What is: The parish house of Grace Episcopal Church, Bremo Bluff, Virginia

What was: The Bremo Plantation estate covers more than 1,500 acres in Fluvanna County, Virginia. Overlooking the James River, it is a rare property of its era, still owned by the family that built it in 1745.   The chapel was built in 1835 for the slaves as part of the vast plantation of General John Hartwell Cocke.

It is the state’s only known slave chapel and represents Cocke’s deep concern for the religious and moral edification of slaves. He had his slaves taught to read and decided that it was his Christian duty to provide them with religious instruction. Cocke was determined that his slaves should have their own house of worship and thus had the board-and-batten structure built on what became know as Chapel Field.

In total 246 people were enslaved here from 1781 – the earliest date on record – until 1865.  However, enslaved men also cleared the land and built a structure (which still stands) to claim the land grant in 1725. Bremo Plantation required numerous hands to keep the plantation running, and nearly all of this work fell onto the enslaved.

Despite the Cocke’s interest in education and religion for the slaves, according to Fluvanna Historical Society Representative Tricia Johnson, “The last few years before his death, Cocke wrote that enslavement was the natural order of things and it wouldn’t be possible to end the practice.”

Cocke’s need to make Bremo Plantation as self-supporting as possible forced his slaves to do almost all of the work in keeping Cocke’s idea of self-supporting. When the enslaved failed to do so they had to endure physical punishments such as whippings and starvation. He had no qualms against separating families if it meant his plantation was more efficient.


Probably the most significant uprising (after Jan 6? ) in American history. Lots of legends and stories here…

What is: Corner of Bride Street and High Street, Courtland, Virginia, Population 1295

What was: In 1831, a slave rebellion was led by Nat Turner. The slaves went from farm to farm in Southhampton County killing the white slave owners. Scores of blacks were murdered in reprisals throughout the South. The legacy of the biggest slave revolt in U.S. history still hangs over the sandy soil, blackwater cypress swamps and abandoned homes of the county. Kids grow up in rural Southampton County hearing that the mist creeping across the fields might be something unearthly. Old folks warn them not to sneak into abandoned houses, where rotting floors and walls are said to be stained with blood. This is a haunted landscape. (Source for some of this and a great story here.

Attacking farmhouses in the darkness and picking up supporters along the way, Turner and his rebels killed some 55-65 white men, women, and children over two days. They were eventually scattered by militia infantry, and some were rounded up and killed or put on trial. Turner escaped and hid out for two months mostly in a crude “cave” — a hole dug under a pile of wood — before surrendering on Oct. 30, 1831.

Turner was hung from a tree on Bride Street in what is now Courtland, VA. A short distance away, around the corner on High Street, is the ditch where Turner’s torso was said to have been tossed after he was decapitated (pictured here). Human remains have been found here. At some point, the county hopes to excavate. In the meantime, the spot is marked by tiny wire flags stuck in the weeds, the sort that might designate a property line or a cable route.

Many Black people who had not participated were also persecuted in the frenzy. Months after the insurrection, the Virginia legislature narrowly rejected a measure for gradual emancipation that would have followed the lead of the North. Instead, pointing to Turner’s intelligence and education as a major cause of the revolt, measures were passed in Virginia and other states in the South that made it unlawful to teach enslaved people and free African Americans how to read or write.

Lonnie Bunch, previously director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, said, “The Nat Turner rebellion is probably the most significant uprising in American history.”

Among one of the most important sacred sites to Native Americans. The tribal village would have been along the shore, with the community leaders, temples and civic buildings further at the back of the site.
What is: Werowocomoco. It is today United States Government Property. No Trespassing. In 2016, Werowocomoco was permanently protected by the National Park Service and is administered by the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
What was: Werowocomoco (wayr-uh-wah-koh-muh-koh) is believed to have been a place of leadership and spiritual importance to American Indians as early as circa AD 1200.  The village served as the headquarters of Chief Powhatan, a Virginia Algonquian political and spiritual leader when the English founded Jamestown in 1607. The name Werowocomoco comes from the Powhatan werowans, meaning “leader” in English; and komakah, “settlement”.
When Englishman Captain John Smith explored the Bay in 1608, he documented hundreds of American Indian communities. Today, sites on his map are archeological treasures and sacred sites for tribal citizens. At Werowocomoco, Powhatan, the leader of many Algonquian tribes, lived and subsequently met on several occasions with Captain John Smith in 1607 in the earliest recorded meetings between a Native leader and the English. On one visit in 1609, the English forced Powhatan to bow so they could crown him as a ruler in Virginia.
The Native Americans were increasingly unwilling to trade and wary of English intentions. Attempts at cooperation steadily led to conflict, and Powhatan moved his headquarters farther inland. Werowocomoco soon fell silent. The land at Werowocomoco was cultivated for crops and timber from the early days of colonial Virginia, either by a single family or small cluster of neighbors. There is no indication that they maintained any direct association of the land with Werowocomoco or its importance to native and colonial history.
Nothing above ground remains of the Indian community that lived here. The rural landscape is largely intact. However, clues to the past still lie in the earth. Fields and forests at the site surround a private, single-family home, situated at the end of a long gravel road with a view of Purtan Bay and the York River beyond. Indians moved away from Werowocomoco in 1609. In the centuries that followed, Indian heritage was both neglected and suppressed. Source: National Parks Service.





