They Migrated From Maryland to Virginia – Just 300 Years Apart

Our eldest son moved his family from Maryland to Lynchburg in Virginia’s Southern Piedmont Valley about 12 years ago to allow his sons to attend christian colleges there.  He knew little of the area’s history, but found a home and a job just outside Bedford County and the City of Lynchburg.  As it turns out, he’s not the first of my family to migrate from Maryland to this part of Virginia.

Straight Line from Maryland to Virginia 1685

And, here’s how this story goes:

My Phelps-Bolling Connection

My sixth great grandmother was Martha/Mary Phelps (1737-1767) of Albemarle, Virginia.  She married my sixth paternal great grandfather Major Benjamin Bolling from Wilkes, North Carolina, when she was just 16. They had ten children in 16 years.  At age 29, she died in Flat Gap, Virginia, giving birth to their daughter Elizabeth Bolling.    Major Bolling married four more times before he passed away some 65 years later at age 98 when still residing in Flat Gap.

Martha was also called Mary or Polly.  Out of eight children, Martha was the fifth daughter born to Colonel John Phelps (1705-1772), of Albemarle County, Virginia, and Mary C. Gibson (1705-1763) originally of Hanover County, Virginia.

John Phelps Sr. 1683-1747

John Phelps Sr. 1683-1747 Picture Shared by Taylor Phelps and Shelly Phelps Barnett.

Colonel John was the son of John Phelps, Sr. (1683-1747), from Goochland County, Virginia, and Martha Margaret Talbot (1684-1747) born in Maryland.  John Phelps, Sr.  was the son of William Phelps and Ann Rachel Gorsuch (originally from Somerset, England).  John Phelps, Sr. along with his sons, had land grants totaling 8000 acres from George II of England in Henrico, Goochland and Bedford Counties, Virginia. (1727-1747)

Founding and Development of Bedford County

In fact, Bedford County was formed in December 1753 from the counties of Albemarle and Lunenburg.  It was this second John Phelps, who, with William Callaway, served as Bedford’s first two burgesses. He also served four assemblies in the House of Burgesses beginning August 22, 1754. At the time of his appointment, Colonel Phelps already enjoyed a reputation as a respected Justice in Lunenburg and Bedford Counties; he was a Coroner in Lunenburg, and an Anglican Vestryman in Lunenburg’s Parish of Cumberland.

From “Our Kin / The Genealogies of Some of the Early Families Who Made History in the Founding and Development of Bedford County Virginia,” by Ackerly, Mary Denham, and Lula Eastman Jeter Parker, Published by J.P. Bell Co., Inc., Lynchburg, VA, 1930, we learn that Colonel Phelps founded and developed Bedford County, Virginia:

John Phelps, the first of the name of whom we have any authentic record, was already settled in Brunswick County, Va., when Lunenburg was taken from that county, and was one of the first Justices of the new county. He, with Matthew Talbot and others, was present at the first Court of Lunenburg County held May 5, 1746. When the increase in population made it necessary to form still another county from Lunenburg’s territory, and Bedford came into being, we find John Phelps again at the head of affairs-“Justice of the Peace, and a Justice of the County Court in Chancery.” He and William Callaway were Bedford’s first representatives in the House of Burgesses, and from Hening’s Statutes, Vol. VII, we learn that he was a Colonel in the Colonial Army…


The House of Burgesses in the 1750s

Virginia House of Burgesses 1750-1774

John Phelps’ entered his first session as a burgess with fellow freshman Peter Jefferson of Albemarle County, father of future Declaration of Independence author, Thomas Jefferson. (Thomas Jefferson later represented Albemarle County in the House of Burgesses from 1769-1774). It is likely that Phelps was already acquainted with the family; in 1749 he was sworn in as Justice of the Peace and Justice of the Chancery with Field Jefferson, uncle of Thomas Jefferson, in Lunenburg County.   The two also served as Vestrymen in the Parish of Cumberland.

Further, Phelps served in the House of Burgesses with Augustine Washington (another of my distant relatives), of Westmoreland County, and father of George Washington. In fact, he served in the company of many Virginians who would later become venerable leaders of the American Revolution:  Peyton Randolph, Virginia Attorney General and later first president of the Continental Congress; Benjamin Harrison of “Berkeley” in Charles City County and George Wythe of Williamsburg, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and both representatives to the Continental Congress; Richard Bland of Prince George’s County, Maryland (and husband of my seventh great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Bland Blair Bolling), also a member of the Continental Congress. The oratorical and legislative experience these burgesses gained would serve them well in the years to follow when they would forge their own country after the defeat of the British at Yorktown in 1781. The House of Burgesses was dissolved by the Governor in response to its actions against the Townsend Act, so named for Charles Townsend, British Chancellor of the Exchequer. Passed by Parliament in 1767, the Act placed a tax on common products imported into the American Colonies. These items included lead, paper, paint, glass, and tea. In contrast to the Stamp Act of 1765, the laws were not a direct tax, but a tax on imports. The most public display of protest toward the Act was carried out in 1773 in what has become known as the Boston Tea Party. Rather than continue to pay the oppressive import tax, colonial Bostonians dressed as Indians raided British ships carrying imported tea and dumped the leaves into Boston harbor.

John Phelps Service in The French and Indian War (1754-1763)

French and Indian War - Rebel History

French and Indian War – Rebel History

Researcher, Mary Galgan, has done an amazing amount of research on the Phelps Family.  She writes that on August 20, 1756, then Captain John Phelps was commissioned to command a Company of Rangers to be raised in Bedford County to protect the settlers from the French and Indians in the area. There is also evidence that six years prior to his Ranger commission, John Phelps and other “Gentlemen” of Lunenburg County were sworn in as “Captains of the Foot in this County.”  For their service in “the defence and protection of the frontier of this colony, against the incursions and depredations of the French, and their Indian allies” members of the Militia of the County of Bedford were paid in September 1758. Captain John Phelps tops the long list of Bedford militia troops, receiving the sum of £2.8.0 for his service.

Captain Phelps returned to Bedford after the French and Indian War, living out the rest of his days quietly with his family on his land near Lynchburg. He died in Bedford County in 1772. His will, recorded in Will Book “A” page 137, lists wife,
Mary and children, Jane, Judith, Sarah, Ann, Mary, Betty, John, and Aggey. His son, Lt.
John Phelps d 1801, also served as an officer in the militia, and later, as an officer in the
Virginia line during the American Revolution.

The French and Indian War made life on the Virginia frontier particularly dangerous, especially for men like Colonel Patton and Captain Phelps who lived west of Albemarle County. During the conflict the majority of Indian tribes sided with the French, with the one exception of the Iroquois Confederacy who fought on the side of Great Britain and the colonies.

Trading posts and forts were used by both the British and the French forces whose
countries went to war over the disputed territory “the Ohio Country,” bounded east to west by the Appalachian mountains and the Mississippi river, and north to south by the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. While serving as Lieutenant Governor Virginia from 1751 to 1758, Robert Dinwiddie began granting patents of land in the Ohio valley to Virginia citizens after learning the French were entrenching themselves in the region (at the time, Virginia stretched from the Chesapeake Bay to the Mississippi). In the winter of 1753-54, Dinwiddie sent a 21 year old Virginia militia officer, George Washington, to deliver a letter on behalf of the Crown demanding the French vacate the region; however, the French refused. The years 1754 and 1755 included several clashes, but the war didn’t officially begin until May 15, 1756, when Britain declared war on the French, marking the beginning of what is referred to in Europe as the Seven Years’ War.  Washington suffered his first and only military defeat of his career during the war and mourned the death of his commander, Major General Edward Braddock whom he carried off the battlefield near present day Pittsburgh on 9 July, 1755. It wasn’t until 1758 that the British tide began to turn with victories in the north at Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) on Lake Champlain, and Fort Frontenac on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario. The war ended with the British victorious on 10 February 1763 upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Update:  Post College and Outward Migration

Our three grandsons have since graduated college; two of the three serve in the United States Armed Forces and are stationed elsewhere; the only one who remains near his parents in Virginia and now a new homeowner works in Law Enforcement.  As for our now “empty nester” children–they just recently added a beautifully screened in porch over their patio and refinished their recreation room.  Their eldest son married and visits with his family that now includes a one-year-old.  We elders keep praying there will be outward migration closer to our home in Maryland, but I’m thinking God has other plans.  The good news is our children are just a five hour commute away!


The Statutes at Large; Being A Collection Of All The Laws Of Virginia, From The First
Session Of The Legislature In The Year 1619. Volume VII. Franklin Press, Richmond,
Virginia, 1820.

Our Kin: the genealogies of some of the early families who made history in the founding
and development of Bedford County, Virginia. Mary Denham Ackerly. 1930
Colonial Virginia Register, compiled by William Glover and Mary Newton Standard,1902.

The Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition (1910–1911)

“Wingapo” – Welcome, My Beloved Friend

“Welcome, my beloved friend”

European colonists arriving in Virginia may have been greeted with, “Wingapo,”  (pronounced win-gà-po), which translated means “Welcome, my beloved Friend.”  So we know that the State of Virginia’s history did not begin in 1607. We are learning that Indians have lived in Virginia for thousands of years.  In fact, if you ask any Virginia Native American, “When did you come to this land?”, he or she will tell you, “We have always been here.”

