Regular people stop and smell the flowers. Nerdy History Girls stop and look at old stuff: houses! barns! graveyards! battlefields! stone walls!
Meandering about the countryside is an occupational hazard of being a NHG, which is why I always drive Rte. 301 through Virginia and Maryland instead of the faster but less picturesque 95. There's always much more to be seen when one is not dodging semis doing eighty.
These brick chimneys stand in the tiny town of Port Royal, VA, just shy of the bridge that crosses the Rappahannock River, and though I've passed them many times, this was the first time I actually parked and ambled over to take a look. Dating back to the 17th c., the chimneys are supported by wooden scaffolding and respectfully surrounded by a small fence. There's a small plaque, too:
Port Royal was first settled in 1652 and was chartered in 1744.
Tradition says that Port Royal was named after the Roy family.
John and Dorothy Roy owned a warehouse chartered by the crown,
a ferry service, and a tavern.
Dorothy Roy was the first woman entrepreneur in the colonies.
These chimneys are all that remain of the Roy home.
Now that was worth stopping for, and thoroughly impressed, I drove home, mulling over this interesting history ("the first woman entrepreneur"!) that was new to me. I was eager to learn more beyond tradition.
Trouble is, however, that there doesn't seem to be that much more to learn. Through genealogy sites, I've discovered that Dorothy Buckner was born in Port Royal about 1657, that she was first married to William Smith, widowed, and then wed John Roy, who was born in England in 1659. Dorothy had several children with each husband, including a daughter who married into the famous Chew family. John Roy bought Dorothy's father's tobacco warehouse, established in 1673. When John died, Dorothy inherited all the family businesses, which is how she earned that entrepreneur status.
But beyond those few tantalizing facts (and I'm not even sure of those, since they're from web sites rather than more trustworthy original sources), I can't find much else. What was Dorothy's life like as a woman of property in what must have still been a pretty rough colonial port town? (Port Royal's founder was killed fighting Indians in 1670, so English 'civilization' wasn't quite as firmly entrenched in the area as it might have wished.) How educated was she? Did her businesses prosper? Was she engaged in the day-to-day transactions herself, or did she turn everything over to male managers? Or, having been born in the colony, was she the one who'd always run her husband's businesses, even before she inherited them at his death?
All questions, no answers, and those chimneys aren't talking. Yet.