residence at Morattico (but like Fauntleroy’s, too near the river!).Grymes operated Menokin as an outlying “quarter” with 17 slaves, 36 cattle, 32 sheep, and 56 hogs, according to a 1743 inventory.
Grymes’ son-in-law and daughter, Philip and Frances (Grymes) Ludwell inherited Menokin about 1750, after a protracted settlement of Charles Grymes’ substantial estate; yet they soon sold the property to John Tayloe II who already owned much land nearby. In 1751 when he acquired Menokin, Tayloe was one of the wealthiest gentlemen in Virginia. However he had not yet begun to build his impressive new house at Mount Airy (constructed c. 1761-1765) and it seems noteworthy that he passed over the opportunity to establish his seat at Menokin. (For the location of Tayloe’s earlier house, see Fig. 10.) Indeed, he continued to operate Menokin as but one of a number of outlying quarters until he gave the property to his daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Francis Lightfoot Lee. Thus, by the early 1770s when Menokin at last became a principal residence, its lands had been in the process of being cleared and cultivated, to some unknown degree, for more than a century.
That circumstance surely influenced the site-planning decisions made by the Lees and their generous benefactor, her father, John Tayloe II. It seems logical to assume that the approximate 1,000 acres of Menokin were first “entered” and “opened” from the south; with sequential clearing of the several, adjacent plateaus proceeding generally northward over time. A chronicler of agricultural practices in late colonial America explained why large tracts were required for tobacco cultivation, in the constant search for “fresh” fields as old ones were exhausted of their fertility: “This want of land is such, that they reckon a planter should have 50 acres of land for every working hand.” A field typically was considered “worn out” after 3-4 years of tobacco cropping; and required about 20 years lying fallow to regain its fertility. Selective felling of the most useful hardwood trees within the surrounding ravines (yet with care not to denude the “highly erodible soil”) had likely also been ongoing for some decades. The extensive canebrakes of the adjacent tidal marshlands may have been left largely intact until the nineteenth century. Most significantly, an existing pattern of fields, fences, and (at least rudimentary) roads no doubt was already in place by 1769 when Menokin house was begun. And, of course, the resident laborers long had known it as their home (some for perhaps more than one generation).
Virginia Land Office Patent Book 6, p. 24. The plantation remained in the Beale family through the early nineteenth century.
Harper, Richmond County, p. 32.
 Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia ed. Louis B. Wright (Chapel Hill, 1947), pp. 123-124.
Virginia Department of Forestry, “Forest Stewardship Plan for Menokin” (July 2002), p. 28.
Wells, “Menokin in Time,” p. 8.
 For native American agricultural practices, see Michael Williams, Americans and Their Forests: A Historical Geography (Cambridge, U.K., 1989), pp. 35-43.
 Wells, “Menokin in Time,”., pp. 8-9.
 Ibid., pp. 10-12.
 Ibid., pp. 12-13.
Wells, “Menokin in Time,” p. 14.
Ibid., pp. 14-15.
See Laura Croghan Kamoie, Irons in the Fire: The Business History of the Tayloe Family and Virginia’s Gentry (Charlottesville, 2007), p. 33.
 See William M. S. Rasmussen, “Palladio in Tidewater Virginia: Mount Airy and Blandfield,” in Building By the Book ed. Mario di Valmarana (Charlottesville, 1984); Camille Wells, “Dower Play/Power Play: Menokin and the Ordeal of Elite House Building in Colonial Virginia,” in Constructing Image, Identity and Place ed. Alison K. Hoagland and Kenneth A. Breisch (Knoxville, 2003), pp. 2-21. William Tayloe, the original settler, had built a house nearer to the Rappahannock River, about 1682; it reputedly burned in the early eighteenth century.
Wells, “Menokin in Time,” pp. 18, 28.
 Harry J. Carman, ed., American Husbandry (London, 1775; reprint, New York, 1939), p. 165. See also Lois Green Carr and Russell R. Menard, “Land, Labor, and Economies of Scale in Early Maryland: Some Limits to Growth in the Chesapeake System of Husbandry,” Journal of Economic History v. 49 (1989), pp. 407-418; Paul G. E. Clemens, “The Operation of an Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake Tobacco Plantation,” Agricultural History v. 49 (1975), pp. 517-531. At Menokin, the most productive soil has been considered to be the Kempsville Sandy Loam found as the topsoil of the upper plateaus. For an interesting account of period clearing practices, see Carville V. Earle, The Evolution of a Tidewater Settlement System: All Hallow’s Parish, Maryland, 1650-1783 (Chicago, 1975), pp. 30-34.
Wildlife Service, “Rappahannock River,” section 3-2. This is the Rumford soils of the slopes.
Camille Wells has noted that listings of slaves by their given names “suggest that when [John] Tayloe arranged to buy Menokin in 1751, he agreed to buy its inhabitants as well,” idem, “Menokin in Time,” p. 18. (See also Ligon Brooks’ research notes in Menokin Foundation files.)
