Thursday, April 19, 2012
It would not be until the mid 19th century that geologists began to piece together information that would lead to geological principles. Of these principles, the most significant is called superpositioning. This is a geological term applied to the observation that the oldest deposits are at the bottom the youngest are found at the top in a layer cake of time. The Stratford cliffs make up a unique layer cake and are part of the geographic region known as the Virginia Coastal Plain. The Virginia Coastal Plain is part of the much larger Atlantic Coastal Plain.
The specific layers at Stratford Hall are known to paleontologists and geologists as the Miocene Chesapeake Group Formations or Calvert Group. At Stratford Hall, these sediments span a time period from about 16 million years to the present day.
The sediment and silts, which formed the cliffs, are the result of millions of years of erosion and ocean sediment accumulation. These sediments were deposited in a prehistoric bay known as the Salisbury Embayment. The Salisbury Embayment was an arm of the Atlantic Ocean which covered what is now Delaware, southern and eastern Maryland, the Virginia Peninsula, and parts of southern New Jersey during Tertiary times (about 65 million to 5 million years ago). Sea level throughout most of this period stood several hundred feet higher than at present and deposition of sediments draining off the continent possibly caused the underlying rocks to sink down, creating the embayment. The shore of the embayment lay inland at the present-day fall line in the region.
|Examples of teeth from an extinct sharks|
The various layers of the Calvert group are seen as bands of various colors rising from the river shoreline. Each color of sediment seen indicates a unique variety of sediments resulting from recurring pulses of marine advances and retreats over the millennia. These pulses were the accumulating deposits of silts, clays, and sands that sealed the remains of the animals and plants. Each of the layers holds a unique groups of fossils.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Liquor was, in fact, distilled on the plantation. It was simply part of life during the 18th century. Crops were grown for the table, livestock raised, and goods produced… be it clothing, furniture, or shoes. Just imagine the possibilities of having a carpenter or blacksmith on site with the skills to custom design interior and exterior features for the property. This was, obviously, long before shopping malls or the Internet! Additionally, the Lees had access to the Potomac River and the world beyond where ships were capable of making deliveries from Europe.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
I had previously seen only two letters written by Ann Carter Lee, wife of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee and mother of Robert E. Lee. Coincidentally, those letters were also from Ann to her son Smith and were placed on loan to Stratford by Smith Lee’s descendants. Knowing what those letters looked like was very helpful in slowly reassembling the pieces of my brother’s newly purchased fragments.
The letter had split at every fold, but, surprisingly, all of its pieces were in the envelope. We may never know who had saved the letter, but are thankful that its contents are now available to researchers since my brother allowed me to copy and transcribe it along with other letters in our collection.
Ann’s letter was transcribed by library volunteer Maurice Capone and it is very similar in content to her few known letters to Smith, who had embarked upon a career in the U. S. Navy. Evidently, 17-year-old Smith hated writing letters and Ann often used her precarious health (she had tuberculosis) to urge him to do so. Whether or not her imposed “guilt trip” was successful is unknown, but, since few or no letters from Smith survive, Ann’s insistence was probably in vain.
Family news took up a small portion of the letter. Ann’s desire to give her children a good education can be plainly seen—24-year-old Carter was in law school, and 11-year-old Mildred and 15-year-old Robert were both attending classes. Her older daughter Ann Kinloch had been to Philadelphia, getting medical treatment for her arm; although the letter gave a good report on her hand, she eventually had to have part of her arm amputated due to tuberculosis of the bone. Perhaps Ann’s greatest hope for Smith and her other children was for them not to suffer the fate of her former husband, “Light Horse Harry,” who had fallen from the rank of esteemed Revolutionary hero and respected politician to that of an impoverished, broken man. She wished to “hear that all respect & love my Son” and that he “should deserve the esteem of the whole world.”
So…..we never know what letters are still “out there” just waiting to be discovered. Sometimes scraps of paper in an envelope can reveal certain aspects of a family’s dynamics that ultimately influence the course of history. Have you checked your attic lately?
By Judy Hynson, Director of Research & Library Collections