Recent News

Tavern Museum Closes For The 2015 Season

The Courthouse Tavern Museum is closed for the season and will reopen in March, 2016. The date will be posted by February. Hours are Fridays and Saturdays 10 am–4 pm. Sundays 1–5 pm. Closed on Easter, Mother's Day, and Father's Day. The season closes mid-December. Be sure to visit us, a “gem in a rural setting.” See our “Plan A Visit” page.

Courthouse Tavern Museum Holds Annual Open House

On Sunday, December 6th, the King and Queen Historical Society Courthouse Tavern Museum held its annual open house on a glorious sunny, crisp day. In cooperation with the King and Queen School System a music program conducted by Mr. Fielding, music director, was the highlight of the event with approximately 24 seventh grade students from both Marriott-Lawson and King & Queen Elementary Schools participating. Visitors were treated to delicious refreshments by the King and Queen Ruritan Club and the Tavern Museum Council. Visitors toured the Museum and were treated to additional exhibits created especially for the event: on display a train and Christmas village, toys from long ago, and quilts handmade by local residents. Brownie Bevan’s miniature horse JJ, pulled cart rides for the children. Vendors provided a variety of selections for Christmas shopping. Santa was also available to hear Christmas wishes. Holiday music played by Mr. Fielding echoed throughout the venue. The well-attended event was a wonderful prelude for the holiday season with the cheerful voices of the young and old heard throughout the afternoon.

Historical Society President Dr. A. W. Lewis presented the King and Queen schools music director, Mr. Fielding, a $150 check for the school system’s music program.

Who Speaks For The River

On October 25th the King and Queen County Historical Society meeting was held on the banks of the Mattaponi River at historic Whitehall, a handsome brick mansion built before 1780. The group was welcomed by current owner Mrs. Margaret (Peg) Babyak. Ms. Dori Babyak Chappell and Mr. and Mrs. Randy Shank spoke about the importance of the Mattaponi River, noting ways to protect it. The presentation was in three parts. Randy Shank, retired from Virginia Polytechnic Institute with experience in water quality projects for the Chesapeake Bay, talked about the uniqueness of the Mattaponi River and its contribution to the ecology. He conveyed that it is a 100 mile long treasure with some wild life and vegetation that are not seen anywhere else in the state. Because of the rural nature of the surrounding counties, its banks are relatively undeveloped. It is one of the cleanest rivers on the east coast and deserves “watchmen” to protect against unfettered development and pollution.

Dori Chappell told the “David and Goliath” story of the City of Newport News’ proposal to siphon water from the Mattaponi to a reservoir it would create in King William County. The battle to prevent this lasted 20 years, but through ingenuity, unity, determination, and persistence the “local residents” finally won. She summarized how the river has been used in the past and how it is used today. Through pictures and anecdotes she related how three generations of the Babyak family have used the river as an attraction for their boys camp and recreational venue, and for personal enjoyment.

Dawn Shank, retired from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Public Communications Office, discussed how citizen involvement in resource management efforts, education, and conservation issues helps to protect the river. She covered the mission and activities of the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers Association (MPRA), an organization dedicated to the protection of the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers region’s natural resources. More detail can be found on their website

Students Experience History

On Friday October 23rd., a beautiful fall day, approximately 25 Central High School juniors participated in a history tour arranged by Ms. Alice Sheley and Mr. Frank Hurst of the Tavern Museum Council in cooperation with Dr. Carol Carter, Superintendent of King & Queen County Schools, and Mr. Chuck Hudson, head of the history department. The tour began at historic Newington, located on the Mattaponi River, and the birthplace of Carter Braxton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. There they viewed many artifacts found at the site and a restored storage house constructed of "balast stones" brought over from England during the colonial era. Ms. Beverly (Bly) Straube, an archaeologist in the Virginia tidewater region, provided insights into the importance of the site and the discoveries made there. The group then traveled to the Tavern Museum for a tour and scavenger hunt constructed by Mr. Hudson to emphasize the County history exhibited. Mr. Frank Hurst informed the group of upcoming scholarship and archaeology opportunities.

