Tag Archives: Colonial Williamsburg

In praise of history and historians

Duke of Gloucester Street, Colonial Williamsburg VA

Living history, Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

By Bruce Stambaugh

History is important. I’m forever grateful for folks who emblazoned that maxim upon me way back when. Parents, teachers, professors all collaborated to ensure that I appreciated the value of knowing times past.

My father was instrumental in getting his children involved in amateur archeology. That was in part thanks to my younger brother, who found an arrowhead on the school playground.

As teens, my brother and I assisted Dad and others at various digs like Ohio’s only Revolutionary War site, Fort Laurens in Bolivar. Dad also helped retrace Colonel Bouquet’s Trail into Ohio, which included Holmes Co. Hands-on learning was Dad’s tool of choice when it came to our indigenous tribes and the pioneers who interacted with them in the settling of Ohio.

Gnadenhutten Museum

Worth the visit.

In college, passionate geography and geology instructors explained how various topographic features came to be. In a college Ohio History lecture hall with hundred of other students, I think I got a passing grade because I was the only one who could correctly pronounce Gnadenhutten in neighboring Tuscarawas Co. Again, I have Dad to thank for that as one. We often explored the areas around the tiny historical town.

It was also helpful to live my entire life in geographic regions that played important roles in the development of Ohio. From Flint Ridge to Schoenbrunn to Fort Fizzle, Native Americans, pioneers, soldiers, rebels all forged their presence upon the land on which I lived. That love of what once was still drives me today.

I’m also fortunate to have a wife who appreciates the place history plays in our life today and the future. In other words, Neva enjoys an excellent museum as much as me.

It’s even nicer when you can weave family, vacation, and history into one outing. It helps to have family members who happen to live in prime historical places. We get to visit and explore together.

Williamsburg, Virginia, where my older brother and his wife live, is such a place. We never tire of living history locales like Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown.

That’s the thing about history. As discoveries continue and new information compiled, history is always changing. I’m not talking about those who would deny the facts and try to twist them to suit their personal beliefs.

History becomes clearer, more defined, better understood the more we explore, the more we learn, the more we know, the more we want to know. Thanks to ongoing research and continued exploration we form new understandings based on new evidence.

At both Colonial Williamsburg and Monticello, for example, tour guides now state clearly the plight of slaves, something conspicuously omitted on previous visits. At Jamestown, archeologists have proved that the original settlement wasn’t washed away after all.

Given the history that is right around us, one doesn’t have to travel far to dig up the past. Novels have been written, movies made, history books published about the history that is all around us. Likely that applies to most anywhere you live. Only the facts, circumstances, and characters change.

Despite what many good books and movies have shown, we really can’t travel back in time. Scientists know that is physically impossible. There is only the present to study history and plan for the future.

We have valued alternatives, however. We can read, explore, study, and visit museums, parks, and historical monuments that help us understand our personal and collective history.

Now that is the way to time travel!

Monticello by Bruce Stambaugh

Pastel blooms accented Monticello’s architectural beauty.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Minding our Ps and Qs, 21st century style

Williamsburg VA by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

I couldn’t help but sense the irony and wonder in it all. My wife and I were visiting my older brother and his wife near Williamsburg, Virginia.

We all were enjoying a pleasant spring evening on the back porch of their lovely home. My wife was using her iPhone. My sister-in-law toyed with her iPad. My brother and I each were surfing around on our MacBook Pro laptops.

The evening was dark and still, except for the occasional distant rumble of thunder. The only light on the porch was the glow from the screens of our electronic gizmos.

My brother and sister-in-law own a lovely home just minutes away from Colonial Williamsburg. Founded in 1654, Williamsburg played a significant role in the development of our country to say the least.
Williamsburg home by Bruce Stambaugh
We had spent the heart of the day walking the streets of the historic town. If you have never been there, it’s a bucket list kind of place, beautifully restored and maintained with lots to do for children and adults alike.

Williamsburg actor by Bruce StambaughEven though I had visited Williamsburg before, I again thrilled at just the thought of strolling the same streets that a young Thomas Jefferson once did. With so many guides and actors dressed in period attire, it was easy to imagine being back in time.

Plush carriages pulled along by noble teams of horses plied the once muddy streets, now paved for the comfort of the tourists and the convenience of the staff. The night before we had enjoyed a delicious meal in Shields Tavern, where we were careful to mind our Ps and Qs.

That old saying, still heard today, could very well have had Williamsburg roots. In those days, a tavern’s bartender simply kept a chalkboard ledger of what customers consumed. If they drank a pint, a P was lettered under their name. If a quart, then a Q was marked. At evening’s end, the bill was tabulated and the customers properly minded their Ps and Qs by paying their bill. Today it simply means to take care of your own business.
Williamsburg carriage by Bruce Stambaugh
As the four of us sat quietly on the darkened porch, we could have been minding our own Ps and Qs by paying our bills online. With the rumbling thunderstorms growing closer, it seemed a bit surreal using our 21st century technology to check in with the world while sitting in the shadow of a bygone era. The town crier was definitely no longer needed to announce the time.

I thought about other familiar sayings we utter without knowing their origin. We derisively chatter about big wigs without contemplating the phrase’s original meaning. For the record, “big wigs” came from the 17th century society custom of wealthy people wearing expensive wigs made of human hair. The taller the wig, the more aristocratic you were.
Williamsburg hats by Bruce Stambaugh
You could say we went the whole nine yards at Williamsburg. That reference was attributed to a bolt of fabric, which equaled nine yards. Clearly I enjoy linking the past with the present.

As the line of storms hit our area, it rained cats and dogs, but not long. Even well before colonial times, superstitious persons believed cats symbolized the rain and dogs the wind; thus, the saying.

Back on the porch, we powered down for the night, thankful for both the generous hospitality and the opportunity to reconnect with the origins of our democracy. I wondered if somewhere, someplace Thomas Jefferson and Steve Jobs were both smiling.Williamsburg wisteria by Bruce Stambaugh

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