Photo: 18th and 19th century buttons found at Clermont, from agricultural plowing and gardening activities. Zippers don't appear in clothing until the 1930's, and the multitude of buttons on both men's and women's clothes (handmade in the 18th and 19th centuries) were easily lost from long-used garments, especially during physical work. Credit: The Elizabeth R. Williams Family Collections
HISTORY AT CLERMONT: INTRODUCTION
The land, buildings, and people who lived on and owned Clermont provide a lens from a local perspective through which we can see the history of the American colonies, the founding of the nation, its travails through the Civil War, and its rise to and assumption of power on the world stage. This is the perspective of people who grappled with those forces.
The creation of boundaries around a specific parcel of land in 1750, later to be known as "Clermont", starts the story in the historical period. That story begins on Virginia's western colonial frontier with a land survey by an 18-year old George Washington working for his mentor Lord Fairfax. That young surveyor would later lead a Revolution, calling upon men he had met in the backcountry of Virginia (some of whom later owned or gathered at Clermont), and then become the first President of the new United States.
But that story, with its implications down to the present day, begins in a land far away in time, the land of pre-history, long before there was written history. That early story is recorded in the earth itself, and in the oral traditions of the first peoples as well as in their material culture, pieces of which are also hidden and found in the earth. Here are Clermont's chapters from that early story to the present:
Chap 1. Pre-History and Claims of Ownership by Europeans (16,000 BC-1,730 AD) - ends with first major European settlement in Valley
Geology, First Peoples, European Explorers, Royal land-grant, the Fairfax Northern Neck and Proprietary
Chap 2. European Settlement in Western Virginia (1730-1770) - ends with sale of Clermont by Thomas Wadlington, owner during French and Indian War
Iroquois wars, Struggle for empire, Economic/Social Changes, Immigration flows, Slavery in the British Colonies
Chap 3. Revolutionary Age (1771-1790) - ends with death of Clermont owner Edward Snickers, owner during Revolutionary War
War with Britain, Changing Views on Slavery, National land-grant for military service, Western movement, Agricultural and economic changes
Chap 4. The New Nation (1791-1836) - ends with death of owner Florinda Milton McCormick, and formation of Clarke County
Role of slavery in Virginia's decline, Economic changes/political issues, transportation changes, Clarke formed out of Frederick
Chap 5. Jacksonian America (1837-1860) - ends with apogee of Clermont-owned land and farm production
National expansion, Increased tensions over Slavery, Minority rule, Agriculture and the Age of Grain, Economy, Slavery at Clermont
Chap 6. Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1908) - ends with death of owner Ellen Jett McCormick, widowed in 1870
War and its Effects, End of Slavery, "New" race relations and labor system, Expanded individual horizons, Children succeed away
Chap 7. America on the World Stage (1909-1945) - ends with the birth of last family owner, Judge Elizabeth Rust Williams
WWI, New Deal, WWII, New Barn/new technology, Historic preservation movement
Chap 8. Nation Post-WWII and World Leadership (1946-2004) - ends with death of Elizabeth Williams and gift to Commonwealth of Virginia
Agricultural changes, Cold War, Civil Rights, federal Historic Preservation Act
Chap 9. 21st Century (2005-)
Ownership by Virginia Department of Historic Resources, new challenges in interpreting the nation's history, new opportunities for a local farm now identified as an "historic site"