Native American Tribes Led by Chief Powhatan

Little is known about Chief Powhatan’s life before the arrival of English colonists in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. He apparently inherited the leadership of about 4-6 tribes, with its base at the “fall line” near present-day Richmond, and his Algonquin native name “Powhatan,” which means “at the falls,” and describes his people’s original lands. Through diplomacy and/or force, by the early 17th century, Powhatan had assembled a total of about 30 tribes that included an estimated 10,000-15,000 people.

According to early chroniclers, Powhatan’s father may have come to Virginia from either Florida or Maya territory in Central America. The Mayan word “Pohotun” refers to ancient ones. Their civilization had a history of conquest and tribal consolidation.

About the Powhatan “Confederacy”

The Powhatans populated the northeastern part of the United States at the time of its colonization [1492-1673].  Their boundaries in 1607 stretched from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., and onto the Eastern Shore region (about 16,000 square miles). [Note: A Washington Post map by Gene Thorpe dated December 13, 2006, showed the land and water areas were in fact between 18,700 to 19,250 square miles.]

Map Showing The Boundaries Of The Powhatan Confederacy 

Boundaries of The Powhatan Confederacy 1607

Boundaries of The Powhatan Confederacy 1607

Treaty Between The English And The Powhatan Indians, October 1646

The oldest Treaty in America dates back to  October 1646, two years after Pamunkey Chief Opechancanough, brother of Powhatan, ordered coördinated attacks on English settlements that killed about 500 people. The government of the colony and Chief Necotowance, son of Opechancanough, and nephew of Chief Powhatan, on behalf of the Powhatan tribes, negotiated a treaty that ended hostilities between the remnant of the Powhatan and the English Virginians. Later in the year, the British General Assembly enacted the treaty into law and adopted other laws to enforce its terms.

The substance of the “Treaty of 1646,” placed Indians in eastern Virginia under the control of the King of England.  In theory, it provided the tribes’ people protection from other tribes and from encroaching settlers. Yet, it imposed many restrictions on them by 1) confining them to land north of the York River; 2) prohibiting them from interfering with English settlements south of that river; 3) requiring them to communicate with the government by messengers while dressed in distinctive clothing; 4) requiring them to return all hostages, including “negroes,” 5) to turn in their guns; and, 6) to acknowledge and make tribute to the King for such protection by paying unto the King’s Governor 20 beaver skin’s annually  at the time the Geese migrated south.

From that time on, the colonies, governments, and Indian leaders negotiated treaties that allowed people of European origin or ancestry to settle in areas that Indians had formerly occupied. Often, these treaties put an end to open hostilities or organized warfare.  These legal doctrines also showed that Indians did not bear the same relationship to the colonial governments that free white men enjoyed. In fact, some colonial laws and practices treated Indians as foreign nations. And, when Indians resided in or near European settlements, they were not given the full rights of free white men. In the case of the Treaty of 1646, the affected tribes were known as “tributary nations,” because they were required to pay tribute to their victors who had imposed the terms of the treaty on them. As a result,  their required annual tribute by payment of beaver skins to the government compared to the European settlers taxation, which exempted Indians.

Our Constitution also included some of those same attitudes toward Indians residing within its boundaries:

  • Article I, Section 2, in providing for the counting of people for the purposes of assigning direct taxes and the number of members each state would have in the House of Representatives, exempted “Indians not taxed” from the population entitled to representation.
  • Article I, Section 8, empowered Congress to regulate commerce “with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes,” treating Indian tribes as if they were sovereign, foreign countries.
  • The authorization in Article II, Section 2, for the president to negotiate, with the advice and consent of the Senate, and make treaties was understood to include Indian tribes as well as foreign nation states. In fact, our first President and then President of the Constitution Convention of 1787, George Washington, clearly understood this clause and assigned agents to negotiate treaties with Indian tribes while during his term of office.

The status of Indians became even more complex after the new federal government concluded its own treaties with western Indians. Those treaties created different relationships with the federal government for western Indians than eastern Indians had negotiated with individual state governments.

Settlers Westward Expansion: 1787 – 1869

The constant westward expansion of the settlements by people not of Indian ethnicity and the recurring warfare with people of Indian origin led to more than a century of treaties and actions by the federal government, unlike any agreements or laws adopted that pertained to free or enslaved people.

Pamunkey John Watson Miles-Mills

Pamunkey John Watson Miles-Mills

Pamunkey John Miles-Mills was born in Hanover,  King William County, Virginia, in 1847 to Mary Frances Miles. It was often the custom for children of Indian women to carry the mother’s surname. Mary Frances was the daughter of the
Pamunkey Indian headman (chief) Isaac Miles and his wife Nannie Custalow Miles. The
Pamunkeys’ and the village of the same name were the main seat of the Powhatan Chiefdom.   King William County land records show Mills land (and Mills family including John Watson Mills, age 3 in 1850) near Aylett and Rt. 30 on the Pamunkey River, a tract of 110 acres called Pigeon Hill. The land was deeded to Edward
Mills by his uncle Captain Daniel Miles (spelled Mills, Myles, and Miles) a trustee of Delaware Town, or De La Warr Town, now called West Point. The land was originally owned by Opechancanough, Powhatan’s half-brother.  Like many Virginia Indians living away from the reservations, Pamunkey John saw many changes in his racial classification before he died in Fairfax County in 1923 and was buried in the Pleasant Grove churchyard.  You see, Indians were called “Indian,” as long as they remained on reservations. When they left, they were called fringe Indians, mulatto or mulatto, colored, negro and black. John married Martha Loretta Goings in Fairfax County July 18, 1876. On the marriage certificate, the bride and groom were designated “Black.”
Christopher Mills, John’s brother, married, at age 65, in King William County in 1908. His marriage record shows him as Indian. In the words of a Mattaponi philosopher, John and Martha “got called out of their race.”

Although the historic events and details of each tribe’s situation vary considerably, the legal rights and status maintained by Native Americans are the result of their shared history of wrestling with the U.S. government over such issues as tribal sovereignty, shifting government policies, treaties that were made and often broken, and conflicting latter-day interpretations of those treaties.

The result today is that although Native Americans enjoy the same legal rights as every other U.S. citizen, they also keep unique rights in such areas as hunting and fishing, water use, and Gaming operations. In general, these rights are based on the legal foundations of tribal sovereignty, treaty provisions, and the “reserved rights” doctrine, which holds that Native Americans retain all rights not explicitly abrogated in treaties or other legislation. Not even the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, which defined as citizens “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” conferred full civil rights and liberties on our Native Americans.



Back From the Future – Part 2

 A Quote from the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, June 2014:

Christopher Columbus never reached the shores of the North American Continent, but European explorers learned three things from him: there was someplace to go, there was a way to get there, and most importantly, there was a way to get back. Thus began the European exploration of what they referred to as the “New World”.

A Quick Recap

  • So, we left 21st Century Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America (1607). Today, it is a living history of the 17th Century Jamestown Colony.
  • We resurrected and boarded the massive customized 300-ton English merchant sailing vessel, The Sea Venture–the same Virginia Company-owned ship that had 153 travelers and crew aboard and was to deliver the third supply to the Jamestown Colony in 1609.
  • We paused for a time to look back upon my 11th great grandfather, John Rolfe and others devastation, about 661 nautical miles short of their intended Jamestown destination.  This “tempest,” or hurricane, as we might call it today, was nearly the end of all of them.  But, they prevailed over the course of 4-days through their never-ending and tireless fight for their lives and the rescue of their ocean water-hemorrhaging ship. They finally steered the ship onto the surrounding reef to prevent its sinking then landed ashore on “Devil’s Isle.”  Bermuda, with its subtropical temperatures soon became a paradise to them and they replenished their souls and spirits.  The food, in fact, was plentiful because the island had an abundance of wild pigs, birds, and fish, tropical fruits, and even a freshwater lagoon.
  • When we last left our castaways, a year had nearly elapsed and it was springtime. Twenty-four-year-old John Rolfe’s wife, Sarah Hacker, had recently passed; his infant daughter, Bermuda, passed shortly thereafter.  Bermuda had been the first baby born there and Reverend Bucke performed the first marriage there, too. Today many go to Bermuda to marry or honeymoon.
  • I also learned that at some point before leaving Bermuda, John Rolfe may have grabbed up and secretly pocketed some tobacco seeds; possibly from an area today called Tobacco Bay on St. George’s Island, Bermuda.
  • The castaways are once again setting out to complete their voyage to Jamestown, but not before there are five separate mutiny attempts.  In general, some of the castaways questioned authority of their leaders in Bermuda and had fallen in love with the islands.  They weren’t willing to risk unknown hardships in little known Jamestown.   This time the remaining Jamestown-bound passengers and crew numbered only 138.  Eight had already left in a small boat never to be seen again; three died of natural causes; one sailor was murdered; one Indian was murdered; and one castaway, Henry Paine, was executed for sedition.  That left 138 to board the two ships they had built from salvaged steel and wood from the Sea Venture. And, these ships were named: Patience and Deliverance–How very understated yet so very appropo!
  • May 24, 1610 – Our English seafaring ancestors, headed by Sir Thomas Gates, now aboard the Patience and Deliverance, arrive at Jamestown–They find only sixty survivors of a winter famine, known as “the starving time”.

