Sir George Yeardley, one of the early governors of Virginia, established Flowerdew Hundred plantation in 1617 and named it after Temperance Flowerdew, his wife.
Before Sir George turned the land into a plantation, it was occupied and owned by local Virginia Indians. Flowerdew plantation was also where General Ulysses S. Grant’s crossed the Virginia James River during the Civil War in 1864.
When Harrison had purchased the plantation in 1967, he restored the schoolhouse that dates back to the 1850s. Until 2007, the property was a museum that featured archaeological artifacts and other objects that were found and excavated at the site. Additionally, Harrison facilitated constructing a replica of the very first known early English settlement windmill.
Flowerdew Hundred, a plantation of some 1,400 acres, is situated along Virginia’s James River in Prince George County and the property has operated as a historic site and museum, is not open to the public anymore.
Harrison, a philanthropist, lawyer, and investment banker, had acquired Flowerdew Hundred in the year 1967 after which he started to convert the property into a historically interesting tourist attraction and museum. As said before, this beautiful was operating until 2007.
On August 1, 1975, Flowerdew Hundred was listed in the National US Register of American Historic Places and on May 20, 1975, the property was listed on the state of Virginia’s Landmarks Register. Though the property is not open any longer, you can find a historic marker some 4 miles south of Flowerdew and the Library of the University of Virginia displays numerous artifacts that were recovered during archaeological research and excavations.
Archaeological excavations done at Flowerdew Hundred over the last four decades have uncovered more than 200,000 artifacts. Many of these artifacts have been the focus of museum exhibits both at Flowerdew Hundred and the Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Flowerdew Hundred Museum collections include numerous unique artifacts. For example, the Maurice Commemorative Medallion is one of only four known examples of medallions presented by Maurice, Prince of Orange in the Netherlands, to his soldiers. In 1601 George Yeardley, a future owner of Flowerdew Hundred, fought under Maurice against the Spanish. Two medallions are currently in the British Museum. A brass medallion similar to the one found during archaeological excavations at the Flowerdew Hundred site was found at Burr’s Hill, Rhode Island in an American Indian burial.
A searchable and browseable database of selected artifacts has been designed to make the collection more accessible to the public. The artifacts in this database, some of which are rare examples, span the long habitation period at the Flowerdew Hundred site. Although the core of this database currently contains 300 artifacts, the intention is to update the database information periodically with additional artifacts from the collection.
The Flowerdew Hundred Museum was housed in an original 1850 schoolhouse. Extensive exhibits highlighted various aspects of the plantation’s history and over 25 years of archaeological exploration. Museum exhibits showcased artifacts from Native American, Colonial, Antebellum, and Civil War sites; while “hands-on” displays demonstrated diverse subjects, such as methods of grinding food and the natural history of Flowerdew Hundred.
Visitors to the museum could also tour a replicated 1820 detached kitchen, with exhibits that explore domestic slave life. Visitors could conclude their tour with a guided interpretive drive of more than four miles of riverfront, taking you past historic and former archaeological sites, the site of Grant’s Crossing, and Flowerdew’s unique commemorative windmill.
The pontoon bridge at “Grant’s Crossing” facilitated the movement of thousands of Union soldiers across the James River at a critical point in the Civil War. Occurring after the battle of Cold Harbor and before the Seige of Petersburg, the crossing was overshadowed and quickly slipped between the cracks of history. One hundred and twenty-two years later, the bridge’s original location was “rediscovered” by Flowerdew Hundred archaeologists.
Actually, the construction site was never lost; the commanding officer had submitted a report with a map showing the location of the bridge anchorage. In addition, an Alexander Gardner photograph, dated June 1864, had captured the location along the riverbank. In the spring of 1986, archaeologist Taft Kiser took the Gardner photograph to the low, swampy area indicated by General Weitzel. He found a cypress tree quite similar to the one dominating the June 1864 photograph.
To verify the site, Eugene (Gene) Prince, Lowie Museum of Anthropology Staff photographer and former Flowerdew Hundred Research Associate, developed a technique he called “the Method.” It involved placing a copy (slide) of the original 19th-century photograph into a 35 mm camera (altered to accept the slide). By looking through the lens of the camera, Prince could superimpose the image onto the modern river landscape. He was able to match the cypress tree and locate the original bridge landing.
Flowerdew Hundred Windmill
The post windmill at Flowerdew Hundred, built to commemorate the original mill, stands on a ridge overlooking the James River. Constructed by the English millwright, Derek Ogden, it is representative of a type once common in the English Midlands and incorporates features illustrating the development of windmill technology through the eighteenth century. The name “post mill” is derived from the fact that the body and sails were mounted on top of a huge wooden post enabling the sails to be turned into the eye of the wind so that it could operate safely and efficiently.
The Flowerdew Hundred Windmill was completed in 1978. It is an outstanding example of the art and work of an almost extinct craft, that of the traditional millwright. The mill stands today because of the generosity and interest of Mr. and Mrs. David A. Harrison, III.
Flowerdew Hundred Detached Kitchen
Built by John Vaughan Willcox in 1820, the detached kitchen/laundry survived into the early 1940’s1980’s, the structure was replicated in 1988 and is based on braced frame construction typical of the nineteenth century.
The original structure saw much adaptive use. After the Civil War, the kitchen/laundry served as a temporary residence for freed African-Americans. By the 1930s, the building was being used as a farm equipment storage shed with an attached blacksmith shop.