« PreviousContinue »
lain of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, when Hon. Robert G. Scott delivered an oration, chiefly on Washington's history as a mason. On the conclusion of the masonic ceremonies, Governor Wise advanced upon the platform and
made, impromptu, a brief, patriotic address. He was followed by John R. Thompson, Esq., in a poem, and he in turn by an oration from Hon. R. M. T. Hunter, orator of the day. James Barron Hope, Esq., then delivered a poem, at the close of which the statue was unvailed amid the roaring of artillery and the huzzas of the assembled thousands. In the evening the city was illuminated, and a grand reception was given by Virginia, in the form of a banquet, to her distinguished guests.
St. John's Church, on Richmond Hill, is the oldest colonial place of worship in the town. It is preserved with religious care, and has been somewhat modernized by the addition of a tower. This church stands in the center of a graveyard, embosomed by trees, where all around, in crowded hillocks, are the mansions of the dead.
It was here, in the Virginia convention of '75, that Patrick Henry thundered against the common oppressor of America, and uttered that immortal sentence, “Give me liberty, or give me death !"
The celebrated Virginia convention of '88, that met to ratify the federal consti. tution, assembled within its walls. The transcendent talents engaged in its dis cussion “tempted industry to give up its pursuits, and even dissipation its objects." for the high intellectual feast here presented. Among the crowd, from far and near, who filled the hall, “no bustle, no sound was heard, save only a slight movement when some new speaker arose, whom they were all eager to see as well as to hear; or when some master-stroke of eloquence shot thrilling along their nerves, and extorted an involuntary and inarticulate murmur. Day after day was this banquet of the mind and the heart spread before them, with a delicacy and variety which could never cloy.' Among its illustrious members were Madison, Marshail and Monroe; and “there were those sages of other days, Pendleton and Wythe; there was seen the Spartan vigor and compactness of George Nicholas; and there shone the radiant genius and sensibility of Grayson; the Roman energy and Attic wit of George Mason was there; and there also the classic taste and harmony of Edmund Randolph; "the splendid conflagration' of the high-minded Innis, and the matchless eloquence of the immortal Henry!”
Although Richmond is a comparatively modern town, yet its site is frequently alluded to in the early history of Virginia. The first mention of it is in 1609, when Master West, in a scarcity of provisions, went up from Jamestown to the falls of James River, as the place was then called, to procure food, but found nothing edible except acorns. In the same year West was sent with a colony of 120 men to settle at the falls. These settlers, finding so many "inconveniences” attending their situation, soon abandoned the place.
Richmond was established a town by law in the reign of George II, May, 1742, on land belonging to Col. William Byrd, who died in 1744. The locality was anciently called Byrd's Warehouse. That gentleman, at the time, had a warehouse near where the Exchange Hotel now is. The seat of a Col. Byrd is thus described in Burnaby's Travels in North America in 1759–60. He “has a small place called Belvidere, upon a hill at the lower end of these falls (James River), as romantic and elegant as anything I have ever seen. It is situated very high, and commands a fine prospect of the river, which is half a mile broad, forming cataracts in the manner above described. There are several little islands scattered care lessly about, very rocky and covered with trees, and two or three villages in view at a small distance. Over all these you discover a prodigious extent of wilderness, and the river winding majestically along through the midst of it."
In 1777 the assailable situation of Williamsburg to the aggressions of the enemy occasioned the assembly of the state to remove the troops, arms and ammunition,
together with the public records, to Richmond; and, partially from the same cause, and the extension of the population westward, an act was passed, May, 1779, to remove the seat of government here. At this time, Richmond was an insignificant place, scarcely affording sufficient accommodations for the officers of the government The legislature bestowed upon it the name of a city; but it was then only a city in embryo, with scarcely anything of interest except the grandeur of its natural scenery. The analogy of the situation of the place to that of Richmond-onthe-Thames, in England, suggested the name the town bears. The public buildings were temporary. The old capitol, which was private property, was a wooden structure, long since destroyed.
In January, 1781, Richmond was invaded by the traitor, Arnold, who landed, on the 4th, from the British fleet at Westover, with a force of about 1,000 men, and marched across the country to Richmond. After burning some public and some private buildings, as well as a large quantity of tobacco, the enemy completed their incursion without loss, in 48 hours from the time of their landing.
The most melancholy event in the history of the town was the burning of the Richmond theater, on the night of Dec. 26, 1811, by which the governor of the state, and a large number of others perished. The subjoined account was published in the Richmond Standard, the following day:
Last night the play-house in this city was crowded with an unusual audience. There could not have been less than 600 persons in the house. Just before the conclusion of the play, the scenery caught fire, and in a few minutes the whole building was wrapped in flames. It is already ascertained that 61 persons were devoured by that most terrific element. The editor of this paper was in the house when the ever-to-be-remembered deplorable accident occurred. He is informed that the scenery took tire in the back part of the house, by the raising of a chandelier; that the boy who was ordered by some of the players to raise it
, stated that if he did so, the scenery would take fire, when he was commanded in a peremptory manner to hoist it. The boy obeyed, and the fire instantly communicated to the scenery.