Onward to Heacham

We are journeying on, as well.  We are headed ENE, crossing further up the North Atlantic Ocean from our Bermuda latitude and longitude coordinates: 32.299507, -64.790337. Our destination once again: the time when John Rolfe’s family lived in Heacham, Norfolk, England (Latitude: 52.92 Longitude: 0.48), and where John and his father, Johannes Eustacius Rolfe, both were born–another 3,244 nautical miles.

The year is now 1585.  We have come to Heacham to learn more about John Rolfe’s family life and his early beginnings to better understand his quests.

But first, we need to learn more about the Heacham Village from which John Rolfe emerged.  Our 21st Century Heacham is a thriving village community and popular Norfolk coastal holiday resort situated three miles from Hunstanton and eight miles from Sandringham Village in Norfolk, England.  It is lit by breathtaking east coast sunsets and surrounded by glowing and aromatic purple lavender and scarlet poppy fields. Residents and visitors alike relish in Heacham’s sloping beaches and the soft rolling West Norfolk countryside, which has remained unchanged over time.  In fact, archeologists have discovered that Heacham has existed as far back as the stone age.  And that running water with fertile surrounding lands made Heacham an ideal location for early man to settle. What we know for sure is that there were inhabitants in Heacham around the 5th century when the Anglo-Saxon invaded present-day East Anglia.

lavender-and-poppy-fieldsHeacham–the home to the Rolfe family–History tells us that John Rolfe came from a farming family. For generations they farmed the land and traded on the nearby shores of the Wash.   Quite possibly, it was fields of lavender or poppies that they farmed.  Interestingly enough, Lavender is a plant rich in its own history and myth. With its roots going back to ancient herbalists, it’s properties as a disinfectant and antiseptic, lavender’s reputation grew throughout the centuries.  Lavender became known for its ability to even ward off the plague. And it’s popularity with English royalty also helped anchor it as a cosmetic herb. Queen Victoria had used it as a tonic for her nerves.

Heacham Hall before it burned down in 1941

Heacham Hall before it burned down in 1941

Sadly, Heacham Hall (the family home of the Rolfes) burned down in 1941.  My genealogical research traces the Rolfe family line back as far as 1455 when my 14th great grandfather, Robert Rolfe, also was born at Heacham Hall. But, it was October 17, 1562, when Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe, father of John Thomas Rolfe, our subject, was born there.  John Eustacius at the age of 20 married local Heacham, Dorothea (Dorothea/Dorothy) Mason on her 20th birthday, on Friday, September 24, 1582. Together they had five children in 10 years. Unfortunately, John Eustacius died two months after his 12th wedding anniversary. He was 32 at the time of his death, leaving John, age 8, and his other four siblings, with a 32 year-old widowed mother.

It is disappointing, to learn that not much more is known about John Thomas Rolfe’s childhood or education.  We do know, however, that his mother Dorothy Mason Rolfe, married a Dr. Robert Redmayne, LL.D. (Doctor of Law), on March 9, 1595, just a little over three months after John’s father’s death! Despite Robert’s preferred spelling of his last name “Redmayne,” he descends from Bishop Redman, whose family first settled in Cumberland, and then in Lancashire.  John Rolfe’s mother Dorothy, his stepfather, Robert Redmayne, and his father, John Eustacius Rolfe, are all buried in Heacham at Saint Mary the Virgin’s Church.

So, we can safely assume that John Rolfe’s skill, farming interests, and former family status in Heacham are likely the bases for his drive and desire to create a marketable crop in Jamestown.

We also know that John Rolfe, his wife Pocahontas and two-month-old son, Thomas departed Jamestown in the spring 1615 for Heacham, Norwich, England, to visit his mother now Lady Dorothea (Dorothea/Dorothy) Mason Rolfe Redmayne.

Much more history in John Rolfe’s life continues . . .



The Killing Spree . . . Our Ancestral Legacy

Attributing our traits to our ancestors

Some days when I look at myself in the mirror, I can see glimpses of my ancestors. My once beautifully brilliant blue eyes; I remember seeing these same eyes in my maternal grandfather, Roy (a Ford from Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina).  Unfortunately, I also get my thick midriff from either or both–my maternal grandmother, Loretta, (a Lathrop from Wyalusing, Bradford County, Pennsylvania), or my paternal grandfather, Jesse (a Boling from Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania County, Virginia).  Of course, it is a natural human instinct to attribute our traits to relatives we have known or through our family’s stories about them.  But, other similarities or differences don’t flow so naturally or with ease.  When we reflect back we tend to most often focus on the ‘good times,’ the ‘good traits,’ or happen upon a history that we’d as soon forget, or,  for fear that it might repeat itself.

Let’s look back about 150 years or so to April 9, 1865 in Appomattox, Virginia:    

After four years of conflict, General Robert E. Lee (commander of the Army of Northern Virginia), surrendered his beleaguered Confederate forces in Appomattox, Virginia, to General Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army, ending the Civil War.  (Grant in four short years would become our 18th President.)  The war bankrupted the South, left its roads, farms, and factories in ruins, and all but wiped out an entire generation of men. And this answers my family’s question about our ancient aristocratic Bolling family who had emigrated to Virginia from England, which was; “What happened to our family’s nobility–their societal standings, their wealth, and their great estates?”

As you can see from the map below, the Confederacy included 11 southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.  The North (called the Union) consisted of the remaining 25 states which were located in the north.

So . . .  This means that my ancestors were on opposite sides of the American Civil War.  I had direct relatives primarily in Pennsylvania (the Chamber’s, Lathrop’s, and Westler’s) and in Virginia and North Carolina (the Boling’s, Carpenter’s, Ford’s Morris’s, and Taylors).  Within each of these union and confederates states lived both my maternal and paternal relatives–truly brothers, uncles, cousins, and even in-laws. And, ninety percent of those men volunteered to fight for what they believed or to protect their families and livelihoods from “their enemies”.

One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania regiment at Falmouth, Va., April 24, 1863, nearly annihilated at battle of Chancellorsville, created by Andrew J. Russell, Library of Congress.

One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania regiment at Falmouth, Va., April 24, 1863, nearly annihilated at the battle of Chancellorsville, created by Andrew J. Russell, Library of Congress.

1“. . .The 141st Pennsylvania Regiment was known as the Bradford Regiment.  Most of these volunteer recruits came from Bradford County, Pennsylvania and  joined the Union Army in the summer of 1862.  Company A came from Wyalusing.  It had one of the most distinguished combat records in the Army of the Potomac, serving from the battle of Fredericksburg to the surrender at Appomattox.  In just two battles alone, from May 3 to July 2 at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, the regiment shrank due to combat casualties from 419 men and officers to 58 (56 percent casualties at Chancellorsville, and 73 percent at the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg. . . .”

I found my maternal great-great grandfather, Searle P. Lathrop, of Bradford County, at age 43, on the U.S. Civil War Draft Registrations List of 1864-1865.  His brother, Edward Lathrop, died as a member of the Union’s Company E, 171st Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteer Regiment, in New Bern, North Carolina, at the age of 38, on May 30, 1863, only two months prior to his 39th birthday.

My paternal great-great-grandfather, Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling served from 1861-1865 in the Confederate 30th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  They organized in Fredericksburg, Virginia, June, 1861. Men of this unit came from Fredericksburg and the counties of Spotsylvania, Caroline, Stafford, and King George–all counties where my Boling family lived.

2It was assigned to General J.G. Walker’s and Corse’s Brigade, and fought with the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days’ Battles to Fredericksburg. After serving with Longstreet at Suffolk, it was on detached duty in Tennessee and North Carolina. During the spring of 1864 the 30th returned to Virginia and saw action at Drewry’s Bluff and Cold Harbor. Later it endured the hardships of the Petersburg trenches north and south of the James River and ended the war at Appomattox.

The 30th Infantry regiment reported 1 killed and 4 wounded at Malvern Hill and 39 killed and 121 wounded in the Maryland Campaign. Many were lost at Five Forks and Sayler’s Creek, and on April 9, 1865, the 30th regiment surrendered with 8 officers and 82 men.

3Battle of Chancellorsville – May 1-4 1864

Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee’s troops fought Union Commander Joseph Hooker’s forces.  Together, they had 194,760 men engaged in this bloody battle (60,892 Confederate forces and 133,868 Union forces).

At its conclusion on May 6, 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville became the bloodiest battle in American history. The 30,764 combined casualties eclipsed the losses suffered at well-known battles such as Shiloh (23,746), Second Manassas (22,180), Antietam (22,717), and Stones River (23,515).

By far the bloodiest day of the battle was its first (May 3, 1863), when Lee’s Confederates were forced to attack a larger, now-alerted Union foe, largely positioned in prepared defenses. The aggressive fighting at places like Salem Church produced more casualties than the entire Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run).

Chancellorsville’s title of bloodiest battle in American history would be short-lived, however. From Chancellorsville, Lee began his journey towards Gettysburg and the epic fighting to come on July 1-3, 1863. Yet, at the end of the American Civil War, Chancellorsville was still ranked as the fourth bloodiest battle of the Civil War, after Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and Spotsylvania Courthouse.

