Chippokes celebrates 400 years of continuous farming

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: November 16, 2019 | 3:00 p.m.

SURRY – The beginning of harvest season was a great time to celebrate a significant milestone in Surry County, and according to Ben Richard, Director of Chippokes Plantation State Park, their celebration of 400 years of continuous farming on the site featured

“We had over 150 people on hand to enjoy tales of what makes Chippokes Plantation so historically significant and special,” Richard explained of the October event. “Beth Roach, a former employee who now works with the Department of Conservation and Recreation spoke from her Native American heritage about the land and people who were here before the plantation was established, and the influence they had on the area. Terry Lewis from the Surry African American Heritage Society shared insights into what is known of the enslaved people who were here on the plantation and their contributions. Former park manager Danette Poole, now DCR’s Director of the Division of Planning, shared some of her experiences at Chippokes and some efforts made by state parks to make this a place where the public can come and learn about our past and how significant events in the past can shape the future.”

Also included in the festivities was the official unveiling of a brick wall commissioned by Friends of Chippokes with plaques commemorating different aspects of the history of the plantation as well as a chance to see Walnut Valley. Richard said that the 230-acre parcel, which was donated to the state in 2004 and now is part of the plantation, includes a 1770s plantation house that is newly available for rent for anyone who wants to experience first-hand what living in Surry County over 200 years ago might have been like.

“Following the commemoration,” he continued, “many stayed for the reception sponsored by Friends of Chippokes, and enjoyed enjoy hearth cooking demonstrations at the Brick Kitchen, guided-tours of the Jones-Stewart Mansion, and the opportunity to view thousands of artifacts at the Farm and Forestry Museum featuring farming equipment throughout the ages.”

The commemoration event was a joint effort between the park and the Friends of Chippokes – a non-profit group that exists to help us out,” Richard continued. “Staff and volunteers came together to make a great event, and we were so pleased to have such a large – around 150 – turnout. We were able to bring in descendants of some of the families associated with the history of the plantation as well. One of the speakers – Harper Powell – is the 10th Great Grandson of Capt William Powell who received the land grant of what would become Chippokes. Members of Jones family from here came, as did family members of Evelyn Stewart, the last private landowner. So it was kind of like a big reunion.”

“Everyone here was pleased with how it went and had a great time,” he added. “They stuck around for quite a while afterward for the reception with Southern-style food – things like ham biscuits, pimento cheese sandwiches, peach punch. And after they toured the Walnut Valley property, a new part of the park, and the mansion and the brick kitchen as well. It was a really good event, and we were so excited that we had such a good turn out of community people who came to take advantage of the event and share the step back in history offered by the park.”

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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