Friday, October 7, 2011

A Tour Every American Should Take

There is history and then there is history.  I never knew until this weekend what was nestled back in the woods of Charles City, Virginia.  Although close to Williamsburg, it is not the wooden bench or sparsely decorated cabins of the Jamestown settlement.  It would blow the socks off of any HGTV designer and bring sheer delight to any self-respecting decorator; but sorry this isn’t the story.  This is about interesting pieces of history that every American would enjoy seeing and exploring.  It is the Westover Church Plantation House Tours. 

I know looking at my picture, you may be thinking that I am the least likely person to be promoting or even wanting to talk about plantations.  Nevertheless, there are some important things to bring to light.  Because of the stories and images I saw and heard this weekend, I realized that if enough interest is not shown; this history will slowly and quietly slip away, be reinvented or be repeated.  I think the land fight with the Indians and slavery would be first on my list that does not bear repeating.  Nevertheless, none of us would be where we are today without the significant contribution of both.

The special part about these plantation house tours was that it was sponsored by the historic Westover Church constructed somewhere between 1630 and 1637.  I was told, because of its historic clout the plantation houses were opened for actual in home tours and not just the grounds.  This once a year deal and major fundraiser for the church supports meals-On-Wheels for senior and I am all for taking care of seniors. 

In addition to the Westover Church hospitality, they had live entertainment unlike any place I’ve ever been.  There was a modern day young Ludwig Beethoven music major student from the college of William and Mary playing and explaining the organ.  Now this is not your everyday run of the mill organ.  It was the built in structure organ, pull the stops and foot pedal playing type.  You would have to be there to get it but, that encounter alone was worth the price of admission.  There are some things in life that are priceless.

Yes, a plantation tour is very different from the past.  There are of course no slaves or slave quarters on the tour and I was allowed to move around freely.  There were no Indians on the path waiting to scalp anyone trespassing on their land.  The most notable plantations were Sherwood Forest, Berkeley, and Westover.  I stopped over at the Nance Major home soon to be converted into a Bed and Breakfast.  I’ll stop here and allow you to do the rest of the research by planning your fall trip next year and remember lunch is included. 

To preserve the true history of all participants, I suggest you visit and bring your children and research the stories.  I would have liked to see where the slaves lived and why the Indians who helped the first settlers survive the harsh winter were later deemed their enemies.  Those pieces of the puzzle were a little blurred but a must find, if all Americans are going to understand the full history and maintain its truthfulness.

Whatever your ethnicity may be, don’t dwell on the fact that the land was stolen from the Indians or that blacks were slaves.  As a black person, I did not harp on the negative side of slavery but applied a fresh perspective and one that inspired me to think about how slaves worked hard to better the lives of others by cooking, cleaning and being nannies.  They built walls and farmed the land that reaped wealth for their owners.  Although many were whipped and beaten they had hearts of gold to continue.  We were told stories how some slaves defended their owners and property during the war.  Now imagine that.