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CARTER’S GROVE PLANTATION
(C. 1750)

- History Rewritten - 
By
Catherine Millard

 

     Carter’s Grove was the plantation home of Robert “King” Carter,
(1663-1732), who was one of the most significant figures of America’s
founding period, and whose property comprised 300,000 acres of land.
Carter’s father died in 1669 when the boy was six years old.  His older
brother, John Carter II, became his guardian and under the stipulation
of his father’s will, he began his schooling under an indentured servant
with some schooling.  He was then sent to England for six
years, to board with a Mr. Bailey for his grammar school education, from
about 1672-1678.  Of his early school days, Carter writes:

From my owne observations
when I was in England,
those boyes that wore the
finest close and had the
most money in their
pockets still went away, with
the least learning in
their heads.

     Carter’s studies comprised grammar, rhetoric and logic, with its
roots in Latin, Greek and some Hebrew.

     Robert Carter was a devoted Christian husband and father of 12.  He
brought up his children in the love and admonition of the Lord Jesus
Christ.  Ritualism and hierarchy of the established church was of no
importance to Carter who wished to impart biblical truth and high
standards of morality to his offspring.

     He is also remembered for the church which he built in the early
1700’s, historic Christ Church in Lancaster County, Virginia, which is
still maintained and honors his name today.

     What were some of Carter’s great achievements which so distinguish
him in this nation’s history? 

     A vestryman in Christ Church, the church he built for his parish,
he also served as Justice of the Peace.  At the age of 28 he took his
seat in the House of Burgesses at Jamestown as a member for Lancaster
County.  In 1696 he became Speaker of the House, and in 1697 filled the
position of chairman of the Committee of Propriations and Grievances –
the most important committee in that body.  After being elected member
of the Council, in 1699 he became Colonial Treasurer, holding this
position until 1704.  He was highly esteemed and respected by all the
Burgesses.  His duties as member of the Council, together with other
leading men of the colony, comprised performing executive, legislative
and judicial functions.  Fellow members were William Byrd I, Edmund
Jenings, Benjamin Harrison, James Blair and others.

     In 1715 Carter was appointed lieutenant commander of Lancaster and
Northumberland counties.  At the death of Governor Hugh Drysdale, “King”
Carter, as president of the Council, assumed the administration of
government, officially approved by George II in July 1726.  This
governorship Carter executed admirably for more than a year.  Among his
impressive services to god and country, this American son also acted as
rector and visitor of the College of William and Mary, being made a
trustee of the college in 1729, and endowing the college with a handsome
scholarship.  Buried in the yard at Christ Church where he had
worshiped, his epitaph reads:

Here lies
Robert Carter, Esq., an honorable man, who exalted his high
birth by noble endowments and pure morals.  He sustained
the College of William and Mary in the most trying times.  He
was governor, Speaker of the House and Treasurer…he built
and endowed, at his own expense, this sacred edifice, a lasting
monuments of his piety to God.  Entertaining his friends with
kindness, he was neither a prodigal nor a thrifty host…At
length, full of honor and years, having discharged all the
duties of an exemplary life, he departed from this world on
the 4th day of August 1732, in the 69th year of his age.  The
wretched, the widowed, and the orphans, bereaved of their
comfort, protector and father, alike lament his loss.

Rewritten History

     Carter’s Grove Plantation is now administered by the Williamsburg
Foundation, which oversees and has jurisdiction over Colonial
Williamsburg, the old capital city of Virginia during the years 1699
through 1780.  In September, 1988, while researching Carter’s Grove, one
of America’s oldest and most prestigious plantations, the first, and
only informative sign which now greets the visitor upon entering the
grounds (installed 1988), does not give a single word relating to the
true significance and history of Robert “King” Carter’s Plantation and
spectacular Georgian home.  Rather, the new sign reads:
 
     Martin’s Hundred
     This plantation was founded by the London-based Society of
     Martin’s Hundred in 1617 and later was assigned 21,500 acres.
     It was settled in 1619. The site of Wolstenholme Town, its
     administrative center, was discovered by archaeologists in 1977.
     They located the graves of several victims of the Indian Massacre
     of 22 March 1622 when 78 colonists here – half the plantation’s
     population – were reported slain.  The area soon was resettled but
     the town was never rebuilt.  Department of Conservation and
     historic Resources, 1988.