Historical Society and Tavern Museum Council Participate in Community Pride Day

Community Pride Day, an annual event sponsored by the King & Queen County School System, is a “fun-for-the family” day at Central High School to encourage a sense of community in a county 65 miles long and 10 miles wide with two elementary schools and one high school. Saturday October 17th, the day of the event, was crisp and sunny. The many parade and vendor participants set a festive tone for the flood of visitors and those attending the homecoming football game. The Grand Marshalls of the parade, William B. Gwathmey and Jacob H. Dabney, both retired King and Queen County school teachers, rode at the head of the parade in a horse and carriage promoting the Historical Society and provided by member Brownie Bevan. Mr. Gwathmey is a member of the Historical Society and a docent at the Tavern Museum. The Museum (gift shop) vendor table was very successful.

2015 Third Quarter Meeting of the King and Queen Historical Society

On July 26, 2015 the King and Queen Historical Society held its third quarter meeting at the New Court House Building, King and Queen Courthouse, Virginia. The new Board, elected in April, assumed their roles for two years, July 2015-2017. They are as follows:

President: Dr. A. W. Lewis, Vice President: John Spain, Recording Sec: Biddie Shelor, Corresponding Sec: Page McLemore, Treasurer: Pat McLemore, Museum Council Chair: Nancy Herman-Thompson, Membership Chair: Betty Gwathmey, Immed. Past Pres: Pete Glubiak, Director: E. Brownie Bevan, Director: Nora A. Walker, Director: Anne M. Ryland, Director: Frank Hurst, Director: Ellen White, and Director: Richard Rumrill

Nick Luccketti, an archaeologist who has worked closely with the Historical Society on many projects, introduced the speaker, Beverly A. (Bly) Straube, PhD, FDS, a historical archaeologist in the tidewater region for close to 40 years. She conveyed how the dots are connected between the artifacts coming out of the ground with other artifacts to tell a story. For example, the fort at Jamestown was originally thought to be under-water; however, a document found in Spain actually showed an image of the fort and proved that most of the fort was still on land. The fort perimeter and several million artifacts were found. Using DNA testing, a young woman’s skeleton believed to have been cannibalized during the winter of the 1609-10 “starving time” was connected to a name on the lists of women who had come to the colony. Much has been learned about the relationship between the early settlers and the American Indians from the artifacts found in the ground and the records that have survived. Ms. Straube emphasized how important early wells are in providing physical artifacts that tell a story. The site of the first church at Jamestown and three associated graves have been found. This may be the location of the marriage between Pocahontas and John Rolfe. And one of the graves has revealed a connection with the Catholic Church that was previously unknown. She left the audience with something deep to consider.

World War II Veterans Honored

On Sunday, July 26 at the Quarterly Meeting of the King and Queen Historical Society Nancy Herman-Thompson presented to the audience the joint resolution that the Historical Society was making with the King and Queen County Board of Supervisors commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II and honoring all King and Queen citizens that served in uniform and those that supported them on the Home Front. She led the audience in thanking the World War II veterans present, William Gwathmey and John Jones for their service. William provided some of his remembrances and shared World War II artifacts. Frank Hurst also provided a summary of his trip to the World War II European battlefields and cemeteries with his father.

On Monday, August 10, 2015, the King and Queen County Board of Supervisors adopted the resolution. Approximately 530 King and Queen citizens served in the Armed Forces during World War II and 20 King and Queen citizens are counted among the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives in service to their country. WWII era veterans currently living in the county were recognized: Ernest L. Thurston, Shacklefords, John F. Jones, Walkerton, and William B. Gwathmey, Walkerton..

Taylor and Madison Descendants Visit the Courthouse Tavern Museum

The Tavern Museum was delighted to receive a visit from 10 guests descended from the Taylor and Madison families who resided in King and Queen County in the late 1600s and early 1700s. They traveled from California, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Virginia, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Australia. Steve Taylor arranged the June visit through Jack Spain.

Of particular interest to the group was the exhibit of the 1715 Sundial from the Upper Church of St. Stephens's Parish, locally called Apple Tree Church. It was originally given to the Anglican Church by Colonel James Taylor, and restored in 2011 through a joint effort of the Tavern Museum, Immanuel Episcopal Church, and Steve Taylor.

Nancy Herman-Thompson distributed copies of a modern map with James Taylor patents of 1686 and 1689 superimposed.  These King and Queen County patents adjoined and were located between current day St. Stephens Church and Walkerton.

