Friday, June 25, 2010

The Birthplace of America

Magnet # 276:  Virginia Cardinal and Dogwood

Material:  Pewter

Purchased By:  Mom

Today marks the anniversary of the day in 1788 when Virginia gained its statehood.  Although it became the 10th state, it is truly one of the most important in the history and development of the United States.  Spanish Jesuits were the first Europeans to settle in the area, but it soon became an important tobacco producing colony for England.  It was Queen Elizabeth I who granted Sir Walter Raleigh permission to establish a colony in the New World to the north of Spain's holdings in Florida, and he founded Virginia.  Many believed he named it in her honor, as she was known as the "Virgin Queen," but it may also tie into a phrase the natives used - "Wingina."  And when King James I came to the throne, the first permanent English settlement in America, Jamestown, was created and named after the monarch.  It was Captain John Smith who led this colony.  The settlers who braved the Atlantic Ocean to live there met with difficult conditions and many died from starvation and fighting with the natives.  In fact, almost half the population was wiped out, and yet, more kept traveling over from England to join those who were left.  It was John Rolfe who first began growing tobacco there, paving the way for it to become the colony's most important export.  And when he married Pocahontas, daughter of one of the area's most powerful Indian chiefs, it helped bring temporary peace between their people.  Soon, free colonists were being given land of their own, women were coming from England to marry them and start families, and slaves were being imported from Africa.  Clearly, life was improving for the colonists in Virginia.  Inevitably, of course, they came to resent England and all of the taxation they imposed after Virginia was made into a royal colony.  It was when Sir William Berkeley was made governor for a second time that the people began to become truly discontent, as they felt he was incompetent to protect them from Indian attacks.  Eventually one of Berkeley's own family members, Nathaniel Bacon, led a revolution against him and even though it failed, Berkeley soon fell from power and had to return to England.  But the colonists of Virginia were still not satisfied and they finally joined with the other colonies to rise up for their freedom after becoming exhausted with having no true representation in government.  Virginia was able to provide the American Revolution with some of its greatest leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, who oversaw the creation of the Declaration of Independence and George Washington, who led his American troops to victory over almost impossible odds.  And after Virginia became a state, it provided its country with more great leaders - eight Presidents in all, as well as the somewhat controversial figure Robert E. Lee.  For its considerable contributions to its nation, the state is sometimes called the "Mother of States," but its nickname is the Old Dominion State.

While I know I visited Virginia more than once when I was growing up, I really don't have any memories of those early visits. Fortunately, just last year I traveled to the Old Dominion state again and my recollection of those experiences is very clear. At the beginning of my trip to the Mid-Atlantic states, I spent a night in Charlottesville and was very impressed by that somewhat small, but exciting city. There are quite a few tourist attractions there but considering I didn't see all of them, I would enjoy going back sometime in the future. And I finished up my trip in the capitol city of Richmond, where I was also unable to see all of the interesting historic sites. So I could see myself staying there again someday. But there are also other places in Virginia that I didn't stop by on that trip and would like to visit. For starters, there's the Shenandoah National Park just to the west of Charlottesville that sounds like a really interesting place to check out. Its most prominent feature is Skyline Drive, which is 105 miles long and spans the length of the entire long and narrow park and is most popular during the fall, when the leaves are changing color . Sounds like a fun ride, particularly in a convertible with the top down. And on the opposite end of the state, there's Colonial Williamsburg, a combination of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown, its first capital.  All of these areas have great historical value, but by the 20th century, they had fallen into decay.  It was John D. Rockefeller who managed to save what would become Colonial Williamsburg, slowly buying and restoring the area.  His efforts helped turn the area into the greatest simulation of 17th century life we have in the United States, with costumed actors playing out the lives of the colonists.  And the Governor's Palace is the area's most stunning building - I'd definitely like to tour it.  One other building I'd like to see is Mount Vernon, Washington's home, much of which he designed and even built.  The attractions in this lovely state seem to have no end.  Clearly, one brief trip to it is not enough, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it in the years to come.


  1. I know you have toured Mount Vernon because I carried you on my back there when you were a baby. Well, I guess that would be hard to remember! Your Aunt

  2. Yep, that would be one of those early visits I don't really have any memories of!