     I subsequently interviewed a docent at the Carter’s Grove Visitors’
Center, who reported the following:

     Carter’s Grove, dating back to 1750 A.D. and one of the oldest
     plantations in America has had its historic interpretation changed
     from the founding period to history beginning in the 1920’s when
     Mrs. Archibald McCrea bought the estate and lived in it.  This new
     interpretation occurred about three years ago (1985) when the new Director,
     Mr. Lawrence Henry, appointed by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation,
     changed the historic interpretation and meaning of this valuable national heritage site.

     A recently installed, new exhibit within the Visitors’ Center
catches the eye prior to exiting onto the spacious grounds of Carter’s
Grove Plantation.  The exhibit outlines primarily the history of the
McCreas, with a few lines about Robert Carter –
The latter being the very reason for which this valuable Georgian
mansion and plantation has been preserved for America’s posterity.  The
exhibit concludes with information about the Algonquin Indians, colonial
slaves’ quarters, and the 1611 “Martin’s Hundred” English mercenary
settlement highlighted – 220 English mercenary settlers having
supposedly founded a town called Wolstenholme Towne right on the grounds
of Carter’s Grove Plantation and Georgian home!

     However, in the official report of the First Legislative Assembly
convened by the 1607 Jamestown Settlement on July 30, 1619, in their
church, Mr. John Pory, secretary, records two representative Burgessses
from Martin’s Hundred (or Plantation), namely, Mr. John Boys and Mr.
John Jackson.  The 1607 Jamestown colonists had divided their settlement
into “hundreds,” “incorporations” or “plantations” in order to govern
themselves more efficiently.

     The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, therefore, has no excuse for
rewriting this crucial epic of America’s founding period history,
depicting Martin’s Hundred as a “mercenary English settlement.”
“Martin’s Hundred” was part and parcel of the 1607 Jamestown Settlement,
which convened its political meetings in prayer to Almighty God, and
whose godly chaplain baptized Pocahontas into the Christian faith in
1613.

     Upon entering the grounds of Carter’s Grove Plantation, immediately
to one’s left are the newly constructed Slaves’ Quarters, with a
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation official interpreter dressed in the
colonial period “slaves’ garb.”  Excerpted below is part of the
interpretative lecture given by one of these representatives:

     This plantation is owned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
     In 1971, archaeological digs were found here.  It was slaves’
     quarters (not a tannery, as they originally thought).  Based on that,
     and structured evidence from other slaves’ quarters in Virginia, tax
     records, account books, other such evidence and diaries, plans were
     made and handed to carpenters.  The Research Library is owned by
     Colonial Williamsburg.  This is brand new is history – black history that
     has not been discussed or interpreted before 1979.  Colonial Williamsburg
     is on the cutting edge of history museums around the country.  The New
     York Times ran an article about these slave quarters on September 19,
     1988. The Washington Post did the same thing in the summer of 1987.
     local T.V. and radio (media) ran articles and Public Service announce-
     ments about these archaeological slaves quarters.  Carpenters wear 18th
     century costumes because of the 18th century work they’re doing.

Inter-pretation of construction work includes:

          What does this say about 18th century slave experience
          in the colonial Chesapeake?  Carter’s Grove Mansion
          now focuses on 20th century history; the Slaves’ Quarters
          focus on 18th century history; the newly constructed
          Wolstenholme Towne (Archaeological site of an English
          settlement “discovered”), on 17th century history.  They
          found a series of pits and postholes and fashioned what
          the average slave house was in the 18th century.

     A short distance further on, to the right, one sees a cluster of
newly-constructed thatched-roofed, grey “shacks” with short-stumped
wooden fences and markers, one of which indicates the place where a tree
supposedly had stood; another bearing the name “Granny’s Grave.” Other
grave markers designate recent archaeological discoveries of Martin’s
Hundred gravesites.

The visitor is rather startled by an ominous-looking gaping hole, built
of grey concrete, and disappearing into a hillside close by.  The new,
informative marker discloses its identity:

A Chance Meeting

     Upon exiting this plantation, I had an interesting encounter with
Gillian Daroczy, of Dearborn, Michigan, at the Visitors’ Center of
Carter’s Grove Plantation.  She is one very familiar with the real
Carter’s Grove history.  Following is her account of the revised
founding period history now presented at this famed historic site:

    “I came here seven years ago.  The original history of this famous
plantation was given then.  Robert “King” Carter was the richest man in
Virginia and a prominent and significant figure during the founding
period of our country.  He was the father of Anne King Carter,
grandfather of Robert E. Lee.  Her husband was Light Horse Harry Lee.