Battle of The Wilderness –  May 5-7, 1864

My paternal great-great grandfather, Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling (mentioned above), married Sarah Tapp, daughter of the now famous Catharine Dempsey “Widow Tapp,” (making Widow Tapp my 3rd great-grandmother).  Widow Tapp and her daughter Eliza “Phenie” Tapp had the misfortune of living on the land that became known as the “Wilderness Battlefield,” in Fredericksburg, Virginia, during the Civil War.

There, Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee’s troops went up against Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant’s troops.  Together, they had 171,920 troops (Confederate forces: 61,025  and 101,895 Union forces), in the fields of this wilderness farm.  And together, over a 3-day period they lost 25,416 men (17,666 Union and 7,750 Confederate).

Widow Tapp Farm-Phenie Tapp 1930s

Nearly as many men died in captivity during the Civil War as were killed in the whole of the Vietnam War.  Hundreds of thousands died of disease.  Roughly 2% of our “American” population, an estimated 620,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty (more than any other war in American history).  Taken as a percentage of today’s population, the toll would have risen as high as 6 million.

Civil War Resources GraphicThe official Reconstruction Era (where Union soldiers occupied the 11 southern states) covered a period of twelve years from 1865-1877. Southern states rebuilt and gradually were re-admitted to the United States (July 1866-March 1870). Virginia and Texas were the last two hold out states.  They rejoined the United States in 1870.


So, just how similar or different are our beliefs today based upon where we live in these United States?

Let’s take a look at today’s map below from  Here, we’re looking at the status of electoral votes post 2016 presidential campaign conventions over these past two weeks.  Setting aside the presidential runners (which is another or several other posts that I won’t be writing), you can view our similarities or differences strictly at state levels based upon electoral votes.  When we compare my relatives who today live in Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Virginia (13 electoral votes), Maryland (10 electoral votes), and North Carolina (15 electoral votes), (where my ancestors lived during the Civil War), we find that today’s generations are more alike than different and are “likely to strongly” democrat.


And, just how similar or different are democrats from republicans?

Comparison Chart:  Democratic vs. Republican Traits

Whether this information is comforting to all of us or not, based upon the example used, it would appear that our families have unified beliefs; that it is unlikely we would fight on opposite sides if, God forbid, the United States entered into another civil war.

However, it does seem, when compared to our ancestors of the Civil War era, that today’s generations who have more global and increased technological capabilities and therefore extended communications, may be just as uncivil to each other as those ancestors who chose to shoot at each other about 150 years ago.

1Wyalusing History Trail
3Chancellorsville Civil War Stories


May 13, 2017: Jamestown Colony’s 410th Anniversary

Four hundred and ten years ago today (May 13, 1607), one hundred colonists (dispatched from England by the London Company) arrived along the west bank of the James River.  The next day they founded the first permanent English settlement in what is now the Virginia, known as the”James Fort.”

As I have written in other posts on my blog, it was during the next two years that disease, starvation, and Native American attacks wiped out most of the colony.  Yet, the London Company continually sent more settlers and supplies. The colonists referred to the severe winters of 1609 to 1610, as the “starving time.” These severe winters and lack of supplies were attributed with killing most of the Jamestown colonists and the survivors to plan a return to England in the spring.

On June 10, 1610, however, Thomas West De La Warr, the newly appointed governor of Virginia, arrived with supplies and convinced the settlers to stay at Jamestown. In 1612,  John Thomas Rolfe, my 10th Paternal Great Grandfather cultivated the first tobacco at Jamestown, introducing a successful source of livelihood.  Unfortunately, on March 22, 1622, he killed in an indian massacre on the Jamestown colony.

Jamestown ChurchThis photo taken in  the 1900’s shows the fifth church in the settlement.  

In one of his books, Captain John Smith wrote of building the first structure at Jamestown that was used as a church. According to his account, the settlers stretched a sail among the boughs and used rails to build the sides of the structure. They sat on benches made of unhewn tree trunks. The altar was simply a log nailed to two neighboring trees. This was a purely temporary arrangement and is not counted as a church building.

First Church — In 1607, the settlers built the first real church inside the fort. Smith related that this was a barn-like structure, but he gave few details. The settlers worshipped in it until it was destroyed by fire in January 1608.

Second Church — The church which was built after the fire in 1608 was similar in appearance to the first church. When Lord De La Warr arrived as governor in 1610, he found that the church had fallen into a sad state of disrepair, so he had it restored and its furnishings improved. It is assumed that this is the church in which Ann Burras and John Laydon were married and their daughter, Virginia Laydon, was later baptized.

When Captain Samuel Argall came to Jamestown in 1617, he found “but five or six houses, the church down, the palisades broken, the bridge in pieces, the well of fresh water spoiled, the storehouse used for the church; the marketplace, the streets and all other spare places planted with tobacco; the savages as frequent in their homes as themselves, whereby they were to become their “experts in our arms”…the Colony dispersed all about planting Tobacco.”

Third Church — From 1617-1619, when Samuel Argall was governor, he had the inhabitants of Jamestown build a new church “50 foot long and twenty-foot broad.” It was a wooden church built on a one-foot-wide foundation of cobblestones capped by a wall one brick thick. When visiting Jamestown today, you can see these foundations under the glass on the floor of the present building. The First Assembly was held in the third church. This church is best remembered as the meeting place of the first Representative Legislative Assembly, which convened there on July 30, 1619. This church endured until 1639, when it was replaced by a brick structure.

Fourth Church — In January 1639 Governor John Harvey reported that he, the Council, the ablest planters, and some sea captains “had contributed to the building of a brick church” at Jamestown. This church was slightly larger than the third church and was built around it. It was still unfinished in November 1647 when efforts were made to complete it.  Ten years later a fifth church was functioning, probably using the walls and foundations of the fourth church. Sometime after it was finished a brick church tower was added. During Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, this church was burned.

Fifth Church —  About 10 years after the 1676 burning, the fifth church was functioning, probably using the walls and foundations of the fourth church. Sometime after it was finished a brick church tower was added. The tower is the only seventeenth-century structure still standing above ground at Jamestown.

The tower is slightly over 18 feet square and the walls are three feet thick at the base. Originally the tower was about 46 feet high (ten feet higher than the ruins) and was crowned with a wooden roof and belfry. It had two upper floors as indicated by the large beam notches on the inside. Six small openings at the top permitted light to enter and the sound of the bell or bells to carry across river and town. This church was used until the 1750s when it was abandoned. Although the tower remained intact, the building fell into ruins by the 1790s when the bricks were salvaged and used to build the present graveyard wall. Throughout the nineteenth century the tower remained a silent symbol to Americans of their early heritage. It was strengthened and preserved shortly after the APVA acquired it in the 1890s.


The Present Church — The Memorial Church building was constructed in 1906 by the National Society, Colonial Dames of America just outside the foundations of the earlier churches. It was dedicated May 13, 1907.


Revisiting–Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe…My 11th Great Grandfather

Preserved–The 435-Year-Old John Rolfe Family Bible

John Rolfe Family BibleChristine Dean, 30 year resident of Heacham, England, and I have been corresponding for the past several months, following her interesting comments that added greatly to my two-year-old blog post titled “Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe…My 11th Great Grandfather.”  It seems that Christine has been gathering information about John Rolfe, Chief Powhatan, and Pocahontas for about 20 years.  She recently discovered several  ‘legend clues’ including an old Heacham Map of 1600 and the John Rolfe Family (1580) Geneva Bible. Susan A. Riggs, librarian, confirmed the Rolfe Family bible is in the Special Collections Research Center of the Dr. Earl Gregg Swem Library at the William & Mary College in Williamsburg, VA.

All but forgotten today, the Geneva Bible was the most widely read and influential English Bible of the 16th and 17th centuries. It was one of the Bibles taken to America on the Mayflower.  Mary I was Queen of England and Ireland from 1553 until her death in 1558. Her executions of Protestants caused her opponents to give her the sobriquet “Bloody Mary.” It was her persecution that caused the Marian Exile which drove 800 English scholars to the European continent, where a number of them gathered in Geneva, Switzerland.

More on the Rolfe’s Family Contributions to Virginia

Rolfe Historic MarkerJohn Rolfe introduced the first commercially grown tobacco crops in Jamestown in 1609.  Prior to this, the American Indians had their own local tobacco plants growing wild in their woods and used it for special pipe smoking ceremonies  But, this tobacco was bitter. In 1612, John Rolfe brought and cultivated seeds from the islands of Trinidad and Orinoco on the Atlantic Ocean, where he had stopped for water and supplies.  From John’s new Powhatan Indian relatives he learned better ways to dry cure and export these leaves. By 1619, tobacco had become Jamestown’s major money.

400 Years Later, Tobacco Plants Used In Emerging Medical Treatments

It is interesting that 400 years later the nicotine tobacco plant leaf is being used to develop new drugs for cancer treatments and for the ZMAPP new drug that has successfully treated some doctors and nurses from USA and the UK who caught the deadly EBOLA virus from the patients they were treating in West Africa in 2014.

