Remembering Bertie Lee Colona

     A few months ago, John Verrill, a past ESVHS Executive Director, sent our board a letter in remembrance of Bertie Lee Watson Colona (1920-2015), who took great pride in keeping Ker Place clean. Following is an excerpt of John’s letter, detailing all the Bertie did for both the building and staff:

1546360_profile_pic     “For many years Bertie Lee Watson Colona cleaned Ker Place and made it sparkle. Her ability to keep such a large building clean was impressive, she out cleaned and out worked others who were much younger, but it was her understanding of how to work that made it easier for her – she was very methodical and always worked from top to bottom so that the last thing she cleaned was the floor. Oh how she made that house shine!

One of the jobs that I occasionally asked her to do was to polish the silver that was used during public functions at Ker Place. Bertie relished this job and always made the silver shine like it was just made. I don’t remember the brand of silver polish that she liked, but she insisted that only that brand be used and made it very clear to me that I had better have plenty of it even though it cost much more than competing brands. Her ability to make that silvershine lives on in my memory as something very special. I used to sit around the kitchen table at Ker Place and watch as she polished the silver and told me stories of her life in Delaware raising chickens, picking strawberries and other field work, and on the Shore working for the Kellam family.”

–John Verrill
Though I did not know Bertie personally, I do understand the pride she must have taken in keeping Ker Place clean. It is, indeed, a big house, and to have the passion and knowledge to keep such a place and its artifacts clean is truely something to admire. So in recognition on what would have been her 95th birthday, Ker Place and the ESVHS staff would like to take a moment to remember and appreciate Bertie and all that she has done for the Historical Society.

–Stephanie Templin
Collections Manager


Stitching Our Way To The Top Ten

The Historical Society has a chance to get one of our artifacts onto the Virginia Association of Museum’s Top Ten Endangered Artifact list.

How, you ask?

The story begins when I (The ESVHS Collections Manager) started at Ker Place this past May. Like every visitor, I began by taking a tour of Ker Place, butSamplerUpClose unlike most guests, I viewed the building and artifacts from a curator’s perspective, getting a feel for all of the objects, portraits, and furnishings in the rooms. As I walked into the silver room, I viewed all of the portraits and framed artifacts on the walls and I noticed that on one of the walls was a framed sampler. I was struck by how beautiful and unique this sampler was. Stitched with a variety of embroidery techniques, it also included a family register, rather than the bible verse or poem that was more common for the time period.

TGriffithSampler Closeuphe sampler was completed in 1844 by Elizabeth Griffith. It was found in a farmhouse near Capeville, VA by a couple in 1987. The couple, in turn, donated it to the Historical Society in 2013. It was hung in the Silver Room as a compliment to the Ker Family Sampler already hanging in there. My eye was drawn to the french knots Elizabeth Griffith used to create grass, the small vine and stem stitches that formed the willow tree, and the patience it must have taken to stitch the satin stitches in the flower petals.

From the early 17th to the late 19th century, young girls between the ages of 10 and 14 demonstrated their skill with a needle by creating samplers, some as simple as a short poem and their names, others as elaborate to include flowers, trees, and multiple embroidery techniques. With several flower and tree motifs and a variety of stitches, Elizabeth Griffith certainly showed off her skill!

VAM-Top10_RGBWithin the next few weeks, I received an email from the Program Assistant at the Virginia Association of Museums asking for us to nominate one of our artifacts for their Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program. I remembered this embroidered piece and thought it would be a wonderful nomination. This program would bring attention to not only this piece, but to our collection as a whole.

The nomination was accepted and the piece is now up for public voting. This is where we need your help!

Please go to, and scroll down to the Needlepoint Sampler/Griffith Family Register and click “YES!” Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “Submit My Vote” so your vote counts in the tally. Voting ends August 23, so vote as often as you can!