He gave the alarm in the rear of the stage, and requested some of the attendants to cut the cords by which the combustible materials were suspended. The person whose duty it was to perform this became panic struck, and sought his own safety. This unfortunately happened at a time when one of the performers was playing near the orchestra, and the greatest part of the stage, with its horrid danger, was obscured from the audience by a curtain.
The flames spread with almost the rapidity of lightning; and the fire falling from the ceiling upon the performer, was the first notice the audience had of their danger. Even then, many supposed it a part of the play, and were a little time restrained from flight by å cry from the stage that there was no danger. The performers and their attendants in vain endeavored to tear down the scenery; the fire flashed in every part of the house with a rapidity horrible and astonishing; and, alas! gushing tears and unspeakable anguish deprived me of utterance. No person who was not present can form any idea of this unexampled scene of distress. The editor, having none of his family with him, and not being far from the door, was among the first who escaped.
No words can express his horror when, on turning round, he discovered the whole building to be in flames. There was but one door for the greatest part of the audience to pass. Men, women and children were pressing upon each other, while the flames were seizing those behind. The editor went to the different windows, which were very high, and implored his fellow-creatures to save their lives by jumping out of them. Those nearest the windows, ignorant of their danger, were afraid to leap down, while those behind them were seen catching on fire, and writhing in the greatest agonies of pain and distress. At length those behind, urged by the pressing flames, pushed those who were nearest to the window, and people of every description began to fall one upon another, some with their clothes on fire, some half roasted. Oh, wretched me! Oh, afflicted people! Would to God I could have died a thousand deaths in any shape, could individual suffering
have purchase the safety of my friends, my benefactors, of those whom I loved!
.. The editur, with the assistance of others, caught several of those whom he had begged to leap from the windows. One lady jumped out when all her clothes were on fire. He tore them burning from her, stripped her of her last rags, and, protecting her nakedness with his coat, carried her from the fire. Fathers and mothers were deploring the loss of their children, children the loss of their parents; husbands were heard to lament their lost companions, wives were bemoaning their burnt husband. The people were seen wringing their hands, beating their heads and breasts; and those who had secured themselves, seemed to suffer greater torments than those enveloped in the flames.
Burning of the Richmond Theater. The above engraving of the burning of the theater at Richmond, on the night of Dec. 26, 1811, is a reduced copy from one published at Philadelphia, by B. S. Tanner, in the February following.
A sad gloom pervades this place, and every countenance is cast down to the earth. The loss of a hundred thousand friends on the field of battle could not touch the heart like this. Enough. Imagine what can not be described. The most distant and implacable enemy, and the most savage barbarians, will mourn our unhappy lot. All of those in the pit escaped, and had cleared themselves from the house, before those in the boxes could get down; and the door was for some time empty. Those from above were pushing each other down the steps, when the hindermost might have got out by leaping into the pit
. A gentleman and lady, who otherwise would have perished, had their lives saved by being providentially thrown from the second boxes. There would not have been the least difficulty in descending from the first boxes into the pit.
In addition to the list now given, it is believed that at least 60 others perished, whose names are not yet ascertained.
George W. Smith, governor, A. B. Venable, president of the bank, Benjamin Botts, wife and niece, Mrs. Taylor Braxton, Mrs. Patterson, Mrs. Gallego, Miss Conyers, Lieut. J. Gibbon, in attempting to save Miss Conyers ; Mrs. E. Page, Miss Louisa Mayo, Mrs. Wm. Cook, Miss E. Coutts, Mrs. J. Leslie, Miss M. Nelson, Miss Nelson, Miss Page, Wm. Brown, Miss Julia Harvey, Miss Whitlock, George Dizon, A. Marshall (of Wythe), broke his neck in at
tempting to jump from a window, Miss Ann Craig, Miss Stevenson (of Spottsylvania), Mrs. Gibson, Miss Maria Hunter, Mrs. Mary Davis, Miss Gerard, Thomas Lecroix, Jane Wade, Mrs. Picket, Mrs. Heron, Mrs. Laforest and niece, Jo. Jacobs, Miss Jacobs, Miss A. Bausman, Miss M. Marks, Edward Wanton, jr., two Misses Trouins, Mrs. Gerer, Mrs. Elicott, Miss Patsey Griffin, Mrs. Moss and daughter, Miss Littlepage, Miss Rebecca Cook, Mrs. Girardin and two children, Miss Margaret Copeland, Miss Gwathmey, Miss Clay, daughter of M. Clay, member of congress, Miss Gatewood, Mrs. Thomas Wilson, Wm. Southgate, Mrs. Robert Greenhow, Mrs. Convert and child, Miss Green, Miss C. Raphael.