     They don’t mention any history about the Carters living here during
the Revolutionary War period any more.  “why don’t you speak about it?”
we asked the interpreter?  “Because we interpret the house as it has
come through the years,” was the response.  “But it doesn’t have
anything to do with the carter history and influence for which it is so
famous and has been preserved.  Mrs. McCrea, I’m sure, bought it to
preserve the heritage.  She would have liked the people to appreciate
the home’s historical significance, as opposed to having her own private
living quarters described on an updated scale.  It’s like going through
the Dodge Mansion at Grosse Pointe.  I came to see and study our early
American history, which is so rich –not to go through a Real Estate
Tour.”

     Seven years ago, my mother and I and two guests heard the history
of the Carter era correctly interpreted.  We were thrilled with the
history of the mansion during the Revolutionary period…not, “this is
Mrs. McCrea’s refrigerator – 34 years old and still running…” I left the
tour.  Who care how old her refrigerator is?  The roof is raised to
accommodate new quarters.  The tour highlights their bedroom; office;
bathroom; where the toilet was; the electric light and ash tray in a
cupboard enclosing the toilet!

     The only statement we heard about our American Revolutionary period
history was that Robert “King” Carter originally built this house.  We
didn’t learn anything here about Carter and his influence – not one
thing!  I think they should remove everything about the McCreas.  Is
this what the Williamsburg Foundation makes you pay money for?  Children
learn more about American colonial, revolutionary history by being
there, seeing, experiencing, touching it.  This is how children, future
generations of Americans, are taught our foundational history.”

     Listening to the above commentary, one cannot help being deeply
moved by the chagrin and pathos of this young woman’s testimony on the
removal of a heritage very near and dear to each American; that of the
founding period of our nation through Robert “King” Carter and his
descendants at Carter’s Grove Plantation – all the more so as Carter’s
Grove Plantation is being publicized to Americans in newspapers, (such
as the November, 1990 issue of the complimentary Williamsburg Magazine),
as a site which “chronicles 350 years of history” requiring tickets to
be purchased in advance!

     Further to the above removal of all original history pertaining to
the great American Christian patriot, Robert “King” Carter, from his own
Georgian mansion and homesite, Carter’s Grove Plantation, we see history
being rewritten on his person and character. In an article entitled
“Shirley Plantation – Built on a Tradition of Heritage and Hierarchy,”
which appeared in the Spring 1991 edition of the widely distributed
Colonial Williamsburg, journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation,
we read:

     …Conspicuous is the portrait of Robert “King” Carter of
     Corotoman on the Rappahannock…He noted in his diary
     occasions when he personally haggled over pennies for
     yarn and eggs on the trading days on his docks…He was
     as shrewd in simple dealings as he was in the management
     of his vast holdings…In King Carter’s picture, the left
     forefinger seems to be pointing to a vest pocket of this
     rather plainly dressed man.  The flap of the pocket is
     curled, indicating frequent use…Whether the finger points
     to a time piece or a coin purse is irrelevant; the King would
     waste neither…”

     And again, in a caption above a photographic reproduction of this
remarkable man’s portrait, we read:

     Seeming still to survey his vast domain, Robert “King”
     Carter, portrayed by an unknown artist, points to a vest
     pocket where,…(he) kept his purse.

     The above lines imply that Carter’s mind was staid upon materialism
(his vast domain) and money (his purse), imputing to Carter negative
character traits which he did not have, as has been amply demonstrated
by his personal correspondence and deeds portraying his love of God and
a Christian value system. 

     It would also be in keeping with the Colonial Williamsburg
Foundation’s printed mandate as “the nonprofit educational organization
responsible for the restoration, preservation, and interpretation of the
18th-century capital of the colony of Virginia” to correctly attribute
Robert “King” Carter’s true historic roots and identity to Carter’s
Grove Plantation – his circa 1750 homesite.

     Many Americans are awakening to this travesty – as it is apparent
that the effort to obliterate the founding period of this nation, so
rich in biblical heritage – has accelerated in recent years.
(Excerpted from, The Rewriting of America’s History, copyright 1991 by
Catherine Millard). 

Note:  A similar plight has befallen historic Jamestown Island,
Virginia, site of the first permanent Protestant Christian Settlement on
American soil (c. 1607); with archaeology, the rewriting and
reinterpretation of America’s original Christian history, in preparation
for the celebration of Jamestown Island’s 400th anniversary in 2007, via
widescale national media coverage.

    


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