There Is So Much More History

Published 4:51 pm Thursday, August 25, 2011

Editor, The Herald:

Virginia has been called Virginia for about 400 years. Lots of things happen in 400 years. The war that occurred about 150 years ago lasted four years and it was definitely very important. But in recent times we seem to believe that a very large part of Virginia history is somehow tied up with this very small part of these 400 years…only about one percent to put a number on it! It seems to me we need to study Virginia history a little more “by the numbers” and not according to the numbers of tourists that we can attract.

We are just about to complete a really nice new state park called High Bridge Trail State Park. The Civil War buffs are really excited. However, in the interests of expanding my horizons a bit, I decided to look for the very first owner(s) of the land near High Bridge. I consulted the Library of Virginia and was able to acquire a copy of a Royal land grant issued in 1733 to William Randolph for 3800 acres of land in Cumberland and Prince Edward (Goochland, Prince George and Brunswick back then!). (REF: Land Office Patents No. 15, 1732-1735 (v.1&2 p.1-522) p. 149-150 ) My reading of this grant (Note: I'm not a professional historian!) implies that this particular plot of land completely surrounded and included the current location of High Bridge. “Farmville”, of course, did not exist until 1798.

I am writing this letter because I am puzzled to know why this history is being largely ignored. As an example, consider that A “Newcomers Guide to Farmville” just arrived in my mailbox and it has a small “history” of the town but it has nothing about Mr. Randolph's Grant. The battles at High Bridge are mentioned, of course, but the first owner of all the land around High Bridge isn't.

I am particularly curious to know why I wasn't taught in Cumberland schools who was the first English (non-native) owner of this large piece of Cumberland. After all, many of us actually live on small parts of it. Wouldn't it be a good idea to teach our children why the King gave Mr. Randolph this large section of choice bottomland along the Appomattox river? Also, we might like to understand the other large Randolph family holdings further upriver.

Perhaps more importantly, there is almost no discussion about another Randolph who was a Governor of Virginia just after the Revolution and lived five miles downriver in Cumberland on part of this same land. See Wikipedia “Beverley Randolph”.

And that's right, I don't remember being taught anything about a Virginia Governor having a home in Cumberland called Green Creek Plantation. If today's trees were cut, the presumed site of his home might be visible from my house! And no, there isn't a historical marker so we're not really sure where the house was actually located.

It's been a long time since I was in school and, of course, things like textbooks will have changed. Maybe some of these things are included now but somehow I doubt it. Furthermore, I don't mean to criticize my teachers, this is a statewide shortcoming. I do, however, believe, that we should consider upgrading our local history lessons a bit and start by studying much more of the 99 percent of our history that we are now minimizing. I have heard that on a visit to Richmond, comedian Robin Williams said we seemed to have a lot of “second place trophies” along Monument Avenue. I am told that everyone laughed, but he was right and we are still paying way too much attention to this very small part of our history. We have been leading this country literally and philosophically for most of these last four hundred years and we should be teaching our children the how and why of all of our history.

Woodfin V. Ligon (PhD retired)