What is: A mound on Pamunkey Neck, described as the gravesite of Powhatan.

What was: Powhatan, was the leader of many Algonquian tribes and met on several occasions with Captain John Smith in 1607 in the earliest recorded meetings between a Native leader and the English. On one visit in 1609, the English forced Powhatan to bow so they could crown him as a ruler in Virginia.

He died around 1618, and the ceremony for the “taking up” of his bones was a signal for the uprising that initiated the Second Anglo-Powhatan War in 1622. Colonists did not know the details of Powhatan’s death or burial, so the written records do not document the location of his grave.

His bones may have been placed in a mat and kept in the Uttamusak temple complex, rather than interred in the ground. Whether or not Powhatan’s remains ended up on what is today the Pamunkey reservation, no one knows for sure.  However, it highlights the association with the paramount chief and father of Pocahontas and gives the Pamunkey tribe special status today.

The railroad tracks running across the Powhatan mound were first laid in 1855, across 22 acres of the Pamunkey reservation, without permission from the Pamunkey and with no compensation to the Pamunkey for this unsolicited and unwanted use of their land.

In 1975 the Pamunkey began a suit against the Southern Railroad Company which in 1979 resulted in reparations of $100,000 being paid to the Pamunkey for the location of these tracks. The terms of their settlement also required that the railroad continue regular rent payments for use of that land in the future, and determined that if the railroad should at any point discontinue use of the tracks, the land will be returned to Pamunkey use.

What is: Fort Monroe, Hampton, Virginia

What was: Fort Monroe has an interesting place in American history.  In late August 1619, the first ship carrying “20 odd” enslaved Africans arrived at Point Comfort in Virginia, where Fort Monroe is today.  The Fort was built between 1819 and 1834 and occupied a strategic coastal defensive position since the earliest days of the Virginia Colony. During the Civil War, the Fort remained in Union possession and became a place of refuge for freedom seekers, earning the nickname “Freedom’s Fortress.”

Just six weeks after the Civil War began, three slaves – Frank Baker, James Townsend and Shepard Mallory – escaped from behind Confederate lines and sought refuge at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia. Commanding General Benjamin Butler refused to return the fugitives and declared the three men contraband of war. Soon, thousands of enslaved African Americans from all over the region descended on Fort Monroe in pursuit of freedom and sanctuary. This event fundamentally changed the meaning of the Civil War from states’ rights to the immorality of slavery, and marked the beginning of the end of slavery in the United States.  Fort Monroe became a refuge for those escaping enslavement, and was one of the first places enslaved people were granted freedom during the American Civil War.

While its location was the site of the first Africans who were traded as property, it’s also the place where — more than 240 years later — thousands of slaves found refuge and ultimately, their freedom, when Union forces did not return slaves to Confederate soldiers. Jefferson Davis was imprisoned here at the conclusion of the Civil War. Edgar Allen Poe and Harriet Tubman both spent time at Fort Monroe, and Abraham Lincoln stayed there during the assault on Norfolk, VA – the last time a sitting President was actively involved in a military campaign.

What is: Closed Lunenburg High School.