Starting in August 2014, the ZMAPP drug was used to treat nine patients, first with American medical missionary doctor Kent Brantly, who recovered.  Unbeknownst to Brantly, who contracted the virus doing medical work in Liberia, infectious disease researcher Gary Kobinger, of the Public Health Agency of Canada, had produced an Ebola drug called ZMAPP. But, Kobinger had only tested it successfully on monkeys. Brantly received the drug and “after two or three hours, I was actually able to get up and walk to the bathroom,” he said.

My next post picks up with last week’s follow up visit to Virginia’s former Kippax Plantation and my research efforts to support Christine in Heacham.

The Chesapeake Bay and Our Native American Heritage

Col Robert Bolling

9th Paternal Great Grandfather, Colonel Robert Thomas Bolling

This post focuses on our native american heritage who resided along the borders of the Chesapeake Bay.  Digressing just a little into my lineage, my paternal Bolling ancestors were among the first in Jamestown and my maternal Lathrop ancestors the first in New England.  My ninth great grandfather, Colonel Robert Bolling married Pocahontas’ granddaughter, Jane Poythress Rolfe, daughter of Thomas Powhatan Rolfe (the only child of Pocahontas [daughter of Powhatan and Chief of the Algonquian Nation] and John Rolfe) and his wife, Jane Poythress.

I am a native born Southern Marylander (the state named for the English Queen Henrietta Maria [1609-1669], wife of Charles I of England, and daughter of Henry IV of France).

King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria

King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria

I descend primarily from European emigrants (Great Britain [67%], Ireland [10%], and Western Europe [7%]), who helped found Jamestown, Virginia in 1607–America’s first permanent English Colony.  So, coming from Maryland and having ancient aristocratic ancestors who helped form the Commonwealth of Virginia (two states that border the Chesapeake Bay) as well as native american heritage I always have had a natural curiosity about the origin of the Chesapeake, its name,  and inhabitants along its borders.

The Chesapeake Bay At A Glance

Pictured below is the earliest map to show the existence of the Chesapeake Bay, called “Baya de Santa Maria.” Juan Vespucci was the royal pilot of Spain’s hydrographic office and nephew of Amerigo Vespucci, after whom North and South America are named. The information on this map came from a 1525 voyage by Pedro de Quexos.

Chesapeake Bay Map

Map of the World, Juan Vespucci, Seville Spain,1526

Because the Chesapeake Bay has been so important to the history of Maryland, charts have played a central role from the 17th Century forward.

From the Maryland State Archives website, I gleaned the following key points about the Chesapeake:

  • In North America, the Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary, a semi-enclosed coastal body of water with a free connection to the open sea.
  • Some 35 million years ago, a bolide, an object similar to a comet or asteroid, struck the present-day Delmarva Peninsula, creating a 55-mile-wide crater. The depression created by the crater changed the course of rivers and determined the location of the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Bay, as we know it today, was created about 10,000 years ago when melting glaciers flooded the Susquehanna River Valley.
  • Today, fresh water from land drainage measurably dilutes seawater within the Bay. For ocean-going ships, the Bay is navigable with two outlets to the Atlantic Ocean: north through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in Cecil County, and south through the mouth of the Bay between the Virginia capes.
  • Native Americans living along its shores gave the Bay an Algonquian name. Chesepiook, meaning “great shell-fish bay,” was used to signify the abundance of Bay crabs, oysters, and clams.
  • In June 1608, Captain John Smith led two voyages throughout the Chesapeake Bay, and in its midst European settlers first landed at St. Clement’s Island, Maryland, in 1634.
  • Through the lower portion of the Bay, pirates settled and attacked ships off the coast. And, at its southernmost reaches during the Civil War, the first ironclads, the Confederate Merrimac and the Union’s Monitor, fought to a draw near Hampton Roads, Virginia, in March 1862.
  • Many shipwrecks, remains of vessels sunk by natural forces, human error, or attack, lie deep under the Chesapeake Bay.

Native American Ancestors before the Europeans Arrived

Estimates vary, but according to the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Office which coordinates partnerships to develop and sustain national historic trails, it is likely that 50,000 or more people called the Chesapeake region home before the English arrived. Their ancestors had lived here for 40,000 generations—at least 10,000 years—so the ways of life of the native people were highly adapted to the geographic environment. Their economic, cultural, social, political, and spiritual systems were well established and sophisticated.

The First People of the Chesapeake

Chesepians were the Native American inhabitants of the area now known as South Hampton Roads in Virginia during the Woodland Period (1000 BCE to 1000 CE), and later prior to the arrival of the English settlers in 1607. They occupied an area which is now the Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach areas. They were divided into five provinces or kingdoms: Weapemiooc, Chawanook, Secotan, Pomouic and Newsiooc, each ruled by a king or chief. To their west were the members of the Nansemond tribe.

The main village of the Chesepians was called Skicoak, in the present independent city of Norfolk. The Chesepians also had two other towns (or villages), Apasus and Chesepioc, both near the Chesapeake Bay in what is now Virginia Beach. Of these, it is known that Chesepioc was located in the present Great Neck area. Archaeologists and other persons have found numerous Native American artifacts, such as arrowheads, stone axes, pottery, beads, and skeletons in Great Neck Point.

Politically, the area was dominated by the Virginia Peninsula-based Powhatan Confederacy. Although the Chesepians belonged to the same eastern-Algonquian speaking linguistic group as members of the Powhatan Confederacy across Hampton Roads, the archaeological evidence suggests that the original Chesepians belonged to another group, the Carolina Algonquian. Powhatan, whose real name was Wahunsunacock, was the most powerful chieftain in the Chesapeake Bay area, dominating more than 30 Algonquin-speaking tribes. The Chesepians did not belong to Powhatan’s alliance, but instead defied him.

As English writer, William Strachey (1572-1621) documents in his book The Sea Venture, the “Chesapeake People” were murdered before our European ancestors arrived.

History books tell us that in 1609 Strachey, on the ship Sea Venture, headed to Virginia looking for adventure. A hurricane caused the Sea Venture to run aground at Bermuda. In The Sea Venture he writes of his ten-month long struggle for survival. (William Shakespeare used Strachey’s  The Sea Venture book as the basis for his play The Tempest.)

The castaways, while marooned on Bermuda, built boats from their wreckage and eventually made it to Virginia and Strachey then began documenting life in the new colony. Because of his fascination with the Native American inhabitants he also compiled a dictionary of Algonquin language. (The only other known record of Algonquin words was made by John Smith.)

In talking with the natives Strachey discovered information about them that few Europeans had learned. The Indians told him about the remarkable Chesapeake tribe.

He learned that a few years before the arrival of Europeans, the Algonquin priests informed Chief Powhatan that a great danger would arise from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay– so dire that it would destroy their empire, civilization and ways of life. They told him his Confederacy of 30 tribes would be gone, their villages burned, and all of his people dead.

The Algonquin priests repeatedly pressed Powhatan to take action against this small peaceful tribe of 300-400 Chesapeakes who lived near the mouth of the Bay.  At first Powhatan resisted because his priests could not give him specifics. Unfortunately for the Chesapeake Indians, Powhatan’s priests’ visions were persistent and became more compelling. And, sometime around 1606 the Powhatans murdered the entire Chesapeake tribe.

On returning to England in 1611 Strachey published his book, The Historie of Travaile Into Virginia Britannia where he described the stories he heard from the Powhatans about their destruction of the Chesapeake (Chessiopeians) tribe:

“...not long since that his priests told him how that from the Cheaspeack Bay a nation should arise which should dissolve and give end to his empire, for which, not many yeares since (perplext with this divelish oracle, an divers understanding thereof), according to the ancyent and gentile customs, he destroyed and put to sword all such who might lye under any doubtful construccion of the said prophesie, as all the inhabitants, the wereoance and his subjects of the province, and so remaine all of the Chessiopeians at this daye, and for this cause, extinct.

During the 1970s and ’80s, archaeologists discovered the remains of 64 Chesapeake Indians during development in the Great Neck area of Virginia Beach. Those bones dated to between 800 B.C. and A.D. 1600.  In April 1997, after decades of trying to recover these Native American remains, the Nansemonds’ reburied them near the English’s First Landing site in Virginia.

And yet today, we still can see evidence of our native american roots in our counties and place names along the Chesapeake regions.  We live in Calvert County that was originally established as Patuxent County in 1654 (named after the Patuxent people) and note that its name was changed to Calvert County after Lord Calvert of Baltimore in 1658.  Just down the road from us a piece is Chesapeake Beach, named for the Chesapeake people who were an Algonquian-speaking tribe who resided in Virginia.  And fortunately for us, there are many more words and names that remain as they were known centuries ago.

About Algonquian-Speaking Tribes

In the tables below, you will see references to “Algonquian-speaking tribes.”  The word Algonquian (or Algonkian) is a general linguistic/anthropological term used to refer to not only the small Algonquin tribe but dozens of distinct Native American tribes who speak languages that are related to each other.

