Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Day 5 -Berkeley Plantation

October 2016 - Williamsburg VA

We decided to head out to a plantation with lunch on the way. Would you believe in a 40 km drive we did not pass one restaurant before arriving at the plantation. We had protein bars in the car so that was lunch.

Click here for our tour of Jamestown.

We got our tickets, $11 each. the plantation is privately owned and funded. It is very definitely worth the price. We saw other plantations where it was $10 each just to view the grounds. The tour guide, Melissa was excellent.

Saw this t-shirt in the gift shop, more about that later.

No photography allowed in the house or museum.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the following information.

We started the tour on the patio behind the original guesthouse, now the shop.

Among the many American "firsts" that occurred at Berkeley Plantation are:
  1. The first official Thanksgiving: 4 December 1619
  2. First time Army bugle call "Taps" played: July 1862, by bugler Oliver W. Norton; the melody was written at Harrison's Landing, the plantation's old wharf, by Norton and then General Daniel Butterfield.
  3. Bourbon whiskey was originally distilled at Berkeley Plantation in 1620.

We then moved on to the laundry and kitchen building. This building is not open to the public as it has not been repaired.

This is a cannon ball but not the original. It was found on the grounds and fit the hole perfectly however.

On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred, about 8,000 acres (32 km2) on the north bank of the James River near Herring Creek in an area then known as Charles Cittie (sic). It was named for one of the original founders, Richard Berkeley,[citation needed] a member of the Berkeley family of Gloucestershire, England. It was about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, where the first permanent settlement of the Colony of Virginia was established on May 14, 1607.

The view if you arrived by road.

When the patent was applied for George Yeardley (saw his house yesterday), then Governor of Virginia and one of the partners in the venture, called Berkeley “a very good and convenient” place to start a settlement. It was truly a site well situated to grow crops and begin commercial ventures. The settlers at Jamestown had not been very successful in growing crops. Berkeley was much better situated for the growing of crops.

The view if arriving by boat.

Using bricks fired on the Berkeley plantation, Benjamin Harrison IV built a Georgian-style three-story brick mansion on a hill overlooking the James River in 1726. Berkeley would later earn a distinction shared only with Peacefield in Quincy, Massachusetts as the ancestral home for two United States Presidents. Harrison's son, Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the American Declaration of Independence and a Governor of Virginia, was born at Berkeley Plantation, as was his son William Henry Harrison, a war hero in the Battle of Tippecanoe, governor of Indiana Territory, and ninth President of the United States.

We then attended a ten minute film in the basement museum.

There is a tunnel connecting the laundry cook house to the main house. When the Jamieson family bought the house it was bricked up at both ends. The likely reason was that the basement was used as a jail during the American Civil War,

Union troops occupied Berkeley Plantation, and President Abraham Lincoln twice visited there in the summer of 1862 to confer with Gen. George B. McClellan. The Harrisons were not able to regain possession of the plantation after the war, and it passed through several owners' hands and fell into disrepair.

The date of the building and the initials of the owners, Benjamin Harrison IV and his wife, Anne, appear in a datestone over a side door. The mansion is said to be the oldest 3-story brick house in Virginia and the first with a pediment roof. The handsome Adam woodwork and the double arches of the 'Great Rooms’ were installed by Benjamin Harrison VI at the direction of Thomas Jefferson. The outside walls are 36 inches thick. The roof is slate and a spacious hall divides the building. There are three floors above the basement, four great rooms on a floor.

In 1745, he and his "two youngest daughters" (one of which was very likely Hannah) were killed when lightning struck his house.

According to our guide he was closing the middle window when he was struck.

I did find a photo of the inside online. That's Benjamin over the fireplace, at nineteen he had to raise his 11 siblings after his father died.

Berkeley’s gardens and lawn extend a full quarter–mile from the front door of the mansion to the river banks. The 100 year old Boxwood garden gracing Berkeley’s buildings and 10 acres of formal gardens are one of the most extensive in Virginia.

After the tour of the house we headed down to the Thanksgiving Memorial.

One of the men, John Smyth of Nibley, was Historian of the Berkeley family and of Berkeley Castle in England. This was not the same John Smith of Jamestown and Pocahontas fame. As part of his duties, he recorded the settlement of Virginia from 1609 to 1622 through a collection of 38 papers and documents known as the Nibley Papers. These papers are the only known documents that chronicle the Berkeley expedition, as well as the orders for the prayerful enactment of the first Thanksgiving. They currently reside at the New York Public Library and their contents were discovered by Dr. Lyon Tyler, retired president of William and Mary College. Dr. Tyler was the son of President John Tyler. In addition to residing at the New York Public Library, transcripts of the Nibley Papers were published by the library in 1899 and by the Library of Congress in 1906.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the papers were discovered, unread and unresearched. Dr. Tyler was the first known scholar to have studied, examined and researched them and wrote an article about his discovery, which was published in The Richmond News Leader on April 3, 1931. This is probably the first time Virginians knew about this important historical event, which occurred in their state.

