We appreciated the county’s support of this event. Approximately 150-200 people joined us as the Declaration of Independence was read and the birth of our country was celebrated. Three of our museums were open with docent guided, history filled tours, and two gift shops. Many enjoyed the entertainment festivities as well as enjoying the walking tour of our beautiful town. This was the 16th year of our event and it proved to be the most exciting yet!
Event Opening Remarks by HPR,Inc. President, Mrs. Carolyn Davis
As president of Historic Port Royal,
It is my pleasure to WELCOME YOU to our 16th July 4th event.
Today I am wearing the colonial dress that my mother, Genevieve Powers Davis wore in 1957 when she portrayed Dorothy Roy in the Caroline Co./Jamestown Festival celebrating 350 years since the landing at Jamestown in 1607. It was made by Mrs. Susie Christie, mother in law of Lois Christie. Today it is 58years old.
I want to share some history of this town starting with those early days when Capt. John Smith came up the Rappahannock to explore and meet the Indians who lived in the longhouses along its bank in 1609.
In 1652 John Catlett and his brother Ralph Rowsey patented 400 acres here. Soon (in 1670) a fort was built and more people came. Early settlers were Scotch, Irish and English in origin and they gathered in the taverns, stables and busy shops clustered around the important tobacco warehouse on the river.
A “rolling road” was constructed from Bowling Green to the Tobacco Warehouse built in 1673 by Richard Buckner and later owned and operated by Dorothy Roy (the 1st woman to operate a business in the new world—she actually had to get permission from the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg when her husband died.)
A large number of settlers coming to Virginia came as Indentured Servants. Times were hard in Europe and many families were ruined by the PANIC OF 1772 and they sold themselves into servitude for passage to Virginia.
One such person was Edward Powers, a 14 year old boy, whose passage was paid for by James Miller, a merchant in Port Royal. He arrived here in 1734 and soon paid his debt and became a successful storekeeper himself! It is because of him that I am here today. He was my mother’s great, great, great grandfather.
Port Royal was incorporated as a town in 1744. The “town green” upon which stands the Town Hall, Library, Firehouse and Medical Museum were forever reserved for public and civic use! The streets were named as you see them today_ _Caroline, King, Water, etc. and of course, Main St. which today we know as Rt. 301.
One author called Port Royal a “metropolis” because of all the activity when the ships came in. In fact there were so many merchants, doctors, wig makers, etc. that a guild was formed to promote commerce in 1745. This is thought to be the first Chamber of Commerce in Virginia! (by the way, the Medical Museum will be open today from 1-4 and you can learn more about early days in Port Royal.)
Many famous Caroline County men passed through our town too:
• General William Woodford who defeated the British in 1775. His was the first decisive victory for American troops over the British army.
• George Rogers Clark who drove the British from the Ohio Valley and saved the mid-west for the United States.
• William Clark, his brother, who led the expedition west to the Pacific with Meriwether Lewis.
• John Taylor who lived a Hazelwood just north of Town and served with distinction as an army officer during the Revolution and became a noted author and senator representing Virginia.
You will see portraits of these citizens and 21 more in the Portrait Gallery in the Town Hall. It will be open today from 1-4pm.
It is even documented that George Washington lodged overnight here at the Fox Tavern at least 3 times. On one visit he also had supper, breakfast, and secured stableage & feed for his horse for a total of $3.20!! Now that’s a deal!
By 1774, Ralph Fall’s Book on Port Royal (Hidden Village) tells us that citizens of Caroline Co began to divide their national loyalities . The Torries supported the Crown and the Partriots wanted Independence from England. P42 It was during this time that Colonial Law enacted in Williamsburg prohibited smaller ports like Port Royal from commercial trade with England and other foreign ports. Many of the merchants here lost business and several sold their ships to recoup losses. Times were bad.
Five men from the Town served on “The Committee of Public Safety” formed by the 1st Continental Congress at Philadelphia . They were seeking more democratic relations with England/ or separation from the Mother Land. Edmund Pendleton chaired the Virginia Committee.
56 men risked their lives to meet in Philadelphia and declare Independence from England.
• One of these was John Penn who was actually born in Caroline Co.
Another was John Hancock who was the first signer making his the largest and most famous signature—hence the term “John Hancock” which is still used as a synonym for a signature.
Two future presidents signed the declaration, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Two brothers from our neighboring Westmoreland County, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, also signed the Declaration.
It is said that Caroline Co. was the first Va. county to cut ties with England. On July 11, 1776 a messenger headed from Philabelphia to Williamsburg passed through Caroline with news of the Dec. of Independence. . Edmund Pendleton was president of the “Virginia Committee of Public Safety” and he called the court together, and county officials renounced the Crown and THEY swore allegiance to the Commonwealth. You can read more about Edmund Pendleton in this week’s “Caroline Progress” . (His portrait is in the Portrait Gallery.)
The Museum of American History on Rt. 301 is open this afternoon from 1-4 also, and you can see the Skinner Rappahannock Indian artifact collection as well as the Toleware and White house China collections of Herb Collins. There is also an outstanding copy of the Declaration of Independence on display today!
Yes, we have a heritage to be proud of and we
Celebrate that today as we do every July 4th,
HAPPY Birthday of America!