I am a history nut! That is, American history. My library is full of biographies of presidents, secretaries of state, senators – the players in our country’s political life. As I read of our country’s past, it is interesting to note that much of our current political events are really not new. Attempts to destroy your opponent by rumors of bad conduct (both true and false) began with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and have continued throughout our history.
While many are frustrated with the lack of action from Congress, that too is nothing new. The writer of Ecclesiastes was not referring to American politics, but his commentary on life certainly is true with our political history.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Loving history as I do, I was so excited when I was able to live in the Henderson House in 1969 for several months. My husband and I were married in March of that year shortly after his return from 13 months in Vietnam with the United States Marine Corp.
Me and my Marine!
After our wedding, we packed our wedding presents and our clothes into our 1966 Chevelle and headed for Quantico, Virginia where my husband would be stationed for the rest of his enlistment term.
The base at Quantico is where the Marines train their officer candidates and the FBI also does training exercises on the base.
Just young crazy kids in love, we headed out with no idea of where we would stay when we arrived. After living in a small efficiency apartment for a few weeks we heard that the owners of the Henderson House had an apartment for rent in the town of Dumfries, just outside the base. At the time we had no idea of the history of this house, we just needed a nice place to live.
The house had a huge hallway running completely down the center of the house. On the front of the house it opened onto a beautiful large porch with comfortable chairs and a swing. In the back it opened onto a large well landscaped back yard. One side of the hallway had originally been the large formal parlor with a more informal music room on the other side. The current owners lived in the rooms on one side of the hallway and rented the other side to us.
How excited I was as I talked to the owners and found that this house had been built by the father of Archibald Henderson the fifth Commandant of the Marine Corps. Alexander Henderson built this home in the late 18th century near the Old Post Road (King’s Highway).
During the American Revoluntary War the Hendersons entertained many of the leaders of the revolution. Both the Confederate and Union armies used the house as a hospital during the Civil War depending on which army occupied the area. The owner showed us a hole in the side of where a cannonball had struck the house during the Civil War. It had remained lodged in the west wall for about 100 years until a souvenir hunter stole in the 1960’s.
My imagination ran wild as I would sit on that front porch and imagine the wounded solders that had stayed in the same rooms I was now staying in. I wonder if George Washsington or John Adams had sat on this same front porch sipping a glass of wine while discussing the fight for independence from England.
I was just a young bride then and while I loved the idea of living in such a historic place, I did not fully appreciate the history of that entire area. Learning much later that the town of Dumfries received its charter on May 11, 1749 and was the oldest continuously chartered town in Virginia, I wish I had done more exploring of the area. Dumfries was the second leading port in Colonial America receiving tobacco from the upland, it rivaled New York, Philadelphia and Boston. But long before my arrival in 1969 the town had lost its importance. The Revolutionary War, erosion and siltation, and the shift in the main shipping commodity (from tobacco to wheat and sugar) led to its demise as a major port and today it is just a small town of about 5,000 people.
Guess it is just getting old myself, but when I reflect on how this once prosperous and important port became just a small town that most would drive through without taking a second look, I realize how quickly life comes and goes. How quickly what is important today may become just a memory or a point in history. How much we should enjoy this moment before it is gone!
Don’t miss today by regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow.