We recently had the pleasure of visiting the Shirley Plantation in Charles City, Virginia. I honestly didn't know what to expect from our visit, but I can assure you, I took home more than I could have hoped for. Shirley is Virginia's first Plantation, since 1613 and has been family owned and operated by the Hill Carter family ever since. Making it America's oldest family owned business since 1638.
During our visit we met Tuna, one of two of the resident cats. Tuna sits proudly at the front pillars of the Plantation greeting the many guests that visit Shirley, each day. We were told she can be a bit finicky, but she seemed to enjoy our company. Just approach her softly and sweetly, and I am sure she will be in kitty heaven.
We took a guided tour of the Great House where we learned of the rich history the plantation holds. Within the house you will hear personal stories of the 11 generations that have owned, operated, and worked this beautiful plantation, and still live there today. You will get to see many of the original family furnishings and portraits within the walls of the Great House. Though once inside, you are not able to take any photos of the secrets Shirley keeps.
I enjoyed my time at the plantation very much. I am the type of historian who likes to learn about the lives lived. Dates and events tend to get lost on me, but when you bring life to the events–you also bring purpose, which gives meaning to why the dates and events are worth holding onto. If you are much like me, then you will really enjoy the guided tour, which was both informative and entertaining.
One of our favorite stories told was about the Carter women. On the paned windows you will find many signatures and initials carved into the glass. This is a family tradition that was unintentionally started long ago by Elizabeth Carter. As the story is told, in 1748, Elizabeth was engaged to a man she most certainly did not want to marry. She believed her ring to be made of glass crystal, and if she could prove this, then she would be able to end the engagement.
During a dinner reception and in front of her family, she attempted to carve her initials into the lead glass. Sadly, the ring proved to be authentic and she had to carry on with the wedding, but thankfully so, because now each of the Carter brides have entered into a beautiful tradition, of etching their initials into the window panes with their diamond engagement rings. This tradition is still celebrated today, with the most recent initials being left by Harriett Carter, who married in 1995. We have great hope, this lovely tradition will carry on for many years to come.
The Willow Oak Tree is a very special part of Shirley Plantation. Learn more about the story of the beautiful Willow Oak Tree by following it's very own Facebook page.
When we think of Shirley we think of this quote:
“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.” ― Leo Tolstoy, Family Happiness
There is plenty more to hear and see of this beautiful place. We will leave some secrets for you to unlock on your own.
I hope you visit Shirley Plantation soon and come back to tell us about what you enjoyed best. If you have already visited, we would love to hear more about your trip. You can share your photos and stories with us on our Facebook & Instagram.