The Hail-Storm: John Dabney in Virginia

The Hail-Storm: John Dabney in Virginia

Join us for a screening of a documentary film on Virginia culinary legend John Dabney – “The Hail-Storm: John Dabney in Virginia.”

A chef and bartender in 19th century Richmond, he was a fixture of sophisticated gatherings and a connoisseur of the era’s delicacies (terrapin stew, canvasback duck, “hail-storm” mint juleps).

Remarkably, he spent the first 41 years of his life enslaved — yet he was able to save enough from tips to buy the freedom of his wife and infant son when they were threatened to be sold away.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

3 p.m.

Free and Open to the Public

Historic Courthouse
877 General Puller Highway, Saluda, Virginia

Post-screening Discussion

Refreshments and display will follow at the Middlesex Museum Visitor Center at 777 General Puller Highway in Saluda.

Refreshments by African-American Caterers: Rere’s Home Cooking, Scott’s Catering, and Susie’s Heart and Soul.

Post-screening display will include African-American cookbooks and photographs of local African-American culinary figures.

Film Produced by Hannah Ayers and Lance Warren of Field Studio, Richmond and funded by Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and WCVE.

Screening Sponsored by:
Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society, Inc.
Middlesex NAACP Unit 7901
Middle Peninsula African-American Genealogical and Historical Society

Call 804-758-5163 by March 6 to submit pictures of chefs, caterers, or other culinary figures.

You’re Invited! Christmas House Tour at Lansdowne Will Benefit Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society

A Christmas House Tour of historic Lansdowne in Urbanna takes place on Saturday, December 2, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to benefit the Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society. Lansdowne, which is today the home of Col. (USA-ret.) and Mrs. A.B. Gravatt, was built circa 1740 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located at 271 Virginia Street in Urbanna. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door or online at

Fish Fry to Benefit Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society

Tickets are now on sale for the Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society’s annual Fish Fry, which takes place on Friday, October 20 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Christ Church Parish Hall.

Tickets are $15. Advance ticket purchases or reservations are required by Wednesday, October 18 noon.

Take-outs are available with a ticket.

You may purchase the tickets at C&F Bank Cook’s Corner, Marshall’s Drug Store, Cyndy’s Bynn, Urbanna Harbor Gallery and Hurd’s Hardware in Deltaville.

You may also reserve tickets by emailing or calling 804-776-6983.

Tickets are available at the museum on Saturday, October 14 from 10am to 3pm.

A cash bar, featuring wine, beer and soft drinks, will be available at the event.

The Middlesex County Museum, located at 777 General Puller Highway in Saluda, is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment.

The Fish Fry is a major fundraiser for the Museum, which works to discover, preserve, exhibit and study local history. Current projects include the collection of oral histories, the preservation of genealogical records, and assistance to those interested in genealogy and the study of local history. In 2018, the museum will be initiating a project to document the long and rich history of our country stores.

The Museum is heavily dependent upon the support of members and donors for operations and the maintenance of its Saluda complex of three buildings which include the museum itself, a visitors’ center and the exhibit of the historic 19th century county clerk’s office adjacent to the courthouse.

Collecting Oral Histories Topic Of Middlesex County Museum Program

In the course of a 40-year career as a historian, Dr. Betsy Brinson has collected hundreds of oral histories from people all over the world.

“Oral history doesn’t pay the bills,” she said recently, speaking from her home in Richmond. “To do that, I’ve worked in administration and teaching, but I keep doing the oral histories on the side because I like getting to know the individuals. And I find their stories and experiences help me as an individual understand life better.”

Dr. Brinson will be in Saluda Saturday, Sept. 30, to teach a workshop on conducting oral history interviews. The program is being offered free by the Middlesex County Museum and Historical Society from 10 to noon. It is open to all, and registration is not required.

Oral histories are recorded to preserve family or institutional histories, and they be equally effective in doing both, according to Dr. Brinson. She cautions that before conducting the interviews, it’s important to do a little research even if that only means talking to other family members or friends.

“It helps you prepare your questions,” she said, “And you can often get an idea of what the important stories are likely to be so that you make sure you ask about them.”

Dr. Brinson, who received her doctoral degree in American History with a concentration on American social movements from the Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, has focused much of her career on collecting histories from individuals involved in social causes ranging from civil and women’s rights to peace and AIDs.

She has received numerous honors including two national history awards from the Oral History Association and the American Association for State and Local History.

At her workshop in Saluda, she’ll be sharing some best practices for interviewing including how to handle potentially difficult situations.

“The stories people tell can be quite emotional,” she said. “People might find themselves telling you about things they haven’t thought about in years.”

Dr. Brinson has had people start to cry, and she advises turning off the recording equipment until the person being interviewed is ready to proceed. She’s also had some people decide to get in touch with old friends or family members they haven’t seen in a while to tie up loose ends.

