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.
Originally prepared in October 2012 and revised in November of 2013, this research conducted and prepared by C. Allan Brown is part of the The Menokin Glass House Project.
The report will be shared in a serial fashion with the intention of a weekly post as time allows.
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.
 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.
 For information on the elegance of Morattico, see Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Mansions of Virginia, 1706-1776 (Chapel Hill, 1945), pp. 62-67, 409-410.
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.
 Earle, Evolution, p. 25.
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.)
Originally prepared in October 2012 and revised in November of 2013, this research conducted and prepared by C. Allan Brown is part of the The Menokin Glass House Project.
The report will be shared in a serial fashion with the intention of a weekly post as time allows.
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.
Menokin’s somewhat strategic location at the confluence of two small streams (named “Rappahannock Creek” and “Manakin [sic] Creek” in the earliest records) and near the
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.
 For the broader physical context, see John R. Wennersten, The Chesapeake: An Environmental Biography (Baltimore, 2000); Philip D. Curtin, Grace S. Brush and George W. Fisher, Discovering the Chesapeake: The History of an Ecosystem (Baltimore, 2001).
 See William Bright, Native American Placenames of the United States (Norman, OK, 2004), pp. 263, 278, 294.
 See Jeffrey L. Hantman, “Between Powhatan and Quirank: Reconstructing Monacan Culture and History in the Context of Jamestown,” American Anthropologist v. 92 (1990), pp. 676-690; Karenne Wood and Diane Shields, The Monacan Indians: Our Story (2000); Dennis B. Blanton and Julia A. King, eds., Indian and European Contact in Context: The Mid-Atlantic Region (Gainesville, FL, 2004), esp. pp. 22-26.
 See Virginia Magazine of History and Biography v. 19 (1911), pp. 173-180.
 Although the earliest documented name for the stream known today as Cat Point Creek is “Fleet’s Creek” (see Henry Fleete’s patent of 750 acres along that stream, dated 1 August 1652; Virginia Land Office Patent Book 3, p. 97), within a few years it was consistently known as “Rappahannock Creek” (see John Stephens’ patent of the original 1000 acres of the Menokin property, dated 13 March 1657/58; ibid., 4: 303). The name “Cat Point Creek” came into common usage only beginning in the nineteenth century. However “Cat Point, Rappahannock Creek” was familiarly known by the mid-eighteenth century; see, e.g., Virginia Gazette (Purdie& Dixon), 3 September 1772. The earliest record of “Catt [sic] Point” that I have seen dates to 5 February 1706; see Richmond County Deed Book 4, pp. 92a-93. There was a ferry across Rappahannock Creek situated at that location as early as 1686.
John Stephens’ original 1000-acre patent of the Menokin property, on 13 March 1657/58, situates it as “upon Rappahannock River or Creek opposite to the land of Colo. Henry Fleete, bounding southwesterly upon the said creek which divides this land from the said Colo. Fleete’s land, southeasterly upon Manakin [sic] Creek being a branch of the said Rappahannock Creek;” Virginia Land Office Patent Book 4, p. 303. See also Camille Wells, “Menokin in Time: A Documentary Research Report” (1997) prepared for the Menokin Foundation; it is the most comprehensive history of the site that has been produced.
See Thane H. Harpole, David A. Brown and Meredith Mahoney, “An Archaeological Survey of Menokin, Site 44RD35, Richmond County, Virginia” (June 2008), esp. figs. 2, 3, 10 and 23; Deanna Beacham, “Examples of Indigenous Cultural Landscapes in Virginia” (2011), pp. 15-17.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge: Comprehensive Conservation Plan” (December 2009), section 3-6. See, also, James D. Rice, Nature and History in the Potomac Country: From Hunter-Gatherers to the Age of Jefferson (Baltimore, 2009); Edward DuBois Ragan, “Where the Water Ebbs and Flows: Place and Self Among the Rappahannock People, from the Emergence of their Community to its Seclusion in 1706” (PhD diss., Syracuse University, 2005); Stephen R. Potter, Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs: The Development of Algonquian Culture in the Potomac Valley (Charlottesville, 1993).
See Edward W. Haile, Virginia Discovered and Discribed [sic] by Captayn [sic] John Smith 1608 (Champlain, Virginia, 1995); Philip L. Barbour, ed., The Complete Works of Captain John Smith (1580-1631), 3 vols. (Chapel Hill, 1986). See, also, Helen C. Rountree, Wayne E. Clark, Kent Mountford, and Michael B. Barber, John Smith’s Chesapeake Voyages, 1607-1609 (Charlottesville, 2007); Susan Schmidt, Landfall Along the Chesapeake: In the Wake of Captain John Smith (Baltimore, 2006).