The objective of this report is to provide an explication of how the landscape of Menokin has functioned historically as a setting for human habitation. The focus is “cultural” usages and meanings rather than “natural” conditions as wildlife habitat. To borrow the terminology of anthropological studies, the analysis centers on an examination of human pathways (movement through space in time) and activity areas (utilization of space in time). Eighteenth-century plantations in America were complex agricultural-production systems. Their organization reflected societal and individual attitudes. In the most refined examples, such as Menokin represents, they were also expressions of aesthetic and associational values.
Perhaps the most distinctive quality of the natural landscape of Virginia’s Northern Neck, the broader geographic setting between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers, is the pattern of irregularly-shaped, small plateaus encompassed by shallow escarpments that occasionally approach true “cliffs” in character. In the vicinity of Menokin, the level (or nearly level) upper plateaus are typically quite modest in extent. By contrast, the tidewater landscape farther down the peninsula (as also along the lower James and York rivers) is usually flatter and more broadly expansive. Land, sea and sky begin to merge there. But in Menokin’s locale, discrete elevated pockets of land have been carved by numerous interconnected rivulets. The resulting dendritic pattern is clearly visible in satellite imagery of the immediate region (Fig. 1).
The generally wooded condition of the surrounding ravines has created nearly continuous bands of foliage that envelope each enclave. The density and verticality of the trees define compact spatial edges and frequently also limit long-distance views. Upon each plateau itself there is a prevailing sense of containment and seclusion. Those particular qualities also make the Menokin landscape quite different from the continuously rolling topography of the piedmont to the west, where the ground levels (and perspectives) constantly vary, and mountains are always on the horizon. It is evident that the natural landscape of Menokin (Fig. 2) has had significant implications for the development of its cultural landscapes.
Menokin plantation takes its name from references to the Indian word associated with the stream which bounds the property along the southeast. As early as 1657/58 the name “Manakin” appears in local records in relation to that “Creek” or “Run” or “Swamp.” (An upper branch sometimes was called “Muddy Run”; in recent years, the latter name also has been applied to the entire stream.) The current spelling of Menokin only became standard in the late 18th Century with the Lee family tenure. Prior to that, numerous transliterated variations may be found, ranging widely from “Monoaton” to “Monocon” to “Manoikin.” Mary R. Miller, in her very useful study of Place-Names of the Northern Neck of Virginia (1983), in attempting to distinguish between the variant spellings, nevertheless made some significant errors which have produced subsequent confusion. It does appear however that the similar place-names of “Monascon,” “Monaskan” or “Menaskant” (thought to be a shortened form of “Monasukapanough”) identify an entirely separate locality on the border of present Richmond and Lancaster counties.
The Algonquian meaning of “Menokin” is unknown today, according to most authorities on American Indian cultures. Variations of that place-name today appear throughout the eastern seaboard. As unlikely as it may seem, modern authorities also believe that the Algonquian word bears no relation to the Monacan Indians who inhabited the upper James River region during the contact era, yet who spoke a separate Siouan language. (Thus the similar name of the Huguenot settlement of “Manakin,” established in 1699 in what became Powhatan County near an abandoned Monacan Indian town, is considered to be merely coincidental.) It also should be mentioned that there was a “Manoakin” on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay as early as 1663. Clifford C. Presnall’s article on “The Menokin Mystery” in the Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine (pp. 3020-3022) attempted to address the matter but ultimately circulated further misinformation.
main travel artery of the Rappahannock River (Fig. 3) was recognized as being highly suitable for occupation even in the prehistoric era. An abundance of early artifacts (stone flakes, pottery shards and fire-cracked rock) have been recorded by archaeologists investigating the plateau near the house ruins (Fig. 4).
By the contact era with Europeans, the vicinity was occupied by the Rappahannock Indians (who evidently had resided in the broader region since about 1300 C.E.).
The locality’s association with them is reflected in the site’s long-standing place names. Indeed, Capt. John Smith’s 1612 map of Virginia appears to locate the principal seat of the Rappahannocks (“Toppahanock”) in the general Menokin neighborhood (Fig. 5). He reportedly first encountered them in December 1607 and then again in July 1608 (Fig. 6).
One archaeologist has suggested that in the mid-seventeenth century (and perhaps earlier?), when there probably were only a few hundred Rappahannocks left, the
chief “town of the Great Rappahannocks” was situated along the southern edge of what became the Menokin estate (Fig. 7). The particular promontory that he identified is one of the first to be encountered upstream along Rappahannock Creek and is slightly secluded yet affords a clear view to allow monitoring of movement on the nearby river. It would seem to be an ideal defensive position. However, there appears to be disagreement among historians; a recent map of “Indians Towns” along the Rappahannock River (Fig. 8) does not include the Menokin location. (In any case, compare the apparent discrepancies among the relative locations of “Toppahanock,” “Acquack” and “Nomanye”/”Nawmanay,” known today as “Nomini”.) This important subject needs to be more fully investigated in consultation with experts on Virginia’s indigenous people. Future archaeological excavations may clarify the matter.