Wayne and I had been trying to find a weekday to do some genealogy research in Appomattox, and finally we were able to make the trip on the Solstice. As with most of our travels, the journey can be as interesting as the destination, and this trip was no exception. (To better see our route, you can click this link for an interactive map, and you can also click any picture to enlarge it.)
The first bit of beauty on the drive was a field full of chicory in bloom on Plank Road, just west of Rt. 29. These beautiful blue flowers were everywhere!
The mountains kept us company on the way down Rt. 29 South, and we crossed the James River (for the first time) just before getting on Rt. 460 East near Lynchburg.
Our primary destination was the court house at Appomattox–not the famous, historical court house east of the town, but the one where Appomattox County deeds, wills, and marriage records are kept.
Wayne’s great-grandmother, Laura Bell Ferguson Wright (1861-1914), lived in Appomattox all of her life. In the e-book, Appomattox Virginia Heritage, it’s said that Laura and her children lived in the McLean House–the house where Lee surrendered to Grant in April 1865 during America’s Civil War. While we cannot prove this (and facts about the history of the McLean House seem to disprove it), we do know that she lived in the community of “Clover Hill,” which is now the site of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. (More information about Appomattox County may be found here and here.)
We literally spent hours at the court house, and over the next few weeks I will be transcribing several deeds that we found. These documents should complement our previous research at the Virginia State Library in Richmond, Virginia, and from online sources.
We also tried to learn more about Laura’s husband, Christopher/Richard Wright. While I do not think that Laura had two Wright husbands, the name Christopher Wright appears in some early documents, and Richard/Dick Wright in later documents. Given that a fire destroyed most of the federal census records from 1890, AND given that many early records from Appomattox County were lost when the old court house burned in 1892, we may never be able to get a clear, accurate history of this Wright family line….
Laura’s husband, Richard Wright, died in 1894 when his children were quite young. One of the “six little children” left by his death was Wayne’s grandfather, Willie T. Wright (1888-1924).
Unfortunately, Willie T. Wright also died young, leaving a wife and young children. His widow, Annie Carter Wright (1894-1977), remarried about a year after his death, but she was buried beside her first husband and her parents in Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery in Appomattox. We stopped by their graves on our way out of town.
Just beyond the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (which we did not visit on this trip) is Clover Hill Village, a “living history” center established by the Appomattox County Historical Society in 1991. Unfortunately, the buildings are only open Friday through Sunday and no one was there, but we were able to wander around the grounds and look at the various structures that have been moved to the site.
Continuing east on Rt. 24, our next stop was at the New Hope Baptist Church near the community of Vera, Virginia. Laura Wright was a member of this church, and while she was not buried there, her younger sister, Joe Ella Ferguson Harris, was.
In some of the deeds we found at the court house, we discovered that Laura Wright’s sons owned a 140-acre farm that was described as being 7 miles east of the old Appomattox Court House and approximately 2.5 miles away from Hollywood Baptist Church. Almost exactly 7 miles east of the National Historical Park on Rt. 24, we saw a sign for the church, stating that Hollywood Baptist was 2.7 miles down Rt. 618. This farm was at the intersection, and while we can’t say, for sure, that this was the Wright property, it certainly seems likely. (Images are from Google Maps.)
We continued to drive east on Rt. 24, and when we saw the sign for Holliday Lake State Park (Rt. 626), we impulsively decided to check it out, crossing our fingers as we made the turn.
In late February 2016, we’d set out for a day trip to this park, but just before we got there we found an injured hawk in the middle of the road. I’d cautiously wrapped it up in Wayne’s sweatshirt jacket, and then two rangers at the entrance to the park helped us put the hawk in a large box. They also called the Wildlife Center of Virginia for us since we had no cell phone service. You can read more of the story here.
This time we encountered no injured hawks or other wildlife, and we were finally able to explore this beautiful state park. We were very impressed with the campgrounds, and we made note of our favorite sites, for possible future reference.
We were even more impressed with the lake, which was much, much larger than we’d anticipated.
We ordered sandwiches from a concession stand near the beach, and while waiting for our order, we noticed two park rangers in the parking area. Wayne encouraged me to walk over to see if they were the rangers who’d helped us with the hawk, and they were! Wayne snapped a picture of us as we were chatting.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Holliday Lake State Park, and like other Virginia parks that we’ve visited, we can say that this one is also a little “gem.”
We made our way back to Rt. 24, and then turned north on Watt Abbitt Road (Rt. 654), which wound its way towards Rt. 60 West. This allowed us to cross the James River again, this time near Gladstone, VA.
As we’ve done before, we took a shortcut from Rt. 60 to Rt. 29 via Tye River Road (Rt. 657). Truthfully, it’s not much of a “shortcut,” but the mountain views are worth the extra travel time.
We wondered what happens to the animals that are displaced when huge tracts of trees are cut down (as they are in this area with all the commercial logging that goes on), but I guess some animals adapt well to the changes. This Red-Shouldered hawk was too far away to get a clear picture, but from its vantage point on the top of a dead tree, it was probably able to have a successful hunt. When I tried to re-focus on the hawk, I inadvertently zoomed in on the wrong dead tree, and I didn’t know I’d gotten a picture of a woodpecker until I downloaded my pictures!
There are such pretty places along this road…
We finally made it back to Rt. 29 and started the drive north towards home. All in all, it was a productive and beautiful day–and a great way to spend the longest day of 2017. 🙂