About Us

Michelle and Brett Darnell, 2011

Michelle was born in South Carolina, the oldest of five children. Her grandmother, a very    grand Southern woman, instilled in her the passion she has for cooking and entertaining as well as her deep love of history. Michelle’s family moved throughout her childhood which gave her insight into new areas and a diverse mix of friends. After graduating from high school, Michelle chose to pursue a career in the United States Marine Corps as a Field Radio Operator. It was here that she met her husband Brett Darnell.

Brett was born in Philadelphia, but grew up in Ohio. Brett was the middle of three sons. Unlike Michelle, Brett grew up in the same community all his life. The community offered a very laid back lifestyle with outdoor activates such as boating and snowmobiling.  After graduating high school, Brett chose to pursue a career in the United States Navy as a Hospital Corpsman.

In June, 1985, Brett met Michelle through a friend while they were serving in the military at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. They began dating in December, 1985. On October 18, 1986, Brett and Michelle became husband and wife. In October, 2011, they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.

Shortly after getting married, Michelle left the Marine Corps to follow Brett’s career in the Navy. They moved to Dayton, Ohio in late 1987. In 1988, Brett and Michelle decided to purchase their first home, a historic 1885 Federal brick home. Two weeks later, they were blessed with the news that Michelle was pregnant.

In February, 1989, Michelle developed complications and their first child, a daughter, had to be delivered 14 weeks premature. Alexa weighed one pound, 3.25 ounce and was 11.5 inches long. She spent 100 days in the hospital and came home weighing just under 5 pounds. Today, she is a healthy 23 year old, who is attending college to complete her degree in psychology. She has no health issues and did not require any surgeries due to her premature birth.

In March, 1991, Brett transferred to Groton, Connecticut to attend Submarine School, leaving Michelle and Alexa in Dayton for one year alone. In June, 1991, they were again blessed with news that Michelle was pregnant. This pregnancy also developed complications and their second child, a son was born in January, 1992, just six weeks early. Tyler weighed five pounds and two ounces. He was able to come home as normal. Today, he is a healthy twenty year old and is about to embark on his own career in the United States Navy with hopes to one day become a chaplain. In March, 1992, Brett returned home from Groton before he headed to his next duty station, Norfolk, Virginia. It was the first time, he was able to see his son.

Brett was assigned to the Flying Fish Fast Attack submarine for three years. Michelle and the children moved to the Norfolk area in June, 1992. They settled in Chesapeake, Virginia and have made their home there for the last twenty years. Brett retired from the Navy in 2004. Before retiring from the Navy, Brett completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences, and has since earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health Preparedness from Penn State University.

Throughout the years, Michelle held several different positions to help with the household expenses. She also took five years off, just to be mom during the first five years of their stay in Virginia. Upon returning to work, she found herself working at a local bistro as a cook and delivery driver. It was during this time that she rediscovered her passion for cooking. It was also during this time, that the owner and executive chef took notice of that passion and helped develop it. She “earned and learned” her way to Sous Chef, before branching out on her own just one year later. Michelle started her first business, catering with a partner, which quickly filled with event dates. Sadly this business would not continue. Michelle’s business partner moved back to Texas with her family and without the support of a partner and having two small children, she had to close it down before it really got started. Fortunately she found a small part time cooking position within her own church that allowed her to cater each week for Wednesday night dinner and pick up some events on the side. With Brett being away on deployment, the children would join her and became her “little helpers”.

As the children started preschool and then elementary school, Michelle moved into a part time office manager position with a local college cafeteria and then a full time position within a bank. She has worked with the bank now for ten years.

After Tyler’s graduation from high school in 2010 and then Brett’s graduation in 2011, Michelle found herself ready to put her passion for cooking and history to good use. She knew that she wanted to combine her passions and that the most logical avenue was a historic Bed and Breakfast.  She knew that it couldn’t be just any home; it needed to have historic importance as well as location. So the search began in 2010. In July,  2011, they found their plantation. Over the last year, Brett and Michelle have worked tirelessly to research its history as well as to develop it into a world class destination.

It is their hope that you will join them on this journey as they work to open this plantation and to one day come and enjoy this historic and important property.


