April 3, 2017
It has been a long time since I have written in a post for my blog. We have been working hard at Belle Grove Plantation with the bed and breakfast and special events. But though we have been busy with day to day business, we never stray far from the historic side of this plantation.
In the beginning, I spent hours digging through the internet, library and historic archives and gathering as much information as I could about the property and its past owners. To this day, we still search to find more links, more information, more stories to recreate this grand old lady’s history.
Over the past six months, I have started going in a new direction with the history. To me, it is very important to tell all the stories, not just a small section of it. What would our history look like if we only talked about the Conway family and the birth of President James Madison? We would never talk about the Turner Family and their lives during the Civil War. Or the Hipkins-Bernard Family and their short time with us.
Six months ago, I started seeing more historic locations starting the conversation about their connections to slavery. This subject is one that I have wanted to tell for a while, but lacked the information and well, I just didn’t know how to tell it. So just as we did when we first looked at opening the bed and breakfast, we started visiting these locations to learn from their experiences. I started looking at tours all over the United States. I would pull any reviews from their tours to see how the public viewed them.
After all this research, I started on my new journey. I started looking at the history of slavery, when it came to America, reading slave narratives and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Early on, I decided it was time to tell our story. But sadly, unlike most of the owners of Belle Grove, the enslave community’s history at Belle Grove was very limited. Most historic records of this segment were reduced to just numbers on an inventory sheet or referred to as male negro in census records or just a first name in wills. Thankfully as I was researching the owners, I did have opportunities to pull slave records and hold them for future research. So at least I am not starting from scratch.
While researching, I kept in mind that I wanted to add a new tour to our tour program that spoke about our enslaved community. We have been reworking our temporary museum to houses this tour and started working on a script for the tour. It will be ready to go in the next few weeks. My goal is to have it done by May 1st for a grand opening of the tour.
Getting ready has really taught me so much about slavery. Things that surprised me. Things I wish I didn’t know. But most important, realizing that this story needs and must be told.
So, I am starting a new chapter in our blog. This journey isn’t going to be an easy one, but I hope you will join us.