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Virginia: The Old Dominion By Frank W. Hutchins and Cortelle Hutchins Characters: 23822

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Before daylight on the following morning Gadabout was awake and astir. She had resolved to catch the early tide and finish her James River cruise that day by a final run to the head of navigation at Richmond.

For the last time the clacking windlass was calling the sleeping anchor from its bed in the river; the Commodore was hanging out the sailing-lights; and Nautica (who could not find the dividers) was stepping off the distance to Richmond on the chart with a hairpin.

How dreary a start before dawn sounds to a landsman! The hated early call; the hasty breakfast with coffee-cup in one hand and time-table in the other; the dismal drive through dull, sleeping streets; the cheerless station; the gloomy train-shed with its lines of coaches wrapped in acrid engine smoke.

But the houseboater knows another way. For him, the early call is the call of the tide that finds ready response from a lover of the sea. Does the tide serve before dawn, man of the ship? Then before dawn its stir is in your blood; your anchor is heaved home; your sailing-lights, white and green and red, are bravely twinkling; your propellers are tossing the waters astern; and you are off.

You are off with the flood just in from the sea, or with the ebb that is seeking the sea; and with it you go along a way where no one has passed before-an evanescent way that is made of night shades and river mists. And after a while you come upon a wonderful thing-almost the solemn wonder of creation, as, from those thinning, shimmering veils, the world comes slowly forth and takes shape again.

When the real world took shape for Gadabout that morning on the James, she was some distance above Shirley and the river was a smaller river than we had seen at any time before. By the chart, we observed that it was a comparatively narrow stream all the rest of the way to Richmond.

We had now entered upon a portion of the old waterway that Nautica insisted had been done up in curl-papers. Here, the voyager must sail around twenty miles of frivolous loops to make five miles of progress.

Upon coming to a group of buildings indicated on the chart and standing close to the right bank, we knew that Gadabout had navigated the first of the fussy curls. Around it, we had travelled six miles since leaving Shirley, and now had the satisfaction of knowing that the old manor-house itself stood just across from these buildings, less than a mile away.

On a little farther, we passed a fine plantation home called Curle's Neck. A long while after that, another large plantation, Meadowville, came alongside. But the curious thing was that, at the same time, alongside came Curle's Neck again. We had travelled something over four miles since leaving it, yet there it stood directly opposite and less than three quarters of a mile from us.

Perhaps the river observed that we were getting a little out of patience; for, almost immediately, it sought to beguile us by bringing into view one of its show points, a landing on the left bank with a large brick house near by. The chart told us that this was Varina; and the guide-books told us a pretty story about how here, in their honeymoon days, lived John Rolfe and Pocahontas.

Although that honeymoon was almost three centuries gone, and there was nothing left at Varina to tell of it, yet somehow our thoughts quickened and Gadabout's engines slowed as we sailed along the romantic site.

To be sure, to keep up the spirit of romance one has to overlook a good deal. The fact that John Rolfe had been married before and the report that Pocahontas had been too, somewhat discouraged sentiment. And then, was it love, after all, that built the rude little home of that strange pair somewhere up there on the shore? Or, had Cupid no more to do with that first international marriage in our history than he has had to do with many a later one? Can it be that politics and religion drew John Rolfe to the altar? and that a broken heart led Pocahontas there?

Poor little bride in any event! A forest child-wrapped in her doe-skin robe, the down of the wild pigeon at her throat, her feet in moccasins, and her hair crested with an eagle's feather; bravely struggling with civilization, with a new home, a new language, new customs, and a new religion.

How many times, when it all bore heavy on her wildwood soul, did she steal down to this ragged shore, push out in her slender canoe, and find comfort in the fellowship of this turbulent, untamable river! And how often did she turn from her home to the wilderness, slipping in noiseless moccasins back into the narrow, mysterious trails of the red man, where bended twig and braided rush and scar of bark held messages for her!