1,034 thoughts on “About Us

  1. Z says:

    thank you for following me and I love learning new topics…so well done teacher! Keep up your good work

  2. s. gillespie says:

    Will this be open and bed and breakfast by May 3-6, 2013?
    JMU graduation. If so, will you mail me info on cost, etc

  3. Good Morning Michelle and Brett,

    Thank you for following our blog. I wanted to ask if you would be interested in being a guest expert on one of our upcoming Thursday blogs’.

    Our blog is a unique blog with different topics to look forward to daily, in which we look to have guest bloggers provide content on a subject they possess expertise in (almost like an “Ask the Expert”).


    If you are interested, please email me a brief bio, a few paragraphs blog topic, and a profile picture within the next week. There is no particular topic, just a topic that will be beneficial to all readers and that is based off of your experience, expertise, and/or learning experience within your own business.

    I hope you will consider this opportunity and potentially be one of our upcoming guest bloggers.

    Kindest regards,

    • You are so welcome! We look forward to seeing more of your blog in the future! I would love to be a guest blogger! At the moment, things are a little out of sorts as we finish with settling down after my mother’s death. But if you can wait for a week, I should be able to provide the needed information. Thank you for stopping by and thank you for asking! I am honored!

  4. Chris G says:

    Great blog! I enjoyed reading the stories about your beautiful plantation home. I was also particularly interested by your mention of Brett’s experience with submarines in the Navy. When I was in graduate school studying oceanography, I rode on two submarines as a civilian rider on cruises up to the Arctic. They were both Sturgeon-class fast attack subs, and one was a Groton-based boat (the Archerfish). The longest deployment I was involved with was for 56 days at sea — a milk run for the career submariners, but it was plenty long for me! We were under the ice in the Arctic Ocean for most of the time, so we only surfaced twice between leaving from and returning to port. Those were some amazing adventures, and I have lots of fond members of the submariners I sailed with. There were some real characters on those crews, to put it mildly!

    Take care — best to you and your family!

  5. thomag1 says:

    again, thanks for dropping by; the ‘like’ is appreciated…your family history is an interesting read….may God’s blessings reign upon you and your family

  6. Hi, I have nominated for the Inspiring Blogger Award, because I think deserve it. It is always good to give a bit of yourself. luck

  7. ohiocook says:

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and the “Likes of my posts.

  8. Thank you for your service

  9. Nativegrl77 says:

    Thoughtful Holidays ! thank you for stopping by …as always your blog …. good reads

  10. genijale says:

    Thank you for taking the time to stop by my site to have a look at my photography, and I greatly appreciate you likeing some of them :)i

  11. sonodalala says:

    Thank-you so much for stopping by my blog and liking my diy thanksgiving pumpkin post. 🙂

  12. Nativegrl77 says:

    Happy Holidays !!!!

  13. jmount43 says:

    Hey, I nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. The post with all the details will be up after 2 A.M. Pacific time at http:jmountswritteninblood.com. Congratulations!

  14. Thank you for following my blog. But more importantly, thank you for serving our country.. What an up-lifting bio. Are you anywhere near Charlottesville, VA
    ( Jefferson country) ? Am returning there to give a lecture on caregiving next summer. Keep in touch about your B&B.

    • You are so welcome on both counts! We are about one to one and half fours from Charlottesville. But if you would like a B&B near there we can make some good suggestions! We also hope you might have time to swing up to see us since we should be open by then! Thank you for stopping by our blog too!

  15. Ankit says:

    i have nominated you for the Liebster Award.

  16. lillpop says:

    Love to see more pictures of your estate! Thx for following my blog.

  17. edebock says:

    Thanks for stopping by and liking my Christmas magic post! Your place looks absolutely lovely. Best of luck with it!

  18. Love the blog and page guys – Looks gorgeous too, Greetings from the UK

  19. Lori Schulz says:

    Hi Brett and Michelle, Thank you for the “Like” on my blog! -Lori

  20. I am a Virginia girl myself!! Thanks for stopping by!

  21. Hello, thank you so much for visiting findthedetails and liking the page on neutral paint. That colour is really lovely, by the way, I am sure it would work well in your part of the world as well as it does here in England.
    I enjoyed reading your blog; I’d love to visit you some day! Some time sooner rather than later, I hope!
    All the best for now, and do keep in touch – I’m going to be posting loads more interiors / product news over the next few months. xxx

    • You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog in the future! Thank you for stopping by ours too! We are so glad you are enjoying the reading! We hope that we will see you one day on this side of the “pond”. 😉

  22. missgreyshus says:

    Your kids are so lucky to have you both. Goodluck!

