Friends of Green Spring Newsletter
Dedicated to the Opening of a new National Park
Vol. 3, No. 1, Winter 2005
Riverside Foundation donates $50,000 to open Green Spring
New CNHP Superintendent Daniel Smith makes friends happy to show Green Spring
Superintendent Dan Smith, center, flanked by Roger Guernsey, left, and Dan Lovelace, right, poses for his first visit to Historic Green Spring. Others attending the breakfast or site tour were Archie Cannon, Bob Taylor and Cliff Williams.
Shortly after assuming his duties as new superintendent
of the Colonial National Historical Park, Dan Smith said
he wanted to visit Historic Green Spring, a wish eagerly
welcomed by members of the Friends Board of Directors.
Though he could visit Green Spring any time on his own,
Smith made the Friends happy by asking them for a tour.
Smith joined President Dan Lovelace and several
members of the board for breakfast on December 16, and
then walked Green Spring for an hour and a half, focusing
mostly on the archaeology assets west of Centerville Road.
The orientation included flowing Green Spring itself,
exploratory digs underway, as well as a demonstration of
the size and location of projected improvements. Hoped
for capital improvements to open Green Spring include a
wayside turn out, a new entrance, parking lot and a visitor
contact station served by water and sewer lines.
After visiting Green Spring, Superintendent Smith drove
up Centerville Road to James City County’s Freedom Park
to see development there and understand the geographic
proximity of the two parks and the linkage they share in
African American history. Slaves freed after the death of the
Green Spring owner, young William Ludwell Lee in 1803,
were willed land in the area now named Freedom Park.
Loretta Hannum, director of education for the Friends’ Board of Directors presented
two copies of the Voices of Green Spring DVD and Kent Brinkley’s book, The Green
Spring Plantation Green House/Orangery, to Benjamin Goldberg of the Williamsburg
Regional Library. Mrs. Hannum was the Social Studies curriculum director for the
Williamsburg-James City County schools before retirement. Copies of the DVD history
of Green Spring and Brinkley’s book about Governor Berkeley’s mansion and farm
are available from the Friends.
Gift allows search for matches
Friends of Green Spring continue to receive fabulous
support from Riverside Health System, owner and operator
of neighboring Patriot’s Colony. The latest is a $50,000
donation from the RHS Foundation earmarked to capital
improvements to Green Spring — meaning constructing
infrastructure such as water and sewer lines, new entrance
and parking lot and if needed in the future, turn lanes at the
Gen. Archie Cannon, a member of the Green Spring
Board of Directors and founder of Patriot’s Colony,
originated the Friends’ application and guided it to a
successful conclusion. Gen. Cannon also is a member of
the main Riverside Health System Board of Directors. The
$50,000 donation will be paid in $25,000 increments —
2005 and 2006.
Friends’ officers were hosts at a Two Rivers Country
Club luncheon on January 27 to receive the first $25,000
check from Riverside Health System representatives. Friends’
President, Daniel Lovelace, accepted the check and thanked
Riverside for its support in the past two years, noting
particularly, sponsorship of the June 2003 open house and
the acclaimed Historic Green Spring film in 2004.
Receiving the donations enables the Friends to apply for
matching money from local, state and federal sources. Top
construction priorities on the site include a new entrance
or wayside turnout with an historic sign that educates the
public about the importance of Green Spring.
Historic Green Spring, Moses, Gowan Pamphlet and North America’s First Black-led
By Linda H. Rowe
First Baptist Church
Tradition at First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, maintains that
during at least part of the formative period (1776?-1792) for the historic congregation,
African Virginians (slaves and a few free blacks) gathered in
secrecy for religious meetings in the thickets and woods on the plantation of
Green Spring in James City County. The clandestine nature of these early gatherings has hampered efforts
to develop a clear timeline of the events set in motion by Moses and continued
by Gowan, later known as Gowan Pamphlet.
