Berkeley Plantation: Where History Comes to Life

River City Magazine - May / June 2019 issue

It is my own observation that these days, there is less of an emphasis placed on the importance of our history. Growing up in a household that wasn’t particularly wealthy, our family skipped the Disney and theme park trips, and instead took more affordable day trips to battlefields, museums, and civil war parks. As a child, that didn’t seem like the “cool” thing to do; as an adult, I more clearly understand the value of those experiences, and have an appreciation for history that I otherwise might not have.

Whether you are a parent looking to give your child the hands-on history experience that has a much stronger impact than reading words on the page of a book, or an adult looking to appreciate the rich history of our nation, Berkeley Plantation (12602 Harrison Landing Road, Charles City) is the perfect local historical destination.

In 1907, the property, including the house and 1400 acres, was purchased by the John Jamieson, a drummer boy in General George McClellan’s Union Army. The Jamieson family has maintained ownership of the property since, and today, John’s son Malcolm and his wife Grace continue their family’s restoration work. Many years prior, the gardens had been destroyed when Civil War troops occupied the property. The almost 300-year-old main house had been used as a storage barn, and farmers had used the basement for storage. In the past century, efforts have been made to completely renovate the property to the gorgeous, well-maintained and sought-after venue that now hosts weddings, receptions, and corporate events. Proceeds from these events go directly back into the maintenance and restoration of the property.

This year, the Plantation celebrates its 400th anniversary. Its history began in 1619 when our nation’s settlers observed America’s first official annual Thanksgiving. On November 3, the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival will be held at Berkeley Plantation, and will feature a living history program, tribal dancers, arts & crafts vendors, music, and a Thanksgiving dinner. For more information, see

Thanksgiving isn’t the only note-worthy historical event that took place at the Plantation. “Taps”, the unique twenty-four note melody used by the United States military, was composed by General Daniel Butterfield at Berkeley, and first played by his bugler, O.W. Norton.

If you’re seeking the perfect day trip destination for you, your family, or even out of town visitors, head east on the Capital Trail, and land at the gorgeous, history-filled Berkeley Plantation ( Spend the day touring the property, eating in their picnic area, viewing the gardens, and helping to keep history alive!

Kari Smith is a professional musician and writer whose winding path has led her through Nashville for a decade, and now back to her native Richmond, Virginia. Follow Kari’s writing adventures at, or