Friday, June 25, 2010

SkyWatch Friday from Colonial Williamsburg

Bruton Parish Church

Among the men of the Revolution who attended Bruton Parish Church were Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, George Wythe, Patrick Henry, and George Mason. But the building's history, and that of its churchyard, goes back further in time.

Dating from 1715, the present structure is the third in a series of Anglican houses of worship that began in 1660. The first, which may or may not have been at or near the 18th-century site, was built, probably of wood, in the Old Fields at Middle Plantation, Williamsburg's name until the 66-year-old community was incorporated in 1699.

Formed from Middletown and Marston Parishes in 1674, Bruton Parish was about 10 miles square. It is named for Bruton, Somersetshire, in England, the home of then-Governor William Berkeley and Virginia secretary Thomas Ludwell. As late as 1724, the parish contained only 110 families.

In 1677, the vestry ordered that a church be built of brick on land donated by John Page November 14 of that year. Page also donated £200. The contract was let in June 1681 and the building, which stood a few steps northwest of the 1715 church, was complete by November 29, 1683. Its buried foundations remain. The first rector, the Reverend Rowland Jones, dedicated the structure on January 6, 1684.

The church stood near the center of Williamsburg's original survey map drawn 15 years later. Its location suggested the church's importance to the colonial community's life, but the building was already in disrepair. On November 21, 1710, the vestry declared its condition ruinous and proposed construction of a third church. The vestry submitted a plan for one large enough to meet only the needs of parish residents and invited the colony's government to finance an enlargement to accommodate its officers and others who came to the capital when the General Assembly sat.

The house approved a £200 grant December 5, 1710, to be financed from the taxes on liquor and slaves.

The Reverend James Blair, president of the College of William and Mary and Virginia's highest-ranking clergyman, approved construction on March 1, 1711. The same day, Governor Alexander Spotswood provided an architectural drawing of a cruciform design 75 feet long and 28 feet wide "in the clear," with two wings 22 feet wide and 19 feet long. Spotswood offered to underwrite 22 feet of the length and provide some or all of the bricks if the vestry would finance 53 feet and the assembly paid for the wings. His proposition was accepted. The contract was let to carpenter James Morris on November 17, 1711, the wings to be raised by John Tyler, builder of the Magazine.

Work began in 1712 with an October 15, 1714, deadline. The December 2, 1715, entry in the vestry book says, "at length new Church is finished, or nearly so." The second church was demolished the same year.

Governor Spotswood was provided with a canopied chair on a platform inside the rail opposite the raised pulpit with its overhanging sounding board. Parishioners sat in boxed pews, their walls providing privacy and protection from drafts. In the early years the sexes sat apart. A vestry book entry for January 9, 1716, says:

"Ordered that the Men sitt on the North side of the church, and the women on the left."

A succession of galleries was built for particular groups beneath the soaring ceiling. For example, on July 10, 1718, William and Mary students were assigned a gallery that still stands. Exterior stairs were added for access to some of these railed, overhanging rows of benches. In 1744, the building was enlarged, and in 1752 the vestry voted to make the east end as long as the west, extending the chancel 25 feet to the east. The assembly paid for the work, and it was completed in 1755.

The north, east, and south gables are pierced by rosette windows, the north and south walls by tall arched and sashed windows. All were provided for ventilation as well as light.

In 1758, the church received a chalice, paten, and alms basin from the old church at Jamestown.

Among the Williamsburg notables buried beneath the marble flagstones inside the church was Governor Francis Fauquier, one of the best loved of the colonial governors, who died in 1768.

The same year an English organ was installed. Gaolkeeper Peter Pelham was hired to play it for £25 a year, a position he held until about 1802. Pelham brought to church with him a prisoner from the Gaol, whose job it was to pump the instrument. The organ remained in service until 1835. The present organ, the church's fourth, was presented by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1954.