  Native American County Names

Native County Names

  Native American Villages, Towns, and Cities Names

Native Place Names

From (the comprehensive reference site that catalogs all the known living languages [7,106] in the world today), I discovered the various tribes that made up the Algonquian-speaking confederacy and are included in the Algic Family language classification system–one of the largest indigenous language families of North America. It consists of 44 languages, the overwhelming majority of which (42 languages) belong to the Algonquian branch. The bulleted list below shows the Alqonquian-speaking tribes and their countries of origin (Canada or the United States).  I have highlighted in green below the 12 Eastern Alngoquian-speaking tribes who resided in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia along the Chesapeake Bay borders:

Algic (42)

Ritwan (2)

Many Algonquian languages are extremely endangered today. Only a handful of them have a significant number of speakers. Of the original 42 Algic languages, only about 27 of them are used today. The largest group is Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi with 104,000 speakers, while the largest single language is Ojibwa with some 35,000 speakers. Ten languages are already extinct, and many are on the verge of extinction. Most surviving languages are spoken by older adults who are not passing their language on to their children.

Below the double lines, I included a more complete Chesapeake Bay History Timeline that spans (according to the scientists) 35 Million Years!

A Chesapeake Bay History Timeline as Created by

35 Million Years Ago
35 Million Years Ago

Image courtesy Nicolle Rager-Fuller/NSF

  • A rare bolide (a comet- or asteroid-like object) hits what is now the lower tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, creating a 55-mile-wide crater. This crater influences the shape of the region’s rivers and determines the eventual location of the Chesapeake Bay. As sea levels fluctuate over the next several million years, the area that is now the Bay alternates between dry land and shallow coastal sea.
10 to 2 Million Years Ago
10 to 2 Million Years Ago

Image courtesy Wing-Chi Poon/Wikimedia Commons

  • A series of ice ages locks ocean water in massive glaciers. The mid-Atlantic coastline extends 180 miles farther than its current location.
  • In warmer periods, a glacier melts into the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, carving a valley through Pennsylvania and pushing sediment into the Coastal Plain. In colder periods, conifer forests attract deer, bears and birds to the region.
18,000 Years Ago
18,000 Years Ago

Image courtesy Twelvex/Flickr

  • Glacial sheets from the most recent Ice Age begin to retreat. The region’s climate begins to warm.
15,000 Years Ago
15,000 Years Ago

Image courtesy Nicolas T/Flickr

  • As the climate continues to warm, a landscape that was once dominated by conifers begins to change. Oak, maple, hickory and other hardwood species appear.
11,500 Years Ago
11,500 Years Ago

Image courtesy Ficusdesk/Flickr

  • Paleo-Indian people arrive in the region. Over the next thousand years, the climate becomes increasingly humid and the landscape gives way to hardwood forests and coastal wetlands. Paleo-Indians modify their hunting technology accordingly, replacing Clovis points with spear-throwing devices that can be launched over expansive terrain.
10,000 to 7,000 Years Ago
10,000 to 7,000 Years Ago

Image courtesy Dru!/Flickr

  • Ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, flooding the Susquehanna, Potomac, James and York rivers. Water pours into the Atlantic Ocean and sea levels rise. The Chesapeake Bay’s outline begins to form.
  • Mammoths, giant beavers and other Ice Age creatures are now extinct.
5,000 Years Ago

5,000 Years Ago

  • Temperatures continue to rise. A mixed deciduous forest dominates the landscape. Acorns and other nuts become a key food source.
  • Diverse fish and shellfish populations are abundant in the region’s rivers. The first oysters colonize the Bay.
2,000 Years Ago
2,000 Years Ago

Image courtesy AerialOutline/Flickr

  • The Chesapeake Bay’s outline now resembles its current form.
  • Native American populations continue to develop more sophisticated hunting methods, including the bow and arrow.
  • The Bay’s waters are dominated by oysters, clams and fish, like bass and shad. Shellfish becomes an increasingly important food source.
1,000 Years Ago
1,000 Years Ago

Image courtesy brandoncripps/Flickr

  • Native Americans clear forests to create farmland. A reliance on agricultural crops like corn, squash, beans and tobacco leads to the creation of more permanent town villages.

Image courtesy brandoncripps/Flickr

  • The Chesapeake Bay region is home to a few thousand humans and many plants and animals, including 200 species of fish, 300 species of birds and 120 species of mammals


  • The Native American population reaches 24,000.

Image courtesy F. Allegrini/Flickr

Italian Captain Giovanni da Verrazano is the first recorded European to enter the Chesapeake Bay.


Image courtesy barxtux/Flickr

  • While exploring tidewater Virginia, Spanish conquistadors capture a young Native American. They name him Don Luis and bring back to Spain, where he receives a formal education.


  • Don Luis returns to the Chesapeake region as a guide and interpreter with the St. Mary’s Mission, a small group of Spanish Jesuits seeking to establish a religious camp. Don Luis quickly abandons the group and returns to his people. Months later, he leads a massacre against the St. Mary’s Mission, killing all but a young servant boy.

Image courtesy Jay I. Kislak Foundation

  • An expedition funded by The Virginia Company of London arrives in the Chesapeake Bay. They establish the first permanent English settlement in North America in Jamestown, Virginia.

Image courtesy National Park Service

  • Captain John Smith sets off on the first of his two voyages around the Chesapeake Bay. In his journal, he records detailed descriptions of his surroundings. In the years to follow, he draws an elaborate and remarkably accurate map of the Bay and its rivers.

Image courtesy Trevor Haldenby/Flickr

  • The tobacco industry is booming in the lower Chesapeake colonies.
  • Colonists clear land for agriculture and use hook-and-line to catch fish in the Bay’s shallow waters.
  • War and disease take their toll on Native Americans, whose population shrinks to 2,400—just 10 percent of the size it was when Europeans first arrived in the region.

Image courtesy Steve and Sara/Flickr

  • Virginia lawmakers pass legislation to prevent wasteful fishing practices on the Rappahannock River.
  • Colonists begin using hand tongs to harvest oysters.

Image courtesy Claude Moore Colonial Farm

  • English settlements grow rapidly as agriculture expands. The first signs of environmental degradation occur.
  • A patchwork of rural farming and fishing communities develops on the western and eastern shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

Image courtesy SoilScience

  • Colonists strip 20 to 30 percent of the region’s forests for settlements. As a result, shipping ports begin to fill with eroded sediment, becoming too shallow for boats to navigate.
  • Commercial fishing for species like shad and herring begins.

Image courtesy American Art Museum/Flickr

  • The colonial population exceeds 700,000.
  • Farmers begin to use plows extensively, starting a cycle of permanent tillage that prevents reforestation and leads to massive soil erosion.

Image courtesy John Trumbull/Wikimedia Commons

  • After eight years of fighting, the Revolutionary War ends when British Lord Charles Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown, Virginia.
  • The former British colonies are on the verge of forming a new, unified nation. The Chesapeake Bay region will come to serve as a key economic and political center.

Image courtesy NCinDC/Flickr

  • Virginia and Maryland sign the Mount Vernon Compact, also known as the Compact of 1785. Virginia agrees to give vessels bound for Maryland free passage at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. In return, Maryland gives citizens of both states the right to fish in the Potomac River.


  • Oyster harvests increase dramatically.
  • New England fishermen travel to the Chesapeake Bay with a device that scoops hundreds of thousands of oysters from their beds. Virginia and Maryland eventually ban this equipment.
  • Maryland legislation states that only Maryland citizens can transport oysters in the state’s waters.

Image courtesy JRiver/Flickr)

  • Railroads, canals and steamboats offer new transportation options, benefiting the coal, steel and oyster industries.

Image courtesy Anthony Bley/Wikimedia Commons

  • The 14-mile Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is built, linking the Chesapeake Bay with Delaware Bay and opening undeveloped land to agriculture and the harvest of timber.

Image courtesy calwest/Flickr

  • Half of the region’s forests have been cleared for agriculture, timber and fuel.
  • The first imported fertilizers are used after ships bring bird guano from Caribbean rookeries and nitrate deposits from the Chilean coast.

Image courtesy swamibu/Flickr

  • Railroads, canals and steamboats have allowed the oyster market to reach consumers outside of the Chesapeake region.
  • The number of oysters harvested from the Bay has doubled in the last 10 years, from 700,000 bushels in 1839 to more than 1.5 million in the 1850s.

Image courtesy Wayan Vota/Flickr

  • Water supply systems are constructed to transport drinking water to Baltimore and the District of Columbia.
  • Sewer systems are built to send waste and runoff into the rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Brick, stone, iron and steel replace wood as the region’s source of heat, light and building material.

Image courtesy University of Delaware Library/Flickr

  • Wooden skipjacks—or vessels that are adapted to sail on Chesapeake Bay waters—are built in response to increased demand for oysters.
  • Twenty million bushels of oysters are harvested from the Bay each year.

Image courtesy Nick Humphries/Flickr

  • Sixty to 80 percent of the forests along the Baltimore-Washington corridor have been cleared for agriculture and development.
  • Coal-burning industries spew smoke into the air and send pollutants into the region’s rivers.
  • The construction of highways links cities and suburbs.

Image courtesy accent on ecelectic/Flickr

  • The replacement of railroad ties removes an estimated 15 to 20 million acres of eastern forests.
  • A dramatic drop in oyster populations starts to affect Chesapeake Bay health, and state and federal laws move to control the industry.
  • Scientists begin questioning the impact of human behavior on the Bay.

