The best things in life are free, especially the gifts of our ancestors whose trailblazing contributions started first in the colony of Virginia (Jamestown, 1607) and then in Plymouth (1620) over 400 years ago. These settlers from England, Wales, Scotland, Holland, and Ireland bonded together to form our religious, social, business and industry, government, education, and transportation infrastructures that continue today. But wait a minute. We should pause here to remember that their legacies and gifts are free to us but came at great costs to them. They gave up everything to journey across the seas; they suffered hunger, disease, and death aboard ships; they lost many family members—especially heavy losses of women, in their initial settlements due to cold, hunger, and disease. They were befriended by Indians and then battled them for land to build homes and towns and to cultivate crops; waters to cross, bridges to build and waters to fish in; and hunting grounds for sources of meat. With industry came slavery and then brothers fought brothers in the American Civil War.
Yet, everywhere we look we can see the benefits of their often inhumane struggles which gave us the freedom of religion and speech, their cultivation of tobacco and other crops that attracted purchasers from around the world, the creation and building of colleges and universities like William and Mary in Williamsburg by commissary Rev. James Blair (related to me through my paternal 2nd great grandfather and my 1st great aunt). He became president of William and Mary in 1693 and served in that position until his death in 1743; and, the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, founded by our third president, Thomas Jefferson after he completed his eight-year term of office from 1801 to 1809. He founded UVA to give young people in Virginia a school where they could learn to be our country’s leaders of tomorrow. Upon quick reflection, I ask myself “how can so many Americans remain unaware, apathetic, dissatisfied, or even hostile about how far we’ve come and what we have achieved?”
Despite 2+ inches of snow on the ground from the night before (Wednesday, January 23, 2013), gusts of harsh winds, and mid-teen temperatures—very little in comparison to our ancestors’ times and travel conditions, so we happily packed up the truck, our three small dogs (Jake, Baby, and Odie), snacks, and warm snuggles, to take to the roads of Virginia again. We begin our journey by entering our itinerary into our iPad-based GPS system. We expect the GPS to guide us south from Calvert County, Maryland to our destination planned for late afternoon in Petersburg, Virginia. Interestingly enough, Ms. GPS wants to steer us 20+ miles north and have us use Interstate 95 which is a much-traveled road with little to no local scenery or history about our ancestors from hundreds of years before. It was at this moment that we decided we would show Ms. GPS who’s who in day tripping at our first leg of our trip. Thus, we ignored her voice as she continued to tell us; “please turn around at the first possible opportunity.” We are traveling south on U.S. Route 301 going through Waldorf, White Plains, and LaPlata. And, guess what? Our choice was “spot on”. We drove over the two-lane continuous truss Governor Harry W. Nice Bridge that spans the Potomac River between Newburg (in Charles County, Maryland at Cobb Island) into the town of Dahlgren in King George County, Virginia. We realized almost instantly that this was probably the route (in reverse) used by our ancestors when they migrated from Virginia and into southern Maryland. We spotted our first colonial history roadside markers in Dahlgren, Virginia.
And now in King George County, my genealogy confirms that my paternal 6th great grandfather, Colonel Robert Bolling IV (1759-1839) married Sally Washington here on September 1, 1796.
This Robert Bolling in 1823 also built the Bollingbrook Mansion, now known as the Centre Hill Mansion Museum in Petersburg, VA. This will be our end destination when we tour it in Petersburg City at 6 o’clock. But there’s time for us to see much more of Virginia before we arrive at the mansion. I hope you will continue our journey with us in my next blog to follow.