Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


My guest on Vintage Vonnie today is Beth Trissel. Beth and I have struck up a friendship through VA Romance Writers and other online romance writers groups. She is a warm, supportive and interesting person. Her novels are rich with history, well researched and full of her beloved herbs and flowers. Welcome, Beth.    (Photo of Beth and her novels by Nikki Fox at The Daily News Record.)
Greetings and thanks for having me on Vintage Vonnie.  I'm a Virginia author of historical and light paranormal romance with the Wild Rose Press. I also write creative non-fiction pieces about rural life. The beauty of the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains are my inspiration.  For more on me, my blog is the happening place:
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Today, I thought I’d discuss the real first Thanksgiving in the New World. When doing research for the sequel to Enemy of the King (postponed after the idea for Somewhere My Love came to me) my mother and I toured several of the lovely James River plantations. Two of these, Berkeley and Shirley, most influenced the home in Somewhere My Love, ‘Foxleigh.’

While visiting Berkeley originally called Berkeley Hundred and named after one of its founders, I was especially impressed by the wealth of history behind this beautiful old home and grounds. The magnificent terraced boxwood gardens and lawn extend a quarter-mile from the front door to the James River. The mansion itself wasn’t built until 1726, but the plantation’s history reaches much farther back into America‘s roots. I didn’t know that Berkeley was the actual site of the first Thanksgiving in America on Dec. 4th, 1619.

On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred about 8,000 acres on the north bank of the James River near Herring Creek in an area then known as Charles Cittie. It was about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, where the first permanent settlement of the Colony of Virginia was established on May 14, 1607. The group’s charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a “day of thanksgiving” to God. On that first day, Captain John Woodleaf held the service of thanksgiving.

During the Indian Massacre of 1622 nine of the settlers at Berkeley Hundred were killed, as well as about a third of the entire population of the Virginia Colony. The Berkeley Hundred site and other outlying locations were abandoned as the colonists withdrew to Jamestown and other more secure points. After several years, the site became Berkeley Plantation and was long the traditional home of the Harrison family, one of the First Families of Virginia.

Benjamin Harrison, son of the builder of Berkeley and the plantation’s second owner, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and three-time Governor of Virginia. William Henry Harrison, Benjamin‘s third son, born at Berkeley, was the famous Indian fighter known as “Tippecanoe,” who later became the ninth President of the United States, in 1841. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was the 23rd President.

Many famous founding fathers and mothers were guests at this gracious and elegant estate. For more on Berkeley Plantation and a fascinating glimpse into early America visit:


Beth Trissel said...

Thanks for having me on your beautiful site, Vonnie. :)

Charmaine said...

I love the symmetry of that house! It certainly appeals to my sensibilities and looks like a well-appointed house. I like how the windows line up; the front door even lines up with the upper windows! I live in a split-foyer and every time I approach my house it looks crooked to me!

Without God's intervention through the native peoples, the US would never have been settled by the Europeans. I am thankful the new arrivals recognized that fact and established an official Thanksgiving Day that we continue to observe hundreds of years later. May we continue to be thankful!

Rhiannon said...


Thanks for sharing some of the very rich history of VA! I'm from Williamsburg and visited Jamestown many times--Jamestown island is home to one of my dad's favorite fishing spots :)

Your books covers are beautiful. Best of luck to you and Happy Thanksgiving.


Beth Trissel said...

Thanks Rhiannon and Charmaine for that interesting input. Yes, Berkeley is a beautiful old home as so many of these early plantations are. Very gracious. I am thankful we observe Thanksgiving and the enormous contribution of the Native Americans to the survival of the newcomers. Though I deeply regret the outcome for the Native Americans.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Beth,
Your posts are ALWAYS so interesting and informative. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Beth Trissel said...

Thanks so much, Liz. I enjoy research.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Beth,
That was an interesting blog. I didn't realise that your Thanksgiving started so long ago.
Wonderful looking house too. You just can't beat the historical homes, they are so steeped in history and somehow it shows.



Vonnie Davis said...

Beth, thanks for making us more history savvy. Your blog was great. Thanks for visiting. Vonnie

Beth Trissel said...

Thanks Vonnie and everybody. :)

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Beth - sorry for being a day late! My husband and I visited Berkeley Plantation while the filming for "The New World" (movie) was taking place. We too were struck by the rich (and sometimes sad) history of the site. Thanks for this reminder of the real "first" Thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone a joyous and safe Thanksgiving!

Monti said...

Beth and Vonnie--What an interesting post!

A few years ago, I attended at least one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations at Berkeley and wrote a feature story about it for the Richmond News Leader. I also included a section about the James River Plantations in my book Hotels to Remember. At the time I went to the Berkeley celebration, there was a big competition going on between there and Plymouth, MA. Has that died down completely or does it continue?


Rhiannon said...

Lol. I remember when the "New World" movie was in production. All the 20-something girls were prowling the town, looking for Colin Ferell (sp?).