Sunday, September 6, 2015

Another Historical Adventure

Sunday, September 6, 2015

This past week started out as usual - with our Monday morning meeting with the President and Sister Baker and us learning about just how busy we are going to be in the coming weeks!   It almost made me tired enough to go home and take a nap just hearing about all the happenings that will occur in September.....but I pushed through at stayed on task for the full day.   That afternoon I looked out the window and found a beautiful site in these interesting cloud formations.

I thought it was beautiful with the sun shining above the clouds with puffy white tops and gray on the bottom.  

I was thinking we might get some rain because I thought the clouds were turning gray and it had been about 2 weeks since we had any rain, but we did not.  It remained dry until Friday when we had a brief downpour and them more rain on Saturday early in the morning and the same today (Sunday).

Tuesday we were busy all day in the office preparing for Mission Leadership Conference which would occur on Wednesday.  All of the Zone Leaders and  Sister Training leaders come in for 6 hours one Wednesday for training, which they in turn share with district leaders who share it with the rest of the missionaries.   They are in the building from 9:30 to 3:30, but, of course, some arrive early and some stay late.  On Tuesday evening we went with the Elders to teach a young couple they have been working with and helped them answer some questions that came up after they had attended sacrament meeting.   The poor young man who is about to become a father for the first time left Sacrament meeting with the impression that if they joined the church they were not allowed to do anything to prevent having tons of children.   He breathed a sigh of relief when I told him that the decision about family size should be between them and Heavenly Father.  That was followed up with a nice conversation about what a blessing our 6 children are to us....and how much we love them and all of our extended family including spouses and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  The wife seems much more interested than the husband - they are a cute couple.

Wednesday was pretty chaotic with 35 missionaries in the building and cars that needed to be shuttled back and forth to the repair shop, supplies that needed to be sent home,  receipts for purchases that needed to be reimbursed, etc., etc.   Elder Ashton even went back to the office at about 8:30 and met a transporter who was late in picking up the car he was supposed to pick up at 2 p.m.   I told Elder Ashton I had experienced enough fun that day and he could go to the office --- I was going to bed!  I really never expected that serving as a senior missionary couple would keep us so busy.

Thursday and Friday were a bit calmer but with the upcoming group of missionaries expected to arrive on September 15, we must acquire 3 new apartments and because we have more missionaries serving in trios, we have to upsize 3 other apartments.   I find it hard to keep everything straight and make sure the proper utilities are turned on or turned off,  the security deposits are paid on new houses and returned on houses we have vacated or transferred to the larger apartment if it is the same management company.   I have to work closely with the housing coordinator on this and he has only been doing that job for a month and got hit with lots of work so it has been quite a challenge......I hope I don't mess something up but keep telling myself if I do that it won't be the end of the world....I'll just call the helpers in Salt Lake and get them to help me straighten it out.   To top that all off, the President's credit card number got into the wrong hands so I spent at least one full day this past week identifying fraudulent charges and working with Bank of America and church headquarters in Salt Lake to properly account for those in the software---I learn something new on a regular basis!

Although the weeks pass quickly and this one was no exception, by Friday evening I was ready for some rest and had every intention of staying home on Saturday and taking things a little easier......
..But when Elder Ashton returned from his bike ride and I was working on my 3rd load of laundry, we decided to find some kind of adventure to a historical site.   Very interesting!

As we started out Saturday morning, the wind was blowing quite you see the white caps on the water?

When I saw this out my window....the field of cotton and the weathered shack in the middle of the field, my brain immediately started singing "Dixie" - guess when I think of "Dixie" I think of cotton.

We drove through the town of Smithfield on our way to our historical adventure.   One part of town has many historical homes and I was trying to capture some of them as we drove by.  I almost discarded this picture as trash when I realized I didn't get the second story of the house where most of the fancy woodworking was, but then I took a second look and decided I liked this picture with the flag barely peaking into the frame and the blue and white historic home.   Many of the homes are very well maintained and this was one of those.

Our final destination was to be Smith's Fort Plantation which is located about 5 miles outside of Surry, Virginia so after we left Smithfield we had a little bit of country road to travel.   We passed this deserted home sitting back from the interesting that when the humans are not there the plants take over.   I was intrigued with this and asked Elder Ashton to turn around and stop close to the house so I could get a picture.....I wonder what stories the walls could tell!

When driving on the country roads in Virginia, this is a rather common site to see - walls of trees on either side of a narrow road.....and this one is really not that narrow.  I've seen many that don't have much shoulder and no kind of emergency lane so this one is rather wide in comparison.   Still presents an interesting perspective as we are driving toward it.

We finally reached the turn-off to Smith's Fort Plantation.   The foliage is not so thick here, and the "road" is much narrower!

I was surprised to note the location of Smith's Fort Plantation in relation to Jamestown.   We've been to Jamestown a couple of times and since Elder Ashton chose our adventure for Saturday, I was surprised to learn there is a connection.....more about that later.

As you can see from the previous picture, this house was built between 1751 and 1765-----and it is a real historical gem.  This is the brick walkway that leads up to the house from the parking has been repaired by the preservation group and it was HARD to walk on because it was kind of dome shaped - rounded in the middle.

