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.

Save the Date: Deltaville Maritime Museum’s Official 2018 Opening Weekend

Nothing says the welcoming of spring and summer like the official opening weekend of the Deltaville Maritime Museum! Join the Deltaville Maritime Museum May 11-12!

A Shrimp & BBQ Dinner and Dance will be held Friday, May 11 from 5 to 9 pm and feature baby-back ribs, steamed shrimp and BBQ! Listen to THE TATERS on the bandstand.

For more information about this and other events at the Deltaville Maritime Museum visit them online here.

The Deltaville Maritime Museum & Holly Point Nature Park was established in 2003 through the efforts of a dedicated and visionary group of local volunteers. The museum and park flourished and rapidly became a center of activity in lower Middlesex County. In 2012, fire destroyed the existing museum and events pavilion. Through a combination of insurance payments, grants, incredibly generous community support and countless hours of volunteer labor, the museum and events pavilion were totally rebuilt in their current configuration. The new events pavilion opened in 2013. The museum, built in the style of Deltaville’s old Stingray Point Hotel (also known as the Old Red Barn), opened in 2014 with John M. Barber’s very popular exhibition “​Chesapeake – 50 Years of Maritime Art.” Development of the museum, pavilion, and the park continue.

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!

The Oyster is King, Now and Then in Urbanna

Ever since European settlers first landed in Virginia, when oysters were so big that colonial residents said they had to be cut in half to eat, the oyster has been king.

Even before that, Native Americans counted the oyster as a primary component of their diet. The monstrous oyster middens, essentially trash pits of oyster shells, they left behind are testament to the importance of the bivalves to their existence.

We celebrate the history and importance of this bivalve with our “Oyster is King” exhibit. The oyster has a storied history in Virginia.

When settlers landed at Jamestown in 1607, they arrived at the onset of the worst drought in almost 800 years, one that would last for seven years.

Crops failed, wells dried up and the only benefit was that the Chesapeake Bay tributaries became saltier with the decrease of freshwater and oysters expanded their habitat right up to Jamestown.

urbanna-exhibit06In 1609, the same year that Capt. John Smith nearly died from a stingray attack just west of Urbanna in the Deitaville area, Smith sent men to live on oyster banks for nine weeks so colonists at Jamestown Fort had more food. By then Smith was well-acquainted with oysters that lay as “thick as stones” in the bay and in some cases mounded up so high they proved to be navigational hazards.

Our own “Oyster is King” exhibit traces the rise, fall and now rise again of this amazing bivalve that can filter upwards of 50 gallons of water a day; when colonial settlers arrived in the 1600s it is estimated that oysters filtered the entire bay within a week’s time.

In the 1890s, the harvest of oysters topped out at around 20 million bushels a year from the bay, before plummeting to 20,000 bushels a year 100 years later due to overharvesting, disease and pollution of the bay’s waters.

Our exhibit captures the significance of oysters to the Urbanna area and you’ll meet some of the families who made a name in the oyster business. Oysters are synonymous with Urbanna and we even have an annual event that celebrates our heritage in the Urbanna Oyster Festival, with the 59th edition scheduled for Nov. 4-5, 2016.

We invite you to linger in our “Oyster is King” exhibit, chock full of historic photographs, vintage tools and the products themselves — cans of oysters bearing the names of the families and companies that earned a good living on the bivalves.

It’s an exhibit like no other in a place of extraordinary historic importance.

For additional information and stories on Chesapeake Bay oysters, here are links to interesting articles, including a story in the New York Times about Middlesex County’s own oyster success story, the Croxtons of Rappahannock Oyster Company and their restaurant in nearby Topping, Merroir.

USA Today


New York Times

Oyster Company of Virginia

The Deltaville Maritime Museum Annual Family Boat Building Week Is A Great Way To Build A Boat — And Bond

One of our signature events at the Deitaville Maritime Museum is our annual family boat building week in July in which families build 12-foot or 14-foot skiffs and then race them.

It’s a tradition that goes back to the founding of the museum in 2002 and is centered around traditional boat building based on the design of John E. Wright, a noted 20th century Deltaville boat builder.

deltaville-boatshop2Wright was a boat builder who began building skiffs with his two brothers in Deltaville in the early 1900s. Familiar with the local timber supplies from hauling them throughout the Chesapeake Bay area, John Wright set up shop in his back yard, a common practice of the era.

