Posts Tagged ‘Stonewall Jackson’

Painting Steeple

Painter on Scaffold

Yesterday I was happy to see they are once again painting the beautiful restored steeple of the Lexington Presbyterian Church.  I remember this was the same church that was on fire in 2002 and how horrified we were watching the steeple actually fall down.

The Virginia State Police  ruled the fire was accidental in nature,

the result of the heating of wood while workers were scraping paint.


The church is a downtown landmark on the National Historic Register and was attended by Thomas Johnathan “Stonewall” Jackson who was known to fall asleep during sermons.

From en.wikipedia.org :

Lexington Presbyterian Church is a historic Presbyterian church building at Main and Nelson Streets in Lexington, Virginia. It was designed by noted architect Thomas U. Walter in 1843, and completed in 1845. A rear addition was built in 1859; stucco added in the 1880s; the building was renovated and enlarged in 1899; and the Sunday School wing was added in 1906. It is a monumental “T”-shaped, temple form stuccoed brick building in the Greek Revival style. The front facade features a Greek Doric pedimented peristyle portico consisting of six wooden columns and a full entablature. The building is topped by a tower with louvered belfry and spire.

Starting in 1851, Stonewall Jackson was a member of the church and taught Sunday school.  In 1863 he was buried in the church’s cemetery.



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Stonewall Jackson House Lexington, Virginia

Stonewall Jackson House
Lexington, Virginia en.wikipedia.org

There is a scarecrow at the Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington, Virginia.    Thomas Johnathan Jackson was a Confederate general in the American Civil War.  But, before the war he lived in a nice little house in downtown Lexington, Virginia and he had a productive garden “out back”.

This is an old fashioned scarecrow (made with a potato).  It is hanging in the Jackson House garden now.

I could do that!  Easier than crocheting.


Old Time Scarecrow


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Well, I am alive after all and not felled by a mighty ax!  I was expecting Lizzie Borden to arrive in the guise of my blogger friend, Cindy of Photos from the Loony Bin.  It was our first meeting.  In fact, it was my first meeting with any blogger friend, period, so I had serious reservations about self preservation.

The meeting was to be in a public place of course, so we could size each other up and discern any lurking danger in the confrontation.  It was in a funky pink painted restaurant with a statue of King Kong outside and photos of Elvis Presley inside.  I figured if the prospect of meeting in such a place deterred them (Cindy and spouse), they might really be nefarious criminals who would never love me for who I am.

But suddenly there we were, two blogger friends (and spouses), actually face to face!  And it was as if we had known each other for years!

We talked and talked and got to know each other and laughed and laughed over nothing in particular.  And then I fell into my tour-guide persona and we took in all the exciting, dramatic, and fabulous sights and sounds in this part of the world.

Who would want to miss Foamhenge I ask you (a replica in Styrofoam of Stonehenge in England)?

And then there was the Natural Bridge where it got so cold there were icicles on its walls.

And who could resist our downtown which closes up at 5PM?

Main Street Lexington VA

Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge

Cindy and Mike at Natural Bridge

Cindy and Mike
Pathway Down to Natural Bridge

I think it was the next day, in Stonewall Jackson’s back garden, when I decided I really like this pair from the Snowbelt of Canada.  They are warm enough to light up a room.

And they aren’t ax murderers after all.   They were simply perfect strangers who feel like perfect friends.

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Stonewall Jackson1

Thomas Johnathon Jackson
“Stonewall” – from Wikipedia

How to Move and Blog at the Same Time

If  Thomas Johnathon “Stonewall” Jackson could do it, so can I.  Yes, I will perfect the art of the Standing Blog.   At least that’s my new, New Year’s resolution for 2013.

You see, Stonewall, although considered somewhat strange during his own lifetime (and sometimes during ours), actually had some sensible solutions to living a better life.  He was not a blogger of course, but he was a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, and then he was a Civil War general – the right hand man of Robert E. Lee.

I was a docent at his house for over six years, and got to know him well through his furniture. The fact is, he’s not around anymore.  He died on May 10, 1863, having been shot  by his own men in friendly fire.   And he was only 39 years old!

