ANNUAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY FAIR
This excerpted article originally appeared in the Tide Water Review
NEW KENT – The historic Cumberland Plantation will be open to the public for the first time since it was built in 1690.
"There have been a couple of private events when the house was open, but this is something special," said New Kent Historical Society treasurer and former high school history teacher, Martha Martin.
Cumberland Plantation first served as the Littlepage family home. In fact, many members are buried on the property. According to county plat records, Richard Littlepage received a 1,500-acre land grant in 1663 which included the property.
The plantation included a 100-acre town known as Cumberland in 1748. But it was its location next to the Pamunkey River that made it useful during wartime, Martin explained.
"You must remember that this was before there were any docks at the plantation," she said. "The river was so deep that the ships would have to put planks up to the shore and bring supplies on the planks."
It is believed that at least 100,000 Union soldiers camped at Cumberland Plantation under General McClellan in the Peninsula Campaign of 1862.
Martin said that although not a lot is known about the plantation, it underwent several transformations throughout the years. The latest of which began earlier this year when the property was bought.
"The present owner of the property had the idea of preserving New Kent's rich history, and so he has graciously opened his home to the Historical Society," she said.
The New Kent Historical Society is sponsoring the Cumberland Festival Oct. 11-12 at the scenic Cumberland Plantation, located at 9007 Cumberland Road in New Kent. Between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on each day, guests will have the opportunity to step back in time to the late Colonial Revival Period when New Kent County was firmly established and Cumberland Plantation operated three tobacco farms. "Some of the highlights will include costumed interpreters and musicians, spit cooking over a fire, kettle cooking, butter churning, sassafras tea, and a tea garden with Colonial era goodies," Martin said. "We are also excited to invite guests to write a letter using a quill pen and seal it with wax. That will be a nice keepsake," she added.
According to New Kent Historical Society member Gale Auer, the main highlight of the day will be the Cumberland Plantation house tour. "It has seven bedrooms and eight baths and is absolutely stunning," Auer said. "The house has been carefully decorated to reflect the period and I think will amaze the community." Auer added that the guests will also be treated to historical interpreters, who will discuss the history of the home and reflect what it might have been like in the 18th century.
Auer is encouraging guests touring the home to look for hidden gems, including the plantation's original floor plan display on a wall. Aside from the home, festival goers will also be able to tour historic boats, including a replica of John Smith's barge, and visit with local Native American tribes. "We wanted to cover every aspect of the era, including how it impacted the Native American culture here in New Kent County," Martin said. Guests young and old will also experience dances, games, and foods that were popular roughly between 1760-1780. "We will have pumpkin painting, hoops, marbles, croquet and face painting, all of which are historically accurate," Martin said.