Fun fact that may or may not be a fun fact depending on if you know me before reading this and how well you know me…I am a Park Service brat. All of my school vacations growing up were spent on the Jersey shore at a National Park called Sandy Hook. My father lived and worked out at the old Army fort, titled Fort Hancock. Fort Hancock also happens to be where the oldest still operating lighthouse in North America, is located…which that in itself holds a tremendous amount of Revolutionary War history, because of the location to New York Harbor (the NYC skyline was my view as a child). So I preface my next post with this, to try and express the whole idea that I have grown up hearing some of the craziest stories and questions from visitors. Somehow, despite hearing them, they never cease to amaze me.
I am not going to go into all of the stuff I heard on Saturday, yesterday, and today but I want to kind of laugh about one and then explain another…
Saturday was my last day of shadowing a ranger at the park and while in the McLean house we were asked how did Grant get away with being allowed into the house with his boots being so muddy. I have to laugh at this because in my head I see Virginia Beverly McLean marching right up to the Lt. General of the Federal Army and telling him that he needs to take his boots off outside before entering her home. It is a comical image to even try and think about.
So yesterday was my first day completely on my own in the rotation schedule. While I was on the McLean house duty I had a couple start asking me some questions.They were asking me about the surrender document and every time I explained an aspect of the story to them, they tried to find a way to relate it back to the courthouse. It was as if they were hung up on the courthouse being involved. The reason for this is because people just get utterly confused about the village being called Appomattox Court House…which admittedly, naming a town so and so court house is something you normally only find in Virginia. What can I say? We Virginian’s like to be unique! So in the days, weeks, and months following the surrender, as stories about what happened started to get published…perhaps by an editing error, typo, or just confusion, Appomattox Court House with court house being two words, got changed into Appomattox Courthouse, with courthouse being one word…See the problem? Court House refers to the county seat and courthouse refers to the building. For whatever reason, it happened and continues to happen to this day. So we have people come from all over who read in a text book that the surrender happened at Appomattox Courthouse and they’re pretty perplexed when I tell them that they do not quite have it right.
Now the village existed before it was the county seat, in the form of Clover Hill village, and the oldest still standing building is the Clover Hill Tavern…which was the first building built along the Lynchburg-Richmond Stage Road. Come the late 1840s the people who had settled in the area had decided having to travel many miles away and lose several days at home and on their farms was too much. So they petitioned the state to create a new county. The courthouse was built, the county seat was established in Appomattox Court House and remained that way until the 1890s when the courthouse burned down and the new county seat was established in Appomattox Station!
So that is a little bit of a history for you there. I certainly do not mind the questions, that is why I am there….and I always look forward to the next great question that will make me smile.
I start living history on Friday and I am still scared…however, I shall prevail…I hope.
I will try to get a video and photos soon for your viewing pleasure.
As always, thank you for reading.