Belle Grove Plantation remembers buried veteran from the War of 1812
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.