Monday Escape: Two from Patrick Henry’s Red Hill in Brookneal, VA

This is a bit late (having painted the guestroom yesterday, this morning was reserved for getting all of the furniture I’m capable of moving back into the room), but surely we’ve all already have enough of a dose of a Monday—during a holiday week, no less—to need a break, yes?

Stairway inside Red Hill. Copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved.

Inside Patrick Henry’s Red Hill, Virginia, USA

Ahh, I love Virginia. From my original caption to the photo:

The entryway to Patrick Henry’s Red Hill home. It’s all so simple, yet so lovely! I really liked this house. Isn’t that chair-railing going up the stairs just perfect? Imagine how plain this would look without it.

Red Hill burned to the ground in February, 1919. In the words of a contemporary newspaper,

“In the destruction last week of “Red Hill,” the home of Patrick Henry, one more of the old Colonial homesteads around which clusters so much tradition of all that was high and noble in the early history of the State has fallen prey to the ravages of time. Fire, with licking tongue and searing flame, has taken its toll. Now only charred timbers and ruin mark the spot where once stood the beautiful home restored by the loving hands of Mrs. Matthew Bland Harrison, great-granddaughter of Patrick Henry.”

Nothing could be saved but a few pieces of furniture and some clothing.

There was a push to obtain federal funding to restore Red Hill; had this been successful, I would not be surprised to read that Henry himself rose from his grave to protest such a use of the people’s funds. Thankfully, a Eugene B. Casey of Maryland donated $50,000 to the cause, an outflow of his admiration for Henry.

You may learn more about the home via the Red Hill website. After his many years of service to the nation, Henry retired to Red Hill in 1794, where he lived out the remainder of his years on the farm, training new attorneys (no doubt a different breed than we have today), and of course enjoying time with his children (he had 17) and grandchildren. An enormous, ancient Osage orange tree grows just off the front of the modest but very pretty home; Henry often sat beneath its branches playing his fiddle or reading. Shrouded in legend and mystery, no one is really sure how old the tree is; it may be 340 years old or 300 (in which case Henry did not play his fiddle for the children beneath it, but as I rather like that picture, I’m sticking with it ’til proven wrong).

Another of my photos of Henry’s last home:

Patrick Henry's Red Hill. Copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved.

Patrick Henry’s Red Hill plantation.

Built by Richard Marot Booker in the 1770s, Red Hill became the home of famed American and former Virginia governor Patrick Henry in 1794. The home was considered to be the best-situated in all of Virginia, excepting Washington’s Mount Vernon. It seems, however, that Red Hill was as beloved by Henry as Mount Vernon was by Henry’s friend Washington. Considered “one of the garden spots of the world” by Henry and his contemporaries, it is still recognized as one of Virginia’s most lovely plantations, with some of the best views and situations.

Despite its small size, between nine and eleven family members lived here while Henry was alive.

Later, his son added on to the home, until it had the appearance you see here. Of course, it burned to the ground in early 1919, not to be rebuilt until a private donation in the 1950s.

We really did enjoy our visit to Red Hill. Beautiful, quiet, surrounded by nature…It is quite a change from the more visited places like Mount Vernon and Monticello (though all of these homes should be visited if you have the opportunity!). Red Hill is still in “the country”, with a winery nearby and working farms all around.

It’s also inexpensive; only $6 for adults, and well worth the admission. Tours are self-guided, thanks to some very informative papers you’ll be given at the visitor’s center (where, more likely than not, some sweet almost-elderly Southern lady will chat your ear off about Patrick Henry, Red Hill, local eateries and wineries, and so forth). The visitor’s center has a small but fine museum with Henry artifacts, letters from Henry’s hand, his fiddle (*squeeeee!*), and a fantastically huge painting of Henry’s “If this be treason, make the most of it!” 1765 speech against the Stamp Act by Peter Rothermel (third one down here). It’s quite an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, and of course your six bucks (and profits from any purchases made at the gift shop, where, yes, we found some goodies) go to a great cause. More than that, though, it is quite a thrill to spend time at the place beloved by one of America’s best orators and finest patriots.

Again, I truly loved my visit to Red Hill—it is such a peaceful, serene place, one perfectly situated for reflection. No doubt that is, in part, what led Henry to it. I think next time we visit, we will perhaps bring along a picnic lunch (after making sure it is all right to do so!) so there’s an excuse for spending more time here.

Finally, just because I can—here is Henry’s most famous speech, given at St. John’s Church to the Second Virginia Revolutionary Convention on March 23, 1775. Many have never read it in its entirety, and that is a tremendous shame. Brief and to the point, the speech is altogether wonderfully passionate—and I can’t say I disagree with a single word of it.

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Independence for ever!


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