James Town on the Appomattox
The original site of James Town on the Appomattox is located on Route 619 (Lockett Road) in Prince Edward County. The foundation of the original meeting house, which was also used as a church, still remains. The cemetery where many of the original inhabitants are buried, can be easily found. Some graves have engraved headstones, while others simply have a rock at the head of the grave, and sometimes one at the foot. Of these rock markers, some are also engraved. While the markings are fading with time, photos have been taken in an attempt to preserve the data that does still remain. The search continues for those living today who may know of their ancestors buried at James Town on the Appomattox.
Foundation views of original meeting house at James Town on the Appomattox
These events are all part of the Prince Edward County's participation in the 400th Anniversary of the founding of our country. This community once embraced the ancestors of nearly all of the current members of two Churches and they are still active in Rice, Virginia: Jamestown Presbyterian Church and High Bridge Union Baptist Church. The Presbyterian Church is predominantly White and High Bridge is predominantly Black.
The events have been designed by the two communities throughout 2007:
November 2006 was the kickoff event and was held at Jamestown Presbyterian Church. It was the first time these two churches had held a joint service.
April 2007 was the second event. Reverend Ben Mathes from Rivers of The World (ROW) was the guest speaker and spoke to the dual congregations about his ministries throughout the third world.
In June of 2007, on a warm summer Sunday both communities poured into tiny Jamestown Presbyterian Church. After services were over, the afternoon program consisted of reenactments by members of the Churches of the lives of some of the key members of the original James Town Community.
We met Sarah Blanton Vaughn, who was the mistress of Pleasant Shade Plantation when Robert Russa Moton's parents came to live there.
She was fondly known as Miss Sally.
Miss Sally was responsible for allowing young Moton to learn how to read and write, thus firmly placing his feet on the path he was destined to follow.
Miss Sally spoke about her life as the plantation mistress after the Civil War, trying to raise a large family on a tobacco farm without the help of slaves. She spoke of hardships and loving times in God's Graces.
Emily Brown Moton then spoke to the crowd in the church, talking about what it was like to be a former slave, newly married and with a small child to raise. She spoke eloquently of her need to teach her son what little she knew of reading and writing. How she feared losing their home and their livelihood should the mistress of the plantation find out about the secret lessons going on many nights in her small room.
Then, Robert Russa Moton came to the podium to talk about how life was as a child born after the Civil War. He spoke proudly of his father's background. He gave us insight into his first experiences with racism; how one particular event spurred him on to become an educated man. Because of his dedication to his education, he went to work for 25 years at Hampton University which prepared him to take over the Tuskegee Institute upon the death of Dr. Booker Washington; and where he acquired the first airplane after World War I which allowed the students to learn how to fly.
Finally, we met Captain John Morrissette, formerly of the Confererate Army, wounded at Gettysburg and returned home to try to find out how to live the rest of his life with only one eye and one good leg. Despite his injuries, Captain Morrissette was able to fight until the end of the war.
As Capt. Morrisette's family was originally from Prince Edward County, being related to the Lockett's, he returned there after the War where he met and married Pattie Beatty, who was a college educated woman. During those days, married women were not allowed to work, especially as teachers. So, when the community decided, after the war, to open a free black school, Capt. Morrissette was asked to be a teacher there. His wife helped him to write a curriculum and he became one of Robert Russa Moton's teachers.
Captain Morrissette spoke of teaching Robert Moton; how he saw in young Moton, a fire and a need to learn more. He lived to see Mr. Moton become the educational leader he was destined to be.
September 2007's event was held at High Bridge Baptist Church. Like the June event, it was scheduled to last most of a Sunday. There was full attendance as both churches, now quite familiar with coming together as one community talked openly of how they would continue to be one community after these scheduled events ended.
On Sunday, November 11, 2007; the last event of the season, took place at the original James Town settlement on the foundation of the meeting house where both of these communities have their beginnings. A lot of work went into restoring the grounds of the meeting house and the cemetery, where more than 60 gravesites had been identified and were now adorned with a Christian and an American flag.
Precisely at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, in honor of Armistice Day ending World War I, the bagpipes were silenced as a bell tolled 11 times. The Prince Edward County High School Junior ROTC presented the colors to open the ceremony and all joined in for The National Anthem.
This was an outdoor event and was well attended by both congregations. At the end of the service, each minister handed to the other minister, a signed copy of A Jamestown-High Bridge Covenant of Mutual Purpose, to which each congregation has put their name. From here forward, these two communities are again, one.