    Love from the Philippines,


  23. drybredquips says:

    Thanks for liking :the tip.” Hope something else I write fits your interests and/or concerns. Thanks for sharing things about your beautiful facility in your beautiful state.

  24. Hi and thank you for following my blog 🙂 I would love to be able to do something like you are one day!

  25. Congratulations! I’ve awarded you the Blog of the Year Award 2012! Check it out here: http://allthingsboys.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/second-star-from-the-right/

  26. snappy~speak says:

    Thanks for the follow! We love Virginia!!

  27. FlaHam says:

    Folks, Thank you for stopping by my blog and “liking” my current post. I wish you much success in the B&B. Please take care and again thanks. — Bill

  28. kommenton says:

    Looks an idyllic place to stay. I’ll be sure to make a booking if I’m ever in your part of the world. Hope everything goes well for you in this venture. Thanks for stopping by and the Like as well – much appreciated.

    • You are so welcome! We look forward to seeing more of your blog in the future! We hope that you will stop by the plantation if you do find yourself in the area someday! In the meantime, we hope you will join us on this wonderful journey!

  29. ocelot81 says:

    Hei there,thank you for visiting my blog, I used to live in Virginia (the eastern shore) a couple years ago and I did enjoy it, I love your plantation , I hope some day come to see it . Best wishes 🙂

  30. Good morning Michelle and Brett,

    Thank you so much for liking my current post! I love VA! The next time I’m up there I’ll be sure to drop by! Best of luck to you and Happy Holidays!


  31. Hi, guys! I was really worried about how you might respond to my piece about Sandy Hook. It is such a difficult issue. The immensity of the tragedy makes one feel compelled to comment but, just as valid, is that one does not want to offend friends. And when you have somewhat critical comment to make, that’s difficult (if you care about the response of those you engage with). As ‘southerners’ I was even more concerned about your possible attitudes towards gun control etc. I have been enjoying our blogging interactions and would hate to offend you. I thank you sincerely for apparently taking my comments in the genuine spirit in which they were intended. And I still am hungering for a recipe to start my global recipe collection. First place remains reserved for you guys! Best wishes, sincerely, David.

    • David, I have read your post and left you a comment. I didn’t take offense to your post and I have left my opinion for you to read. Could you please email me at virginiaplantation@gmail.com and let me know what kind of recipes you are looking for? Do you want one dish or a whole meal? Do you want pictures after it is completed or pictures of how to prepare it or both?

  32. […] Michelle and her husband Brett hope to open Belle Grove to paying guests in 2013. Belle Grove is President James Madison’s birthplace and what a splendid estate it is, judging from the photographs! Michelle and Brett have both served their country in the Marine Corps and Navy, respectively. You can read more about them here. […]

    • Thank you so much for sharing us with your readers! It really means a lot to us! We really appreciate it! We hope your readers will also find us on our Facebook page. They can find us under Belle Grove Plantation of Port Conway. Our link is on our blog!

      Brett and Michelle

  33. It is a great mission to take on the stewardship of a historic property! Wishing you encouragement and renewed energy over the holidays!

  34. Nativegrl77 says:

    as always … i appreciate the visits!!! Wishing you and family a great Holiday

  35. lemoncake says:

    Thanks for liking my blog post. Wish you a very merry Christmas 🙂

  36. Karen Lee says:

    Thank you for liking my blog post

  37. Marc Kuhn says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog…appreciate your interest…there are some links between us, though a bit of a stretch. I was born in Philly, my wife is an RN, we live in Plantation, FL, the historical novel I published this year takes place partly in Fredericksburg and Colonial Beach is a honeymoon target for one of the couples in the book–all geographically in your neck of the woods….anyway, best wishes for the holidays and much success with your B&B in the year to come.