Wright had access to ample lumber supplies from nearby stands of timber that were sawn into boards by saw mills operating around the community. Wright also had plenty of customers who appreciated the craftsmanship of his work.

His boats are known for their elegant looks while being very serviceable, perfect for either pleasure cruising on Chesapeake Bay or working the water for its signature Virginia blue crabs and oysters.

More than 100 boats have been built and launched over the years at the Deltaville Maritime Museum’s Family Boatbuilding week. The week is as much about family bonding as it is about building a skiff to take out on the bay or a local river or creek.

With names like “Jelly Fish,” “Deborah Ann,” “Flare On,” “Blu C’s,” “Patriot,” “Thunderbird II,” and “Iceberg,” our boat building week gives up to 10 families a year a memorable experience. The week concludes with a race of the skiffs in Mill Creek, which borders the museum grounds.

Our Boat Building Week has been featured in local, regional and trade publications. Here’s a few links to stories that feature the Deltaville Maritime Museum family boatbuilding projects:

National Fisherman

Chesapeake Boating

The House and Home Magazine

While some general woodworking experience will be helpful, pure novices are welcome and will receive assistance from our capable staff of volunteers. Each “team” receives a kit that contains all the material needed to build the skiffs.

It’s a challenging, rewarding, entertaining and enlightening adventure to participate in our boatbuilding week. We think there’s no better way to enjoy Chesapeake Bay and its myriad of tributaries than in your own skiff built with your own hands and the hands of your fellow team members.

At the end of your week at the family boatbuilding event, and on all of your future trips out into the bay and its connecting waters, we think you’ll agree.

Come Meet Great Americans Who Did Amazing Things At The Middlesex County Museum In Saluda

We have surprises waiting for you at the Middlesex County Museum in Saluda.

As in, we bet you’ll be surprised by the caliber of Americans who called Middlesex County home that you can learn about in our museum.

They are war heroes who fought battles nearby and far from home, Civil Rights pioneers and everything in between.

When you walk through the doors of our Saluda museum you’ll find exhibits that highlight regular people who went on to do great things.

People like George A. Taylor, who was born and raised in Middlesex County. Taylor had graduated from high school in 1938 and attended Virginia State University in Petersburg for three years before he left home to enlist in the Army Air Forces to become a member of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

One of the original members of the segregated flying unit known as the Tuskeegee Airmen, Taylor flew more than 50 missions over Italy in 1944 with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group.

Called a “true fighter pilot” by a fellow Tuskegee Airman, Taylor was awarded two Bronze Stars, an Air Medal and four battle stars. Taylor piloted P-39, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang fighter planes.

In 2007, Taylor and other Tuskegee Airmen were the recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal Award at a ceremony in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

And people like James Lomax, a Middlesex African-American resident who would fight for the Union as a private in the 1st Regiment, Company D, of the United States Colored Infantry.

saluda-exhibit02You’ll come face to face — well, face to cardboard cutout face — with Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, the Marine’s Marine who settled down right here in Middlesex County after becoming the most decorated Marine in history.

We think you’ll like learning about Chesty, who fought battles in Haiti, Nicaragua, across the Pacific islands in World War II and in Korea against communist forces. As great a Marine as Chesty was — five Navy Crosses for valor, — he was arguably the most quotable Marine.

Once in North Korea, while surrounded and seemingly trapped by overwhelming enemy forces at Chosin Reservoir, Puller surveyed his 1st Marine Division’s position and proclaimed, “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies our problem of finding these people and killing them.”

Chesty’s 1st Marine Division fought its way out of Chosin Reservoir — he refused to call it a retreat, saying he merely found more Chinese behind him than in front of him so he “about-faced and attacked” — and left in its wake seven shattered Chinese Army divisions.

You’ll also meet up with Irene Morgan, an African-American who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus passing through Middlesex County in 1944. That was 11 years before Rosa Parks did the same thing.

Learn about how Morgan was arrested and convicted, but with the help of attorneys Spottswood W. Robinson III and Thurgood Marshall, appealed her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a landmark 1946 ruling, the court found that it was unconstitutional to enforce segregation laws on interstate carriers, helping pave the way for future Civil Rights battles.

And we’re just highlight a few great Americans who called Middlesex County home. Would you like to meet the many others?