Then came the time when the river and the forest were lost to her. The princess of the wilderness had become the wonder of a day at the Court of King James. Almost mockingly comes up the old portrait of her, painted in London when she had "become very formall and civill after our English manner." The rigid figure caparisoned in the white woman's furbelows; the stiff, heavy hat upon the black hair; the set face, and the sad dark eyes-a dusky woodland creature choked in the ruff of Queen Bess.

When Varina was left behind, we fell to berating the tortuous river again. Of course we did not think for a moment that the troublesome curlicues we were finding had always been there. When the river was the old, savage Powhatan, we may be sure it never stooped in its dignity of flow to such frivolity. These kinks were silly artificialities that came when the noble old barbarian was civilized and named in honour of a vain and frivolous foreign king.

Now, just ahead of us, was the most foolish frizzle of all. It was a loop five miles around, and yet with the ends so close together that a boy could throw a stone across the strip of land between. At a very early day, sensible folk lost patience and sought, by digging a canal across the narrow neck, to cut this offensive curl off altogether.

Some Dutchmen among the colonists were the first to try this (and Dutchmen understand waterway barbering better than anybody else); but they were unsuccessful. Their efforts seem to have resulted only in giving the place the name of Dutch Gap. Many years ago, the United States Government took up the work and, in 1872, the five-mile curl was effectually cut off by the Dutch Gap Canal.

A good deal of interesting history is associated with this loop of the James. Here, but four years after the coming of those first colonists, the town of Henrico or Henricopolis was founded. The place made a somewhat pretentious beginning and was doubtless intended to supersede James Towne as the capital of the colony. Steps were taken to establish a college here. If they had been successful, Harvard College could not lay claim to one of its present honours, that of being the earliest college in America. But the Indian massacre of 1622 caused the abandonment of the college project and of Henricopolis too.

We passed into the canal, which was so short that we were scarcely into it before we were out again and headed on up the river. The banks of the stream grew higher and bolder, and we were soon running much of the time between bluffs with trees hanging over.

On some of the bald cliffs buzzards gathered to sun themselves; and they lay motionless even as we passed, their wings spread to the full in the fine sunshine. It was almost the sunshine of summer-time. In its glow we could scarcely credit our own recollections of some wintry bits of houseboating; and as to that story in our note-books about our being ice-bound in Eppes Creek, it was too much to ask ourselves to believe a word of it.

In colonial times there were a number of fine homes along this part of the James, but most of them have long since disappeared. Just after passing Falling Creek we came upon one colonial mansion yet standing. It belonged in those old times to the Randolphs, and is best known perhaps as the home of the colonial belle, Mistress Anne Randolph. Among the beaux of the stirring days just before the Revolution, she was a reigning toast under the popular name of "Nancy Wilton." The second Benjamin Harrison of Brandon was among her wooers; and it is to his courtship that Thomas Jefferson refers when expressing, in one of his letters, the hope that his old college roommate may have luck at Wilton. He did have. And we remembered the sweet-faced portrait at Brandon of "Nancy Wilton" Harrison.

Soon, our course was along a narrow channel saw-toothed with jetties on either hand. The signs of life upon the river told that we were nearing Richmond. We passed some work-boats, tugs, dredges, and such craft, and everybody whistled.

Over the top of a rise of land that marked the next bend of the river, we saw an ugly dark cloud. It had been long since we had seen a cloud like that; but there is no mistaking the black hat of a city.

So, there was Richmond seated beside the falls in the James-those water-bars that the river would not let down for any ship to pass; there was where our journey would end. To be sure, long years ago, the pale-faces outwitted the old tawny Powhatan by building a canal around its barriers. Their ships climbed great steps that they called locks; and, passing around the falls and rapids, went up and on their way far toward the mountains. But the river knew the ways of the white man, and kept its water-bars up and waited.

After a while the pale-faces took to a new way of getting themselves and their belongings over the country; they went rolling about on rails instead of floating on the water; and before long, they almost forgot the old waterways. Nature waited a while and then took their abandoned canals to grow rushes and water-lilies; and she covered the tow-paths with green and put tangles of undergrowth along; and then she gave it all to the birds and the frogs and the turtles.

