What We ALL Have in Common ~ July 4, 2015


On the two hundredth and thirty-ninth (239th) anniversary of the British Colonies declaring themselves to be free and independent states, owing no allegiance to the British Crown, I was pondering what to write about. I wanted something fitting when I found something in my inbox. What could be more fitting than James Madison? James Madison, rebel leader against the British Crown, United States Congressman, Secretary of State under President Jefferson, delegate to the convention which adopted the articles of confederation after the colonies won their independence, fourth president of the United States, and the man who accompanied, first lady, Dolly Madison to the White House. A pretty impressive list of contributions and accomplishments, and if that were the extent of his accomplishments he would still be a great American. But, all of those pale in comparison to his greatest accomplishments.

In all of the world there is one document which is more concise, does more to limit the power of government, more to protect the natural laws of all people (within its jurisdiction), does more to ensure the citizens are the true power of government (instead of bullies, tyrants, and elitists), and does more to allow its citizens the free use of their talents, property, and opinions – than any other constitution. It accomplishes this in part by being one clear document written and adopted by its citizens, instead of being a series of laws over the course of hundreds of years.

Some claim that there are other constitutions that do more to protect the rights of its citizens. But, this is not true. Those other constitutions seek to obtain the support of one segment of the citizenry by taking the middle-class and giving to that segment. And make no mistake about it, the burden of the cost and the work which keeps the country moving forward has always fallen on the middle-class and it always will. The other rights that, even some in our government, claim are the rights of all Peoples are not natural rights, and they require violating the natural rights of the middle-class in order to grant rights to others. Those rights are given by government and as such they came be taken away by governments. Natural rights are not given by governments, and as such they cannot be taken away by governments – they can only be violated by governments. Enough of natural rights and constitutions, on to James Madison and the reason for this article and what you can do to help.

The birthplace of James Madison and home of his maternal grandmother, Rebecca Catlett Conway Moore, Belle Grove Plantation and its surrounding property, is in a beautiful part of Virginia, surrounded by trees and farm fields as it has been for hundreds of years. Belle Grove is on the Virginia register of historic landmarks and is routinely inspected by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

I could go on about Belle Grove and what it means to us all. I mean it is OUR history, every one of us. All of those Americans here and abroad, including those Americans who are doing everything they can to come home to an America they have only seen in their dreams. It is my daughter’s (Elizabeth Combs) history. Her ancestors were at Valley Forge with George Washington and eighty years later more of her family risked their own lives, the lives of their families, and all that they had to lead former slaves to freedom in Ohio and West Virginia.

It is also the heritage of Elizabeth’s mother, Marina Alexandrovna Combs. Marina immigrated to the United States in September 2001 just after September 11. A few years later she took the oath of citizenship and became a citizen of the United States (I have never felt so humbled and honored as I did that day, to witness almost 100 of our countrymen & women, from all over the world taking an oath to confirm what they have always been at heart – American).

Belle Grove has African American history that has already been lost throughout our country. If we lose the Summer Kitchen of Belle Grove there will be a part of African American history that will be permanently removed from our past and lost forever. I could go on and say more, but my words pale in comparison with the passionate words of Brett and Michelle Darnell. So I am going to let them tell you the rest in their words.

Brett and Michelle Darnell

“Back in 2013, we were inspected by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. They come out once every few years to ensure that there hasn’t been any changes to the historic mansion, which is a Virginia Landmark. After viewing the mansion and giving us an approval that all was original, I walked the representative to the outbuildings.

She was awe struck.

She told me that the Summer Kitchen with its half kitchen and half slave lodging was “priceless”. She said to me, “You don’t understand. These don’t exist anymore!” Most have been lost to fires, neglected or weather beaten until they fell in. To find one that dates to this time period is almost impossible. She also pointed out the rose head nail studded door on the Smokehouse. I have to laugh when I think of what she said to me. “Michelle, don’t you ever sell this door! These nails were made here in the 1700s!”She told me with all the authority she could muster. I assured her that I would never do such a thing. It would be like selling my right arm. It’s all attached to this place.

With all this precious history standing before me, I have to do something.

Time stands still for no man. Or woman on a mission.

