Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Detour to James Madison’s Montpelier!

I took a side trip yesterday I really hadn’t planned on.

I received a call from Pepper Cory to reschedule our quilt reference book drop off for the Quiltville Inn library – it was POURING at the coast and driving was just not safe for her, nor did I want her to make the trip to Durham in that weather.  We’ll do that NEXT Monday instead.

Which meant I could get a bit earlier start on my day – and I headed out to take the back roads home to North Carolina.

Those brown historic site highway signs ALWAYS catch my eye – and when I saw one for Montpelier, home of James and Dolly Madison, I pulled over – put it in my GPS to see how far off it was, and set my direction toward Orange, Virginia.

My inner history nut was doing a happy dance all the way --


My first view, just pulling in toward the visitor’s center.

Intermittent rain was spattering here too, but I grabbed my umbrella, headed in to the visitor’s center and purchased my ticket to see the house.

“Tour starts in 10 minutes on the front porch of the house….”  And off I went.


Oh those yellow doors!

And the cable “quilting design” in the side windows!

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and engaging, but unfortunately we were unable to take photos inside the house.  However, thanks to Youtube – I present to you the embedded following!

Tour of James Madison's Library!


From the porch looking toward the temple.


From the porch, Blue Ridge mountains in the distance.


Back side of the temple. looking toward the house.


Walking toward the temple from the house.

I was asked why the front pillar has been left the way it is.  I have no idea – perhaps it is in the midst of being restored?  Or perhaps they left it to show what the construction was during the time the column was made?  

All brick for the house, temple and surrounding buildings and walls were made here on the property by slave labor.


Archaeological excavation in progress.

I have to say that Montpelier is doing a great job of not sweeping the issue of slavery under the rug and saying things like “Well, it was a different time then.”  They have taken the issue head on.  There are many descendants of former slaves (There were a total of over 300 enslaved people on this plantation over its time – staggering!) who have come to connect with the lives of their ancestors.  Click to play:

This just touches my heart so much!


Reconstructed “house” slave quarters on the grounds.


Log quarters.

I took so many photos I don’t know what to do with them all.  I spent more than 3 hours seeing all of the exhibits, wandering the grounds, walking the trails.


It was mostly empty due to the rain.

This allowed me time to ponder as I walked.


Old barn.

I followed the trail you see between the fences on the left.


Formal garden gate.


All of this beauty -


Gorgeous color.


Inside of gate looking out.

But the one thing that stuck in my mind the whole time I was viewing this beautiful garden – “Who kept this up?”  Slaves.


Overlooking the farmland – more slave quarters in the distance.


Reaching the Madison family cemetery.

I’ll leave the rest of this tour in the following short video. Click to play:

I left Montpelier with a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart.


Lucie S
Wife of
John Willis Jr.
Died Feb 17th, 1869.
Her daughter
Born Feb 14th, 1869
Died March 14th, 1869

I can only guess what this story is – Mother dies 3 days after childbirth from complications.  Daughter follows her one month later.  Heartbreaking!

But at least this grave is marked.  There is a story here.


Here there is no story recorded.

Yesterday I learned more about James Madison - the man - and his struggle with humanity during the time period in which he lived. What would my perception of life and people and happiness be had I lived in that same time period?

Though he felt conflicted over the issue of slavery, he bequeathed his slaves to his wife Dolly instead of freeing them upon his death.

Finding herself indebted with no way to support herself otherwise, Dolly systematically sold off her slaves with no regard given to the breaking up of families and separating loved ones.

I cried at the difference between the Madison family cemetery, headstones and monuments aplenty - while the slave cemetery stands as an empty grove of green with nothing to mark the lives of those who are buried there.

I drove home in silence, my heart hurting for the stories that were lost and never told of the people upon whose toil and labor this land was really built.

The question remains, no matter the time and circumstance, how can people do this to people?

July 25, 2018 at 07_35AM

Quiltville Quote of the Day!
Vintage churn dash quilt found in Verona, Virginia.

Make today an experiment for kindness. Especially to those who are different than you.

See what happens!

Welcome to your Wednesday!


  1. the DAR is collaborating with various historical societies to fund ground penetrating radar to identify and preserve slave burial grounds...very common for them to be found outside fenced in family cemeteries...only those who forget (or ignore) history are doomed to repeat it...

  2. I will never understand how we could do this. I understand the economics of the situation but wrong is wrong. I believe that my 6th greatfather was a slave holder in Virginia. I hope he was a decent master to his slaves. The sad thing is that so many people think it was honorable to fight a war to preserve this peculiar institution.

  3. Thank you Bonnie for sharing this much needed story and experience. Through your eyes, I hope people will broaden their historical knowledge and understanding.

  4. I'm humbled by your experience Bonnie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Good reminder of how poorly we have behaved in the past so we do better.

  5. I read a story yesterday - in Jamestowne they are excavating the skeleton of one of the original settlers and leaders - and preparing to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the formal government of Jamestowne, that he founded. He is also noted to be the first settler to own a slave. Challenging to appropriately celebrate one of those while acknowledging the other, isnt it?

  6. This is the one presidential home I missed while living near DC. We spent too much time at Monticello and Monroe's home that day. Definitely need to get back there!

  7. Ms. Bonnie...Man's inhumanity to man will never fail to leave me in a state of sorrow. Be it 100+ years ago, 1950's/60's or today. May God have mercy on His people.

  8. The story is sad, but I think I'd rather lay at rest in the slaves cemetery. Bordered by trees and natural surroundings just seems so much more peaceful. Which is such a contrast to how their lives were.
    Knowing all this - it saddens me that even now slavery continues in places. Thank you for a little bit more of your history and the lovely photographs.

  9. I found out about your website when a random shopper in my local Spotlight store struck up a conversation with me over fabric. She told me all about the mystery quilt due to start and showed me photos of your quilts she had made. I have enjoyed reading your blog ever since. I made last year's mystery quilt and bought a couple of your patterns. As well as the quilting side I love reading of your travels and reading about the history of places. A bit like armchair travelling. I am in Australia and I now have lots of extra places I want to visit lol.

  10. The issue of unmarked graves and lost lives has happened in my family. I have started on genealogy and am in the process of finding folks. One plot in a cemetery should have 13 people and yet there are only 9 marked graves... where are the other four? Cemetery office says they know nothing.... and yet.... I know there is a story for each one of them.... they are the oldest and the ones who came from the old country and built for our family a new life.

  11. Thanks for sharing your visit and thoughts--very powerful. At a loss for words--just thank you.

  12. What a powerful post. Thank you so much. Chills.

  13. Your postings touched me. Thank you for the tour!

  14. Thank you so much for this “tour”, even thou it was sad.
    It enabled me to see a place I’ll never get to see.

  15. Your post today touched me deeply. Charles Frazier, author of COLD MOUNTAIN later wrote an even better book about the Cherokees during the time of our government's planned removal of that whole tribe to reservations in the west. It is a tale of another ignominious chapter of one group of men's power over another and written so well. Entitled THIRTEEN MOONS, it reminds us again of what greed does to men and how it alters their values. Get it today; it's a powerful read covering facts swept under the carpet. Like you, Bonnie, I wondered how I would have felt at the time. I don't need new fabric to survive; just give me scraps.

  16. Thank you for this post. it certainly touched my heart.

  17. Bonnie, you are my soulmate in describing the buildings and grounds at Madison's property. Thank you for your thoughtful remarks and compassion for others.


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