Cumberland History: How does furniture help tell the McRae story?

Editor’s note: We’re back with the Cumberland history column, written by Cumberland Historical Society member Barbara Gamage. We start this month by sharing about pieces you can find at the museum. 

On display at the Cumberland museum is some furniture from the home of the McRaes when they lived here in Cumberland. Rev. Christopher McRae, born and educated in Scotland, came to Cumberland about 1772. An Episcopal minister, he was Rector of Littleton Parish from 1772 to 1787 and was active in Tar Wallet Episcopal Church. He was a staunch defender of the Church of England, which caused him to be whipped at “Parson Pines” and trampled over by patriot soldiers. He never became an American citizen, but his feelings for his new government mellowed in his old age. 

The son of Christopher McRae, Alan McRae, represented Chesterfield County in the House of Delegates. Alan’s son, John Harris McRae, was born and reared in Richmond. After living in various states, he came to Cumberland in 1866 and bought Locust Level farm, a plantation of about 1,000 acres. He established and ran the largest store in the county. In the corner of the yard was the McRae’s post office, which was run by his daughter Miss Zerelda McRae. At the museum are two love-seats and four matching chairs that came from Locust Level and were donated to the museum by Elizabeth McRae Dudley. These are on display along with two matching footstools that evidently went with the loveseats.

Speaking of items in the museum, Cumberland High School graduate Kyle Atwater has done some wonderful drawings of historic places in Cumberland County and we have some on display. Kyle has done the old Cumberland High School Building, the Log Cabin, Cumberland Restaurant and Pine Grove School along with many others. 

Paying tribute on Patriot Day

Also in today’s column, we look back on the Cumberland County 9/11 remembrance service, held back in September. The 9/11 program began at 9:30 a.m. and Patriot Day began at noon until 4 p.m. The Historical Society had to close early as a storm was on the way but the day was enjoyed by many. The Cumberland County Museum was open to visitors and members were there to answer questions.

Flash forward a month and our October meeting was a very interesting program on some relics from Cumberland County which Paul Johnston had found with his metal detectors. At the end of the program, members were able to visit the old home across the street from the museum (Penny Baber’s Office) which is owned by the county. Our next meeting will be in December but feel free to call and come by the museum when it is open.

More about Cumberland history 

The Cumberland Historical Society does not meet during the summer months but started back in October for regular meetings. Future meetings will be held in December 2023, then February, April and June of 2024. We try to keep the museum open during the afternoons but to be sure someone is there, please call 804-492-3348 before coming.