Lecture on Williamsburg delivered by Lilla C. Wheeler to the Olean Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1907

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Lecture on Williamsburg delivered by Lilla C. Wheeler to the Olean Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1907

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Lecture notes of Miss Lilla C. Wheeler of Portville, New York for a presentation presumably delivered to the Olean, New York Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1907. Wheeler describes the current depressed state of Williamsburg, Virginia, efforts to restore Bruton Parish Church, the College of William and Mary and the towns 18th-century past. While in Williamsburg, Wheeler met the Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin who served as guide during her visit.

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Williamsburg, Va.

One bright, cold February day
In a dilapidated old omni-
bus, bus which might well
have come down from the
days of Thomas Jefferson,
and from its simplicity
have given pleasure to him,
we made our entry into
old Williamsburg, the
old Capitol of the Old
Dominion, just 12 days
ago
. Perhaps some of
you have visited this
old town, the oldest
incorporated city in
the United States. If not,
the next time you go to
Old Point Comfort, as I
hope you will all do,
do not fail to make the
little trip of one hour by

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rail to Williamsburg for
a day there, returning at
6 o'clock to Old Point, in
Fortress Monroe. Before
going down to Virginia
my ideas of Williamsburg
were vague. I knew of course
that it was the site of
William & Mary College and
that all of the histories
of colonial Virginia
are full of mentions of
this old town, to which
the seat of government
was removed when
Jamestown was found
too malarial. But how
much was to be seen there
now I had little idea.

Behold us then, in the
ancient omnibus
rattling up the streets of
the little town of 3000

Page 3

2)

inhabitants. For a few mo-
ments, seeing a great old
square stone house, from pictures I recognized it as
the old Wythe House, home
of the eminent jurist
Edmund George Wythe, and Wash-
inton's Headquarters.
It faces the green space
known as Palace Green,
and adjoins the church-
yard of old Buton
Church, one of the most inter-
esting old churches in
America, I [illegible] believe.

Making our way to the
inn and sounding the
great old brass knocker
we entered, to find this
little village inn stuffed
with beautiful old mahog
any furniture, old portraits,
silver, china, and glass, all
heirlooms.

Making inquiries, we

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found the college to be only
half a mile distant, and
we walked there at once.
The town was laid out
with one very broad
street, lined with fine
trees, we
one mile long,
called Duke of Gloucester
Street. At one end stood
the college, at the other
the ancient House of
Burgesses, facing each
other. The latter is gone,
but its site is easily
traced in its stone foun-
dation, and a boulder
and tablet mark the place.
The broad street is shaded
with fine old trees, elms,
lindens and many queer,
knotted, old mulberry
trees such as grow all
in the South of Italy.

Page 5

3)

The college founded chartered by
W. & M. in 1693 stands on a little
slope, well shaded by fine
old trees. An old marble
statue of one of the old
colonial governors
standing in front. The
building has been 3 times
burnt, but still the old
walls remain and it has
been rebuilt on the old
plan. A few proffesors
houses & one new building
are grouped around, but
we only entered the one
main building. Bulit
of red brick, the great old
door admits one to
the bare hall, leading
straight through the
building, in true Virginia
style. We found the
library, where one would
like to browse for hours.

Page 6

Of course we knew that
Thomas Jefferson was a
student here but we did
not know that President
Monroe, John Tyler, Chief
Justice John Marshall
and "12 Cabinet Officers
19 members of the Conti-
nental Congress, among them Peyton
Randolph its first President,
4 Justices of the Supreme
Court of the U.S. - together
with a long list of Senators
governors and military
and naval officers, and
five signers of the Dec-
of Independence were also students.

The library is hung round with portraits
of the Page family, there
is one lovely old portrait
of the daughter of President
Tyler. She is now living
in the Louise House, Washington

We went also to the

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4)

chapel, where is a portrait
of [illegible] Dr. James Blair
for 50 years first Pres't
of the college - Coming to
Va. as a missionary in
1685, he used great
endeavours, both in England
& America and raised
the money to build the
college - and he was
for over 40(?) years past
rector of old Bruton
church. The chapel is most
pathetic in its bare, cold
dreariness - The old patched faded carpet on the platform
and old, painted benches -
A fine old candelabra chandelier
hung from the ceiling -
Not one of your school
buildings here but is
more luxurious - There
are 250 students now
in attendance - When one
reflects upon what

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Harvard College has
become - and all our
old colleges at the North
the comparison is
sad. Williamsburg has
suffered! We passed
camp earthworks,
relics of the civil war,
before & battle of Wmsburg,
before reaching the town.
Wounded of both armies in the church.

Leaving the colllege
we met the courteous
and delightful rector
of Bruton Church. Rev.
W.A.R. Goodwin, who
was thereafter our
invaluable guide. He is
making his life work
the preservation & resto-
ration of the old church.

Before entering the
church he took us up
stairs in our old brick
building, formerly the
slave quarters of a

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5)

a private home near the
Parish House, the rector
showed us the old pray
Church prayer book, used
before the Revolution and
brought to our notice
where in the days of excited
feeling against King George,
the old rector had in
the all the prayers
scratched out the words
"King of Kings & Lord of Lords",
and written in the margin
the words "Ruler of the
Universe." The old patriots
could not hear the word
"King" used, even of the
Almighty! Here also
was written in the
prayer for the President
of the United States.

Here we saw also
the old marble font
brought from Jamestown
in which Pocahontas is said

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to have been [illegible] baptized -
Tell story of Pocahontas's
sprinkerl 'pot' -

Then we went to the
beautiful old Bruton church
[illegible] built of faded red
brick, cruciform in shape,
in a churchyard full
of old gray stones,
surrounded by a brick
wall draped with ivy
and wild vines. One
end of the church is
covered thick with ivy.
It might easily, with
its setting be an old
English country church.

The church is now
in confusion, in the
hands of workmen
being restored - (Read
from yellow & white book,
page 5.) Read [illegible]

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from large book: and Read
notes - tell of old glass -
John Marshall - Parke
& Cocke tablets - Mrs.
Ann Timson.

Tell old silver - page
10 small dark book -
old silver -- have refused
offer of $25,000 to execute
reproductives in gold, of
one piece, from a man
in Vermont Mr. Goodwin
said "We want money
very much but not as
much as that!"

They lack about $9000 still
to complete restoration.

We visited also, the
old house in which
La Fayette was entertained
- fine old panelled room.
Saw & were graciously
received in the beautiful
old Basset Hall, home

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of Pres't Tyler - His son
is now Pres't of the
college - Saw the home
of Peyton Randolph, and
I am ashamed to say
did not visit the old
Powder House or maga-
zine, from which Lord
Dunsmore had the
powder carried away
and was forced to
bring it back.

Pardon my taking
so much time, but do
go to see old Williams
burg for yourselves!

Written for Olean Chapter D.A.R.
in 1907

Miss Lilla C. Wheeler
Portville, N.Y.

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Citation

Wheeler, Lilla C. , “Lecture on Williamsburg delivered by Lilla C. Wheeler to the Olean Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1907,” Special Collections, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, accessed December 6, 2022, https://cwfjdrlsc.omeka.net/items/show/206.

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