Back Jackson House & Kitchen Garden

The Stonewall Jackson House
Back Entrance and Kitchen Garden
Lexington, Virginia

Getting to know a historical figure through his furniture could be considered an odd way to get to know a fellow, but consider this.  He slept on a rope bed.  When the mattress began to sag, he could just tighten the ropes (hence, the saying, “Sleep tight.”) and he worked at a standing desk.  Do these things speak to you as they do to me?

“Odd,” you say?  Why, I saw a treadmill desk on television, which has just been invented to keep us up and moving .  I know if Jackson were alive, he would heartily approve.  But he lived in a time of wood stoves for cooking and candles for light.  A standing desk?  Wow!  There were no electronics then, but the guy was truly ahead of his time.  Wonder how he managed without a smart phone anyway!

He also sucked lemons and I’m sure his troops stood in awe.  But how astute is that?  Lemons are high in Vitamin C and  prevent scurvy.  In fact a lemon a day might have kept me from catching the flu this year.  But I digress.  I am still too weak (no longer hallucinating though) to traipse into the Jackson House for a picture of  his desk, but I do recall it came apart for easier transport (much like modular furniture today – the kind you get at mega stores).

The Design of the Human Body

Anyway, old Stonewall was not far off.  Modern medicine experts claim that sitting is the worst thing we can do to ourselves.  The human body was not designed for prolonged sitting.  I swear, I just heard that on t.v. medical news today.  That’s why some brilliant fella invented the treadmill desk.  I want one of those for sure.

Meanwhile, since I am recovering from the flu (having not had enough lemons to ward it off), I will remain seated at my sitting desk and try to remember to stand up long enough to restore momentary circulation.

By the way if you are interested, legend has it that old Stonewall sat astride his horse with one arm raised (his) in the air and the other arm (his) straight down at his side.  Why?  He thought it would improve his circulation!  Are you laughing?

Not me.  If Stonewall Jackson could do it, so can I. I will perfect the art of the Standing Blog!   That’s my resolution for 2013.  Now if I can just find a standing desk!

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Another camera-walk in town revealed a secret garden.  Well, secret to me since I have not visited there in some time.  As I walked through the gates to the Stonewall Jackson House rear entrance, I was taken by a brilliant flower show.  Whereas most things are fading about now, the cloistered Jackson House garden is still thriving in spite of our flagging summer season.

Note the Little Critter Top Left

Although visitors come to tour the home of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (of Civil War fame), there is a tendency to discount the wonderful kitchen garden at the back of his house on Washington Street.  I wandered into that place where he actually enjoyed participating in the planting and cultivating.

Beauty of White

Storage Shed -Jackson House Garden

Jackson’s historic garden space is small, but contains a generous variety of heritage fruits, vegetables and rose bushes, all delightful to the eye, each in its own season, and all manned by dedicated volunteers.  I think it is a lovely prelude to entering the house, itself, where he lived prior to the Civil War with his second wife, Mary Anna Morrison.  It is told that he was accidentally shot by his own men in friendly fire and died in the war at the age of 39.

Stonewall Jackson house located at 8 East Wash...

Stonewall Jackson house located at 8 East Washington Street in Lexington, Virginia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas "Sto...

English: Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson photographed at Winchester, Virginia 1862. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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I discovered a new motivation for walking – a camera!  I also discovered a new motivation for blogging – a camera!   O.k., you may already know about the power of the little gadget, but this morning I actually took it on a walk and learned about a whole new world.  As I left the house, I thought, “Maybe a photograph will give me a blog post idea. It’s worth a try.”

So, this is the story about how I learned walking is more fun if my sole purpose is to take photographs to blog!  And this is the story about how a blog post and more than one came from walking and “seeing things” from my camera’s eye view.  

It was a surprisingly beautiful day, with clear blue skies and those big fluffy white clouds that make irresistible photo ops, and there was a cool breeze after last night’s rain.  I parked on Main Street right next to our city cemetery.  I love cemeteries – not because I expect to wind up in one, but because they are always so serene and somewhat haunting.  Did I say haunting?  By the way, I love steeples too.  They are so uplifting.