We are currently in progress on our 501C Non Profit so we can work on getting grants for this kind of restoration. But 501C Non Profits take time. And time is something we have precious little of with these buildings.

We have been working on a two special projects to raise the needed money for these buildings.

 

We have our Amazing Race 2015 on July 18th. This event will see teams of 2, 3 or 4 traveling to King George, Caroline and Westmoreland County to complete “Location Challenges” for points. The team with the most points at the end of the day will win 1st, 2nd and 3rd place as well as “Best Dressed” team. We will have a special Finish Line Celebration and Award Ceremony after the day is over with food, fun and music.

We are still looking for teams to join us in the fun!

There is no cost to enter. Just sign up by Sunday, July 12th. Complete your form by going to:

https://bellegrove.wufoo.com/forms/xifle3n1n453ww/

Come be crazy and wacky for the day with us!

We have started a special GoFundMe Campaign called “Save Our History at Belle Grove”. Our goal is to raise $45,000 to restore and preserve these priceless treasures.

We are asking you to please visit our campaign at:

http://www.gofundme.com/xw687w

Watch our video. Make a donation. Then share this campaign with as many people as you can.

This really needs to be a team effort. So we are coming to you that have supported us throughout the years. You know how hard we have worked. What hardships we have faced and overcome. Now we need your help to overcome this wall.

Please help us before it is too late for these buildings.

Be a part of the history of Belle Grove Plantation.

If we reach this goal and after the buildings are completed, we will have a special invitation only Grand Opening for those who have supported us in this cause. We will also enter all the names into a special book that will become part of the history of how these buildings were saved.

What after they are restored?

The Summer Kitchen will become a small museum. The kitchen side will house all the artifacts and history of Belle Grove Plantation. The slave lodging will become a living memorial for the enslaved people of Belle Grove Plantation. It will not only tell the story of the slaves, but will have a bronze plaque with all the names of slaves we have been able to discover through wills, inventories and death records. We have long lost the slave cemetery. But through this effort, we hope to give them their names back to be remembered forever.

The Smokehouse and Ice House will stand as a teaching tool for this generation and generations to come. It is our hope to bring in historic performers and teachers to teach the general public as well as school aged children about live on the plantation.

Let us not forget the past, but remember it so we are not doomed to repeat it.

What a great gift we can give back to our children and their children. To have the original buildings tell their story.

Won’t you please help us?

Brett and Michelle Darnell

Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast

Birthplace of James Madison

BelleGrovePlantation.com

540-621-7340

Facebook – Belle Grove Plantation at Port Conway

Website – BelleGrovePlantation.com

Youtube – Watch videos from Belle Grove Plantation”

 

Thank you Brett and Michelle. Thank you for myself, my ex-wife, our daughter. Thank you for our grandchildren and great grandchildren not yet born. Thank you from our neighbors, and fellow countrymen (& women), including those countrymen (& women) who are still trying to immigrate to home.

I know it is impossible for compensate you for the time, sweat, and tears you have given and will give in the future, but I want you to know that you have my undying gratitude for all of your efforts. Come what may, you have given you all and it is greatly appreciated.

 

Very Respectfully,

 

Joe C Combs 2nd

 

P.S. I know times are hard for all of us right now and I never ask you for money, but if each one of us could go to http://www.gofundme.com/xw687w and pledge just one dollar we could same our heritage – there are enough of us.

Thank you

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What’s Your Dream?


There was once a kid named Jim living in Texas. Jim loved baseball and had been playing since he was three years old. He dreamed of being a major league baseball player. By the time he was in high school he was going to a small town school that did not have a baseball team. But, he did not give up his dream. After he graduated from high school he tried out in the amateur draft as a pitcher (his fastball was 85 miles an hour). The amateur draft is an open tryout where anyone can just walk up and give it their best shot. Jim was the 466th overall picked, drafted by the New York Yankees. But Jim did not sign. Instead he tried out again the next year and was picked fourth overall by the Milwaukee Brewers.

As with all new ball players, he was placed on one of the Milwaukee’s minor league teams. He had several arm injuries and was released by Milwaukee and picked up by the Chicago White Sox. But still he was not able to rise above single A minor league. Jim retired from baseball and became a teacher.

