Despite the year’s unexpected challenges, the Middlesex County Museum and Historical Society, Inc. was able to set a course to navigate the new reality. The Museum was open Thursday through Saturday starting the end of May and continuing through Labor Day Weekend with Covid-19 restrictions in place. Since Labor Day, we have been open Wednesdays and Sundays. In addition, we have been responding to phone, email, and website inquiries by opening at special times to accommodate visitors and local citizens as requested. Covid-19 has not stifled the curiosity of people to further explore the connections they are making between their personal or family history and our county’s history. We are finding an increase in inquiries related to people’s ancestry as they indicate the desire to explore our county graveyards, historic homes, churches, and documents that provide them with missing clues as to their ancestors. Middlesex County has a long, rich, and diverse history that people want to learn more about.
In 2021 we increased the depth and breadth of our website (https://middlesexmuseum.com/) by creating categories where people can go for information related to our programs, citizens, communities, historical publications, and local history projects, like the newly formed Saluda Historic District. We also have added material that highlights some of the many objects in our collection. In addition, we increased our contributions to the Museums of Middlesex (MOM) website (https://museumsofmiddlesex.com/). MOM is a collaboration among four Middlesex County institutions, the Urbanna Museum, the Deltaville Maritime Museum, the Colonial Seaport Foundation, and the Middlesex County Museum and Historical Society.
We initiated virtual programming in 2020, and we will continue to offer virtual programming to be able to continue with our practice of providing informative and provocative speakers on varied topics of interest to the public. The Museum joined as an endorsing organization for a virtual February 21 Black History Month program entitled “Education Foremost: The History and Legacy of the Rappahannock Industrial Academy.” In March, a virtual lecture was provided by Dr. David Brown and Thane Harpole from the Fairfield Foundation about the archaeological digs that they have been conducted in Urbanna. On May 16,a virtual program about Tangier Islanders in Urbanna and “The Great Storm of 1933” was presented and well received by more than100 participants. In September, we presented a virtual lecture by Middlesex native and Middlesex High School alumnus Dr. Carey H. Latimore IV. An associate professor at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Latimore spoke about the experiences of black Richmonders in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Tangier Islanders and Dr. Carey Latimore IV programs may be viewed on our website (middlesexmuseum.com.)
Locust Grove Farm was the site of a well-attended farm and historic house tour in October of this year. Dating back to 1642, the land has been continuously farmed since that period; the current home was built around 1736.
This year we held an Antique Car Show with the support of Memory Lane Car Club that despite rain drew interested participants and visitors alike.
In November, the Scott family of Historic Rosegill graciously allowed us and The Friends of Urbanna to host a barbecue in their barn undergoing preservation.
2021 Preservation Award
Since 2016, the Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society Preservation Award has been given annually to recognize individuals or entities who have made a significant contribution to the public understanding of Middlesex County history. The 2021 Preservation Award was given to a longtime museum volunteer for the Urbanna Museum Dr. Paul Malone. Paul has been a dedicated volunteer to the Town of Urbanna and “has focused his talents on speaking to the significance of the John Mitchell Map that was purchased by the town for its 300th anniversary in 1980. According to author Larry Chowning, “His research on the history of the John Mitchell map has added greatly to the exposure and understanding of what the map means to Urbanna and has meant to the United States.” Dr. Malone’s dedication to the telling and researching of local history has added immeasurably to our community.
Saluda Historic District
The Museum led the successful effort to have Saluda designated as a Virginia Historic Landmark and listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. This designation has been noted with signage at the entrance to Saluda and efforts are underway to further educate the public about Saluda’s rich history. The effort to recognize Saluda as a Historic District was graciously funded by the Middlesex County board of supervisors and the signage was provided by MOM. In order to offer information about our local activities and businesses more regularly, we have partnered with MOM to open the historic clerk’s office as an information center. The museum visitor center will continue to be used for displays, exhibitions and special programming.
African-American Businesses in Middlesex County
The Museum has formed an Ad Hoc Committee on African-American Businesses in Middlesex County. The committee, whose mission is to document the long history of African-American entrepreneurship in Middlesex County, is composed of board members and other persons from the community. Relevant photographs, documents, and artifacts are being collected with the goal of enhancing the Museum’s holdings on this topic and mounting an exhibition in the not-too-distant future. In connection with this project, oral histories have been recorded from several individuals with additional interviews planned.
The museum continues to work closely with members of the Middle Peninsula Detachment #1317 Marine Corps to create a park setting at the museum to honor Lt. General “Chesty” Puller. Currently, we are offering memorial bricks that can be purchased from our website in memory of or to honor someone you love or admire. The current plan is to create a small wall for the display of the bricks.
African-American Heritage Fund
An African-American Heritage Fund was established through a generous donation from Mary Wakefield Buxton for acknowledgment and appreciation of the many contributions made by African Americans in Middlesex County. A two-fold approach is being considered for the utilization of this restricted fund. This will involve the potential use of a portion of the money for the funding of an exhibition on African-American businesses. The second consideration is the use of the fund to help defray the costs of historical markers that recognize the contributions of African Americans to Middlesex County. An application for a historical highway marker for Antioch Baptist Church has been filed with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Antioch is located in the Saluda Historic District and is believed to be the oldest African-American church in Middlesex County. This application is expected to be acted upon by the Board of Historic Resources later this year.
Former museum executive director Holly Horton has been engaged to work with the museum in the coming year. Through research and creative design, she will help to guide us in the process of creating new exhibitions and refreshing older exhibitions in our museum and visitor center. Holly will also develop exhibition-related programming and will explore potential grants for the museum.
We look forward to a very productive 2022 but we can only do so with your support. We thank you for being a current, past, or future supporter.