Category Archives: Bacon’s Castle

Old Sites, New View

A few weeks ago, Motor Man spotted one of those tourist brochures at an antique mall in Williamsburg. It gave information about air tours available through Williamsburg Flight Center. One of the packages including flights over several of the historic properties along the James River.

We decided that would be our Christmas gift to each other. And Friday was the day.

Our ride was a 1968 Cessna Skyhawk.

Our pilot was Chris. After our flight, I asked him how old he is. 23. Twenty-three. (What’s the saying: “I have socks older than that…”?) By the way, not only is he an excellent pilot, he’s also a flight instructor. He’s also very knowledgeable about the area and those historic homes.

Although we flew over several historic homes, the one I was waiting for, of course, was Bacon’s Castle. Before our flight, we told Chris about my family connections there, so he circled the property a few times to be sure we got plenty of pictures. I was thrilled to see it from the air.

We also were able to get photos of the nearby old Brick Church ruins and cemetery. This is the final resting place for most of my ancestors.

Surry Nuclear Plant is located just a few miles from my home town of Bacon’s Castle and the two properties previously mentioned.  I watched the land being cleared and building begin on this project from the window of my school bus.

This is the ferry dock at Scotland (near the town of Surry). The Jamestown/Scotland ferry provides free transport across the James.

Although there was a little turbulence during our flight, we had confidence in our pilot, and the scenery was worth a few “bumps”.

Merry Christmas to us!

And thanks, Chris, for a safe, interesting flight.

~These Days Of Mine~

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas

Motor Man and I have been celebrating the holidays for a few weeks now.

At Bacon’s Castle with Mr. and Mrs. Claus:

In Indy with Penny, the carriage horse:

At a nearby farm during their “winter wonderland” (sans snow) event with Bonnie & Clyde, the miniature horses.

And, outside our shop by the photogenic holly tree:

We wish you a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

~These Days Of Mine~

 

 

 

My Halloween Tradition

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I share a certain video each year at Halloween. The video was one segment in the series, Halloween Haunts, produced by WHRO, our local PBS station, in 2007. The series aired during the last two weeks of October.

These next two paragraphs are for readers who are new to the blog. The video, whose link I share below, was filmed at historic Bacon’s Castle (1665), located in Surry County, less than twenty miles from where Motor Man and I now live. My maternal grandparents and their twelve children (including my mom) lived in the house from 1921 to 1940. Although they moved from there many years before I was born, I remember them sharing stories of seeing “The Castle Light”. Their descriptions of it, however, were quite different from its depiction in Halloween Haunts.

My son, Marshall, became an interpreter (guide) at Bacon’s Castle in 2000. He was employed there several years, and gained a wealth of knowledge about the history of the house, its architecture and the families who made it their home. My mom and most of her siblings had passed on by this time. But two of those who were still living at the time (then in their 80’s) re-visited the Castle, and shared first-hand with him their childhood memories of the house and property.

I know my mom and her family would think it fitting that Marshall had the opportunity to participate in this video filmed at their homeplace.

 

Happy Halloween!

~These Days Of Mine~

 

 

Special Gathering, Special Place, Special Person

Yesterday, Motor Man and I attended a gathering for current and former staff members at Bacon’s Castle .

You all know how special that old house is to me. (If you’re new to the blog, click on the Bacon’s Castle category to the right to read previous posts.)

I was an interpreter (tour guide) at the Castle for one season in 2000. But, my connections to the house go back much further than that.

And my son, Marshall, was a guide there for ten years, beginning in 2000.

When he and I worked there, the site director was a wonderful lady named Frances.  When Marshall first joined the staff, he was the only guy, and many of the ladies there treated him as a grandson.

So Frances became very special to our family. She granted Motor Man and me permission to be married at Bacon’s Castle and presided over the guest book at our ceremony.

Frances retired from the Castle several years ago, but Marshall and I keep in touch with her and frequently take her out for breakfast.

And yesterday, Frances was at the staff members’ gathering.  Her birthday is Tuesday, so we surprised her with a cake. She will be 91 years young.

The cake was decorated with a photo of the Castle (the one at the beginning of this blog post), and Frances was tickled and more than a little amazed that this could be done.

At the end of the cookout, the employees and their families posed for a photo on the front steps.

And, of course, I had to have my picture taken with the birthday girl.

She has plans on her actual birthday, so Marshall and I are looking forward to celebrating with her in the near future.

~These Days Of Mine~

 

 

 

 

If These Walls Could Talk

Saturday, I attended the Descendants’ Day event at Bacon’s Castle. During the “welcome”, it was mentioned that lunch would be served in the Caretakers Cottage.

I hadn’t purchased the ticket option that included lunch, but I immediately set about asking the site coordinator if I could have a look inside the cottage.  I had good reason to want to see inside, but more about that later in the post.

The original part of Bacon’s Caste, built in 1665, is the part to the left in this picture (where the roof appears to be ‘silver’).

In the 1700’s, an addition was built onto the right of the original structure. That addition was removed in the 1800’s, and the current one put in its place. In the center is the “hyphen”,  joining the two sections.

