Patrick Henry, the American patriot and first governor of post-colonial Virginia, is buried about 40 miles from here on his plantation called Red Hill. It’s a quiet, peaceful and beautiful place.
The farm, over 500 acres, lies upon the Staunton River, near present-day Brookneal. In Gov. Henry’s time the tobacco and other crops raised there were loaded onto batteaux and transported down river.
Patrick Henry’s home, typical of Virginia plantation homes of that era, was a simple three-room, one and half story structure. The two rooms on the ground floor served as a bedroom and a parlor. The loft above was additional sleeping space. During the time Patrick Henry lived here, the house accommodated between nine and eleven family members. Bathrooms and kitchens were separate structures in those days.
The plantation’s outbuildings included curing barns, a blacksmith’s shop, Patrick Henry’s law office, a kitchen, a carriage house, and cabins for the 69 slaves who lived there. One of the two-room slave cabins has been reproduced on the site, using original materials.
When I was in elementary school we were required to memorize part of his famous 1775 speech at the Virginia Convention. I can still recite it by heart:
Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!” — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!