So, it came to pass that river barriers counted once more-that the barrier across our river counted once more. We did not know whether the canal ahead of us was wholly abandoned; but we did know that it was so obstructed as to no longer furnish a way of getting a vessel above the falls.

The Powhatan was master again; and a little way beyond that next bend it would bar the progress of Gadabout just as, three centuries earlier, it had barred the progress of the exploring boats that the first settlers sent up from James Towne.

Well, it was high time anyway for our journey to end. We had been several months upon the river-several months in travelling one hundred miles! One can not always go lazing on, even in a houseboat; even upon an ancient waterway leading through Colonial-land.

The old river may carry you to the beginning-place of your country; it may bear you on to the doors of famous colonial homes, full of old-time charm and traditional courtesy. But if so, then all the more need for falls and rapids to put a reasonable end to your houseboat voyage.

We came about the bend in the stream and, at sight of the city before us, were reminded of the keen prevision of its colonial founder. When Colonel William Byrd, that sagacious exquisite of Westover, came up the river one day in 1733 to this part of his almost boundless estate, and laid the foundations of Richmond here in the wilderness beside the Falls of the James, he foresaw that he was founding a great city. A "city in the air" he called it, and his dream came true. Its realization in steeples and spires and chimneys and roof-lines opened before us now upon the slopes and the summits of the river hills.

Soon we were skirting the city's water front. We passed piers and factories and many boats. We went from the pure air of the open river into the tainted breath of the town. Among many odours there came to be chiefly one-that of t

obacco from the great factories.

And that brought to mind a strange fact. In all our journey up the river, we had not seen a leaf of tobacco nor had we seen a place where it was grown. Tobacco, upon which civilization along the James had been built; that had once covered with its broad leaves almost every cultivated acre along the stream; that had made the greatness of every plantation home we had visited-and now unknown among the products of the fertile river banks!

At last Gadabout was at the foot of the falls and rapids. Like those first exploring colonists we found that here "the water falleth so rudely, and with such a violence, as not any boat can possibly passe."

Of course there was a temptation to do with our boat as the colonists once proposed to do with theirs-take her to pieces and then put her together again above the falls, and so sail on up the old waterway to the South Sea and to the Indies. But the exploring spirit of the race is not what it used to be, and we simply ran Gadabout into a slip beside the disused canal and stopped. An anchor went plump into the water, making a wave-circle that spread and spread till it filled the whole basin-a great round water-period to end our river story.


* * *



Alexander, Elizabeth

Appomattox River, The

Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, The

Back River, The

Bacon, Nathaniel

Barney, Mrs. Edward E., owner of Jamestown Island

Berkeley, Lady Frances

Berkeley, Sir William

Berkeley (the estate)

home of elder branch of Harrison family

ancestral home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence,

and of two Presidents of the United States

plantation in 1776

Bermuda Hundred, village founded four years after settlement of James Towne


history of

riverward entrance to grounds

the "woods-way" to the mansion

"the quarters"