The story begins with an illusive figure known only as Moses who preached
among “the people of color” in the Williamsburg area. Moses is known through the work of nineteenth-century Baptist
historian Robert Semple who reported that, “Moses, a black man, first
preached among them, and was often taken up and whipped for holding meetings.”
Historian Semple said nothing more about Moses, only that Gowan then “became
popular among the blacks, and began to baptize as well as to preach.”
Unfortunately, historian Semple did not provide exact or even approximate dates
for the early activities of Moses and Gowen.
An item in a 1779 Virginia Gazette identified Gowan as the slave of “Mrs.
Vobe of Williamsburg” but made no reference to his religious life. Widow Jane Vobe had kept tavern in Williamsburg
since about 1752, and her slave Gowan lived and worked at her establishment.
Given the beatings Moses received, it is likely that he was also a slave, belonging
to whom we do not know.
On their own time, slaves and other area blacks began to swell the ranks of
prayer meetings led by Moses and then Gowan. Moses could have held clandestine
prayer meetings with slaves as early as the mid-1770s, since Semple’s
account has Moses preaching in the Williamsburg area before Gowan. Baptist sources
tell us that Gowan had commenced his own religious work by 1781. (Tentative
though it is, this timeline moves Moses back into the 1770s which squares more or less with the undocumented tradition at First Baptist Church
that puts the founding of the church in 1776.)
Though the written record does not document outright the tradition that initially
the gatherings took place at Green Spring, that plantation is a plausible location
for slaves to have assembled secretly. Circumstantial evidence supports the
idea. Green Spring, five or six miles southwest of Williamsburg and north of
Jamestown Island came into the possession of William Lee, a Virginian living
in London, when his wife inherited the place about 1770. Over 4000 acres of fields and woodland fanned out from a mansion house providing ample cover for Lee’s own slaves, other slaves and free
blacks from the surrounding area to meet in relative safety. Criss-crossed by
three roads that led to Jamestown and different parts of James City County,
and connected to roads to York County, Yorktown, and Williamsburg, the Green
Spring tract was accessible to slaves from perhaps ten or fifteen miles around.
Within a few years, the meetings moved closer to Williamsburg. Raccoon Chase,
as it was known, was across Jamestown Road from Matoaka Lake (then Jones Mill Pond) in wooded low ground
below a spillway. By 1793, Gowan was a freedman and had gained membership for
his 200- member congregation in the regional, white-run Dover Baptist Association.
Presumably less secretive by that time, the congregation remains shrouded in
mystery until 1808 when tax records place it on Nassau Street in Williamsburg.
By that time Green Spring was a fairly distant memory, but clearly, a hallowed
one for the remarkable church.
Linda Rowe (M.A., American Studies, The College of William and Mary)
is an historian with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Finding Lost Outbuildings and a French Button:
An Archaeological Update from Dr. Andrew Veech
During last October and November, CNHP archeologist Dr. Andrew Veech and
his team of volunteers continued to investigate Historic Green Spring. According
to Dr. Veech, they discovered evidence of an 18′ x 18′ outbuilding (identical
in size and symmetrical in location to one on the western edge of the formal garden)
on the garden’s eastern edge, located more that 11/2 feet below a bed
of heavy, waterlogged clay. This clay apparently aided in the preservation of the outbuilding
itself. Hewn wooden beams, presumbaly dating to the 18th century, were noted
on the outbuilding floor.
In addition, a 22′-wide gateway into the formal garden also was discovered,
located midway along the 250′-long southern garden wall. The brick piers framing
this central gateway are massively oversized, measuring 32″ square. Such
oversizing suggests that the gateway was grand in scale and designed to impress visitors
— an architectural flourish in keeping with the size and complexity of Green Spring’s
formal gardens during first half of the 18th century.
