Take Me Out to the Ballgame…


Autumn brings a nostalgic feeling. With summer vacation officially over and kids going back to school, it’s difficult not to think about what we were doing around this time in years past. The changing of the leaves may remind us of long anticipated Saturday mornings, when school work could be forgotten in favor of spending a day at the community baseball park, trying to soak in the last inklings of summer.


Baseball, “America’s favorite pastime,” has been played in parks, streets, and school yards since the 1800s. The sport’s easy rules and no-contact game play made it fun for people of all ages and genders to enjoy. Baseball rose in popularity in the late 19th- and early 20th-century, and professional teams were formed in cities across the country, from New York to Los Angeles. As rules were formalized and team rivalries began, fans would travel miles to see their favorite team.


main_bg-1Professional leagues were not just reserved for the major urban cities. Smaller towns and regions could also boast professional leagues, including the Eastern Shore. From the 1920s to the 1940s, a professional class-D Eastern Shore League graced baseball parks found up and down Route 13. Future Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx, Red Ruffing, Mickey Cochrane and Frank “Home Run” Baker honed skills on these Eastern Shore baseball diamonds that would later help them succeed in the major leagues.


parksley-spuds-1924-home-jerseyThe Parksley Spuds were a popular team for many Eastern Shore fans. In the very first year of the league’s operation in 1922, this Virginia team took home the pennant, a goal they would repeat twice more before the league temporarily disbanded in 1928. The Eastern Shore league would return twice more in the 20th century; however, the Eastern Shore of Virginia never had another team in the league. The love for baseball never died though, instead shown through the popularity of company teams, church leagues and community clubs.


Baseball has a nostalgic feel to it that other sports have slightly more difficulty capturing. Its simple rules made it easy for us to play as children, while its historic and longstanding tradition as the national pastime has encouraged us to go to games on Saturdays, when work could be put on hold to play ball.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society is encouraging baseball fans of all ages to tap into that nostalgic feeling and to join us as we celebrate the Eastern Shore League with a special, one time viewing of unique artifacts and photographs of these early baseball teams. Hear from Eastern Shore League enthusiasts Mike Lambert, author of Eastern Shore League:  Images of Baseball and Donny Davison, collector, as well as baseball historian, Marty Payne. Fans of Eastern Shore Baseball will also have the chance to bring their own artifacts to discuss with their fellow collectors.

(Rug) Hooked on History: Exploring Our New Exhibit!

What do Tarot Cards and rugs have in common? Well, honestly not much. However, they both have a long, interesting history here in North America and in Europe. They are also the subjects of our next exhibit!


Hooked Chair Mat, ESVHS Collection

The technique of using a hook to pull loops of yarn or fabric through a stiff woven base dates back to the those of Scandinavian descent who settled in Scotland, though earlier versions of the craft can be found in other parts of Europe. The descendants of these early rug hookers eventually carried knowledge of their craft to the new world, settling in the New England and Canadian Maritime area. The craft blossomed in the Americas, as settlers had less new materials to work with, every scrap of fabric had to be reused. Many early American rugs have fabric from old curtains, clothes, and stockings. Modern Rug hookers make use of wool, which can be bought in a variety of colors, or they custom dye wool for a particular project. The craft has grown from simple floor coverings to beautiful works of art.



“The Hanged Man” Rider-Waite-Smith deck, 1910

 The history of tarot cards is similarly long, beginning in southern Europe as a card game, tarochinni, which is still played today. Many today know of the tarot as a method of divination, with the 78-card deck divided into two distinct parts: a 22-card Major Arcana (Big Secrets) followed by a 56-card minor arcana. It’s believed that a combination of each card’s symbolism as well as a variety of card layouts gave insight to one’s troubles. The symbolism and pictures depicted on the cards have varied throughout the centuries, but most are familiar with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, first published in 1910.


Chariot, Lynne Fowler

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck serves as the inspiration for our visiting rug hooking exhibit. In 2015, Rug Hookers, Michele Micarelli and Loretta Scena, conceived of an idea for different rug hookers to hook their interpretation of a card in the Major Arcana. A group of 23 artists each picked a card in the Major Arcana, with the 23rd artist creating a design for the back of the cards. One of the members of our historical society, Lynne Fowler, was invited to hook her interpretation of the “Chariot” card.