At a meeting of the commissioners appointed by the Common Hall to superintend the interment of the remains of their friends and fellow-citizens, who unfortunately lost their lives in the conflagration of the theater, the following resolutions were adopted :
1. That the citizens of Richmond and Manchester, and the citizens at present residing in either of those places, be requested to assemble to-morrow, the 28th inst., at 10 o'clock, P. M., at the Baptist meeting-house, for the purpose of attending the funeral,
2. That the following be the order of procession : corpses, clergy, mourners and ladies, executive council, direétors of the bank, judiciary, members of the legislature, court of hustings, common hall, citizens on foot, citizens on horseback.
Wm. Hay, JR.
Petersburg, a well built and flourishing town, is situated on the south bank of the Appomattox River, 22 miles south from Richmond, on the line of the great railroad route between New York and New Orleans. The South Side Railway comes in here from Lynchburg, 133 miles distant; another road, 10 miles long, connects it with Čity Point, on James River. It is the third town in Virginia, in population, and has some important manufactories. The falls of the river above Petersburg furnish extensive water power. It has several cotton and other factories, and numerous mills of various kinds. Population, is about 16,000.
The old Blandford Church, in the vicinity of Petersburg, is one of the most picturesque and interesting ruins in Virginia. It stands in the midsts
of a burial ground, upon an eminence overlooking the site of the ancient and now extinct village of Blandford, commanding an extensive and variegated prospect for miles around. The edifice is built in the form of the letter T, with a short column. Some of the most distinguished of Virginia's aristocracy worshiped within its walls, for Blandford was the focus of fashion and refinement, while Petersburg “was rudely struggling" for her present pre-eminence." But the glo
ry of the town and its church is deBLANDFORD CHURCH.
parted; Blandford is now only a su
burban hamlet of Petersburg, and the old temple dismantled of its interior decorations, is left to the occupancy of the bats and owls."
“Lone relic of the past, old moldering pile,
Where twines the ivy round thy ruin gray,
Once trod by lady fayre' and gallant gay!
Genius and worth and beauty-they are here!
While time-past voices touch the spirit's ear.”
As early as 1645–6, a fort, called Fort Henry, was established at the falls of the Appomattox, where Petersburg now is, for the defense of the inhabitants on the south side of James River.
In 1675, war being declared against the Indians, 500 men were ordered to proceed to the frontier, and eight forts garrisoned. Among these was the one near the falls of the Appomattox, at Maj. Gen. Wood's, " or over against him at one fort or defensible place at fleets, of which Maj. Peter Jones be captain or chief commander."
In 1728, fifty-three years after, Col. Byrd, on his return from the expedition in which he was engaged as one of the Virginia commissioners, in running the line between this state and North Carolina, mentions the site of Petersburg as follows: "At the end of thirty good miles, we arrived in the evening at Col. Boling's, where from a primitive course of life we began to relax into luxury. This gentleman lives within hearing of the falls of Appomattox River, which are very noisy whenever a flood happens to roll a greater stream than ordinary over the rocks. The river is navigable for small craft as high as the falls, and, at some distance from them, fetches a compass and runs nearly parallel with James River, almost as high as the mountains."
By an act passed in 1646, it appears that 600 acres of land adjacent to Fort Henry, together with all the “houses and edifices” appurtenant thereto, were at that time granted to Capt. Abraham Wood, in fee-simple ; yet he was not the earliest settler; for, by the same act, it appears that the land on which the fort stood, together with part of the adjacent 600 acres, had been gra ed to Thomas Pitt. He may, therefore, be considered the earliest proprietor of the site of Petersburg, it having been granted to him previous to 1646. The town derived its name from Peter Jones, who opened a trading establishment with the Indians at an early day, a few rods west of what is now the junction of Sycamore and Old-streets. The locality was called Peur's Point, subsequently changed to Petersburg. In the war of the revolution, Petersburg was twice
visited by the enemy. On the 22d of April, 1781, the British, under Gen. Phillips, left Williamsburg, sailed up the James, and on the 24th landed at City Point. "The next day," says Girardin's Hist. of Va., " they marched up to Petersburg, where Baron Steuben received them with a body of militia somewhat under 1,000 men. Although the enemy were 2,000 strong, Steuben opposed their progress. For two hours he skillfully and bravely disputed the ground with them; the assailants were twice broken, and precipitately ran back until sup. ported by fresh troops. During the interval of time just stated, they gained but a mile, and that by inches. The inferiority of the Virginians in numbers obliged them to withdraw about 12 miles up the Appomattox, till more militia should be assembled. They retired in good order over a bridge, which was taken up as soon as the militia passed, so as to secure their retreat. The whole loss of the Virginians, in killed, wounded and taken, amounted to about 60. That sustained by the enemy, was conjectured to be more considerable.”
NORFOLK City is situated on the north bank of Elizabeth River, 106 miles S. E. from Richmond, 8 miles from Hampton Roads, and 32 from the sea. The site of the city is low, and in some parts marshy, but the principal streets are well paved. It is the second city, in population, in Virginia, and has more foreign commerce than any other place in the state, and, to