Finally, the team discovered a pewter French uniform button embossed
with the number “104” — the designator for The Royal Deux-Ponts
Regiment, a German-speaking unit (from the Saar region of France) that formed part of General
Rochambeau’s army. After playing a critical role in the Siege of Yorktown,
the regiment remained in the greater Williamsburg area for many months before being
evacuated. The “104” button probably was lost by a French soldier
who visited Green Spring during this period.
Founder of Friends retires but remains loyal
Cliff Willaims, founder of the Friends of Green Spring in 1997, will continue
to contribute, but no longer be a member of the Board of Directors or chairman of the Advisory
“My age and health tell me it is time to pass this effort to younger
hands. I have not lost one ounce of enthusiasm for seeing Green Spring open to the public. Its magnificent
history calls us to complete the mission,” Williams said.
Williams said he thanks retired superintendent Alec Gould and staff for perservering
to produce a General Management Plan and Environmental Assessment for Green Spring.
Without them, the park would never open.
“I thank Skip Brooks and the CNHP maintenance crew for their support.
Somehow, they always managed to mow Green Spring when needed. Thanks also should go to Ranger
Hiram Barber and the Green Spring Park Watch volunteers he trained. Road cleanups
and having a presence on the property helped maintain order,” he concluded.
Green Spring film and Kent Brinkley entertain crowd
Voices of Green Spring, the new history film produced with the
financial and technical support of Riverside Health System, premiered on
October 24 at the Ford’s Colony Swim and Tennis Club. Kent Brinkley, author
of the book, Green Spring Plantation Greenhouse/Orangery, introduced the
film by describing the imposing size and layout of Green Spring as begun by
Governor Berkeley in the 1640s and enlarged following his marriage to Lady
Francis in 1670.
A crew of professionals produced the 11-minute film on site last summer. It
portrays the dramatic and often deadly events that challenged the colonists
to survive. Actors from Colonial Williamsburg again portrayed the Berkeleys,
as they did at the 2003 Green Spring open house. The film is available from
the Friends in either DVD or VHS tape.
Friends’ board members and special events co-chairs, Winnie Bryant and
Jane Yerkes, assisted by Joan Lovelace and Tiffany Cutts, served wine and cheese after the program.
“Voices” Receives Proper Fanfare
A movie, a talk, and wine and cheese were crowd pleasers at the premiere of Voices of Green Spring. Spreading the bountiful table and serving were Jane Yerkes, Winnie Bryant, Joan Lovelace and Tiffany Cutts.
On Wednesday, February 2nd, at 3:30pm Friends of Green
Spring President Daniel Lovelace presented a lecture entitled
“Varying Perspectives on the Battle of Green Spring, July
6, 1781” at the Yorktown Victory Center. The lecture was
offered free to the public as part of the Jamestown/Yorktown
Foundation’s Winter Lecture Series.
If you are a member of The College of William and Mary’s
Christopher Wren Association adult education program,
you may have noticed that CWA’s Spring, 2005 catalog lists
a rather unusual course entitled: “17th Century English
Colonial Governors Sir William Berkeley and Colonel Francis
Lovelace: Cousins, Conspirators, and Casualties of History.”
The course will be taught by Daniel Lovelace and meets on
three consecutive Thursdays in April (the 7th, 14th, and 21st)
from 2:00-4:00pm. For additional information, contact the
CWA at their registration telephone number (757) 221-1506.
Board of Directors
Daniel D. Lovelace
Donald S. Buckless
Robert W. Hershberger
Professor Warren M. Billings
M/G Archie S. Cannon, Jr. (Ret.)
Loretta J. Hannum
Trist B. McConnell
Gayle K. Randol
Marc B. Sharp
Richard G. Smith
Carol D. Tyrer
Sean K. Fitzpatrick
Hon. Jay T. Harrison, Sr.
Dr. James Horn
Hon. Thomas K. Norment, Jr.
Hon. Melanie L. Rapp
Friends of the National Park
Service for Green Spring, Inc.
P.O. Box 779, Williamsburg VA 23187
Phone: (757) 221-0800