Image courtesy ghbrett/Flickr

  • A District of Columbia law restricts the height of city buildings, causing development to expand outward.
  • Baltimore installs separate wastewater and stormwater systems to filter water before it flows into the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act establishes hunting seasons and limits on international migratory waterfowl.

Image courtesy Cyber Insket/Flickr

  • Swamps and marshes are drained to create room for waste dumps and new development.
  • The Conowingo Hydroelectric Generating Station, also known as the Conowingo Dam, is built at the mouth of the Susquehanna River. Upon its completion, it is the second largest hydroelectric power plant in the United States.

Image courtesy Beaverton Historical Society/Flickr

  • The Great Depression spurs public works projects that repair and expand the region’s roads, bridges, parks and electrical services into rural areas, encouraging population growth.
  • An interstate conference on the Chesapeake Bay recommends treating the Bay as a single resource unit rather than separate bodies of water.

Image courtesy Virginia Institute of Marine Science

  • The “suburb” is born.
  • People begin to use synthetic fertilizers on their lawns and fields, polluting local waterways. Maryland and Virginia create water pollution control agencies.
  • The fishing industry increases its range and mobility, causing local fish populations to decline.
  • Dermo, a disease that kills oysters, is discovered in the Chesapeake Bay.

Image courtesy Radio Rover/Flickr

  • The 4.2-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge is built, opening Maryland’s Eastern Shore to development.
  • Across the region, developers drain and fill wetlands to build new houses, stores and office buildings.
  • MSX, a disease that kills oysters, is found in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

Image courtesy Barabara Rich/Flickr

  • The 17.4-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel opens, connecting Virginia Beach with Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
  • Interstates 66, 70, 83, 95, 270, 495 and 695 are completed. The personal car has become the choice mode of transportation for Americans.

Image courtesy Lossanjose/Flickr

  • The Clean Air Act is passed in an effort to lower air pollution.

Image courtesy David Clow/Flickr




Image courtesy Mr. T in DC/Flickr

  • The Clean Water Act is passed, establishing water quality standards and limiting the amount and kind of pollutants that can enter rivers, streams and other waterways.

Image courtesy Pulpolux/Flickr

  • U.S. Senator Charles Mathias tours the Chesapeake Bay shoreline and sponsors legislation that prompts the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a study on the Bay’s health. This marks the first time that the Bay’s degrading health is brought to the public’s attention.
  • The Endangered Species Act is passed, protecting endangered species and the ecosystems on which they depend.


  • The Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body that represents Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, is established to coordinate policy across state lines.
  • The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay begins a first-of-its-kind program that teaches citizen volunteers how to monitor water quality.


  • The first Chesapeake Bay Agreement is signed by Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania; the District of Columbia; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and the Chesapeake Bay Commission. The Chesapeake Bay Program is established and the Chesapeake Executive Council is named the chief policy-making authority in the watershed.


  • Maryland passes the Critical Area Act to better manage continued growth. The law leads to the formation of the Maryland Nontidal Wetlands Protection Program, which works to conserve, create and monitor nontidal wetlands, slowing the loss of this critical ecosystem.


  • Six years after Congress passes the Emergency Striped Bass Act, Maryland imposes a moratorium on striped bass fishing. Virginia soon follows suit, in hopes that a closed fishery will help the species recover from harvest and pollution pressures.
  • A Maryland ban on phosphate-containing laundry detergent reduces the amount of phosphorous flowing from wastewater treatment plants into the Chesapeake Bay.


  • The 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement sets the first ever numeric goals to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, aiming to lower the nitrogen and phosphorous entering the Bay by 40 percent by the year 2000.


  • Virginia passes the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, guiding local governments to address the environmental impacts of development and pushing communities to better manage urban and suburban growth.
  • Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler’s Patuxent River Wade-In establishes the “sneaker index” as a measure of Bay health, boosting public interest in water quality.


  • Maryland and Virginia lift the ban on striped bass fishing. The fish is declared a recovered species six years later.

Image courtesy

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Waters Program acknowledges that air pollution contributes to water pollution.
  • The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay begins to host week-long paddling trips down some of the watershed’s biggest rivers.
  • The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration begins selling“Treasure the Chesapeake” license plates, which support the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

Image courtesy spike55151/Flickr

  • Amendments are made to the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement that aim to attack nutrients at their source: upstream tributaries that flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Clean Vessel Act establishes a grant program to fund the construction of pumpout stations at marinas across the watershed, presenting a viable alternative to the overboard disposal of sewage.


  • A law passed in Pennsylvania requires certain farmers to develop and implement nutrient management plans, limiting the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous that can run off of farms and into local waterways. In 1994, Virginia follows suit. In 1998, Maryland enacts similar legislation.


  • The Bay Program’s Riparian Forest Buffer Panel develops ground-breaking goals for the conservation and restoration of streamside forests. Federal and state incentive programs encourage landowners to install forest buffers on their properties.

Image courtesy adactio/Flick

  • The Local Government Partnership Initiative is signed to provide assistance to the 1,650 local governments in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.


  • Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant begins to use nutrient removal technology to lower the amount of nitrogen it sends into the Potomac River and improve water quality.
  • Federal, state and private partners agree to restore Poplar Island using sand and sediment dredged up from the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay.


  • The Virginia Water Quality Improvement Act establishes a state fund that will support the prevention, reduction and control of nutrient pollution.
  • Maryland passes a package of legislation to combat suburban sprawl and direct smart growth. The initiative is praised as an innovative way to preserve natural resources and pursue sustainable development.

Image courtesy Joachim S. Muller/Flickr

  • The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission closes Atlantic sturgeon fishing along the East Coast. The 40-year ban is the longest fishing moratorium on record.
  • The Maryland Water Quality Improvement Act calls for the addition of a phosphorous-reducing enzyme to poultry feed, lowering nutrient levels in poultry litter.


  • The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation establishes the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund to help communities restore polluted rivers and streams. The fund awards $8 to $12 million each year to on-the-ground conservation.
  • The Virginia Land Conservation Act establishes a state tax credit to reward those who donate land or easements for conservation.

Image courtesy Brian Talbot/Flickr

  • Maryland records its lowest blue crab harvest: 20.2 million pounds.
  • Chesapeake 2000 is signed, establishing more than 100 goals to reduce pollution and restore habitats, protect living resources and promote sound land use, and engage the public in restoration.
  • The National Park Service and its partners launch the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails Network to connect people with the Bay’s places and stories.


  • More than 2,800 miles of forest buffers have been restored in the watershed, meeting the Bay Program’s goal for forest buffer restoration eight years ahead of schedule.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration establishes the Bay Watershed Education and Training program to fund the delivery of Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences and advance environmental education in the region.


  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues water quality criteria for the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries.
  • Representatives from the Bay’s headwater states join the Chesapeake Executive Council.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Blue Ribbon Panel is created to find new financing opportunities for restoration work, and the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network is established to bring grantmakers together.


  • The Chesapeake Executive Council adopts an animal manure management strategy to reduce nutrient pollution from livestock operations.

Image courtesy Jane Thomas/IAN Image Library

  • The Chesapeake Executive Council adopts new directives to expand forest cover, reduce the amount of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers and increase funding for on-farm conservation programs.
  • The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is designated.
  • The Living Shorelines Summit furthers research on the use of living shorelines to control erosion.


  • The Chesapeake Executive Council signs the Forest Conservation Initiative, committing to conserve 695,000 acres of forests by 2020.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) is launched to report real-time environmental data.
  • BayStat is launched to track restoration progress.
  • The Bay blue crab harvest of 44.2 million pounds is one of the lowest recorded since 1945.


  • Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission issue emergency regulations on the harvest of blue crabs to help the species recover. The Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab fishery is declared a federal disaster.
  • The 2008 Farm Bill dedicates more than $180 million over the course of four years to agricultural conservation.
  • The invasive zebra mussel is found in the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna River.


  • President Obama signs an executive order that calls on the federal government to renew the effort to protect and restore the watershed.
  • The Chesapeake Executive Council sets two-year milestones to accelerate restoration and increase accountability.
  • Annapolis becomes the first jurisdiction in the watershed to ban phosphorous in lawn fertilizer.

Image courtesy Lydiat/Flickr

  • Maryland, Virginia and New York ban phosphates in dishwasher detergent to lower phosphorous pollution in local waterways.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency establishes the Total Maximum Daily Load to limit the amount of pollutants that can enter the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Bay Program launches ChesapeakeStat to improve communication about restoration goals, progress and funding.


  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues a new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Permit to the District of Columbia. It is the first of its kind to incorporate green infrastructure into its requirements, setting a national model for stormwater management.


  • Harris Creek becomes the first target of the oyster restoration goals set forth in the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order: to restore oyster populations in 20 Bay tributaries by 2025. In this Choptank River tributary, existing reefs will be studied, new bars will be built and spat-on-shell will be planted.

Image courtesy cplong11/Flickr

  • A federal judge rules that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can set pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay, thus upholding the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that was challenged in court in 2011.


  • The Chesapeake Executive Council signs the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which contains goals and outcomes that will guide conservation and restoration across the watershed. For the first time, the Bay’s headwater states commit to those goals that reach beyond water quality.

