Magnolia Grange Planters Day brings Civil War-Era to Life

By Roger Walk

Interest and passion brought more than 100 visitors to experience hints of civil war-era life in Chesterfield County. Life in 1864 was demonstrated and explained by costumed re-enactors and Chesterfield Historical Society volunteers at the Magnolia Grange museum estate.

In commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia presented several aspects of civil war-era life at the historic Magnolia Grange House Museum as a “Planters Day” on Saturday, May 31.

The Magnolia Grange is a historic plantation mansion located on Iron Bridge Road across from the Chesterfield County Courthouse. It was built in 1823, and is a two-story, five bay, brick dwelling in the Federal style. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The estate is operated as a historic house museum by the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia.

Federal-style architecture is the name for the classicizing architecture built in North America between 1780 and 1830. This style shares its name with its era, the Federal Period, and corresponds to the middle-class classicism of Biedermeier style in the German-speaking lands, Regency style in Britain and to the French Empire style.

Shingle making, blacksmithing and plowing, quilting, spinning, weaving, pottery, army service, traditional music and the service of a midwife were showcased, demonstrated and explained by the volunteer re-enactors wearing the respective attires of the 1860s. Visitors of all ages could touch and feel Civil War weaponry, iron plows, watch the making of cedar shingles and quilts and listen to traditional music, a seamstress presenting the “fashion” of the 1860s, or the midwife explaining her services during a time when her “toolbox” of medical treatment was limited to potatoes and lemons while the importance of germs in medicine was just being discovered by Louis Pasteur in France.

The proceeds from the Planters Day event will benefit the Revive Magnolia Grange campaign to restore the interior of the museum building. As Tamara Evans, the passionate Chesterfield Historic Society curator of the estate explains, the estate has been owned by Chesterfield County since 1985. The interior decorations and furniture are donated by the Historic Society and require renovations, repairs and face-lifts. “Every penny made today will go to revive Magnolia Grange,” says Mrs. Evans when she explains her own love affair with the estate. When her fifth-grade teacher made her aware of the historic significance and the beauty of the house in the 80s, she promised to help take care of the historic jewel; and so she organizes the series of events to educate the visitors and raise funds for the revival.

Other fundraising events are planned by the Chesterfield Historical Society and the curator of the museum, which will include a golf tournament in October and activities during the coming Christmas Holiday season.

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