While a teacher he also coached his school’s baseball team. Ten years after leaving professional baseball Jim was coaching a team that had several talented ballplayers on it. But the team was not motivated (baseball took a back seat to football in the community) and was struggling. Jim was encouraging them not to give up, but his players pointed out that he gave up on his baseball career. The coach and the team struck a deal, if the team would win the district title, Jim would try out for baseball again.

The team did something no baseball team from that school had done before – they won the district title. A man of his word, Jim tried out for baseball again. Men Jim’s age, 35, are not rookies. At 35 most baseball players are retiring. The scout was not interested in Jim, but decided to let him tryout so Jim could keep his promise to his team. What happened next was shocking to everyone specially Jim. Jim threw twelve consecutive 98 mile an hour fastballs.

Jim was offered a contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and sent to the double A Orlando Rays. After just a few games Jim was moved up to the triple A Durham Bulls. Shortly after that he was called up to “The Big Show.” Finally, 20 years after a young high school kid dreamed of being a major league pitcher, Jim pitched his first game as a professional major league baseball player. Jim stuck out his first batter in four pitches. Jim pitched in the major leagues for two years, but his arm injuries returned and he retired from baseball. At an age when men are ending their baseball careers not starting them, Jim went after his dram one more time and made his dream a reality.

What is your dream?

So, why is it a dream, why are you not doing it?

If Jim can do it, if I can do it – you can do it!

No more excuses, no more wishes, you are never defeated until you quit.

Now go out there and make your dream a reality!

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The H.L. Hunley … A Look At History


The first week of June, my daughter and I went to see the H.L. Hunley in Charleston, South Carolina. First I want to encourage you to see the submarine.

Second I want to let you know that this is an active and ongoing research and preservation effort that is on going with the H.L. Hunley. Because of the work being done on the submarine, it is only open to the public on weekends.

Here are just some of the photos we took of our visit. I will post more later over the next few weeks.

Elizabeth inside a full size replica of the Hunley.

Elizabeth inside a full size replica of the Hunley.

 

The $20 gold piece that save Lt. Dixon's life at the Battle of Shiloh. His fiancé gave it to him and he kept it as a good luck piece. It was found on him inside the submarine when it was recovered.

The $20 gold piece that save Lt. Dixon’s life at the Battle of Shiloh. His fiancé gave it to him and he kept it as a good luck piece. It was found on him inside the submarine when it was recovered.

 

The $20 gold piece that save Lt. Dixon's life at the Battle of Shiloh. His fiancé gave it to him and he kept it as a good luck piece. It was found on him inside the submarine when it was recovered.

The $20 gold piece that save Lt. Dixon’s life at the Battle of Shiloh. His fiancé gave it to him and he kept it as a good luck piece. It was found on him inside the submarine when it was recovered.

 

The $20 gold piece that save Lt. Dixon's life at the Battle of Shiloh. His fiancé gave it to him and he kept it as a good luck piece. It was found on him inside the submarine when it was recovered.

The $20 gold piece that save Lt. Dixon’s life at the Battle of Shiloh. His fiancé gave it to him and he kept it as a good luck piece. It was found on him inside the submarine when it was recovered.

 

Facial reconstructions of the last crew of the Hunley.

Facial reconstructions of the last crew of the Hunley.

 

Facial reconstructions of the last crew of the Hunley.

Facial reconstructions of the last crew of the Hunley.

 

Facial reconstructions of the last crew of the Hunley.

Facial reconstructions of the last crew of the Hunley.

 

Facial reconstructions of the last crew of the Hunley.

Facial reconstructions of the last crew of the Hunley.

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Why??? And Why Children???


That is the real question. Why is there sickness, disease, and particularly cancer? And why do children die from these? I had a friend that lost faith in God over this question. Near my home three children have died from the same cancer in the last year. There has been more death I have seen and heard about in the last few years than I could have imagined. Why? Why does this happen to children? Why does God let this happen?