Explore more about the exhibit and the symbolism behind each card at Tarot Rug Project News and Index to the Rugs .

Join us as we explore the Tarot Card, as interpreted by rug hookers in our new temporary exhibit “Exploring the Tarot: 23 Artists Hook the Major Arcana,” opening July 8, 2016. A reception will be held at Ker Place on July 8th from 6-8 pm. The reception is free and open to the public with a cash bar. 

Springing into Bloom: New Growth and New Adventures!


Though some days it may seem that Spring has forgotten to come, the plants are indeed blooming here at Ker Place! Thanks to the Garden Club of Virginia, the back pathways are now lined with Hypericum, which will bloom later this season. Hypericum, also referred to as St. John’s Wort, is a plant that would have been common to use to line pathways back when John Shepperd Ker and his wife, Agnes, built Ker Place in 1799.

We are excited to restore our garden paths to how they may have looked when John and Agnes owned the house. The restoration of a historic property’s landscape may be overlooked due to the restoration of the house itself, but it is no less important to the interpretation of a historic home. Instead of the imported and exotic flowers, shrubs and trees that are common in today’s gardens, 18th century gardeners and landscapers would have relied on what was local to the area to create magnificent gardens.

We are also grateful to the Master Gardeners of the Eastern Shore for the planting and maintenance of our Kitchen and Herb Garden, which is open to the community. Educating visitors on the historic and modern uses for many herbs, the garden is a wonderful addition to the interpretation of Ker Place. When the Ker Family lived here, it is likely they would have had a similar garden in their yard, providing easy and immediate access to medicinal herbs such as fever few, Star of Bethlehem, and yarrow. Culinary herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage would have also been a common site in 18th century gardens, which were planted for household use as well as beauty.

On a much grander scale, a new exhibit at Washington’s Mount Vernon showcases this idea of use and beauty, which George Washington called his “Republican Stile of Living”. The exhibit, Gardens and Groves: George Washington’s Landscape at Mount Vernon is the first museum exhibition to focus specifically on Washington’s landmark achievements as a landscape designer combining rarely-seen original documents, artworks, and books with period garden tools, gorgeous landscape photography and a stunning scale model of the Mount Vernon estate. The exhibit also tells the stories of the men and women both hired and enslaved who created and maintained George Washington’s gardens.


Have you had the chance to see Mount Vernon’s gardens this year? If not (or even if you already have!) the Eastern Shore of VA Historical Society invites you to join us as we explore Mount Vernon this May. The Staff at Ker Place has organized a day’s worth of activities, including a VIP tour of Mount Vernon and the Gardens & Groves Exhibit. We will also enjoy lunch at The Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. For the full itinerary and ticket information for the May 10th Bus Tour, please visit our Facebook Page: Mount Vernon Bus Tour

We also invite you to purchase your tickets to the Eastern Shore Garden tour here at Ker Place. The Garden Tour held on April 30th invites visitors to venture through the gardens and interiors of several historic Eastern Shore homes.

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A Study in “Well-Behaved Women”

“Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History” – I have seen this quote attributed to a number of great female role models, most notably Eleanor Roosevelt. However, the famous first-lady never said this. Instead, these oft-quoted words were first written down by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in an article about Puritan funeral services.


Now, I will admit, that as a historian, I have read Ulrich’s work before, but for the most part, the public hasn’t. Also, unlike the way the phrase is used today to imply that women must “misbehave” in order to make history, Ulrich instead first meant the words to lament the fact that many of the important stories of “well-behaved” women are overlooked in favor of the not so well-behaved.

It has been the effort of future women’s history enthusiasts to encourage the study of all women, both well-behaved and otherwise.

March is Women’s History Month. Begun as Women’s History Week in California during the week of March 8, 1978, the movement gained interest throughout the country. In 1987, Congress declared March “National Women’s History Month.” Since then, events held during the month of March have brought focus on the achievements of women in American History.

