Jamestown was the capital of Virginia from the early 1600s until 1698 when the capitol building burned and the government then moved away from the mosquito-infested swamps of Jamestown inland to Williamsburg.
Colonial Williamsburg has changed so much since my last visit (looking at colleges in 2000!). Everything was also different because of Covid but we made the best of it. We enjoyed strolling the streets and laughing at the 300 year old squirrels RR kept pointing out .
We were able to see one musical performance and that was definitely a highlight! They were so talented. Here are some clips.
Guitar and (what’s the name of the other?):
The Jew’s harp (or mouth harp). So funny!
The kazoo which back then was a comb and parchment paper which is what he’s using (wow!!)
And amazingly using only his hands:
The weaver was neat and one of the few places open to go inside:
There were some incredible trees along the streets:
We liked seeing the kitchen equipment and foods that would have been grown at many of the houses around town. It took such an incredible amount of work to get meals on the table day in and day out:
This rotisserie was really cool and very “high tech” for the time:
Even though many things were still closed because of Covid shut down – at least many of the outdoor areas were open. We liked the brickyard:
And the carpentry yard. This man shaped a shingle for us to see how it used to be done. Look at that beautiful dormer they had just finished for practice:
The Public Armoury had the most demonstrations. This area was basically an “industrial” section where trade shops that supported the war effort were located. We saw the wheelwrights working very hard on a section of a carriage:
The blacksmiths working to create nails:
The baker who was finishing up pies and getting the fire settled and ready for the next day:
And the girls really enjoyed listening to Ann Wager’s speech. What an amazing lady and even more so what amazing pupils she had! Ann Wager (1716 – 1744) was a widow with 2 children (William and Mary) that was the only teacher for the Bray School, educating free and enslaved african american children. In 1760 a group of philanthropists in England, at Ben Franklin’s recommendation, opened a school in the town for negroes to instruct them in the principles of christianity. She had 20 – 30 students every year and taught them christian values, reading, writing, etiquette, and skills that would benefit their owners (it’s hard to even type that word).
Listening to examples of the daily life of her pupils was so heartbreaking and yet inspiring and I’m glad my three children heard these stories. Ann Wager taught these classes in her home starting at 6 am in the summer and 7 am in the winter and certainly lived in the paradox of knowing and teaching that all souls are equal in the Lord’s sight… and also seemingly accepting the inequality of her society. From her character portrayal it sounds like she had great discussions with her students and did see herself on a mission to positively impact their lives and souls.
Over the course of her 14 years at the Bray School, Mrs Wager taught over 400 students until her death in 1774 when the school closed.
Next up was the Capitol. I really wish that Colonial Williamsburg had a Junior Ranger type program so I could have looked at the Cliff Notes that simplifies everything for us (and gives me a space to jot down things we learn on the tours!).
This flag is called the “Grand Union” and is considered to be the first national flag of the U.S. Before this was hoisted in 1775 around the newly forming country, states each had their own flags. Apparently flags were real important back then and really sent a message!
And here’s a great example of government overreach and how non-sensical rules end up being when power is not given locally and instead is passed down from a heavy handed, central government: after we had lunch we took a 20 minute bus ride around Williamsburg to get to the location to hear Patrick Henry speak which I had been looking forward to all day. On the enclosed bus we were surrounded on all sides with people shoulder to shoulder. Apparently the governor had given no rules on public transportation. We arrive at the open air outdoor “auditorium” and because it’s an auditorium, governor’s orders say the max capacity is 50% of normal capacity. So we were denied entry because they had reached that mark. Soooo we can ride in enclosed buses for 20 minutes but we can’t sit outside in a field with plenty of space to socially distance for 15 minutes? I thought my eyeballs got lost in my brain they rolled up so high.
The irony was too much. I’m trying to hear a speech from one of our incredible founding leaders who is most famous for his passion for freedom… you know… “give me liberty or give me death!” and we’re being herded and controlled like cattle having to play along with the most illogical and ridiculous rules… because the Governor says. I politely told the cattle prodder that I would just sit right there on the sidewalk and listen to Patrick Henry with all the other people around us since Covid didn’t exist in the group we were standing in and only excited in the open air auditorium. He then directed us to a separate field that was outside the fence line and behind the stage where we sat with many other groups of families, not socially distanced. I guess covid doesn’t exist outside the fence line and behind stages:
“Patrick Henry” did a great job and many things he said were inspiring and applicable to our situations today.
I loved Patrick Henry’s call for unity at the Continental Congress as the British grasped for control tighter around the Americans: The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders, are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American.
And from his “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech delivered in Richmond in 1775 – we have these words:
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.
I really felt a new spark for freedom as I read more about Patrick Henry. Liberty is from the Lord! It’s worth being passionate about and fighting for! I’m so proud of the American story and what was planted in the DNA of our country’s roots. Centuries later we are still being blessed by the divine inspirations put in our forming documents. They give us inspiring founding values to cling to…the freedom to make progress and do better and be better….and the protection to keep power closer to the people’s hands. Our great leaders’ ability to foresee the nature of government and what could happen in America is truly incredible. What would they say about today’s Republic?
On to the Governor’s Palace:
18th century Chippendale wall sconce:
The tour guide told us this was Patrick Henry’s chair next to the secretary:
I didn’t recognize the name of Virginia’s first governors. But I do know Patrick Henry was governor and lived here from 1776 – 1779 and Thomas Jefferson 1779-1780. Jefferson moved the governor’s mansion to Richmond in 1780. The reason they were able to re-create this building so accurately was because of Thomas Jefferson’s obsession with measuring and recording all parts of his life. His drawings of this mansion and 25,000 other documents are at the Library of Congress.
The gardens were the favorite part of the day:
Because of all the games of tags they were able to play here:
I guess one positive of Covid overreach here (for us at least) is that it kept away the crowds. The kids had this area all to themselves for quite awhile:
I’m so thankful for these adventures and time to learn together!