Belle Grove Plan­ta­tion re­mem­bers buried vet­eran from the War of 1812

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY CATHY DYSON

MIDDLETOWN, VA. | Belle Grove Plan­ta­tion is known as the birth­place of Pres­i­dent James Madi­son, but it’s also the fi­nal rest­ing place of 10 peo­ple, in­clud­ing a vet­eran of the War of 1812.

On April 10, the burial site of Wil­liam Bernard III, who lived at Belle Grove in King Ge­orge County af­ter the war with Eng­land, re­ceived a plaque to mark it. As a breeze blew off the Rap­pa­han­nock River, 27 mem­bers of the Na­tional So­ci­ety United States Daugh­ters of 1812 gath­ered for a brief cer­e­mony to re­mem­ber him and other fam­ily mem­bers buried at Belle Grove.

“Noth­ing is re­ally ended un­til it is for­got­ten,” read Mary Duffe, the na­tional first vice pres­i­dent. “What­ever is kept in mem­ory yet en­dures and is real.”

Over the years, the 19th cen­tury burial ground of mem­bers of the Hip­kins-Bernard fam­ily was lost to time, un­til Michelle and Brett Dar­nell opened their bed-and-break­fast in 2013. She re­searched Li­brary of Congress records and Hip­kins-Bernard fam­ily pa­pers at the Col­lege of Wil­liam and Mary for nine months un­til she lo­cated a 12-by-12-foot plot in front of the man­sion.

She planted 10 rose bushes, so no one would walk over the graves, and the cou­ple built a raised bed to mark the site.

As fate would have it, she named the front bed­room af­ter the fam­ily. That was be­fore she knew ex­actly where the ceme­tery was — and that guests who stay in that room can see the burial grounds from their win­dow.

“Tell me some­body wasn’t talk­ing to me,” Michelle Dar­nell said.

Later, she told the as­sem­bled group that of all the ghosts re­port­edly spot­ted at Belle Grove, the mem­bers of the Hip­kins-Bernard fam­ily are the qui­etest.

The Daugh­ters of 1812 are gath­er­ing in Wash­ing­ton for the as­so­ci­a­tion’s coun­cil meet­ing. The group, which in­cluded na­tional of­fi­cers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 12 states and the District of Columbia, vis­ited Mont­pe­lier Mon­day be­fore head­ing to Belle Grove for the pre­sen­ta­tion, fol­lowed by tea, scones and Vic­to­rian cook­ies adorned with im­ages of cameos.

Nancy Hill, na­tional chair­man for printed sup­plies, was thrilled to be able to re­mem­ber a vet­eran of the War of 1812, which she re­ferred to as “the lost war.” She was shocked to hear the Dar­nells say that a medal­lion for Bernard, which had been placed at a me­mo­rial tomb­stone at nearby Em­manuel Epis­co­pal Church, had been stolen.

“We thought this would be the per­fect op­por­tu­nity” to right that wrong, she said about the plaque. “This is what we do.”

Pam Arm­strong, a mem­ber from Dal­las, was one of the first peo­ple off the char­ter bus at Belle Grove. She proudly an­nounced that Winifred Con­way, whose fam­ily lived at Belle Grove in the 17th and 18th cen­turies, was her sev­enth great-grand­mother.

She was thrilled to be back on fam­ily soil. “I’m be­side my­self,” Ms. Arm­strong said. “I feel like I’m home when I’m in Vir­ginia be­cause I have so many fam­ily ties from the 1600s and 1700s.”

Michelle Dar­nell got emo­tional when she thanked the Daugh­ters of 1812 for their ef­forts. She said she will take care of the plaque and will re­mem­ber those buried in the fam­ily plot.

“They will not be for­got­ten,” she said.

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