About a week ago I received an email that made me feel like Christmas came early. We had just returned home after taking the girls to see Handel’s The Messiah which was not as ill received by the girls as I had anticipated. I mean, they did spend the majority of it doodling on pieces of paper but I like to think they soaked in a little culture just by being there.
Anyway, back to the story! After the concert, Marcus and I were lying in bed, doing what any married couple would do on a wild Friday night: We looked at our respective phones. I had no less than one million emails all touting Christmas sales and I systematically went through, deleting them. Or, at least I think I deleted them but sometimes I think I must have sausage links for fingers and I end up responding to an email from Nordstrom Rack who doesn’t want me to miss out on their Frye boot sale. (Hint to Nordstrom Rack: Even on sale I can’t afford Frye boots)
Amid all of the junk one email stood out. It was only a few sentences long but it was generated through this blog and it read, “Our Grandmother, America Virginia Ferneyhough Street was born in this house in 1882. My brother has a lot of information about the property and would love a chance to talk with you.” I reread it a few times and then, as the distinctiveness of the email set-in I read it to Marcus and asked if he thought it was real. His take was that a name like “America Virginia Ferneyhough Street” would be tough to make-up and I couldn’t help but agree with that logic. I responded almost immediately, excited by the prospect of the descendants of the Ferneyhough family finding me.
After that I exchanged emails with the granddaughter of America Virginia and eventually phone numbers and even attempted a meet-up. Although we never did get to meet face-to-face I was able to speak with the aforementioned brother who proceeded to tell me what he knew about the house and said that he would send a packet of information with what he had collected over the years to include pictures which I was (and am) most excited to see.
A few of the more interesting tidbits are as follows:
America Virginia was born in the house in 1882 which does not line up with all of the other information that states the house was built in 1890. To be able to put a legitimate date to when the house was built is exciting not to mention important in our effort to have it recognized by the Virginia Landmarks Registry and the National Historic Registry.
Somewhere, to the right of the front door, engraved in cement are the dates the original house burnt down and the “new” house was built. I did a cursory search a few days ago and did not see anything right away. The existing cement that is exposed to the elements is in bad shape and a lot of it has crumbled away. It could have been there at some time but isn’t anymore. OR, there are currently cinder blocks underneath the front porch and maybe, just maybe, it is behind those cinder blocks that the dates are engraved.
The Ferneyhoughs were close friends with Mary Washington given that their land was across the Rappahannock River from each other. Therefore, it was no coincidence that John Ferneyhough was witness to the signing of her will. Mary Washington also admired a chair that John Ferneyhough had and which he gifted her. This is the same chair that sits in the Mary Washington House.
The other piece of information I found to be interesting was that the original house was not destroyed during the Civil War but rather burned down quite a few years after the end of the war. Finding the inscription near the front door would be such a coup!
Finally, because all five of you that read this blog might be wondering, the reason America Virginia’s granddaughter discovered my blog was because she was trying to show a friend Sligo’s listing on Zillow. It turns out the family had been keeping up with the state of the house and she wanted to share it with a friend. However, instead of finding the Zillow listing she found my blog and the rest is history! Sorry not sorry…it had to be said.