Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Historic Springdale Village Inn Bed and Breakfast

After decorating the church we had a few hours before we were allowed to return to decorate the reception hall for the wedding.

So the guys went to a pizza shop while my daughter and I went to Springdale Village Inn...a gift from my daughter. She told me she had reserved a room for a mother-daughter night in this historic bed and breakfast. Her treat. Oh my!

6-Springdale Village Inn
Springdale Village Inn
The twisty turny roads meandered to a narrow drive that led us onto the gorgeous property of this house that embued history inside and out.

Amazingly as I started digging into the history I discovered that I have "crossed paths" numerous times with those who lived here.

This federal home is located in the quiet town of Lincoln, Virginia, just 20 miles from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

It was the home of abolitionist and Quaker, Samuel M. Janney (1801-1880).

Fairfax County Years

Born in Loudon County on a farm (with a mill), he moved to nearby Fairfax County after his mother's death at the age of 12. His education took him to Alexandria where he developed a love for the Classics. He formed "a literary society for the purpose of critiquing original works." Becaming conscience stricken, he abandoned his love for books to focus on his Quaker faith.

Prince William County Years

After marriage in 1826, our hero (a Janney) purchased Merchant's Mill (from some Janneys with a Janney). Previously purchased in 1788 by Lighthorse Harry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee), the mill's ownership transferred to various members of the Ellicot family for the next several years. One of the Ellicots rebuilt the mill in 1791, using designs from a cousin. The mill's automation so impressed both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington that each sought to similarly replicate the features in their own mills.

Different sources give different dates, and with multiple Janney family members listed, it gets confusing. But definitely, various members of the Janney family owned the mill for over 100 years.

Returning to the hero of this story: Samuel M Janney helped open a cotton factory in 1828 near the mill with his brother-in-law Samuel H. Janney. After a couple of years of commuting to his home in Alexandria, 16 miles to the north (I guess Northern Virginian's are historically inclined to this madness) our hero finally settled in the town of his occupation, Occoquan.

Obviously the Janney history in Occoquan  gets confusing, and interesting, because at least three different Janney men lived in Occoquan at the same time. One of them purchased Rockledge Mansion (and our hero possibly even lived there), across the street from the mill. And I already told that Janney story...that of Joseph T. Janney, a Quaker in town who allowed a defiant pre-Civil War stand-off on his property. (Read more in my two blog posts: 1-Town of Occoquan and 2- Rockledge Mansion 1860 Stand-off to see all the Janney family sites, stories, and 1860 anxiety.)

Loudon County Years

After the cotton factory venture failed, Samuel M Janney returned to Loudon County with his wife where he built this federal home in 1832...(where my daughter and I were to spend the night 187 years later).

In 1839 Janney and his wife established their home as a boarding school for girls who arrived from as far away as Texas. One of their students, Rebecca Wright of Winchester, later became a Union Spy. An advertisement read:
The branches taught are – Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography, History, Grammar, Composition, Book-keeping, Natural Philosophy, Astronomy, Chemistry, Botany, Algebra, Rhetoric, the French Language, Drawing, Painting, and Needlework. Lectures are delivered on Natural Philosophy, Astronomy, and Chemistry, illustrated by pleasing experiments. A library, a cabinet of minerals, and philosophical apparatus, are provided for the use of the school. The discipline is strictly parental; and every effort is made to induce in the minds of the pupils a love of knowledge and desire of excellence as the proper stimulants to exertion.-Advertisement, sketches, and more details are here.
Through teaching the young girls with his wife, he returned to his love of books.

He wrote extensively on the Quaker faith and the abolition movement, wrote biographies on William Penn and George Fox, and even wrote poetry.

Janney even ensured the education of the local African American children through his founding of day schools and Sunday Schools.

In 1864 Janney met with Union General Sheridan and President Lincoln on various matters, including to advocate the release of local men who had been imprisoned.

In 1869 Janney was appointed by President Grant to the post of Government Superintendent of Indian Affairs for several tribes in Nebraska.

In the next century Sam Rayburn and Lyndon B. Johnson rented this home as their weekend retreat. They played many a game of poker in the parlor. My kids and I have been to many of LBJ's homes and historical haunts in Texas where we heard many a tale of these two politicians. I can't help but wonder at all the stories I heard in the LBJ Boyhood Home in Johnson City, Texas of how his mother tried to train her children in the parlor with proper manners as well as rhetoric...then for him to crawl under the house to listen to the many political discussions his father had with his political cronies...as compared to his time in this house with his own political allies.

Wow, my daughter had no idea the depth of history she was bringing to me in this quiet little bed and breakfast!

Then in more recent times...the house is rumored to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. If only walls could talk, because in 1991 Janney's great nephew revealed various architectural elements that hint at "sub-basements, crawl spaces, curious cubby holes and closed-off fireplaces." Apparently Janney owned a pass from President Lincoln that allowed him to cross the Potomac River, which was difficult to obtain. However some of these stories have been heavily debated.

The grounds include 5 acres of land through which a babbling brook rambles, complete with bridges, gardens, and benches.

7-Springdale Village Inn
Springdale Village Inn

The amenities included a free bottle of wine and a farm to table breakfast (the farm being their own property).

Our only sadness was that we could barely enjoy any of it (hence the lack of photos) we were so busy with the wedding. Stay tuned for that!

Blog posts about Occoquan:
The town of Occoquan, Mill, and Rockledge Mansion
Inside Rockledge Mansion and it's pre-Civil War history story


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