Bicycling through History

BICYCLING THROUGH HISTORY

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Pirates !!

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Sunken Treasure !!

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Wakefield: Washington's birthplace formerly known as the Popes Creek Plantation

George Washington was born to Augustine and Mary (Ball) Washington at Wakefield Farm, Westmoreland County, Virginia on February 22,1731 / 1732. The reason for the confusion about the year is because of the calendars used at the time. According to the old Julian Calendar, the year was 1731, but by the newer Gregorian Calendar, which is still in use today, the year was 1732. The New Calendar was officially adopted by Great Britain and the colonies in 1752. To bring the calendar in line with the solar year, it added 11 days and began the new year in January rather than March.

George Washington remained on this plantation until age 3. His family moved away so that he could attend school in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He returned to the original homestead as a teenager while studying surveying. He continued to visit his birthplace through 1771. John Washington, the great-grandfather of George, settled there in 1664. The house in which George was born was built by his father, Augustine Washington. It was destroyed by fire in 1779, but near its original foundations is a new house, very similar to the original, that was built in 1931.

The neighbors: To the east of Wakefield is the plantation of the Lee family. This estate is now known as Stratford Hall. It has one of the great houses of American history. Thomas Lee (1690-1750) was the first owner and prominent Virginia planter. He began construction of Stratford Hall in 1736. The unique H-shaped manor house and numerous outbuildings were completed by his son, Philip Ludwell Lee. Stratford Hall was the home of Thomas Lee's eight children. His sons, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, hold the distinction as the only brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence. Their cousin, Light Horse Harry Lee, the Revolutionary War Cavalry leader, made Stratford Hall his home for over twenty years. Robert E. Lee, perhaps the most famous member of the Lee family, became the General-in-Chief of the Confederate Armies, during the War between the States.

Port Royal, Virginia was settled in 1652 when John Catlett and his half brother, Ralph Rowzee patented 400 acres. At that time, Port Royal was the only chartered town in Caroline County. In 1670, Col. Catlett was killed by Indians while defending the fort located at the present site of Port Royal. The local area's notorious 17th century pirate is immortalized in the name Peumansend Creek. The French pirate, Monsieur Peuman, was the scourge of the settlers. Eventually they chased him up the creek (without a paddle) and killed him. Thus emerged the name "Peuman's End", which appeared on deeds as early as 1670.

The earliest dwellings in the area were probably of log construction, none of which exist today. What the visitor can enjoy, however, is a collection of 18th and 19th century homes in a setting largely unchanged in the town's 350 year old history.

In 1673 Richard Buckner established a tobacco warehouse which was later acquired by another early settler, John Roy. In 1731 a rolling road was constructed from Milford to Port Royal, for the purpose of rolling hogsheads of tobacco down to the docks for shipment. The town was recognized in 1744 by an act of The Virginia General Assembly. The Town was named PORT ROYAL because it was a port containing the Crown's tobacco warehouse with a licensed inspector. The "town green", upon which stands today the Town Hall and the firehouse, was forever reserved "for public and civic use". The town essentially grew up around a ferry and the tobacco warehouse. It's fortunes were reversed, first by the coming of the railroad, then by construction of a bridge over the river.

The Rt. 301 bridge is built over part of the wharf, which ran out to deep water in midstream where ships could tie up. Tobacco barrels were rolled out to the ships. Later pushcarts running on rails were used for moving cargo between ship and shore. Regular schooner service to Baltimore and Norfolk began operations in 1828 and served as a pipeline to the outside world. The last passenger ship, the schooner Edna Bright Howe providing service to Baltimore, left here in 1932. During the Civil War, Union Army engineers built a floating wharf to mid-river for its gunboats.

John Wilkes Booth sought refuge here after his shooting of Lincoln. He was killed two miles outside the town, west of the intersection of present day US Rt 301 and Rt 17.

Today, Port Royal, though small and quiet, is a collection of active citizens, who contribute their talents to 21st century pursuits while retaining their love and appreciation for the unique setting in which they live.

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American History from the perspective of a Casual Cyclist.


Bicycling Through History
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