    • You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog in the future! I think that its great that you wrote about places around us! Maybe someday you can come and read a story about Belle Grove Plantation! Thank you so much for stopping by!

  38. drybredquips says:

    Glad you liked “fortune cookie.” I appreciate your support. Happy New Year!

  39. Thanks for visiting my blog and the like. Enjoyed reading your blog . Happy holidays!!

  40. Thanks so much for liking my blog:) just getting started so I much appreciate it. You place is absolutely gorgeous. And I love when people have the courage to take a leap and do what they love. (Which is what I’m working on too :). Take care.

    • You are so welcome! How exciting to be getting started! We started last May too. Thank you! We have loved this blog and all the wonderful people we have met through it! We hope you will join us on this wonderful journey and someday stop by the plantation.

  41. Rich Green says:

    Thanks for liking a bunch of recent posts. Have a Happy New Year!

  42. Jeanette says:

    I’ve nominated you for the (richly deserved) Blog of the Year 2012 Award. Enjoy & happy New Year!! http://globalgrazers.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/blog-of-the-year-award-2012/

  43. alkaplan says:

    Very interesting and educational information. I didn’t see any info on staying at the plantation on your site. Did I miss the link? Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you stop by again.

    • Thank you. No you didn’t miss it. We haven’t posted anything yet. We are in the Zoning Process right now and hope to be opened by April 1, 2013 with a “Soft Opening” on March 16th, James Madison’s birthday. You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog in the future! Stay tuned for updates and the link for making reservations.

  44. Nativegrl77 says:

    Thank you for all the support … as your journey continues, we will all be excited to see what is next!

  45. Cat says:

    I’m so glad we connected though a blog post. My father loves James Madison and Colonial America, this would be an ideal destination when they come visit me! Happy Holidays!

    • How wonderful! We hope you will join us on this wonderful journey in opening the plantation. And we hope to you and your father there someday soon! Check out our Facebook Page. We are also working with Montpelier and The James Madison Museum. We put information and updates there too!

  46. stretchmoney says:

    The Bed and Breakfast looks wonderful! Just the kind of place that my husband and I love. I will follow your posts as you prepare for this great adventure. God bless you!

  47. Rusha Sams says:

    I’ve nominated your blog for the Liebster Award! Congratulations! Click here to read the rules of the award and how much I appreciate all you are doing for historic preseravation and the art of blogging: http://wp.me/p2l4j8-r6
    Happy New Year! http://ohtheplaceswesee.com

  48. Jonah says:

    Everything here looks amazing. I am a descendant of the Turner family and was looking for more information about them and stumbled across your site.

    I was wondering if you had any records or documents you could share about the Turners, George Turner was my Great Great Grandfather and my grandfather has been telling me some stories his father told him about growing up on the plantation and it sparked my interest.

    Thanks so much!

    • I have some information for you. I would love to share what I have and maybe you could give me some insight too. Couple quick questions. Which George Turner was your Great Great Grandfather? I know of three. Do you know who his father was or who your Great Grandfather was? Or even your Grandfather. It would help me know which one. And do you know the name of the plantation he was from? That would help too.


      • Jonah says:

        I’m not exactly sure which was mine I was reading your posts and was confused there were so many. I know that my grandfather’s father was given up for adoption by his father after the father’s wife died and he lost the plantation due to some reason or other I think for co signing on another planter’s debt. The plantation my great great grandfather owned was called Nanzatico I believe. And my grandfather mentioned that “the patriarch” of the family lived at Belle Grove.

        The other scrap of information I have is that George Washington is my great great great great great uncle. So i guess one of the turners must have married washingon’s sister at some point if that’s any help. I had a copy of a family tree which I can’t find unfortunately.

        Thanks so much,

      • Jonah, I think I have enough to go on. Nanzatico is three plantations south of our Belle Grove Plantation. Let me see if I can put somethings together for you and get back with you on it. Do you have an email address I can send it to? Also if you could let me know your last name, your parents first and last name and your grandparents first and last name, I am pretty sure I can trace it for you! I am so excited! You can email me the information at virginiaplantation@gmail.com. I think I already know who your GG Grandfather was, but I want to confirm it. I also think I can provide more history on the family for you. By the way how far from Port Royal do you live?


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