Exposing Inner Spirits from Our Pasts

“…to just write a simple post…”

I just finished responding to a fellow blogger ‘s comments to my Dad-Daughter Relationships post.  She was thanking me for my “moving words” and giving me encouragement, too, during this season in my life with my octogenarian dad.  And, not so coincidentally, I was readying to write today’s post, and, at this moment the two communications intersected. So, I’ll repeat some of my response to her comment:  ” It’s amazing just how much surfaces from deep within when we sit down and quiet ourselves…to just write a simple post…”  And, it’s true!

I always have felt I was born out of sync with the generation in which I was born.  I always have had this strong pioneering, unafraid of adventure spirit to which I attributed to my maternal grandmother, Alice Lauretta Lathrop Ford who was born in 1895.  For the longest time, I thought God had made her my spiritual guide for life.  But, now digging more in-depth than ever into my heritage from all sides and going back sometimes nine centuries, I am discovering the legacies that many of my ancestors (many of them prominent Virginians or New Englanders) left behind for me to savor and share.

Image:  Bolling Mansion at Chellowe-Buckingham County, Va

Bolling Mansion in Chellowe-Buckingham County, Va

In today’s post I find myself reflecting on my recent read of A memoir of a portion of the Bolling family in England and Virginia, originally handwritten in French (though, history and legacy writings show that he wrote equally well in Latin, French and Italian) by Colonel Robert Bolling of Chellowe, Buckingham County, Virginia,  in 1764.  His manuscript was handed down and through family members for over a hundred years. We truly are lucky that it ever saw the light of day.

The original became the property of a member of the family, William Robertson, Esquire, and in 1803 he gave it to his son, then a youth, as an exercise in translation–you may know this son’s well-known name.  The translator was Judge John Robertson of Richmond, Virginia (born 1787, lawyer, poet.  It was Robertson’s home which became the Robertson’s Hospital, where “Captain Sally” Louise Tompkins treated 1,333 wounded men (the first from the first battle of Bull Run).  Of all the wounded men treated, only 73 failed to survive. )

Image:  John Randolph of Roanoke, VA

John Randolph of Roanoke, VA

Subsequently, the translation fell into the hands of John Randolph and was in his possession at the time of his death. [John Randolph (June 2, 1773 – May 24, 1833), was known as John Randolph of Roanoke.  He was a planter, and a Congressman from Virginia, serving in the House of Representatives at various times between 1799 and 1833, the Senate (1825–1827), Minister to Russia (1830). and served as President Thomas Jefferson’s spokesperson in the House.] Jane Bolling (my first cousin 8x removed) was married to Colonel Richard Randolph.

“I have undertaken this little work…”

And, in Robert Bolling’s own words, his reasons for writing his manuscript:  “I have undertaken this little work because I have often regretted that my ancestors had never done it. Whatever regards them shall be always of importance to me, and the day perhaps will come when there may be persons desirous of knowing particularly what regards my brothers and myself.  For that reason I will continue my relations tho’ I must speak of persons still living to the present day–1764.”  And, I might add that in other places Colonel Bolling even gives thought to where and why more historical and family documentation and portraits should be protected and transcribed as perhaps even “a summer project for a student or intern.”  Here,  Robert, speaks words after my own heart.

Throughout Robert’s memoir, he brings his life and times and those of our families back to life for me to live in his moments and thought processes.  I am so very humbled in learning about the family lines, dignitaries, accomplishments, trials, and tribulations.  I once had thought our family was without legacy or role models to emulate.  I also thought that if our family is ever to achieve any form of success or have a legacy for our next generations that we, today’s generation, must be the ones to make it happen–not that identifying earlier generations’ role models would change my personal desires to share any discoveries and newly found knowledge about who we were, where we came from, or what we did along the way–not at all so.

Next, when I compare our family tree that has about 7,800 people in it and extends back to the 10th or 11th century now, awareness of our prominent ancient ancestors in Europe (mainly England), as well as our prominent colonists who help construct the United States of America as a government, held high positions, and led men on the battlefields during times of war overwhelms me.  The Bolling’s going back to England seem to have been in the “in crowds.”  That is, they had privilege so they could attend and found the best schools and universities in England and Boston and Virginia.  They built churches in England that have the Bolling crest engraved on them, and they became statesmen and men in powerful positions in the early United States.  The Bolling women married well into families like the  Rolfe’s, Randolph’s, Bland’s, Blair, Jefferson’s, and Washington’s, to name a few.  But, times weren’t always easy in the early years of our country and many ‘ne’er do wells’ set upon hard times during their lives.  As we say, “life happens,” to us all.

The transcribed, typed version of Robert Bolling’s memoir spans 68 pages.  It is chocked full of wonderful entries–more than I could comment on in a single post, so I will continue with more ancestral chronicles over time.  For now, cheerio!

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