But, my mother is buried in this city cemetery and my best friend, Meche, along with many soldiers of the American Civil War, including Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.  Jackson was a Confederate general who won many a battle against the Yankees.  Before the war, he lived in our downtown in a neat little house on Washington Street and he taught at the Virginia Military Institute.

Approach to Jackson’s Tomb

After paying my respects in this haunting cemetery, it was back to Main Street where I was struck by an overhead street banner announcing a local Pie Festival.  Where else but in a rural community like this would you be urged to enjoy a pie festival?  Our ice cream social was such a grand success I suppose someone thought pie would be a good idea too.  After the serenity of death in our lovely cemetery, this sign screams “life” and the enjoyment of luscious living.

Onward I walked, and I took a few photos of our main thoroughfares.  The tourists were out enjoying the sun, and the Lexington Carriage Company was clip-clopping them around town by horse and buggy.  I stopped in at the carriage company tack room/preparation center and met two new horses who were being introduced to the city.  They had just had their baths and were enjoying lunch.  Their owners invited me to take pictures and said I could learn more about their operation by “liking” their Facebook page at LexCarriage.  Amazing what sporting a camera will do in terms of introducing you to new folks.  It’s much like walking a dog!

As I roamed around town this morning, always looking for likely photo ops, I suddenly realized I was panting and could hardly trudge back to the car.  And checking my watch, I discovered I had walked 40 minutes!  True, it was not fast power walking, but I wandered much further than I would have without my trusty Camera.  The fact is, until the final slog back to the car, I was having a grand time looking around town for likely photographs that might be the inspiration for a blog post.

All the experts advise that walking is the best exercise.  Walking in fresh air and sunshine is even better.  They also advocate finding an exercise you like to do, something you can have fun at.  I must admit, I have never found exercise of any kind to be “fun.”  I much prefer the couch and have to force myself into the right state of mind to actually move.

Now, however, I see myself as a foreign correspondent, looking at the world through my camera’s lens. O.k., so the pics are pretty amateurish.  And the locale is local and not foreign.   But the act of photographing while walking is my newest inspiration.

“I thought about making a fitness movie for folks my age and calling it Pumping Rust.” ~Author Unknown   

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A visit “downtown” always gives me a jolt because I feel I am peeking at the past.  Lexington, Virginia (no, not Kentucky!) was the county seat of Rockbridge in 1778, and is a place steeped in history and charm.  In fact, the historic core of the city is a Nationally Registered Historic District.

In 1993 a film crew, actors and actresses came here from Hollywood.   The town’s main streets were quickly transformed for the filming of a quick segment in the movie, Sommersby, starring Jodie Foster and Richard Gere. The story is of a confederate soldier returning to his wife and home at the end of the the Civil War.  If you have seen this movie, do you recall the hanging scene?  The hero’s ride to the gallows (supposedly in Richmond) was actually shot right here in Lexington.

In preparation for the scene, the city’s main streets were quickly covered with layers and layers of dirt and building facades were dramatically changed to reflect another era.  Long-skirted women moved around town, busy with their daily lives, and the streets were alive with the comings and goings of horse drawn wagons and carriages.  It was magic. For a moment as I stood on the sidelines, I actually felt I had really traveled back in time.

Store Sign Saved from the Movie Sommersby
Main Street Lexington, Virginia

Sign from the Movie, Sommersby

But 1993 was not the first time the streets of Lexington were transformed.   Am I treading where so many others have gone before or is this a different street entirely?


Even before the American Civil War, downtown Lexington, Virginia was a city of steep hills with crude unpaved roads.   Goods and people were transported through town by horse drawn wagons.  Can you imagine the transportation problems encountered during wet weather when Virginia red clay roads became sinkable quagmires?

Lexington was known to bottleneck at the hilltop intersection of Main and Washington Street, because in inclement weather the clay road became almost impassable.  Goods were hauled in by large covered wagons which would stall when they sank into the mud up to the horses’ knees and sometimes to the axles.  In 1852 a project to lower the town’s hill by eight to ten feet was finally completed.  That project left the currently standing Alexander-Withrow House on Main Street with an extra floor (once a full basement, but now suspended as a third story), requiring the owners to reorient their entrance.  There were other such changes to entryways around town that can still be seen today.