Help Save Portrait of Bolling Family Founder

Portrait of Robert Bolling (1646-1709), Oil on Canvas
Photo Courtesy of:  Muscarelle Museum of Art – Williamsburg, VA

Muscarelle Museum of Art: Portrait of Robert Bolling (1646-1709), oil on canvas

My 9th Paternal Great Grandfather

This portrait depicts Colonel Robert Bolling, founder of the Bolling family, one of the “First Families of Virginia”, where he became a wealthy landowner and an active participant in the political affairs of the colony.

He arrived from England in October 1660 and in 1675 married Jane Rolfe, the granddaughter of John Rolfe and Pocahontas (born Matoaka). The painting suffers from surface loss due to flaking. The varnish treatment and its discoloration obscure much detail in the painting.

The public voting component of the Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program will conclude next week – on August 23, 2014. Until that time, the public is encouraged to visit the website and vote for their favorite items nominated by a wide range of collecting institutions – including museums, libraries, and historical societies from Virginia and Washington, DC. Additionally, the public may make donations directly to the participating organizations through the website to support conservation of the nominated artifacts.

Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts is a project of the Virginia Association of Museums and was originally funded through an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Connecting to Collections Statewide Implementation Grant. The Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Program raises awareness of the importance of conservation of our historic and cultural treasures. While it is not a grant-making effort, the program offers collecting institutions in Virginia and D.C. an opportunity to raise media and public awareness about the ongoing and expensive care of collections.

10,000 votes have been cast already by art lovers, history buffs, and fans of museums and historic houses from around the country. From a Kodak camera collection spanning from 1899 to 1977 to a 300 year old East India Company Atlas of Japan to a Pamunkey Chief’s Regalia, this year’s competition features 36 fascinating items – part of our collective past and culture – that are all worthy of conservation.

The artifact with the most online votes will receive the People’s Choice Award. The overall voting will be taken into consideration by an independent panel of conservators and collections care professionals who select Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts for 2014. The “Top 10” Honorees for 2014 will be announced on September 9, 2014.

Please visit for updated information and a list of nominees.

Archeologists Unearth 40 Confederate Corpses in Virginia Cemetery 154 Years Later

Like you probably, I often come across stories quite by accident that just scream out at me; “share me with other genealogical researchers!”  This is another one of those finds.  Interestingly enough, this FOX NEWS story appeared on the United Kingdom’s Mail OnLine News.  I’m very sorry that I found it two weeks after our Memorial Day Observances, but I just couldn’t hold it for another year without sharing.  And, I am quite anxiously anticipating this story will further unfold over the next few months. Please take a read…


Ted Delaney, the assistant director of Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg Virginia, along with a team of archeologists discovered the bodies

The bodies of 40 Confederate soldiers unearthed in the last two months will have a proper memorial around 150 years after they fought during the Civil War.

Photo by Ted Delaney

Photo by Ted Delaney

Ted Delaney, the assistant director of Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg Virginia, along with a team of archeologists also found the areas where Union Soldiers were buried and then disinterred in 1866.

Delaney told reporters that his team discovered an area of the cemetery called ‘Yankee Square’ that had both red and orange squares that he deemed were Confederate soldiers’ graves.

Archeologists are hoping to identify Confederate soldiers (pictured ca. 1861-1865) around 150 years after they fought during the Civil War

Civil War Confedertes

Photo by Corbis

In early April the team dug a 45-by-10 foot trench to dig up the bodies and now face the challenge of identifying each grave and giving them the recognition they deserve.

‘Our goal is to put a marker at each grave space to identify the soldier and note when he died and his military unit,’ said Delaney

‘The undertaker’s notes are so detailed and complete,’ he added, confident that at least 80 soldiers would be properly identified.

This has been an incredible process of discovery,’ he told Fox News.  

‘It’s always been very frustrating for those descendents who come to us because they can’t find their ancestor’s grave. Now we can bring some of them closure.’

‘Yankee Square’ was originally intended to be a burial site for just Union soldiers but later included Confederate soldiers many of whom died from small pox and other diseases.

Delaney and his team have been awarded an annual grant of $2,500 from the Virginia Department of Historic Records for their work.

Delaney and his archeologists were not the only ones to discover unidentified Civil War graves during the last few years.

Sam Ricks, the graves registrar for the Sons of Confederate Veterans’, uncovered unmarked graves at Mount Mariah Cemetery along with his crew recently.

The 380 acre historic cemetery which spans from Philadelphia and Yeadon, Pennsylvania called Mount Moriah cemetery houses graves of 2,300 Marines and Navy service members dating from the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812 all the way to the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Ricks made a discovery in 2008 after being approached by a relative of a cadet from the Virginia Military Institute, Nathan Tiernon Walton a year earlier.

Walton, along with 194 cadets, fought the Battle of New Market in Virginia for the Confederate Army on May 15, 1864.

Walton later left his wife and daughter in Baltimore to find work in Atlanta and Philadelphia and became estranged from his relatives.

‘He was a recluse,’ Ricks said, ‘And no one ever knew what became of him.’

Walton’s family believed that he was buried in Baltimore along with his wife, but Walton’s great-grandson, Bill Banks, found no evidence that Walton was buried in Loudon Park Cemetary.

Fox reports that Banks continues a search started by his grandmother 100 years ago to find his great-grandfathers grave.

They later discovered that Walton died in the Great Influenza Pandemic or 1918.

In November 2008, both Ricks and Walton’s family were able to mark Walton’s grave with a large cast iron Southern Cross passed down by Walton’s daughter.

‘I’m reminded of this case every Memorial Day,’ Ricks said.

‘Walton’s daughter had handed down to generations a marker to be placed at his grave should it ever be found. And then we actually did it. We fulfilled her wish.’

The Thornton Family’s Fredericksburg Mansion – Part I

My Thornton Family History

The Thornton Family is one of Virginia’s distinguished Colonial families. A large branch in my family tree includes Thornton ancestors and spans 24 generations. My Thornton family members date back to 1314 in Bolling Hall, Bradford, Yorkshire, England when Robert DeBolling (my 16th paternal great grandfather–Generation 2) married Elizabeth DeThornton in 1337, before the two surnames were shortened to Bolling and Thornton.

Fall Hill–Home of the Thornton’s

Fall Hill and the Thorntons

Fall Hill is an early 1700s plantation located on an 8,000 acre land established and patented by Francis Thornton I (1657-1727) around 1720.  It is located near the falls on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia.   Various members of the Thornton family lived at Fall Hill until 2003 (about 300 years). The present house was built in 1790 by Francis Thornton V (1760–1836)when he married Sally Innes and is located within the present-day town of Fredericksburg.  The architectural design supports the 1790 construction.

Fall Hill MansionThe Thornton family ran a grist mill on the Rappahannock River. Stories handed down over generations say that Francis Thornton III (1711–1749) built the house on Fall Hill to escape the heat of the original house that sat in the lower elevations near the river.

Francis Thornton III married Frances Gregory, daughter of Mildred Washington Gregory, aunt and godmother of George Washington. He served as a burgess, a trustee of Fredericksburg, and Colonel of the Spotsylvania Militia. In 1749, Fall Hill was inherited by Colonel Thornton’s son, Francis Thornton IV (1737–1794). However, he and his wife, Ann Thompson, maintained their primary residence at The Falls.


Francis Thornton V 1767-1836

Francis Thornton V was a Justice of the Peace in Spotsylvania County. Francis V was the last of the direct line of the Thorntons of Fall Hill plantation.  His son, James Innes Thornton, was born at Fall Hill. He moved to Alabama, became its third secretary of state, and established his own plantation, Thornhill. Francis Thornton V died in 1836 without a will. For nine years, until the estate was settled in 1845, Fall Hill was maintained by family slaves. Ultimately, the estate was deeded to Dr. John Roberts Taylor (1803-1884) in 1845. Dr. Taylor was the father-in-law of my 13th cousin, Butler Brayne Thornton.   It was Dr. Taylor who renovated the home in the 1840s.

Its proximity to the Rappahannock River made Fall Hill a strategic point during the Fredericksburg Campaign of the Civil War. Fortifications were built along the river at the house to protect the crossing. The breastworks were built by General Robert E. Lee’s soldiers.  According to long-time resident, Butler Franklin, at one point Lee ordered the mansion destroyed by cannon fire so he could better see the approach of the Union Army across the river. The house survived because the Union Army advance changed its direction.

In 1870 Dr. Taylor’s son, Murray Forbes Taylor, married Butler Brayne Thornton (my 13th cousin), a descendant of Francis Thornton V, which again brought Fall Hill into the Thornton family. Taylor and his wife lived with Doctor Taylor at Fall Hill from 1875 to 1877. In 1877, Murray Thornton and his wife Butler Brayne moved to California where Taylor managed the estate of Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst (mother of William Randolph Hearst) at San Simeon, California. To show her gratitude to Murray Taylor when he retired from his job at San Simeon in 1908, Mrs. Hearst purchased Fall Hill for $25,000 as a gift for him. It was Mrs. Hearst’s wish that Butler Brayne Thornton Robinson Franklin inherit the estate.

Except for that period from 1845–1870, Fall Hill has been in possession of the Thornton family. Butler Franklin, who died in 2003 at the age of 104, was the last of the Thorntons to own the property.  Fall Hill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June 1973.