The snow drops have already bloomed at Happy Retreat and the daffodils and forsythia are breaking forth.
Several years ago, a cousin of mine named Sarah Brown, who lives in Austin, Texas, began researching the history of the people enslaved by our ancestors here in Jefferson County. Through family wills, family letters, the enumeration of property included in the appraisals of estates and other sources, she compiled a list of names of the men, women and children held in slavery at several of the Washington family homes here in Jefferson County, including Claymont and Harewood. That research led her to find and reach out to several descendants of those enslaved families. Four years ago, we held a gathering with those descendants at my home, Harewood. We have held similar gatherings each year since.
On April 13, Friends of Happy Retreat, the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society, the Jefferson County Historical Society and the Jefferson County museum will present a day-long symposium entitled “What We Found When We Came Together: Shared Roots Beneath Jefferson County’s Walls.” Six women with Jefferson County roots will share their experiences researching their genealogies. One is my cousin, Sarah Brown, the descendant of Bushrod Corbin Washington, builder of Claymont. Another, Monique Crippen Hopkins, is the descendant of the Thompson family who were enslaved at Claymont. Another, Joyceann Gray, is the descendant of the Hatter family who were enslaved at Harewood, the home of Samuel Washington, brother of Charles. The others – Shelley Murphy, Nikki Landerkin and Marsha Smith – have equally compelling family stories. Each of the presenters will discuss her journey in researching her family’s history and the revelations that have resulted. Please join us at Fisherman’s Hall, 319 S. West Street in Charles Street, from 10 until 3, on April 13 to hear these powerful testimonies. Admission is free.
We are excited that author and Washington Post contributor Joel Achenbach will be coming to Happy Retreat on Sunday, May 19, at 7 pm, to lead the next Happy Retreat Book Series discussion on his book, The Grand Idea. The book chronicles George Washington’s journey in the fall of 1784 to explore his “Grand Idea” of making the Potomac River a corridor of commerce between the Ohio River Valley and the mid-Atlantic Seaboard. His first stop west of the Blue Ridge was Happy Retreat, where he met with Daniel Morgan, Ralph Wormeley and other local leaders to discuss his Grand Idea. Please join us! Admission is free.
For a number of reasons, we have decided not to have the Wine & Jazz Festival this June. Instead, we are putting all of our efforts into the Craft Beer & Music Festival in September. As an all volunteer organization, we just don’t have the resources to do both festivals. We hope to be able to resume the Wine & Jazz Festival again in the future.