The 1700’s addition was moved a short distance from the house, and was used by my Mom’s family when she and her family lived there in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Their kitchen was in that building, as was my grandparent’s bedroom.

This photo is from the Historic American Building Survey project from the 1930’s and shows the rear of the cottage.  It appears that someone is standing on the porch, but I have no way of knowing who that might be.

Among our vintage family photos is this sweet one with the cottage in the background. These are my first cousins, Janet, Bobbie and Joanne, all of whom have passed on now.  My family moved from Bacon’s Castle many years before I was born.

In later years, the cottage was moved to its current location further away from the main house.

Many changes have been made both to the interior and exterior since my family lived there. But, since I’d never before been inside, it was important to me that I take the opportunity to do so.

I just imagined my ancestors using those steep, narrow steps.

And looking out at a view similar to this one.

I love to think of the stories about my family these walls could tell.

~These Days Of Mine~

 

 

 

 

 

Old News

A couple of years ago, I became aware of the fact that old (1928-2013) issues of our local weekly newspaper, The Smithfield Times, are now available on the Library of Virginia’s ‘Virginia Chronicle’ digital newspaper site.

It is easy to become so caught up in that site that you lose track of time.  Last week, I was preparing my upcoming “talk” for the Valentine event at Bacon’s Castle, so many of my thoughts were about my Mom and her family. I decided that it would be fun to search for articles about them, so I typed in her maiden name, “Ellis”.

There is an option to define the dates for your search, so I selected the 1920’s through the 1940’s.

I was not disappointed in my findings. The earliest result referenced an injury to my Mom’s youngest brother, Stanley. I don’t ever recall hearing of this accident, which occurred while the family was living at Bacon’s Castle.

The date on this news item was March 30, 1933. Family records show that he would have been ten years old. Sadly, there are now no family members to ask for the “rest of the story”.

It was fun to find this mention of my Uncle Andrew and Aunt Virginia’s wedding. Andrew was the eldest of my mom’s brothers. The date on this was January 1, 1935. Remember when the wedding announcement always included what the bride wore?  I’ll have to research what a “swagger suit” is.

This next entry made me smile. The date was September 5, 1935, and this was my granddad, Ben. Again, this occurred at Bacon’s Castle farm.

This next article also made me smile.  The date on this one is September 12, 1935. Bennie was also my mom’s brother, Sarah was her youngest sister, and Allie was my dad’s brother. The church they became members of is in my hometown and the one I attended for many years.

Mom’s brother, Bob, had a bit of bad luck in 1936 with his “Lizzie”.

This article almost brought me to tears, although I knew that he had been a prisoner of war. The date was December 13, 1944.

When I discovered that article, I immediately remembered this old family photo of my grandmother with Bennie (on the right) and Stanley.  I was always told that this was taken the day before Bennie reported for duty for World War II. The worry and sadness that she must have been feeling is so evident on her face.

But, imagine the family’s joy at getting THIS news. The date of the article is January 17, 1945.

I, for one, am thankful that so many newspaper articles are available for searching at no charge. Click here to visit the Virginia Chronicle site.  If you’re a Virginian, perhaps old issues of your local paper are available online. But, beware: searching old news is very habit-forming.

~These Days Of Mine~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romance At The Castle 2019

You may recall that, a couple of years ago, I was asked to participate in a Valentine event at Bacon’s Castle. It was, appropriately enough, called Romance At The Castle. I shared a video here on the blog that Motor Man made that day of the little “talk” I gave regarding my family’s connection to the house.

The event wasn’t held in 2018, but returned this year (last Sunday), and once again, I was asked to share my story.

Although I had done this two years ago (and had given tours at the Castle many years ago), I had a bit of stage fright leading up to Sunday’s event. My friend, Donna, was aware of this and, earlier that afternoon, sent this sweet, encouraging text:

“Thinking about you.  Know you are going to be beautiful (always are), well spoken (check), interesting (well, you pretty much know it forward and backwards and have the inside story!) and have the perfect wing man for support. Sounds like a fun day in one of your favorite places on earth! Have a great day sharing the joy that is Bacon’s Castle.”

Whenever Motor Man my wing man and I are at Bacon’s Castle, we always have our photo taken in front of the fireplace where we said our vows in 2002.

Yes, I suppose we’ve changed just a little through the years….

Once again this year, Motor Man filmed my part of Romance At The Castle.  Afterwards, guests enjoyed a wine/food pairing and a tour of the house. There were three tours for the event, and many of those who attended had never before visited the “Castle”.

For those of you who saw my Romance At The Castle video two years ago, you have my permission to skip this one: it’s nearly identical to the first one. (After all: same person, same location, and the material doesn’t really change.) You should be able to enlarge the video to see it better should you decide to watch.

 

As I said in the video, it was an honor to add this Romance At The Castle event to my list of Bacon’s Castle experiences. Oh, and the stage fright was, thankfully, short-lived.

~These Days Of Mine~