“On your left, hidden almost totally by the trees, is Warwick, whose oldest section is believed to date back to the 17th century. In 1749, the house’s mistress, Rachel Revell Upshur, was bitten by a rabid fox and developed rabies. Her servants smothered her in her feather bed to end her suffering. There are tales of ghostly visitations by Rachel, and when it rains, it is said, her blood still appears on the doorstep of Warwick, left there when she was carried into the house after the fox attack.” — Washington Post, March 31, 1989
So we went here yesterday. It was a little off the beaten path but worth the venture. I thought it was a ruin or a shell, abandoned, but it turned out that someone still lived there. But as we drove in the dirt lane (clearly marked as a public street, but what used to be the grand entrance to the 4000 acre Warwick plantation), there were signs of life. A child’s play structure, curtains, a mowed lawn at the smaller residence on the right… and on the left? A graveyard. An old cemetery, for family.
But the NO TRESPASSING signs everywhere made us reluctant to get out and explore. It’s private property. People have guns. The haunted house legend has attracted lookyloos. They are annoyed. I will write to the local historical society and see if I can determine who is buried there. But one thing I’m betting: it will be White folks, not the enslaved. Not out front where everyone could see.
I really just wanted to see the ruins but it turned out not to be a ruin, so I was unable to explore or do more than snap some quick photos from the car, and take a soil sample for memento. People get techy about their property, with good reason.
We left there, and drove farther up the peninsula. At another point we crossed the Mattapoony River and that is where another Upsher had several thousand acres and of course a lot of enslaved workers to do his bidding.
“Take the oyster-shell road to the left and drive for six-tenths of a mile, until you reach an attractive mansion, Brownsville. John Upshur built Brownsville in 1806, adding the wooden portions three years later when visiting relatives made the main house too cramped for him. President Grover Cleveland is said to have stayed here during his fishing trips to the barrier islands. The mansion and grounds are owned today by the Virginia Coastal Reserve, which makes its headquarters there.” — Washington Post, March 31, 1989
We were unable to get to that spot, Brownsville. Time is flying and we have been on the move constantly. I have been trying to keep track of all that takes place, and am grateful for my phone. The sheer number of photos is overwhelming. We stopped for two nights in Chincoteague, to rest and see birds, wild ponies, and take a pontoon boat out to see the islands and water. We saw dolphins out in the open water, and so many seabirds. It was truly magical. Excellent seafood and a picnic on the beach. I named the enslaved people who had lived in Virginia while I stood on the beach, the great Atlantic behind me. See my Facebook page for that video.
Tomorrow we head toward Newport News (a former family plantation), and then to Richmond, stopping at Shackelfords along the way — more family heritage there. And more after that. Thanks for reading along.