Dr. Tyler also made his discovery known to his young neighbor, Malcolm Jamieson, who had taken up residence at Berkeley Plantation some 4 or 5 years earlier. If it had not been for this discovery by Dr. Tyler the historical significance of this may never have been known.

Taps was composed in July 1862 at Harrison's Landing in Virginia,
If anyone can be said to have composed 'Taps,' it was Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, during the American Civil War. Dissatisfied with the customary firing of three rifle volleys at the conclusion of burials during battle and also wanting a less harsh bugle call for ceremonially signaling the end of a soldier's day, he likely altered an older piece known as "Tattoo," a French bugle call used to signal "lights out," into the call we now know as 'Taps.'


Summoning his brigade's bugler, Private Oliver Willcox Norton, to his tent one evening in July 1862, Butterfield (whether he wrote 'Taps' straight from the cuff or improvised something new by rearranging an older work) worked with the bugler to transform the melody into its present form.

In 1907, Berkeley Plantation was bought by John Jamieson, a Scotsman who had served as a drummer boy in the Union army during the Civil War. His son, Malcolm Jamieson (who bought out the interests of other heirs after John's death), and Malcolm's wife, Grace, restored the manor, which had been in deteriorating condition.

The architecture is original, and the house has been filled with antique furniture and furnishings that date from the period when it was built. The grounds, too, have been restored, and cuttings from the boxwood gardens are available as living souvenirs for its visitors.

There is a small building containing the restrooms and a small museum.

Linking up with:

Scenic Weekends
Monday Walks
Petite Pudding
Monday Morning Blog Club
Whatever the Weather - Wednesday - Friday
Through My Lens Monday
Life Through the Lens
Tuesday Travel
Our World Tuesday
City Trippin'
Wanderful Wednesday
SNAP on Wednesday
Outdoor Wednesday
Wednesday Around the World at Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday
Budget Travel Talk
Weekend Travel Inspiration.
The Weekly Postcard
Weekend Wanderlust


  1. You are seeing some neat things...enjoy!

  2. Wow. What gorgeous grounds! And so much history. I've been to Williamsburgh but somehow missed Berkeley Plantation. I need to make a trip there.

  3. It's such a mournful sound, Taps, isn't it? Too many lives lost!
    Thanks for walking with me again, Jackie. It's appreciated. :)

  4. I love historic houses, and this one sounds like it's got a lot of history packed in!

  5. Thank you for history lesson!
    Fascinating cannon ball...

  6. I was quite taken with the "drive leisurely" sign, and things only got better and better during the leisurely read.

  7. Wow there's a lot of history. Fascinating visit. Beautiful grounds too. #citytripping

  8. This is very interesting! Like the T-shirt you photograph, history can change form one moment to another (and sometimes in a funny way). #TPThursday

  9. Hi Jackie, best made plans and all that, at least you had something to eat although not quite as nice as a proper lunch. The Berkeley plantation sounds like an interesting place to visit and the history of the place quite fascinating. How unlucky was Benjamin Harrison and his daughters to be killed by lightening whilst closing a window! Not nice at all... It is amazing to think that's where Thanksgiving first started and now it's such a big thing.

    Thank you for linking up with the #MMBC.


  10. What an intriguing place to wander both inside and outside. Love the brickwork detail on the house and the incredible thickness of the walls.

  11. Sounds like a fascinating place to visit and I love all the accompanying pictures #eatsleepblogrt

  12. It was a shame you couldn't use a camera inside but you have a great selection of photos from the outside. We don't often eat out, but I have had it happen that we decide to do so but can't find anywhere along the way. Quite frustrating. :) Thank goodness the Jamieson's took on the restoration of the building.

  13. This seems like such an interesting and historical place that I'm surprised this is the first I've heard of it. If I were in the area, I would definitely want to stop for a visit. I like that it's historical for a variety of reasons (bourban!), and not just for a single event.

  14. A fantastic post with terrific information and photos! Great virtual tour for us...
    Thank you for taking part in the Travel Tuesday meme, hope to see another of your entries there this week!


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