Saturday, October 24, 2009

Autumn Roads

"No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face"
John Donne

Autumn is in full swing here in Virginia. I made a conscious effort to stay off the main roads this week so I could take it all in. I also took a moment for a stroll through a forest and across a field...

Starting Close to Home

River Road at Falmouth Bottom. The bridge is Rt. 1 going over the Rappahannock into Fredericksburg heading from left to right. River Road, after crossing under the bridge, travels along the Rappahannock and intersects with Rt. 3 and then across the Chatham bridge into Old Town Fredericksburg. While this looks to be a quaint rural scene one has only to continue back up to Rt. 1 to behold one of the most congested intersections in the region--Rts 1 and 17.

We Aim to Please
Some have expressed a wish to see more people in my photos. Can't explain it, but I don't like people in my photos. Well, not wishing to disappoint I thought I would start off small and work my way up to people. So here is a cat in a window.
We Have Come A Long Way
Off of Mine Run Road in Orange County. This piece of farm equipment has become a lawn ornament. However, it is not uncommon to see older pieces of farm equipment still in use having been passed from one generation to the next. If it runs it is still used.
God's Country
A view off of Marquis Road in Louisa County. It is scenes like this that make me forget the hot and sticky Virginia summers and the cold, damp and rainy winters to come.
Enjoy It While You Can
Spotswood Furnace Road, Spotsylvania. A large section of Spotswood Furnace Road is unpaved and has no significant development along it. Spotsylvania is part of the 4th largest and fastest growing regions in Virginia. Don't know how much longer you will be able to enjoy scenes like this one. I'm going to have to go back and check our Constrained Long Range Regional Transportation Plan to make sure this road is not scheduled for paving anytime soon.
Beats the Hell Out of I-95
A typical section of Elys Ford Road in Spotsylvania. During the Civil War this road which leads to Elys Ford, along with the roads coming off of U.S., Banks, and Kelly's Ford were major routes of advance for the Union Army of the Potomac. Needless to say the view beats anything you would see on the interstate.
A Trek Through the Woods
Elys Ford, Spotsylvania. Before crossing the Rapidan River into Culpeper County I took the opportunity to pull off at a boat ramp and took a stroll on a path beside the river. I wish I had brought my digital recorder with me. This scene needs the sounds of the birds and wind through the trees to do it justice.
At the End of the Trail
Coming to an opening along the trail I slid down the bank to view the Rapidan River and the fall foliage.
Another Story to Be Told......
Off of Elys Ford Road in Spotsylvania--

"But I weary for you at morn and eve, O, children of my love,
Come back to me from your pilgrim ways, from the seas and plains ye rove,
Come over the meadows and up the lane to my door set open wide,
And sit ye down where the red light shines from my welcoming fireside.

I keep for you all your childhood dreams, your gladness and delights,
The joy of days in the sun and rain, the sleep of carefree nights,
All the sweet faiths ye have lost and sought again shall be your own,
Darlings, come to my empty heart¬ I am old and still and alone! "
A Quiet Field at Dawn
The Pierson Farm outside of Fredericksburg. On December 13, 1862 at this time of the morning Union troops were eating breakfast and getting their equipment together. Later in the day they would cross this field to attack Confederate positions located along the tree line in the background. By the end of the day 9,000 men on both sides were killed or wounded and this site became known as the Slaughter Pen Farm--

"Stretcher bearers followed behind to gather the wounded while the lines closed mechanically, filling holes left by fallen soldiers and striding ahead. The Northern ranks dressed snugly shoulder to shoulder , making an impenetrable wall of blue coats. A hare , frightened from its warren, dashed frantically up and down the line before it made its escape."
Unforseen Obstacles
The Pierson Farm--

"Taylor's brigade fumbles and wallowed across the waterlogged plan. Mud caked on shoes and trousers, weighing down the already heavily encumbered troops. The ragged line tumbles through several ditches and gullies which further disrupted the formation."
"A Terrible Slaughter in Our Ranks"
Ground covered by General Meade's Pennsylvanians--

"Shells ripped through the packed ranks, and the attack faltered. A Confederate shell snapped the flagstaff of the 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves in two. One of Pelham's rounds wiped out seven members o the 121st Pennsylvania in a single flash. Another shot tore a soldier in two."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gordonsville Past & Present

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. "
Anatole France

Today we are taking a trip both in distance and in time. Our destination is the town of Gordonsville in Orange County.

The town began in 1794 with a tavern established by one Nathaniel Gordon at the crossroads of what are now the Rockingham and Blue Ridge Turnpikes. By 1813 the area had grown enough for the appointment of a Postmaster who was none other that Mr. Gordon and the town took on the name of Gordonsville. Soon the railroads arrived. The Orange & Alexandria Railroad running north/south and later the Central Virginia Railroad running east/west from Richmond to Staunton. During the Civil War the town was a major supply point for the Confederacy and also was the site of a major military hospital. Later a new rail line through Barboursville bypassed Gordonsville and its role as a major center in the region began to decline. In 1916 a fire devastated the downtown. Today there still exists evidence of its past prominence.