In 1761, merchant James Tarpley presented the church with a bell. Bids for a steeple or belfry to house the bell were let on January 1, 1769. The vestry awarded a £410 contract for a brick tower surmounted by a wooden octagon and for miscellaneous repairs to Benjamin Powell that September 14. The addition can be seen from outside the church, as the steeple bricks have a darker color than the salmon-hued bricks of the rest of the church. Tarpley's bell is still in use.

In 1781, the church served as a storehouse or hospital, perhaps both, during the Battle of Yorktown. In 1799, a visitor noted that the church again was "much out of repair." The exterior stairs were removed in 1834, and in 1838, the vestry agreed to major remodeling. Begun in 1839 and finished the next year, the renovations made a coal bin of the lower tower, walled off the west end for a Sunday school, relocated the pulpit against that wall, and opened a door in the east end. A town clock was installed in the steeple June 1, 1840.

For a week after the May 5, 1862, Battle of Williamsburg, the church served as a Union hospital for Northern and Confederate soldiers.

The vestry ordered extensive repairs and modifications in 1886 and 1896. By turns, the original pews were sawed shorter, then removed. Many of the marble floor slabs were removed in 1840 or in 1886, and a wooden floor was substituted. Some slabs were recovered when another restoration began in 1901 under the Reverend W. T. Roberts, but new ones had to be ordered for that restoration.

The Reverend Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin became rector in 1903 and took over the restoration. He raised funds to restore the church to close to its original form and obtained the services of New York architect J. Stewart Barney. Dedicated in 1907, the work cost $27,000.

Goodwin undertook another restoration in 1937 when the walls of the church were found to be in danger of collapse. Dr. Goodwin's health failed the next year, and Colonial Williamsburg helped the parish complete the restoration project.

Bruton Parish Church is owned by, and still serves, the three-centuries-old parish.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg-Drum & Fife Parade

Fifers and drummers were an important part of the 18th-century military. Through rhythms and tunes, they signaled alerts and commands for soldiers and provided motivation during long marches. The U.S. Army Third Infantry Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is the only remaining unit of its kind in the armed forces.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg-The King's Arms Tavern

Stopped here for lunch. The food was great, huge portions, you could really split a sandwich between 2 adults. Our waiter was the best, wish I could remember his name!

After Jane Vobe opened the King’s Arms Tavern in 1772, it became one of the town’s most genteel establishments. Present-day diners can savor traditional southern fare, sumptuous desserts, and after-dinner cordials in surroundings an 18th-century traveler would recognize.

Taverns then and now
In the 18th century, Williamsburg’s taverns provided comfortable lodgings for travelers as well as serving as places to gather for meals, conversation, and entertainment. Proprietors prided themselves on serving filling meals using the freshest ingredients. Today, Colonial Williamsburg’s historic dining taverns carry on these traditions by providing a relaxed and comfortable setting for diners to experience some of the flavor of the 18th century—through atmosphere, entertainments, and food.

To see the menu, click HERE

Monday, June 21, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg-Oxen

Oxen were commonplace in British colonies starting in the 1600s. Plantation owners and small farmers relied on them for all sorts of tasks as well as for milk, meat, hides, and fat. During the Revolutionary War, oxen hauled supplies; they were links in the Continental Army's logistical network. In September 1781, Williamsburg citizens saw what was probably the largest assemblage of cattle in the town's history when George Washington's supply column passed through on its way to the Battle of Yorktown.

Oxen remained the main beasts of burden until late in the nineteenth century, when horses and mules replaced them.

Colonial Williamsburg has used oxen in historic interpretation for more than four decades. Holsteins came first in 1963 for "Life on the Street" programs. Over time, the Holsteins were replaced by two rare breeds.

The Coach and Livestock Department has eight oxen—Milking Shorthorns. It has also used Randalls. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy recognizes the breeds as endangered. By caring for and using these animals in educational programs, Colonial Williamsburg is helping to preserve their bloodlines.

The Milking Shorthorns are one of the oldest recognized breeds in the world. They came to the United States, Virginia specifically, in 1783. Their forerunners apparently existed during the 1500s in northeastern England.

