A Very Rich Day
Today was a very rich day. For the next two weeks I will be attending continuing education courses at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Today was the travel day. It is an eight hour drive from White Plains to Richmond, plus traffic, so I decided to break it up and make the most of it.
I made my first stop just outside of Baltimore in Owings Mills, Maryland. I visited the St. Thomas Church, Garrison Woods. The church is on the National Historic Registry. It was founded in 1742 as a “chapel of ease” to serve the “foresters” living in “the woods.” My seventh great grandfather, Jonathan Plowman Jr. was a subscriber to help pay for the building of this church. His son, my sixth great-grandfather, Edward Plowman, was baptized here.
The visit was extra exciting. When I arrived, I walked around the cemetery a little bit, and took a few photos of the church, and then put my hands to the original door to go inside. As soon as I opened the door, which was unlocked(!), alarms went off and a loud, authoritative, recorded voice announced “YOU ARE TRESPASSING ON PRIVATE PROPERTY. YOU ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO BE HERE. LEAVE AT ONCE! Klaxons and bells and whistles of all kinds went off in random patterns. I shut the door. Still, the alarms. I walked around the grounds a little bit and then went over to the church office to let them know the alarm was still ringing. (That’s the door, right behind me – the original entrance to the chapel).
I found the office administrator at lunch, and after calling the alarm company to shut off the sirens, we had a nice conversation about the history of the church. She even gave me hardbound volumes one and two of the official church history, which includes references to my family. I totally enjoyed reading books like this. She also made me copies of the baptismal registry for Edward Plowman and his siblings. With the alarms now turned off, I was able to explore the original sanctuary within the sanctuary, imported brick floor (from England) and all.
Back in the car, it was a quick trip over to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. There I parked at the Appalachian Trail Visitor Center and was just getting ready to hike when dark clouds suddenly filled the sky. I decided to wait out the rain. I had my lunch in the car, and then hit the trail. I used this hike to break in my brand new Vasque boots while climbing Loudoun Heights. I will walk in three different states today.
First step – crossing the Shenandoah River. Notice the rafters after the storm. That’s my mountain on the other side.
Next step – follow the trail to the top. Notice the sun coming out – the rain didn’t cool off the day at all, only made the rocks slippery.
Then pause to enjoy having my left foot in West Virginia and my right foot in Virginia. See my new boots!
Then reach the summit and enjoy the views. This was taken from the bluff above the Potomac looking down upon Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the Shenandoah (coming in from the left). See how far I’ve come?
After Antietam, recovering Union troops used these heights as a campground.
To make a loop, I had to improvise a bit, which I do not recommend. I made it back down to the highway, and walked across the Potomac on the Potomac Bridge to cross into Maryland, my third state for the day.
Descending from US304 brought me to the old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath, which coincides with the AT in Maryland. I walked along the river for a few miles and back toward Harpers Ferry, returning again to West Virginia over the footbridge (which you can also see above from the view on the cliffs). All in all, another nine miles on the AT and side trails.
Back in West Virginia I found myself suddenly in front of John Brown’s Fort, the arsenal where Brown attempted to lead an slave insurrection in 1859. While deploring violence, I pondered how the right to bear arms was certainly never intended to apply to slaves, who may have been the chief reason white folks wanted arms. That is Loudoun Heights (which I had climbed two hours earlier) rising behind the fort. A full circle.
Back in the car again, I decided to take the “blue highways” approach to getting to Richmond, avoiding the major highways as much as possible. Crossing into Virginia I found myself on the “Lord Fairfax Highway.” Another of my family lines has ties back to Fairfax. By chance, I came upon the “old Stonechapel” where Fairfax worshipped.
It was just another three hours to Richmond, and I’ve arrived here safely. I’m staying is an airbnb right next to Maymont Park and a block from the James River. Class begins at 8:00 tomorrow morning. Goodnight.