Dr. Brinson has conducted hundreds of interviews, and she has also been interviewed herself twice, once by a colleague, and once by her granddaughter. She said being the interviewee was a good learning experience.

“It’s very different when someone else is asking the questions,” said Dr. Brinson. “There are places in your life you find you want to keep private. As an interviewer, you have to respect that.”

Workshop participants will have the opportunity to interview and be interviewed during the workshop. If you plan to attend, bring the equipment you would use to record interviews to the workshop.

To learn more, call the Middlesex Museum at 758-3663 or visit the website at


Museums of Middlesex Launch Summer Scavenger Hunt

Explore history across Middlesex County’s three museums with Scavify’s scavenger hunt app.

Want to explore history with technology, experiencing 350 years in a day? There’s an app for that.

The Museums of Middlesex in Saluda, Deltaville and Urbanna, Va. are pleased to announce that the Scavify app-driven scavenger hunt is available for residents and visitors to explore through December 2017.

The Scavify app, which can be downloaded on a smart phone or tablet, allows visitors to the Deltaville Maritime Museum, Middlesex Museum and Urbanna Museum to get hands on while exploring history and exhibits through scanning QR codes, snapping photos and answering trivia questions. Challenges earn players points along the way, and ultimately bragging rights when completed.

Players are encouraged to start the scavenger hunt at any of the three museums, where there are roughly 10 questions to answer per location.

To complete the scavenger hunt, players need to visit all three locations:

To download and participate, players should follow these directions:

  • Go to Google Play or App Store.
  • In the Search bar type “Scavify” and install. SKIP if asks for account set-up or a credit card.
  • Wait for it to install.
  • OPEN Scavify app and create a personal account, which will require a user name, email address and password.
  • Under “hunts” search for and select “MOM Scavenger Hunt.”
  • Start playing.

The password is “history” to the scavenger hunt instructions. Each participant will receive a gift (a Museums of Middlesex aluminum water  bottle) for participating and will be entered into a drawing for a $100 cash prize, selected on December 1.

Good luck exploring history in Middlesex!

Virginia Department of Historic Resources Middlesex County Architectural Survey

Virginia Department of Historic Resources Middlesex County Architectural Survey, released by the Middlesex Museum. Read more below and here.

Between October 2015 and August 2016, Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc., in association with Debra A. McClane, Architectural Historian, completed a historic architectural resource survey of Middlesex County, Virginia. The survey was part of a series of projects funded through a $1.5 million Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Assistance Grant for Historic Properties that the National Park Service awarded to the Commonwealth of Virginia by way of the Department of Historic Resources in 2014. The pass-through project funds were awarded to seven counties in Virginia, including Middlesex County, and administered by the Department of Historic Resources; Middlesex County and the Middlesex County Museum and Historical Society served as local project partners.

The general objective of the study was to identify and document historic architectural resources in Middlesex County, an underrepresented county in the Department of Historic Resources’ files and databases, in order to provide more comprehensive data on the occurrence and character of historic architectural resources in the community. Indeed, while a number of properties in Middlesex County had previously been listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and/or the National Register of Historic Places, only 197 resources had previously been recorded in the county and much of the data related to these resources is outdated and does not meet current survey standards.

Through the current survey effort, the number of historic architectural resources recorded in Middlesex County has nearly tripled. The survey resulted in the inventory of 380 resources at the reconnaissance level, which included completion of exterior documentation and photography and preparation of Virginia Cultural Resource Information System reconnaissance-level inventory forms, including architectural descriptions, preliminary significance assessments, location maps, and site plans. Of the 380 resources documented, 372 were newly-identified resources not yet captured in the Department of Historic Resource’s inventory and 8 were previously documented resources for which a substantial amount of time had passed since the previous survey.

In selecting resources for inclusion in the survey, architectural historians focused on identifying properties located in flood-prone areas near the coast; properties dating to the early history of the county that had yet to be captured in inventory records; properties that more comprehensively covered the full geography of Middlesex County; and properties that were representative of the county’s historical and architectural trends. In addition, surveyors worked with Middlesex County Historical Society representatives to identify properties worthy of survey. In total, through the survey, a broad cross-section of resources representing diverse property types, architectural styles, and time periods—ranging from the Contact Period (1607-1750) to the New Dominion Period (1946-1991)—across the full geography of Middlesex County have been documented, capturing the built environment as it relates to the domestic, agricultural, commercial, religious, industrial, recreation/social, and governmental contexts of the county.

In the event of future severe storm events or other natural disasters, this initial survey effort will support disaster mitigation planning at the local, county and regional level. Should additional and/or more intensive survey fail to occur prior to a future major storm event or natural disaster, the current survey will be invaluable in establishing baseline conditions for the properties identified that will assist property owners in quantifying the extent of damage, and quite possibly inform appropriate post-event repairs and rehabilitation efforts.