For this Women’s History Month, I am honored to be a part of an exhibit that will showcase the lives of 10 Eastern Shore Women (both well-behaved and not so well-behaved) during the events of the Civil War. What began as interesting stories during the course of Kellee Blake’s research as she wrote her book on the Civil War events on the Eastern Shore, has evolved into a multi-program event, which kicks off with a exhibit opening at Ker Place entitled Stronger than Steel:

On the eve of the Civil War, ten women on Virginia’s Eastern Shore lived different lives. They were Shorewomen whose stories endure through documents and artifacts. Their journeys over the course of four life-changing years, reveal a level of determination, faith and resolve that proved Stronger than Steel.

The lives of these women were pieced together through diaries, newspapers, and federal documents that were saved by both private families and public archives. From a battle of letters between a school teacher and General Benjamin Butler, to the worried writings of a seventeen-year-old girl, Stronger than Steel is sure to showcase and bring to light these women’s achievements. If nothing else, Stronger than Steel proves that while it may be that “well-behaved women seldom make history” their stories are still there, waiting to be found and made a part of history.

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Stronger than Steel is a multi-program event, featuring an exhibit, lectures and performance:

Stronger than Steel Exhibit Opening Reception

March 4th, 2016. 5-7pm, Ker Place, Onancock

Lunch and Lecture with Kellee Blake:

“The Fight of their Lives:  Finding the Stories of Civil War Women”

April 8th, 2016. 11am-1pm, Ker Place, Onancock.

Evening Panel Discussion

“The End of an Era: Top 10 Moments in the Civil War on the Eastern Shore”

April 22, 2016. 6pm, Onancock Baptist Church, Onancock.

Live Performance

Stronger than Steel: Civil War Voices of Eastern Shore Women

May 20-21, 2016, North Street Playhouse.
Stronger than Steel is open March-June 2016. Please visit www.shorehistory.org or like us on Facebook for more information.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society would like to thank Chesapeake Outdoor and the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities for sponsoring the event.



New @ Ker Place: 2015 Recent Acquisitions

Recent Acquisitions 2015.jpg

In 2015, the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society accepted over 100 new artifacts into our collection. Comprising of objects, documents, and photographs, the collections helps place the Eastern Shore of Virginia within the broader global context. Donations of artifacts relating to Shore businesses, lands, and history all help tell the unique story of the Eastern Shore. Here are just a few highlights of what was collected in 2015:


  • Born in August of 1898, Allen Ray Watson grew up on the Eastern Shore. In May of 2017, he enlisted in the Maryland National Guard. Called into active duty in July of that same year, Watson was shipped to the front lines of World War I in Europe. He was killed in action on October 15, 1918. His nephew donated several artifacts relating to Corporal Allen Ray Watson, including a picture of his entire unit, a framed certificate from France in memory of Watson’s “death for liberty,” as well as a digitized book detailing Allen Watson’s life from photographs to transcripts of the letters he sent to his brother Wilkes.
  • temperancevilleadjusted.jpgA Jacket, Pennant and booklet were donations relating to Temperanceville School which was host to a high school, elementary school and primary school during its long existence. It’s earliest students arrived by horse drawn vehicles or boarded in town. Temperanceville School closed it’s doors to students in 1978.


  • Photographer Mary Lincoln Hunt was contacted by the Library of Congress to complete a photo tour of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, recording life and homes up and down the shore. Using a browning camera, she took pictures of historic houses and other aspects of life along the shore, writing details about the houses and people on the back of the photographs. Her young daughter, Alice Lincoln Hunt, went along to document the Eastern Shore, and therefore shows up in many of the photographs. These photographs were used for a 1929 Library of Congress Project that showed life in 1920s America.


We are grateful to all the donations made this year to our collections, and look forward to preserving and displaying them for visitors, researchers, and future Eastern Shore generations.


Waves of Black and White: Exploring the New Photography Exhibit at Ker Place

Robertson Collage 1

     Dr. John W. Robertson was an active photographer from the 1930s to the 1970s, taking pictures of anyone and everything on the Eastern Shore. In 1996, Miriam Riggs Ennis rediscovered an entire collection of Dr. Robertson’s photographs for purchase at a garage sale. Feeling that not only should these pictures be kept together, but also be well taken care of, she organized and donated them to the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society. There are nearly 5,000 photographs total, and though they have been loosely divided into sections and briefly described, they had never been digitally scanned. Until now.