Alexander-Withrow House
Was 2 Stories – Now 3

An Artists’ Cooperative in the Once Full Basement
of the Alexander-Withrow House

Below is a photograph I took of the Stonewall Jackson House.  It was the pre-Civil War home of Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson and was built in 1802.  If you join a docent-guided tour, you will come close to experiencing how life was before the war in an ordinary house in an ordinary small southern town.

Stonewall Jackson House
Front Entry No Longer at Street Level

From 1907 to 1954 the “Jackson House” was utilized as the area’s only hospital (the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital).  In 1954 the house was converted to a museum, now open to the public.  In my time there as a docent I met many visitors who were born or were treated in the house when it was a hospital.

But, back to streets – do we even notice the uneven elevations of front doors in a city?  Why do I have to climb to get into one building and step down to enter another?  How did they lower the main streets by ten feet without modern machinery?  I have asked around, and although some people claim to have heard the story about lowering the streets in Lexington, they aren’t quite sure how or why and haven’t really noticed the cattywampus foundation levels.

Here’s a Front Door That Used to Be at Street Level

Entrance was Once at Street Level
Virginia Born & Bred Gift Store

I am drenched in images of downtown Lexington in the days of wagon travel and unpaved roads.  Surely city streets are as much a part of history as the wood stoves used for cooking, the rope beds, and the horse-hair-stuffed furniture found in restored homes and museums.  But every time I go downtown, I am struck by the unusual variations in entry way access.  Perhaps our roads and streets should be considered the infrastructure of the past and noted on city plaques to be remembered as they once were and for what they eventually became.

As I drive into downtown Lexington,  I am reminded that I am once again on a Time Traveler’s Road to a colorful past.

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There is a comparatively small old house in Lexington, Virginia that belonged to Thomas Jonathan Jackson from 1859 to 1861.   He was “Stonewall” Jackson, a confederate general in the American Civil War who was Robert E. Lee’s right hand.  It was the only house Jackson ever owned.  He died in the war when he was only 39 years old.

I was a volunteer docent for six years, showing The Jackson House to visitors and lecturing in 30 minute tours through the kitchen with its wood cooking stove, the entryway and parlor with a lot of his original furniture, and his bedroom with its rope bed.  Did you know the saying, “Sleep tight,” came from the use of rope beds?  The ropes holding a mattress firm would eventually begin to sag and would have to be tightened.

The Stonewall Jackson House
Lexington, Virginia

Each group passing through the house had its own unique characteristics.  Like there was a contingent of third grade children who came down from the mountains.  They had never been to a city before.

At one time in recent history, the house was converted into a hospital and was the only hospital for the entire county.  A friend of ours had his broken leg set there when he was a teenager.  And many people who come through in the groups were actually  born in the Stonewall Jackson House.


Oddly enough, Stonewall Jackson returned while I was a tour guide.   And he wanted to go through the house!   He was a ghostly apparition, but a real live, flesh and blood fellow, in full confederate dress with a long sword at his waist, and looking very smart indeed.

“HELLO,” he boomed in a very commanding voice.  “I’m Thomas Jonathan Jackson, come to visit my old home.” 

“That’s nice,” said our receptionist.  “But you will have to pay the usual admission fee.”

“Absolutely NOT,” boomed Stonewall.  “It’s MY house and I should not have to pay to see it!”

“I’m sorry sir, but I am under orders not to allow anyone in without paying for an admission ticket.”

“Can’t you see how I am dressed?  I am Stonewall Jackson returned and this is MY house!”

This was a serious conversation indeed and though the receptionist was quite flustered, she stood her ground.  The rest of us stood around too, but in stunned silence.  We were imagining Stonewall really had returned in ghostlike fashion.  And what right did we have to charge him for visiting his own home?

The-Ghost-of-Stonewall Jackson eventually gave up and returned to his regiment.  It turned out he was a modern day Civil War Reenactor, who looked exactly like the real thing, complete with beard and fully dressed for the part.  We never did find out why he made such a scene, and as far as I know, he never came back to pay his fee or to see his old house.

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