Friday, May 30, 2014

This Old House

Oh, the meandering tangents I can take.

After spending last evening at John Marshall's house, it seemed only fitting to visit his grave site this morning.

Besides, it had been weeks since I'd tended the graves of my charges, Henrietta and Daniel. Walking down Fourth Street to the cemeteries, I had a funeral procession to my right and banks of honeysuckle to the left. Both somehow seemed fitting.

At the Hebrew cemetery, I checked on Henrietta's small, pink painted stone to make sure last week's storm hadn't dislodged it. It was still tucked into the curve of her headstone, as faithful as she apparently was.

I became devoted to Henrietta when I saw that her stone referred to her as "consort," which I mistakenly assumed meant "other woman," but have since been informed by the Shockoe Hill Cemetery folks can mean wife.

Over at Shockoe, I found five of the six pebbles I'd placed on Daniel Norton's grave site still there but one was missing and nowhere in sight. I went to my pebble source corner and found a worthy replacement for the man who discovered Virginia's indigenous grape.

Tending duties completed, I went off to follow my tangent: finding John Marshall's burial place. It took a while because I'm directionally challenged (even after looking at the map twice) but there are worse ways to spend a morning than traipsing around a graveyard, so I didn't mind.

I somehow missed the enormous tree with a plaque on the side of it saying "John Marshall section" but finally found what I was looking for, fenced in with a small iron railing.

No surprise, there was his adored wife Polly's tomb right next to his, so I unlatched the little gate and went inside to pay my respects only hours after walking though the rooms of their house.

It appeared that no one has adopted the lovebirds because there were no pebbles of remembrance on either tomb. I headed right back to my pebble stash and found a fine, big stone that seemed suitable for the man who dominated the Supreme Court for over three decades and laid it on his tomb.

But I couldn't very well ignore the love of his life who fancied beautiful things, so I found a purple pansy for Polly's tomb, appropriate, I thought, for the uptown girl who'd won the heart of the rough and tumble Fauquier County boy.

I seemed to be the only person at the Marshalls' house last night who was paying their respects this morning.

Walking back a different way than I came, the vacant lots were abloom with blue cornflowers, white Queen Anne's Lace and purple clover, a color scheme chosen by nature and one of my favorites.

At the edge of one of the lots, I spotted a small green plaque I'd never noticed before, despite having walked this way dozens of times.

"Bray's gambrel-roofed cottage 1790, owned by Edgar Allen Poe's foster father," it read. A post-Revolutionary War house practically in my neighborhood? How had I missed that?

And here's where yet another tangent comes in. 1790 was the year John Marshall built his house. Overnight, I'm all about 224 year old houses.

Being the nerd that I am, I came right home and did my research, finding not only a history of the house ("very attractively located at the entrance to Shockoe Cemetery," preservationist Mary Wingfield Scott wrote) but an old picture of the wooden house with the familiar cemetery brick walls and enormous trees looking much like the ones still there behind it.

I read that the wooden house sold for $30 and the bricks for $76 in 1875 and the author had no clue if it had been rebuilt somewhere else.

Now it's just a lot covered in wildflowers a mere mile from the still-elegant Marshall house.

Next time someone asks me why I live where I do, I'm just going to take them on my 1790 house tour and let them see for themselves.

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