Natural Bridge, Virginia   Leave a comment

Day 30-32

Appomattox Court House was home to about 100 people until 1865 when it became one of the most famous places in the world. “Court House” means it is basically a village, it is not a “courthouse.”

On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee arrived at the McLean House where he surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. The house was the finest in the area, built in 1848. In 1893 it was dismantled to be put on display in Washington, D.C. That never happened. In 1940, the National Park Service reconstructed the house on the original site. Below right is the desk where Lee surrendered.

Lee’s surrender did not immediately end the Confederate States of America. There were other armies still in the field. By June 2, 1865, all were surrendered on the terms set at Appomattox court House by Lee and Grant. The surrender terms were that the Confederates pledged not to take up arms against the United States, officers were allowed to keep their side arms, and any Confederate soldier who owned a horse was allowed to take it home with him.

The town of Lexington, Virginia, is much different today than it was in the 1800s. As we walked down the street, we could look up and see the “balconies” that once were street level porches! The streets were so steep that it was difficult for the horse and wagons to climb the hills, so they eventually “lowered the streets!”

Robert E. Lee became President of Washington College in 1865. He built the Lee Chapel to serve the University’s growing needs. Lee died on October 12, 1870. Mrs. Lee (great grand-daughter of Martha Washington) commissioned sculptor Edward Valentine to create a statue of the late general and college president. It can be found in Lee Chapel. Photos are not allowed. The Lee family crypts are in the lower level of the Chapel.

General Lee’s horse, Traveller, is buried next to the church General Lee is buried in. Traveller was born in 1857 in Blue Sulphur Springs and was purchased by Lee in 1862. He stood 16 hands high, iron gray with black mane and tail. He carried Lee through many of the Civil War’s major campaigns. Not long after Lee’s death, Traveller stepped on a nail, developed tetanus and died in 1871.

Stonewall Jackson lived in the house pictured below with his wife, Mary Anna and five of their 6 slaves before the Civil War while he taught at the Virginia Military Institute. It’s the only house he ever owned. After his death in 1863, Mrs. Jackson kept the house as a rental property until 1906. It served as the area’s first hospital until the 1950s when the town of Lexington could afford to build a big hospital.

Jackson liked to garden. I was intrigued by the historic scarecrow pictured below. It is a potato with feathers hanging from a string.

Virginia’s Natural Bridge took millions of years to form. The arch is composed of solid grey limestone. It is 215 feet high, that’s 55 feet higher than Niagara Falls, 40 feet thick, 100 feet wide and spans 90 feet probably weighing 36,000 tons. The rock that composes the bridge is about 500 million years old. Cedar Creek flowing to the sea formed this act of nature.

In 1750, George Washington surveyed the area. He scaled some 23 feet up on the left wall of the bridge and carved his initials. It’s difficult to see in the photo below, right where on the structure his initials are. They are located within the painted white square. Even today Lee Highway, U.S. Route 11 crosses over the Natural Bridge. Of course, after touring the bridge, we had to drive over it.

Along the walk path, not far from the Natural Bridge, we came upon the “Lost River.” Legend has it that many attempts have been made to find the source of this underground Lost River, but have failed. We walked to where the path ended at Lace Waterfalls where Cedar Creek plunges 50 feet to the creek bed. It originates 180 miles away in the Alleghany Mountains and flows under the Natural Bridge another mile to the James River. Below is also a photo of our walking group.

Next to the Natural Bridge is a wax museum and factory tour. Check out the little boy that greeted us on the front porch.

It sure was interesting to see how wax figures are made. It takes approximately 2-3 months to build a life-size figure; 2 weeks to create the clay head, 1 week to make an epoxy mold on the clay head, 1 week to cast a head or torso and matching pair of hands, 2 weeks to implant hair and 3 weeks if a beard or moustache is required, 2 weeks to build a custom body to match heads and hands, and 2 weeks to dress the figure.

Below are some folks in the wax museum who were famous personalities that visited the Natural Bridge Hotel.


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