The same former friend also thought I needed to let go of the death of my oldest daughter, it has been eleven years after all. My former friend could understand if my daughter had been a teenager or something because then I would have memories (my daughter was a newborn). I did not answer, but I should have. There are many types of grief. For the first year my grief was over what I had lost. But, all of my memories with her were from a 90 minute period of time and eventually, I came to terms with what I lost, that is when my grief changed. Now I grieve not over what I lost, but what she lost. It is not a grief that stays on the surface on a daily basis. But it is a grief that is sparked from time to time by events, sights, sounds, smells, almost anything at any time can spark it. The one thing that is constant is you never know when it will surface, or how long it will be until it surfaces again. When you hear someone say, “He/she would have loved that” and they are talking about someone who has passed away – that is the kind of grief I/they/you are talking about. It is the same kind of grief we feel whenever we hear of someone dying too young. We grieve because those children never got to play with other kids, learn to talk & walk, have a first day of school, a first date and so many other things that (depending on their age) they never got to do. Chances those children lost. The death of a child is the hardest to bear, the hardest to understand.

One more thing before I get back to the main topic.

I am not going to start writing a religious column. I do not discuss politics, finances, or religion on this blog, nor do I accept articles from people for this blog on those three subjects. However, I do want to address this one issue.

First, let me say I am a Christian. A Christian who was taught from childhood that God is all knowing and all powerful. My Sunday school teachers taught me that God could do anything. They were wrong. Let me say that again. My Sunday school teachers were wrong, God can not do anything. As a matter of fact the average human being can do things God cannot do. Human beings can lie, steal, cheat, kill, be greedy, cheat on spouses and a whole slue of other things that God cannot do.

There are many things that exists because of human beings and for no other reason, bad things. This includes diseases and sickness. Now people did not create cancer, and there are many very good people working on cures for various cancers and other diseases that kill people. These are people who WANT to cure these killers. But, there is big money in research and I am equally convinced there are people who do not want these diseases to be cured for their own selfish reasons. Those people do not want the money to be shut off or they do not want to lose they power they have because of that research. I also equally believe that the day will come when many of these diseases will be cured. This is my opinion I offer no proof of this and have no intention of even trying. I also do not believe those who are more concerned with money or power can stop a cure, but they can slow one down.

So, why does this happen to children – it is not fair! No, it is not fair. But so far I have not seen one thing from science or religion that has ever promised life will be fair, actually quite the opposite. Life is damn hard and damn unfair.

Worse than children dying of sickness we cannot yet cure are the men, women, and children who die every day of diseases, parasites, and starvation – things we can prevent. Every day there is people who die by their own hand because of depression. The suicide rate of veterans unbelievably high.

But, at the end of the day each of us has to answer this question for ourselves. Why? I do believe there is a God, but if I can do things God cannot do and I cannot prevent cancer then how can I blame God for cancer.

The answer I have given myself is this. I cannot save every person on the planet. But today I can help one person. And for today, making a difference in the life of one person is enough – for today.

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A Covered Bridge


Recently, I went to a covered bridge in Union County, Ohio with my camera and spent a little while admiring a 142 year old wooden covered bridge. Often I hear people asking, “Why did they make bridges covered?” I have heard many good answers. But, the reason for covered bridges was an answer to an engineering problem.

Before bridges were made of iron, steel, and concrete, they were made of wood. They created wooden truss from which the bridge was built. The problem was that a wooden bridge exposed to snow, rain, and sun, would only last ten to fifteen years. By building the bridge with sides and a roof they could extend the life of the bridge. Like I said, this one is 142 years old.

So, without further ado, here is the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Entrance to the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Entrance to the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

 

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

 

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

 

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

 

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

 

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

 

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge looking at another bridge beside the Culbertson Bridge. The wooden bridge cannot handle the weight of some of the modern vehicles using this road, the a smaller bridge was built to handle the heavier traffic.

Interior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge looking at another bridge beside the Culbertson Bridge. The wooden bridge cannot handle the weight of some of the modern vehicles using this road, the a smaller bridge was built to handle the heavier traffic.

 

Exterior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Exterior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

 

Exterior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Exterior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

 

Exterior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Exterior of the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

 

Historical marker for the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Historical marker for the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

 

Historical marker for the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

Historical marker for the Culbertson Covered Bridge.

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