the landward entrance

type of architecture

characteristic hospitality

interior of mansion

colonial portraits

the old garden

present day family at Brandon

the bedrooms

colonial silver

ancient records

an old court gown

the family burying-ground

the garrison house

Bransford, Mrs. H.W., of the Carter family of Shirley, and one of

the present owners of the plantation, living in the manor-house

Buck, Reverend Richard

Byrd, Evelyn, portrait and romance of

her room at Westover

tomb of

Byrd, Lucy Parke, wife of William Byrd of Westover

Byrd, William, the second, of Westover

portrait at Brandon

about 1726 built present mansion at Westover


tomb of

ability of this colonial grandee

founded the city of Richmond

Carter, Anne Hill, of Shirley, wife of "Light Horse Harry" Lee

and mother of General Robert E. Lee

Carter, Charles, portrait at Shirley

Carter, Elizabeth Hill, of Shirley, daughter of the third Edward Hill,

and wife of John Carter of Corotoman

portrait at Shirley

Carter family acquire Corotoman

reach greatest prominence in days of "King" Carter

cousins to all the rest of Virginia

Carter, John, son of "King" Carter of Corotoman, was secretary of the colony

married Elizabeth Hill of Shirley in 1723

portrait at Shirley

Carter, Robert, of Corotoman on the Rappahannock,

one of the wealthiest and most influential colonials

his possessions

called "King" Carter

portrait at Shirley

Carter, Robert Randolph, of Shirley

Carter, Mrs. Robert Randolph, of Shirley

Carter, Miss Susy

Chickahominy River, The

Chippoak Creek

Chuckatuck Creek

City Point


Colonial river trade

Constant, Sarah

Cornick, Reverend John, rector of Westover Church

Corotoman, Carter family acquire

Cotton, Mrs. An.

Court House Creek

Curie's Neck

Cuyler, Randolph

Cuyler, Mrs. Randolph, of Brandon

Dale, Sir Thomas

Dancing Point

Delaware, Lord

ownership of Shirley

Discovery, ship

Douthat family of Weyanoke

Douthat, Fielding Lewis

Douthat, Mrs. Mary Willis Marshall, granddaughter of Chief-Justice Marshall,

and present mistress of Weyanoke

Dutch Gap Canal

Eppes Creek

Eppes family, home at City Point

Faffing Creek

Fleur de Hundred

Ford, Paul Leicester

Fort Powhatan

"Friggett Landing"

Goodspeed, ship

Gordon family of Aberdeenshire

Gordon, William Washington

Grant, U.S., Grant's army crossed the James

Hampton Roads

Harrison, Mrs. Anne, of Berkeley

Harrison, Miss Belle, of Brandon

in court gown of her colonial aunt, Evelyn Byrd

Harrison, Benjamin, the emigrant

Harrison, Benjamin, of Berkeley, treasurer of the colony

Harrison, Major Benjamin, of Berkeley, member of the House of Burgesses

Harrison, Benjamin, of Berkeley, member of the Continental Congress

and signer of the Declaration of Independence

Harrison, Benjamin, of Brandon, member of the Council

Harrison, Colonel Benjamin, of Brandon, portrait by Peale

Harrison, Mrs. Benjamin. See Mistress Anne Randolph of Wilton

Harrison, Benjamin, grandson of William Henry Harrison of Berkeley,

and twenty-third President of the United States

Harrison, George Evelyn, of Brandon

Harrison, Mrs. George Evelyn, present mistress of Brandon

Harrison, Nathaniel, of Brandon

Harrison, William Henry, of Berkeley, ninth President of our country

Harvard College

Harwood, Joseph

Henrico or Henricopolis, founded four years after James Towne

site of proposed college which would have been oldest in America

Henry, Patrick

Herring Creek

Hill family acquire Shirley

Hill, Edward, the second, built present mansion at Shirley

about the middle of the seventeenth century

his portrait at Shirley

Hill, Mrs. Edward, portrait of, at Shirley

Hollingshorst, Elizabeth Gordon

Hollingshorst, Thomas

Indian massacre of 1622

caused abandonment of Henrico

Irving, Washington

James River, The



historical importance

colonial life upon

colonial water life

Grant's army crossed

colonial river trade

sturgeon in

buoy-tender on

narrow and crooked from Shirley to Richmond

site of Richmond on

the Falls of the.

James Towne

settlement of

development, decline, and abandonment of

Captain Edward Ross

the typical village




abandonment of


final abandonment

ancient site not lost

unearthing the buried ruins

Jamestown Island

settlement of


the way across


width of

battle upon



mysterious tomb

Confederate Fort

historic sites

where Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married

coining of "the maids"

beginnings of American self-government

the colonists' first landing-place

the colonists' first fort

the colonists' first village

the story of the "Starving Time"

the "Lone Cypress"

Jefferson, Thomas

Kittewan Creek

Kittewan house

Kneller, Sir Godfrey

Lee, General Robert E.