Karenne Wood, ed., The Virginia Indian Heritage Trail, 3rd edition (Charlottesville, 2009), p. 42. See also Keith Egloff and Deborah Woodward, First People: The Early Indians of Virginia, 2nd edition (Charlottesville, 2006), esp. p. 76. The “Cat Point Creek and Vicinity” guide, published by the Friends of the Rappahannock (n.d.), identifies “Dancing Point” on the western shore of Menokin Bay (“location according to local legend”) as the site of the “King’s town” and the place where “in December of 1607, that the Rappahannocks first met the explorer Capt. John Smith.”’
Stevan C. Pullins, “A Phase II Archaeological Evaluation of Site 44RD50 Associated with the Proposed Route 3 Project, Richmond and Westmoreland Counties, Virginia” (August 1992), p. 10. Note that elsewhere in that report (p. 9) the adjective “great” shifts place, modifying “town” (i.e., “Great Town of the Rappahannocks”). There is also a reference to a Rappahannock town along Rappahannock Creek (“Fleet’s Creek”) in a patent dated 8 October 1657: Virginia Land Office Patent Book 4, p. 185. Curiously, Wells’ comprehensive 1997 research report (“Menokin in Time,” op. cit.) makes no mention of Pullins’ 1992 report. See, also, Helen C. Rountree, Pocahontas’s People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia through Four Centuries (Norman, Oklahoma, 1990), p. 118.
Capt. Henry Fleete’s 1652 patent of land southwest of the present Menokin property was situated on the “north side of Rappahannock River, southwest of Great Rappahannock town where the Indians are at present seated 2 miles up Fleet’s Creek [i.e., Rappahannock or Cat Point Creek]” Virginia Land Office Patent Book 3, p. 97. See, also, Pullins, “Phase II Archaeological Evaluation,” pp. 11-12. John Stephens’ will, dated 5 March 1661, bequeathed the 1,000 acres of the Menokin property, “lying on Raa’ok. Creek, on the same side the Indians liveth on as per patent… ;” (Old) Rappahannock County Deed and Will Book, 1677-1682, Part I, pp. 66-68. See, also, Thomas Hoskins Warner, History of Old Rappahannock County, Virginia, 1656- 1692 (Tappahannock, 1965), pp. 36-37.
It seems that the promontory has not been physically investigated by archaeologists; it was not examined during the survey conducted in 2008 by DATA Investigations, LLC. Aerial photographs indicate that as late as about 1950, that area of the plateau was open (now wooded). See, also, Douglas W. Sanford and Michael J. Klein, “An Archaeological Assessment of Richmond County, Virginia” (February 1994), pp. 91-95, 100. Not far from the Mount Airy millpond, a Rappahannock ossuary, dating from c. 1630-1660, was excavated just south of the Menokin property; see Potter, Commoners, Tribute and Chiefs, pp. 218-220.
Figure 9 (uncredited) was found in the files of the Menokin Foundation. It may be related to the “Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail” project. Also, Figure 6? For the uncertainty today of actual locations of the Indian towns, see Rountree, Powhatan, p. 12; Blanton & King, Contact, pp. 62-64, 69, 71.
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.
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.
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.
Only 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.
The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it’s grown to 26 exciting categories. As in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you.
2016 Best of Design Award for Unbuilt > On the Boards: The Menokin Project
Central to a comprehensive master plan for a 500-acre historic Virginian tobacco plantation, the Menokin Project seeks to offer a new way to present and celebrate the complex history of the region through its designs to preserve the 1769 house.Built by a signer of the Declaration of Independence and designated a National Historic Landmark, the ruins of the house are stabilized and preserved using glass to highlight the history’s wear and tear. By delicately marrying old with new, the project seeks to reinterpret the house, while allowing researchers, archaeologists, and visitors to gain a unique understanding of the irreplaceable portions of the site, its ancillary buildings, and the landscape.
Glass Engineer Eckersley O’Callaghan
Preservation Technologist John Fidler Preservation Technology
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.
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 entrepreneurial 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 the56 Signers Societyof Menokin.
My name is Mariaelena DiBenigno, and I am an American Studies Ph.D. candidate at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
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
Gordon Family Cookbook: Page 1
Gordon Family Cookbook: Page 2
Gordon Family Cookbook: Page 3
Gordon Family Cookbook: Page 4
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).