Milking Shorthorns spread rapidly across the United States. Farmers in the North and Midwest readily accepted them, and the first herd was established on the west side of the Mississippi River in 1839. During the nineteenth century, American farmers admired the animals for their strength, the quality of their meat, and, most important, their milk. But by the early 1980s, Milking Shorthorns were in dire straits. Thanks to a concentrated twenty-year rescue effort, about 10,000 of these red and white cattle now exist worldwide.

For more information, click HERE

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg-Pillory

Pillory: The Pillory was wooden, and had holes for a person’s head and hands. It was common for onlookers to throw rotten fruit and/or rocks at the criminal, making the punishment even worse.

When people broke the law in colonial Virginia, the courts ordered swift and often public punishments. Unlike today, jails were used as places to hold people accused of crimes until they were brought to trial. They were not used as places for punishment. However, if the court imposed a fine, but the defendant could not pay, he sometimes spent time in jail until he did pay the fine in full.

What Kinds of Crime Were Punished?
Crime in colonial Virginia consisted of many of the same harmful acts still seen today such as murder, theft, and disturbing the peace. Certain crimes that are not considered that threatening today were taken very seriously in colonial times. For example, slander [saying something publicly that ruins someone's reputation], public drunkenness and hog theft were major crimes. Virginia’s agriculture-based economy meant that farm animals [stock] were highly valued. Treason [going against the government] was a serious crime because the king wanted to keep tight control of the colonies. Blasphemy [challenging accepted religious beliefs] was another crime that resulted in harsh punishment.

Courts awarded fines for many civil crimes [crimes between people such as stealing, breaking a promise, etc]. Fines were a way of avoiding the physical punishments. Some crimes that would be considered rather minor today resulted in serious punishments during colonial times. For example, if convicted of hog stealing, colonists were either fined ten pounds [English money] or lashed twenty-five times at the whipping post on their first offense. On top of the possible ten-pound fine, there was a fine of 400 pounds of tobacco to be shared by the owner of the stolen hog and the informant [person who told] of the crime. If a person was caught again, he/she would be locked in the Pillory with his/her ears nailed to the frame. When the thief was released, the nailed part of his/her ear was torn off. A third conviction was considered a felony and the criminal's case was then a matter of the higher General Court. Death was the usual punishment, whether the thief was a free person, a slave, or an indentured servant.

In many cases, a person's social status determined the harshness of his/her punishment. Those in a higher social class sometimes received a lesser punishment for the same crime as someone from the servant class. The law did not treat men and women equally. A woman could be whipped or publicly shamed for the same crime for which a man would only receive a fine. Slaves were always tried in the local courts and were given physical punishment whether it was the slave's first, second, or third conviction. When children committed minor crimes, their punishment was left to their parents or guardians. At age fourteen, young people had to appear in court. But if the court thought a child knew the difference between right and wrong, he/she could be tried in court for a serious offense as early as eight-years-old. The harshest punishment children received was a whipping. Slave children and orphans were most likely involved in criminal conviction because they often had no respected member of the community to speak for them in court.

Social crimes were sometimes treated severely, especially when these crimes involved breaking accepted ways of doing things or values of the community. For example, women who had an interracial illegitimate child were severely punished. A free woman was fined 16 pounds sterling [English money of high value] and, if she was unable to pay, she was sold into servitude for five years. If she was a servant, after her indenture time was completed, she was sold for another five-year term. The bi-racial child in question was bound out until the age of 31, without regard for the social standing of the mother. Marriage between a white person and an African American, mulatto, or Indian was prohibited on pain of banishment [sent away and not able to return] from the colony within three months.(Alcock)

Another example of ways the social norms of the community were regulated by the courts had to do with church attendance. Virginians were required to attend their parish church at least once per month. In Williamsburg the parish church was Bruton Parish Church, which was Anglican. Failure to obey this law without a reasonable excuse was punishable by a fine of 5 shillings [English coins], 50 pounds of tobacco, or a whipping of ten lashes. Non Anglican Protestants had to go to the county court to be legally declared a dissenter to avoid church fines. This excused them from church attendance, but not from their duty to pay the annual parish tax.