During our guided tour of the house we learned that the plantation received its name because it was built in the location of Captain John Smith's "New Fort," built in 1609, located directly across the James River from the Jamestown Colony.   It was intended to be a place of defense for the colonists if the Powhattan Indians came against them.  The fort was never completed because while working on the fort the settlers learned that the Black Rats that had made their way to America in the holds of the ships had gotten into and destroyed all the corn they had stored for winter and they knew they were going to be facing very difficult times!  This area of land (can't remember how many acres but it was alot) was given to John Rolfe as a dowry when he married Pocahontas.   The guide said that John Rolfe and Pocahantas never lived on the land, but John Rolfe did plant tobacco fact he took his strain of tobacco with him when he and Pocahantas traveled to England so he could introduce the tobacco to the higher class there who had recently taken up smoking.   Very interesting connection to the earliest settlers.   History indicates that the present house was built by Jacob Faulcon in 1751 but other structures had existed on the land before that time.

This is considered a 1.5 story house.....they built it that way to save on taxes ----even in the 1700's they had to think about tax rates!

The fireplace in the "main" room, surrounded with great woodworking.   The house has only 4 rooms - the main room & the master bedroom on the main floor and 2 bedrooms upstairs for the children.

A "cupboard" that Mr. Foulcan commissioned for his home.

Company dishes in the cupboard

 A pewter chandelier from 1611 in the main room......must have been used in a building prior to this one.

The master bedroom, including a baby's cradle at the foot of the bed

Original hinges on the doors- the guide said the door has never been off its hinges 

Small reading table in the master bedroom.  King James bible from 1622.  Note the reading glasses - the frame style has returned to being fashionable :)

Two beautifully carved dower chests from that time period.   They may have been used to store linens, bedding, etc.   Or, if a young woman was getting married they may have held her dowry.

Elder Ashton studying the "rope spring" bed in the boys bedroom.   This family had 3 boys (one of whom was institutionalized) for feeble mindedness.   The guide said it is now conjectured that the boy suffered from retardation brought about by lead poisoning from eating on the "everyday" dishes which were made of pewter.

The family also had 2 daughters.   Pictures from the "girls" room below.

My eye was caught by this "tape" machine.   You can see the "tape" coming out of the "machine".  It was made by weaving all those threads together and producing a sort of twill tape that was used in many everyday things - bonnet strings, tying things together, etc.

A high chair from that time period.   Note the wide planks in the floor.....those are original floors from the 1700s.   Original floors throughout the house except for 3 stair treads.......pretty amazing that it could last that long.

The above photo is a reproduction of the 4.5 page letter that John Rolfe wrote to the Governor of Virginia asking permission to marry Pocahontas.    The text indicates that he had fallen hopelessly in love with her, but he needed special permission to marry her because she was considered far below his class....a savage really.  However when they got to England, she was considered royalty (an Indian Princess) and she was allowed to attend royal functions while John Rolfe who was considered a commoner in England was not invited to attend those functions.  When John Rolfe returned to Virginia without Pocahontas who had died and leaving his small son behind with his brother, he continued to raise tobacco on this plot of land.

They had a small store in the basement (cellar) of this home and as I was looking at the display I found this little blue glass bird......and just had to have it.   My mother-in-law had one that was similar and she always called it her "bluebird of happiness" now I have my own "bluebird of happiness,"

As we left the house and walked out to the truck, we came upon a magnolia tree that was just loaded with these pods.   The same type of pod was white a couple of weeks ago and is now a beautiful salmon color.

We left the Smith's Fort Plantation property and decided to take the ferry across the river to Jamestown.

Getting ready to drive onto the ferry,,,,,named Pocahontas

On the ferry ready to traverse the river.   Note all the seagulls sitting on the logs that make up part of the slip.

We went to the upper deck and stood against the railing to feel the cool breeze off the water as we crossed the river.   We were standing there when a man and his wife said, "Hello Elder and Sister Ashton."   I looked to see if it was someone from our ward, but didn't know them.   The man indicated he is a member of the church and he saw our missionary badges so decided to strike up a combination.   As we talked for a few minutes we learned that he has roots in Woodruff, Utah and is related to the Coxes and the Dicksons.   I told him I have a Dickson in my line and his response was , "Well, hello Cousin."  I never cease to be amazed at how small the world is!!!

As we approached the slip on the opposite side of the river, we were greeted by these pelicans, along with some seagulls :)

By the time we got off the ferry Elder Ashton was starving and wanted to find the first place to eat we could.   Well, that turned out to be in Williamsburg....about 15 minutes from the river.   We ended up eating at a Deli across from William and Mary College, founded in 1693.   Sitting in there with the college kids I sort of felt like I was born in 1693 ;-)

And finally, this week we attached a digital copy of this photo to a new missionary application and clicked the submit button.   We have so loved what we are doing and the opportunity to serve that we are applying to serve a mission from home after we arrive back there next May, where we hope to continue to serve but have the added benefit of being able to see and hug family and friends.   We miss all of you......but we are learning so much!

Happy September from the Ashtons.

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