Thanks to a little on line research you will get a glimpse of both Gordonsville's past as well as its present............

When Rail Was King
Two views of the Gordonsville railroad station when the town was still a regional transportation hub. The main station is gone. The rail switching building still stands as well as the water tower and one of the out-buildings.
Not Much Remains
Most of the original station buildings are gone. When CSX took over the rail line what remained of the station seen here was to be demolished. CSX agreed to leave the building as long as it was moved away from the rail lines. Efforts have been made to stabilize the building and it has been placed on a new foundation. It has obviously seen better days. Its future is unknown.
Some Things Remain Relatively Unchanged
The rail switch house looks much as it did in the old photo above.

The Water Tower Today
The tower still stands but is now surrounded by trees.

A Step Back in Time
The photo on top is a view of the Gordonsville business district in 1908 prior to the fire of 1916. The second photos looks to have been taken of the business district after it was re-built. The photo looks to have neen taken in the 30's. The railroad bridge is visible in both photos.
Downtown Gordonsville Today
The Post Office and ABC look to be later additions when compared to the post 1916 photo. It looks like none of the original buildings on the right side of the street survived. The railroad bridge is still there but today has CSX painted on it.
Gordonsville, Post 1916 A Close-up
A store on main street. What intrigued me about this building are the buttresses on the side of the building, the front moldings, and the painted advertising.
Of Bygone Days
These buildings were part of the Gordonsville Milling Company opened in 1910. Its second owner renamed it Rocklands Milling Co. in 1917. Southern States are said to have used the buildings later on. They have not been used in decades.
A Gratuitous Fix
An abandoned house just outside of town. Major enhancements. Boy I feel better.
The Town Library
To provide people with the tools to better themselves is one of the truest examples of community .

"The only true equalisers in the world are books; the only treasure-house open to all comers is a library; the only wealth which will not decay is knowledge; the only jewel which you can carry beyond the grave is wisdom."
- J. A. Langford
Main Street--A Learning Moment
A typical home on main street Gordonsville. Note the flag. This is what is known as the First National flag of the Confederacy. It is also referred to as the "Stars and Bars." The great misconception is that the Confederate battle flag (Actually the ones carried by regiments of the Army of Norther Virginia) with the stars in the Cross of St. Andrew is the Stars and Bars. The First National flag started with seven stars and ended up with thirteen as states seceded. This is of interest because only eleven states ever seceded. A bit of wishful thinking on the part of the Confederacy. Your homework assignment is to identify the two other states that were expected to secede but didn't. This flag would later be replaced because, as you can see in the picture, it was easily confused with the "Stairs and Stripes."
A View From Chicken Mountain Road
Off of Rt. 15 outside of Gordonsville.

"Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me "
A Trip For Another Day..........
As you head out of Orange south down Rt. 15 there is a left turn onto a narrow road over the tracks that is easy to miss. This is the Old Gordonsville Road. The road less traveled to Gordonsville. This will be a trip for another day.........

Sunday, October 11, 2009

From the Blue Ridge to My Backyard

"Come said the wind to
the leaves one day,
Come o're the meadows
and we will play.
Put on your dresses
scarlet and gold,
For summer is gone
and the days grow cold."
A Children's Song of the 1880's

This past week my travels took me to Nelson County and the Blueridge Mountains. I know some of you would question the use of the term mountain to describe the Blueridge but size isn't everything. From there I had to loop back through to Ruther Glen and then back home. Today I took an hour or so to visit my own backyard--Alum Springs Park.
Sunrise Coming Over the Mountains
"The gentle spirit of a new sunrise
Brings yellow and pink, then soft blue skies
Shapes of redwoods and delicate ferns
Emerge from the darkness as daylight returns"
A Valley Farm
Farming is the principle livelihood of the valley. During the Civil War this area was known as the "breadbasket of the Confederacy." In 1864 my Maine ancestors may have met the ancestors of the family who operate this farm today. Don't think the meeting would have been very cordial. As members of Wright's 19th Corps of the Union Army my great-great-great Uncles would have been doing their best to, "make the Shenandoah Valley so desolate that crows flying over it would have to carry their own provender."

