Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Revolution Road Trip: Presidential Places

The last leg of our road trip was taking us to Jacob Castle's land in the Shenandoah Valley, but first we were going to visit a place that I have wanted to see for many years. Over the years I have sponsored three student trips to Washington, D.C., and as part of those trips I've been to Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Mount Vernon (twice), but somehow those trips never included Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Now I was finally going to get to see it.

Our early morning began with breakfast at the Woodlands Hotel right outside the gates of Colonial Williamsburg. The hotel was full of student groups and brought back memories of my previous trips. My predominant feeling was relief that other people were responsible for the teenagers milling around the lobby and dining room! We hit the Colonial Williamsburg gift shop just as soon as it opened--I bought my very own Shut the Box--and we were on our way to Monticello.

By the time we got to Monticello it was 11:00 a.m., and the Michie Tavern was opening for business. In all the years I have heard about Monticello, I had not heard about the Michie Tavern, which has its own history. The tavern was built by William Michie in 1777 and had been a local meeting place for years before Michie petitioned in 1784 for permission to operate an "ordinary." defines an ordinary as "(in a restaurant or inn) a complete meal in which all courses are included at one fixed price," which is exactly what the Michie Tavern serves in its buffet of typical Southern lunch fare: fried chicken, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes and gravy, peach cobbler, and more. The food was delicious, and the building was beautiful.

Michie Tavern

It's even more amazing when you discover that the Michie Tavern has not always been in this location. After the inn closed around the time of the Civil War, it was a residence for the Michies and others. In 1927 it was purchased by a local businesswoman who had an idea for a museum and had the building moved 17 miles to its present location a half-mile from Monticello.

After lunch we headed down the road to Monticello. What I have always admired about Thomas Jefferson is his wide-ranging and inventive mind, so my favorite parts of Monticello showed his ingenious side. I was very interested in the 7-day clock just inside the front door and how they had to cut a hole in the floor to make room for Saturday in the basement. I also liked the imaginative arrangement of his alcove bed and the closet above it.


Jefferson's tomb through the fence

Our next stop was an unexpected pleasure. Until my brother told me, I didn't know that Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison, was so close to Monticello. It is a beautiful house in a beautiful setting. I've always admired Dolley and have learned to admire James Madison, "the father of the Constitution." The combined intellect of our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) never ceases to amaze me.

View from the front porch
Madison's tomb and family cemetery

Tim and I discussed how many Presidential graves we have visited. He beats me by a bunch, but I now have visited the resting places of George Washington (Mount Vernon), Thomas Jefferson (Monticello), James Madison (Montpelier), Andrew Jackson (The Hermitage), William Howard Taft (Arlington National Cemetery), Woodrow Wilson (Washington National Cathedral), and John F. Kennedy (Arlington National Cemetery.) At least I think I have seen Taft's and Wilson's, since I have been to Arlington and the National Cathedral twice each.

Our final family-related stops would come the next day but for the evening we were staying in a cute little cabin on a lake, part of a resort time-share my brother and his wife have. I could have stayed there for a week and enjoyed the view from the living room windows.

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