I wonder what kind of crime these 2 trouble makers committed? ;)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg-Horsepower

It's easy to imagine yourself back in the 18th century with scenes like this all around.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg-Courthouse

Important events announced at the courthouse:

Williamsburg's citizens assembled at their courthouse at 1:00 p.m. Thursday, May 1, 1783, to celebrate at last the end of the war with England – just as they had gathered seven years earlier to hear lawyer Benjamin Waller proclaim from its steps the Declaration of Independence.

Led by four standard bearers, a herald riding a gelding, and the mayor and his aldermen bearing the city charter, the throng marched down Duke of Gloucester Street toward the College of William and Mary. They carried a proclamation announcing the initialing of the Treaty of Paris and, nearly two years after Yorktown, the end of the Revolution.

The footsteps echoed off the brick facade of the Courthouse, the sound of the footfalls bouncing between the broad stone steps and the white portico. Ordered from England, the steps had arrived from a London merchant in 1772, but there were no columns – possibly none had ever been intended. Their absence jarred the eye a little at first.

This picture is taken from inside the courthouse where a mock trial is taking place. Three plaintiffs are chosen from the audience as well as a group of jurors, which Nick was picked as a juror. Fun to watch!

For more info on the courthouse, click HERE

Monday, June 14, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg-Peyton Randolph House

A couple of weeks ago, over the Memorial Day weekend, we went to Colonial Williamsburg. I loved it! This is a picture of the Peyton Randolph House:

The original structure of the Peyton Randolph House was built in 1715. Colonial Williamsburg's primary restoration of the home began in October 1938 and was completed in April 1940. More restoration of the main section was undertaken in June 1967 and was finished 12 months later. The center and west portions of the house opened for exhibition on July 1, 1968.

While in Williamsburg we took a ghost tour through The Original Ghosts of Williamsburg Candlelight Tour.

We had so much fun on this tour, all of us! Nick does not believe in ghosts, Ashlyn hates to be scared and the boys and myself love ghost stories. This tour was perfect for all of us! Our tour guide Tom did a great job telling us "ghostly" stories of the city, based on the book "The Ghosts of Williamsburg" by L.B. Taylor.

We started our tour at The College of William and Mary and finished across town, stopping at many sites along the way for Tom to tell another story.

In this photo is the Peyton Randolph House which is rumored to be the most haunted house in Williamsburg, housing up to 23 ghosts. I tried to get photos on the tour but all my pictures turned out pitch black, so I had to take a quick pic the next day as we were walking past it. We had planned to tour the house on Sunday, but then on Sunday we noticed it was closed so we'll have to put that on our "to do" list for the next trip to Williamsburg.

I highly recommend the ghost tour we took. The stories Tom told us were a great addition to the stories we heard on the individual tours we took through Williamsburg. One thing I will mention is that if you are wanting to take pictures on the ghost tour, ask your tour guide ahead of time if they will allow a few minutes in front of each stop. I assumed that there would be plenty of time for taking pictures but at each stop we would gather in a close circle to hear Tom's story, and then quickly move on to the next location. If you wanted to hear the story, you could not move away from the the group for pictures and we didn't linger long enough to snap any after the story, plus, with it being so dark outside and several other tours going on, you needed to stay with your group as they moved on. I tried on a couple of occasions to take a few quick pictures as the group was leaving but found myself lost trying to find my group! so my advice is to just ask if there will be an opportunity to take pictures, I'm sure they will accommodate you as everyone was so nice and helpful, from getting tickets to the tour guide.

So all in all, a great time was had in Williamsburg and I'll have more pictures from our trip all week!

Some links to check out:
Colonial Williamsburg
Original Ghost Tours of Williamsburg
Peyton Randolph
Peyton Randolph House