Robertson Collage 2

     Over the course of three scanning sessions and after about 50 hours of research, the Maritime Committee at Ker Place went through all of the maritime photos, scanning the best copies. Then, with the assistance of the ESVHS staff, they picked out the best 24 to showcase as part of the Ker Art and Maritime Exhibit festival. The exhibit, …On the Water: Through the Lens of Dr. John W. Robertson focuses on these photographs that reveal the beauty and culture of the Eastern shore. Dr. Robertson demonstrates that you didn’t need color to showcase the wonderful uniqueness that is the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

     Additionally, the staff is asking the Eastern Shore community for help identifying the people in Dr. Robertson’s collection. A collage of 19 photographs is available in the visitor center for guests to view. Know someone in a photograph? Please let is know by writing it on a sticky note and leaving on the picture. Or contact the docent on duty with comments or questions.


     …On the Water: Through the Lens of Dr. John W. Robertson is truly a “shore made” exhibit. Come view this collection at Ker Place, open to the public till December 2015.

Price Chart

     Find a favorite photo? Order a print to keep it forever! Unmatted prints are for sale by order and will be ready for a Christmas time delivery. Matted Prints are also for sale and available for immediate pick up. Please visit Ker Place or call 757-787-8012 for details. All proceeds will benefit in the preservation of the Dr. Robertson photograph collection.

Making the List!

The Top 10 list that is!VAM-Top10_RGB

     The Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society is excited to announce that the Griffith Family sampler got on to the Virginia Association of Museum’s Top 10 Endangered artifact list! Thank you everyone for voting. See the official announcement here: VAM Top 10 Endangered Artifacts

      GriffithSamplerFrontNow starts the drive to raise the funds to conserve the piece. The Top 10 list gets our piece and the society in the eyes of the Virginia public, now is the time to conserve the sampler to keep it in good shape for public viewing. Currently the piece has been put away into storage until it can be looked at by a textiles expert.GriffithSampler Closeup

     Please consider donating to the Annual Fund to help us conserve this piece so it can be enjoyed by all who visit Ker Place. The Griffith Family register is a unique piece in the history of the Eastern Shore, and we should preserve it for future generations.

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The Annual Fund runs from September 1 through the end of December 2015. Your tax deductible donation will not only help us conserve this important piece, but will also assist us in preserving all of Eastern Shore History.

Please contact: executivedirector@shorehistory.org for more details on giving to our annual fund. Or Donate Here! 

Contact collections@shorehistory.org for more information on the Griffith Family Sampler or to schedule an appointment to view it.

Thanks again to all who voted, this is an exciting opportunity for the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society!

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 https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2015VATop10, 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!

Juggling Genealogy: Re-Organizing Family Records and Resources Along the Eastern Shore

Ker Place Genealogy It has been a whirlwind summer so far as the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society’s Collections Manager. Daily tasks have varied, but one project I have been working on is inventorying and re-organizing the Genealogy section of our Library collection.


This excellent resource for researchers and genealogists has been updated to include recent additions. Books are shelved alphabetically by family last name as listed on the family record. Underneath the printed and published genealogies are books and periodicals of resources, such as lists of marriage licence bonds in both Accomack and Northampton Counties as well as other nearby Virginia Counties. Other exciting resources include Will and Administration Records, 1850 and 1860 Census records, and records of soldiers and sailors of the Revolutionary War from both Eastern Shore counties.

Work continues in other sections of the Library and Archives to organize and inventory documents and books. By the end, our archives and library will be searchable in our database, making research family history and other subjects about the Eastern Shore faster and easier.

PicMonkey Collage3 Do you have evidence of family history along the Eastern Shore of Virginia? Come visit our the Genealogical Library at Ker Place, 69 Market Street, Onancock, VA or contact me, Stephanie Templin at collections@shorehistory.org for questions or research requests.