Jack Spain led the group into the King and Queen Old Courthouse Building (now the Circuit Courtroom) where they could view the plaque memorializing several prominent members of the Taylor family, including Presidents James Madison and Zachary Taylor.

Millions of Years Ago in King and Queen County

Dr. Gerald Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Geology, College of William and Mary, enthralled attendees at the April 26, 2015 King and Queen Historical Society meeting with a view of King and Queen County millions of years ago. He described how the land and its environs were physically formed, noting the evidence found in the remains of prehistoric plants and animals, the topology, and the matter in the soil. Did you know that the geologic history of the Atlantic Coastal Plan over the last 40 million year shaped it's current landscape? The sediments beneath King and Queen record a catastrophic event 35 million years ago, numerous invasions of the sea and repeated flooding of the region by ancient bays and estuaries. These sediments also contain a rich fossil record. Encouraging the audience to examine them carefully, he shared artifacts such as animal and plant fossils: vertebrae, teeth, petrified wood, and shells.

Did you know that Virginia has a state fossil, Chesapecten jeffersonius, over 4 million years old and found in the lower part of the Yorktown Foundation along rivers in eastern Virginia? Dr. Johnson invited attendees to take home a sample. The fossil was first described by Martin Lister in 1687 and was officially named in 1824.

The adults and the many children in the audience enjoyed the information, hands-on displays and enthusiasm that Dr. Johnson brought to his presentation. Since coming to Virginia in 1965, Dr. Johnson has conducted research of the land forms, sediments and fossils of the Virginia coastal plain. Currently, he is conducting research on a mastodon site in York County, Virginia.

Join us at King and Queen Historical Society Meetings in January, April, July and October for more exciting and informative events. Bring family and friends.

Courthouse Museum Provides Artifacts for WTVR CBS6 News Video

On Friday, February 13th WTVR, the CBS6 News affiliate in Richmond, Virginia, presented a video clip billed as “Friday the 13th: What happened 130 years ago dubbed Richmond’s crime of the century.” Thomas “Tommie” Cluverius, an ambitious, mild mannered, respected young lawyer from King and Queen County, was accused of murdering his cousin Lillian “Lillie” Madison of King William County when she became pregnant after their “secret, steamy” affair. The murder occurred in Richmond on Friday, March 13, 1885. At first, authorities thought she had committed suicide, but further investigation revealed that she had been murdered. Although the evidence was circumstantial and Tommie’s defense team was formidable, he was convicted and hanged in Richmond on January 14, 1887. He was buried at his aunt Jane Tunstall's home, Cedar Lane, in Little Plymouth, King and Queen County, where he had grown up and where he lived when not in Richmond.

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About 10 days before the video aired, Page McLemore, accessions administrator for the King and Queen Historical Society’s Courthouse Tavern Museum, received a phone call from the news team requesting assistance. The Tavern Museum is a treasure trove of local artifacts from the Nineteenth Century and information about old homes in King and Queen County. The Museum, an all volunteer organization, was closed for the winter, but Page met them there. Museum display rooms and artifacts were used in the video. A watch previously owned by Walkerton resident Wilbur White was shown with a picture of Tommie, portraying the image of a prominent young man. The pre-20th Century bedroom was the backdrop for the boots and valise that Tommie could have used in his travels between Richmond and Little Plymouth. During the narrator's description of Lillie, a period desk and photograph album in the Tavern Parlor served as a backdrop and in another reference to Lillie, Lelia Dew's "second day dress" (the day after her wedding to Mason Washington of Plain Dealing) served as the background. The book Old Houses of King and Queen County Virginia published in 1973 by the King and Queen County Historical Society provided background on Cedar Lane, the Tunstall family and a mention of the murder. One passage of note was, "Citizens of King and Queen County...thought that the accused was innocent...incapable of committing such a dastardly crime."

In October 2011 author John Milliken Thompson reviewed his novel The Reservoir at the Museum. The novel is based on the actual information available on the murder and has been described as an exciting “did he do it story." Even though Tommie paid the ultimate price, he went to his grave declaring his innocence. In the era of the murder, it captured front page headlines throughout the East for many weeks. The New York times printed 37 articles on the case. Page McLemore noted, “It does sound like fiction. He was lost to our history. But he has been brought back now. I think that was a story that did not (readily) get passed down through the generations.” View full video here.