Lee, Miss Mary

Lee, "Light Horse Harry," married at Shirley

Lee, Mrs. Henry. See Anne Hill Carter of Shirley

Lewis family

Madison, James

Marshall, Chief-Justice John

Marshall, John, son of Chief-Justice Marshall

Marshall, Mary Willis, wife of Chief-Justice Marshall

Martin, Captain John


Merchants' Hope Church

Mitchell, Dr. S. Weir

Mordaunt, Charles

Monroe, James

Newport News

Oliver, Commander James H., U.S.N.

Oliver, Mrs. James H., of the Carter family, and one of

the present owners of Shirley


Opechancanough, Indian chief

Parke, Colonel Daniel

Peale, Charles Wilson

his portrait of Washington at Shirley

Peterborough, Lord

Petersburg, March upon

Piersey, Captain Abraham, ownership of Fleur de Hundred


marriage to John Rolfe

after marriage lived at Varina

Pope, Alexander

Powell's Creek

Powhatan, Indian chief, not at wedding of Pocahontas

"Pyping Point"

Ramsay, Mrs. C. Sears, present owner of Westover

Ramsay, Elizabeth

Ramsay family at Westover

Randolph, Mistress Anne, of Wilton

pre-Revolutionary belle, married the second Benjamin Harrison of Brandon

her portrait at Brandon

Richmond, at the Falls of the James

founded by William Byrd of Westover in 1733

Rolfe, John

marriage to Pocahontas

after marriage lived at Varina

Shirley, colonial seat of the Hills and of the Carters

right way to go to

great seventeenth-century American plantation

early owners of

the exterior of the mansion and the ancient messuage

the oldest homestead on the river and one of the oldest in the country

the present owners

the colonial "great hall"

interior of mansion


colonial portraits

kitchen and cook-room

colonial furnishings copied in restoration of the Mt. Vernon kitchen

colonial silverware

romance of "Light Horse Harry" Lee and Anne Hill Carter

Peale's portrait of Washington

old-time Shirley

Silverware, colonial, family silver at Brandon

communion service of Martin's Brandon Church at Brandon

at Shirley

Smith, Captain John

Stratford, the ancestral home of the Lees

Stuart, Gilbert

Thomas, colonial house of

Varina, site of early home of John Rolfe and Pocahontas

Virginia society, type of

War of 1812, fort built in

Washington, George

portrait of, by Peale, at Shirley

Water Supply of James Towne colonists


became property of the Byrds

present mansion built

its colonial importance, and its successive owners

riverward front

interior of mansion

romantic centre of

present owner and family

landward front, courtyard, and noted entrance gates

garden and sun-dial, and tomb of William Byrd

mysterious subterranean chambers

recent restoration of

old survey of plantation


Westover Church

one of earliest churches in the country


two plantations

houses of

an Indian name



present day family at

oldest building at

postoffice at


Whittaker, Reverend Alexander

Willcox, John V., ownership of Fleur de Hundred

Wilton, home of Mistress Anne Randolph

Windmill Point

first windmill in America


Yeardley, Sir George, tomb of

ownership of Weyanoke

ownership of Fleur de Hundred

built first windmill in America

Yonge, Samuel H.

* * *


Each in one volume, decorative cover, profusely illustrated


By George Wharton James


NEW MEXICO: The Land of the Delight Makers

By George Wharton James



By Thomas D. Murphy


A WONDERLAND OF THE EAST: The Mountain and Lake Region of New England and Eastern New York

By William Copeman Kitchin, Ph.D.



By Thomas D. Murphy



By Nevin O. Winter



By George Wharton James



By Mae Lacy Baggs



By Thomas D. Murphy



By Nevin O. Winter


SUNSET CANADA (British Columbia and Beyond)

By Archie Bell



By Agnes Rush Burr


VIRGINIA: THE OLD DOMINION. As seen from its Colonial waterway, the Historic River James

By Frank and Cortelle Hutchins


A number of additional volumes are in preparation, including Maine, Utah, Georgia, The Great Lakes, Louisiana, etc., and the "See America First" Series will eventually include the whole of the North American Continent.

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