What was: On this site The Lunenburg Training School was founded in 1920 with support from the Jeanes Fund. In 1924, Rosenwald Funds aided in the construction of a larger school and later a shop building. More than 370 “Rosenwalds,” as they are commonly known, were built in Virginia between 1917 and 1932. They supported educational opportunities for black youth living in segregated communities throughout the South. In 1949 Lunenburg County built a new brick building that became Lunenburg High School. After the county desegregated its schools in 1969, it became a junior high school. Source:


What is: The Fork Union Drive In Theatre,  Route 612, Fork Union, VA,

What was: Frayser Francis “F.F.” White II opened the Fork Union Drive-In in 1953.  It was closed in 2013. This single screen drive-in has a capacity for 180 cars, making it Virginia’s smallest. This Drive In has traditional pole speakers and it was a classic drive-in located in a grass field.  (Source:

There are currently about 330 drive-in theaters that remain in operation in the United States compared to a peak of about 4,000 in the late 1950’s. In the 1980s there were fewer than 200 Drive-Ins operating in Canada and the United States.

Drive-in theatres were especially popular with the post WWII and baby boomer generation, especially in rural areas. Drive in theatres were affordable and attractive to families (older adults could see a movie while taking their children in the car with them. Some drive-ins even offered diaper vending machines). Eventually many Drive-Ins added mini golf and play areas for the children to further expand the family friendly night of entertainment. Drive-Ins were also an affordable date night.  By the 1950s those affordable date nights, combined with the privacy of the car, gave Drive-ins a new reputation — as passion pits.

For the owners of the Drive-Ins, the cost of building and maintaining a drive-in theater was cheaper than that of an in-door theater. The decline for Drive-Ins is often viewed through the lens of the emergence of color TV, cable TV and the advent of VCRs. Other factors include the 1970s gas crisis, inflation and increased real estate values, making the land less affordable for this kind of business.


What is: World War II Protection as you are taking a walk in a wildlife preserve on the Eastern shore of Virginia — a haven for millions of songbirds, monarch butterflies and thousands of raptors with views of the Chesapeake Bay.

What was: a strategic location at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay that during World War II included large bunkers that housed 16-inch guns designed to protect naval bases and shipyards in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

What is: The Bremo Bluff Post Office, Bremo Bluff, Virginia

What was: Bremo Bluff is an unincorporated community located on the northern bank of the James River in Fluvanna County, Virginia, United States. The locale was established by the Cocke family in 1636. The Bremo plantation covered 1500 acres and included three separate estates, all created in the 19th century by the planter, soldier, and reformer John Hartwell Cocke on his family’s 1725 land grant.  In total 246 people were enslaved there from 1781 – the earliest date on record – until 1865.  However, enslaved men also cleared the land and built a structure (which still stands) to claim the land grant in 1725. During the American Civil War, the family of General Robert E. Lee sought refuge in the community.

Around 1840, the James River and Kanawha Company developed a series of locks and canals that improved river transportation. A boat wharf was built to accommodate the river traffic that became an important part of the local economy by the 1850s. In 1895, Bremo Bluff had a population of 72 people with a post office and railroad service. The railway at Bremo Bluff soon became one of the five busiest stops for passenger and freight traffic for the Richmond Allegany Railway. By 1918, four trains each day were stopping at the town.

In 1931, the Virginia Electric & Power Company constructed a 30-megawatt coal-fired power station along the path of the James River Line at Bremo Bluff. Bremo Power Station was operated most recently by Dominion Energy.

Today, The Bremo Bluff Post Office serves 930 Bremo Bluff residents. It’s estimated that approximately 1,484 packages pass through this post office each year. #

What is: Historic Jamestowne, VA

What was: In 1607, Jamestown is where the English established their first permanent in the New World. For a long time the actual site of Jamestown was believed to have washed into the James River by erosion and tides.

The winter of 1609-10 is known as the “Starving Time” caused by drought and a fear of leaving the fort. The colonists ate anything they could: various animals, leather from their shoes and belts, and sometimes fellow settlers who had already died. By early 1610, 80-90% had died due to starvation and disease.

It was here that Captain John Smith explored the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries making overtures and enemies with various Indian Tribes. In 1612, John Rolfe helped turn the settlement into a profitable venture with the successful planting of tobacco seeds he had brought from elsewhere, making it the long-awaited cash crop for the Virginia Company and underpinning of American economic growth. It was also the site of glass making, considered the first manufacturing business in the New World.

The first representative assembly in English North America convened in the Jamestown church on July 30, 1619. Also, in 1619, the Virginia Company recruited and shipped 100 women to the colony to become wives and start families. It was also the year of the first documented African slaves arriving, adding the human resources needed for labor intensive tobacco crops. In another first, in 1624 Richard Cornish, a ships master, was executed for an alleged sexual attack on one of his male stewards, the first recorded sodomy prosecution in American history.