Fall in the Mountains
Craig Store Road. The leaves are begining to turn.
A Backroad in Nelson County
"Some roads aren't meant to be traveled alone. "
They Aren't Big but they are Beautiful
Coming down the Rockfish Valley Highway driving towards the Blueridge Mountains.
An Illusion
I discovered on closer inspection that while this field is still being farmed the farm in the background is abandoned.
What Every Home Needs
Don't tell me there is something here you just can't live without. I really enjoy stopping in places like this just to see what surprises I can find. Unfortunately I can't take anything home. Somebody has to explain to me why, "Come on dear can't I keep it? Huh, pretty please," doesn't work anymore. It always worked with my mother. This place is located on Rt. 1 in Caroline County.
Deja Vu
There is a rather famous photo taken of General Grant and his staff in 1864 relaxing in church pews in the front yard of a church. That photos was taken here in front of the Massaponax Baptist Church.
Alum Spring Park in the Burg
A typical trail you can take a stroll on in the park. For those not from the area, or continent for that matter, it is of interest to note that during the American Revolution, Hessian (German) prisoners captured at the Battle of Trenton were held in a camp on this site. As I understand it a large number of German troops who fought in the revolution decided to start new lives in the newly independent America rather than to return home.
Nature Collides With Civilization
Looking up Hazel Run towards the Rt. 1 Bridge a major north/south highway running along the east coast. Prior to Interstate 95 this was the main east coat road. Development around Hazel Run has caused some significant water run-off issues resulting in serious errosion problems. The City is working with Friends of the Rappahannock to alleviate this problem.
Refuge in War
In November of 1862 the civilian population of Fredericksburg was order to evacuate the city by Gen. Robert E. Lee after the arrival of the Union Army on the other side of the Rappahannock River. Most had no place to go and set up tent camps outside the city around places like Salem Church and here in what is today located inside Alum Spring Park. This sandstone cliff is 400 feelt long and 40 feet high. This site offered some protection from the cold and the elements.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Little of This and A Little of That........

"To dare everyday to be irreverent and bold. To dare to preserve the randomness of mind which in children produces strange and wonderful new thoughts and forms. To continually scramble the familiar and bring the old into new juxtaposition."
Gordon Weber

Today there is no theme or story to be told. Instead we will let the, "randomness of mind," rule the day and throw in a little irreverence to liven things up a bit.

A Blast from the Past
On the way to Bowling Green you will see this house just off the road. When this house burned down I was the adjuster assigned to the claim. That was over twenty years ago. Knowing how some of you feel about insurance companies I'd better make it clear that the claim was settled over 20 years ago. And yes we paid it.
Oh Say Can You See.......
I'm a suck for the mom and apple pie shot.
The Morning After........
This is what a Washington Redskins season ticket holder looks like after the team, which was favored by 10 points!, looses to the Detroit Lions. Note the slouched shoulders, the grim look, the clenched fists, and the sun glasses hiding the tear swollen eyes. This weekend the Redskins are only favored by 7 points. Look at the bright side Tom! When the next edition of Trivial Pursuit comes out you'll know the answer to the question--Which team did the Detroit Lions beat to end their 19 game loosing streak? That knowledge may be a game winner.
God's Country
A stop on Rt. 15 between Orange and Culpeper. Looking across the fields towards the Blue Ridge.
We Are Being Watched.......
Another example of what you could miss if you don't slow down and take a moment to look at the world around you. The main pigeon hangout in downtown Fredericksburg. It would be appropriate to note that it is right across the street from another famous downtown hangout--the Hyperion Coffee Shop.
Main Street Culpeper
Another home that I wouldn't mind moving into should the opportunity present itself.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Church with A Past
The Presbyterian church in downtown Fredericksburg. During the Civil War it was used, like most buildings in the city, as a hospital. Those who tended the wounded here included Clara Barton and Walt Whitman. I took this shot because I liked the street lamp in the fore ground.
A Bolkonsky Moment.
Sitting alone one morning enjoying my coffee I glanced over and beheld this scene. The beautiful blossoms next to dead ones. I began to wonder if there was some meaning in this scene which then reminded me of Prince Andrey Bolkonsky in Tolstoi's epic novel War & Peace who spent pages ruminating about the meanings of life, love, and about everything else but the kitchen sink just by looking into the trees. Too early in the morning for that amount of effort. Then I remembered that I'd better water the plant in the kitchen window or else it too would have that dead look. That thought too was soon overtaken by other events and forgotten.
What You Do Not See
A site in Frederickburg not on the tourist map. The alley behind St. George's Episcopal Church. A few years ago I "assisted" in an archaeological dig here. Below the pavement is the foundation of the original church cemetery wall and at least three grave sites. One grave site had the wall going over it meaning it pre-dated the formal establishment of the cemetery.
Known Only to God and Their Child.
To grave markers in the Masonic Cemetery in Fredericksburg which was established in 1784. The markers read, "My Father's Grave," and "My Mother's Grave."

“There are stars who's light only reaches the earth long after they have fallen apart. There are people who's remembrance gives light in this world, long after they have passed away. This light shines in our darkest nights on the road we must follow.”

The Talmud
The Beginning of the End.........
Somewhere on a back road in central Virginia. Fall is now upon us and the leaves are beginning to turn.........

"Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow."