Tuesday, December 28, 2010
When I was in Hopewell, Virginia, in November delivering my dramatic impersonation, I met the mother of talented jewelry designer Rebekah Harris, owner of Flotsam & Jetsam NY. After I finished speaking, Rebekah's mom presented me with one of Rebekah's Stormy Sea Cuffs, which, along with the entire Armada Collection, takes its inspiration in part from Peter Francisco's mysterious arrival in America at the hands of pirates after being tossed at sea by an angry storm.
Rebekah grew up in the Hopewell area and every day she would walk by a painting of City Point that hung on the wall. City Point is where Peter was abandoned, rowed to shore in a dinghy while the ship with its vast sails remained concealed by fog out on the James River. That ship is the subject of her Spanish Galleon Pendant and Pirate Ship Earrings.
Recently, Rebekah wrote about her inspiration on her blog. Below is her entire entry re-posted here. Isn't this an amazing story? What a talent! Thank you, Rebekah!
Early Inspirations for the Armada Collection and The Rest of the Story ...
As a child my grandmother would tell us the local legend of Peter Francisco. It was a story she unearthed while preparing to teach local history for Hopewell, Virginia. She lit the fires of many children’s imaginations regaling the tale of a little boy put ashore in 1765 on the docks of City Point. The jettisoned child was wearing silver buckles and velvet pants and speaking a language no one understood. Later they discovered it was Portuguese, and he was abducted by pirates from his parent’s home in the Azores They believe while traversing the Atlantic a great storm was endured and like the biblical story of Jonah being offered to the Sea, he was expelled from the ship and the proverbial whale that absorbed him were the colonies of what would become the United States.
A painting of a little boy on the dock watching his captor’s ships sail away hung on our walls and reminded me of the tragic beginnings of this boys life and the adventures that begin at sea. The beautiful crucifix-like masts of the Pirate ships told the story every day of the most interesting occurrence on the banks of the James River since Pocahontas spared the life of Captain John Smith.
Recently I devoured a book entitled, Hercules of the Revolution, a page turning historical fiction by a descendant of the little orphaned boy. It urns out little Peter Francisco led quite the life. Originally he was sold into lavery where he learned the art of blacksmithing. He was greatly appreciated by the plantation owners and fellow slaves as well as a local family for saving their daughter’s life. He grew to be a whopping 6 and half feet of strength and ntegrity, which drew the attention of patriots like Patrick Henry and others as they planned to assert their freedom against the British crown. Francisco went on to fight in the American Revolution with a 5-foot broadsword custom made for him on the orders of General George Washington. In doing this he earned both his own freedom as well as that of the colonies.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Recently, I had the chance to visit some Peter Francisco landmarks and monuments with some friends and family. One of those landmarks was Locust Grove, Peter Francisco's post-war home in the area near Hopewell once known as Planterstown. It was my first time visiting Locust Grove. After roaming through the rooms and around the property, I thought it would be the perfect place to storyboard the second novel in the series! What do you think?
One of my friends who accompanied me on the trip posted a nice write-up about the trip on her blog. Here is a link to the original post, followed by a few highlights. Check out all the photos on Flickr.
originally posted by Heather Walls
Over Veterans Day, Adam and I had the fortunate opportunity to spend a couple of days with Travis Bowman, good friend and a 6th generation descendant of Revolutionary War hero Peter Francisco.
As someone who is passionate about preserving memories and heritage, Peter’s story is right up my alley.
Thanks to the hospitality of the Women’s Club of Hopewell, Adam and I were able to attend their monthly meeting at the Maude Langhorne Nelson Library, during which Travis -- who stands a looming six feet six inches just like Peter -- delivered his convincing interpretation of Peter’s life.
Upon returning from war, Peter admits, with obvious emotion, “I just wanted to hear my father say, ‘Good job, son. I’m proud of you. Thank you for fighting for our freedom.’ But I didn’t have a father. I went back to the plantation, and, rather than laurels, I was met with Judge Winston telling me, ‘Get back to work.’
That part really hit home.
Prior to reconnecting with Travis, I didn’t know anything about Peter Francisco. Peter was like the Sully Sullenberger of his day! People everywhere knew his name and what he had done for them. He faced adversity and danger with aplomb and little regard for his own life. He protected his fellow soldiers from open fire and allowed them to retreat to safety by carrying and repositioning a fallen tree limb so snipers could get behind it. He was a commando at Stony Point, second over the wall, and first to capture the flag. He rescued a stranded, 1,100-pound cannon from its carriage, hoisting it with his arms onto a wagon. With his quick thinking and deft hand, he saved the same Colonel not once but twice during the same battle! He cut down eleven British in another battle with his formidable five-foot blade. He was instrumental in securing America’s freedom. My freedom.
It’s no wonder this guy is known as Hercules of the Revolution! Anyone remember that scene in Forrest Gump when Forrest carries all the men in his platoon off the front lines to safety, even brawny Bubba? That’s what I’m talking about! Booyah!
A Dutiful Tour
After signing some books and eating lunch with the sweet ladies of Hopewell, Travis took us personally on a tour of landmarks and monuments that now commemorate Peter’s life and legendary prowess. He even let me try on the hat! We stopped at City Point, the dock in Hopewell where Peter was deposited and deserted after spending weeks held captive on a ship by greedy swashbucklers.
We went onto see the monument in Hopewell in front of City Hall – one of five monuments in the nation. Now dusk, we drove into downtown Richmond and visited St. John’s Church, where Peter stood outside listening to Patrick Henry’s inspiring oration. Built in 1741, that church is truly a monument to its own history. Elizabeth Poe (Edgar’s mother) is also buried here.
Peter Francisco is buried in Shockoe Hill Cemetery, among other notables such as US Chief Justice John Marshall and famed Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew. The thing about cemeteries for me – and I’ve said this before – it’s the last place on earth a person was. No speculation. No imagination. Peter was there. His soul had departed, but the vessel – his body – the one he so freely tendered for our freedom touched that cold, winter earth.
Adam and I brought two Betsy Ross flags to place at his grave. Travis and I did the honors.
The piece de resistance was seeing Locust Grove, the post-war home Peter and his family occupied for nearly two decades, which we visited the next day. It’s possible Peter inherited the property, but he did not build the house, as was evident from the standard-sized doorways. The property is privately owned, but the owners, who restored it to its former glory, graciously let us in for a look-see. The fireplaces were probably original, and I could imagine Peter warming himself there, perhaps contemplating the legislative matters of the day. I could have spent hours walking those rooms.
Lastly, we visited the Buckingham County Museum, which is located in the Housewright House on James Anderson Highway. This museum contains the most documents and papers on Peter Francisco. They have a Civil-War-era sword that was recovered from Locust Grove and a tall cabinet that was hand-crafted by Peter Francisco.
What a fantastic way to spend Veterans Day, learning about one of America’s Founding Fathers! Thank you, Peter, for your service and for your willingness to sacrifice yourself. And thank you, Travis, for sharing your ancestor’s legacy with us.
What stories of memory preservation inspire you?