An American History
Foreword: Remembering Whittle's Mill
"I have no compelling desire to swing from a tree into the river these days, but I well remember when it was the greatest thing in the world."
Ch. 1: The Tombstone in the Forest
The graves of Revolutionary War officer Colonel William Davies, Irish immigrant Fortescue Whittle and Confederate Colonel Powhatan Bolling Whittle were lost to history for a generation. This chapter recounts the five-year search -- on foot and from space -- for the lost graves of the Meherrin Forest.
Ch. 2: Valley of the Black Water
Our most ancient natural history is hiding in plain sight along the Meherrin River at Whittle's Mill. Beginning with an ancient mountain range that once ran the length of the Piedmont, this chapter traces the path of the first humans into the the Meherrin Valley, the rise and fall of the Meherrin Indians and the first mill along the Meherrin River built by an enterprising young colonist in 1756.
Ch. 3: Colonel William Davies
William Davies (1750 - 1814) was a commanding officer in the Revolutionary War and a trusted ally to the Founding Fathers of America. He served gallantly through the Revolution, notably at the Battles of Norfolk, Fort Washington, Brandywine, Trenton and Monmouth. William's wife, Mary Ann Murray, was a direct descendant of the great Indian chief Powhatan through the marriage of his daughter Pocahontas to colonist John Rolfe. William and Mary Ann Davies moved to his plantation and grist mill along the Meherrin River soon after Jefferson was elected President. William Davies is buried in the recently restored family cemetery overlooking Whittle's Mill and the Meherrin River Valley.
Ch 4: The Whittle Family of Virginia
Fortescue Whittle came to America in the aftermath of the brutal Irish Rebellion of 1798 and built a lucrative international shipping company with his brother. He married the daughter of Col. William Davies, and the blood line of Powhatan and Pocahontas passed into the Whittle family. When their ships were seized by the British during the Napoleonic Wars, he moved to the plantation on the Meherrin River, built the Whittle's Mill dam and raised a remarkable family. Fortescue Whittle's grave overlooks his old mill on the Meherrin River.
Ch. 5: The Sons of Fortescue Whittle
Follow the historical trail left by the distinguished sons of Fortescue and Mary Ann (Davies) Whittle from the Mexican-American War, the first American ship to circumnavigate the earth, the coming of the railroad, the crisis of secession and the darkest days of the Civil War. Learn the fascinating stories of Commodore William Conway Whittle, Senator James Murray Whittle, Dr. Conway Davies Whittle, Dr. John Samuel Whittle, Stephen Decatur Whittle, Colonel Lewis Neale Whittle, Bishop Francis Whittle and Confederate Colonel Powhatan Bolling Whittle -- all sons of Southside Virginia who left their own distinctive marks on American history.
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"A great tale of an ancient river, the secrets of an old mill and a remarkable family swept into the most extraordinary times in our history. This is a well-crafted story, beautifully illustrated. If you are enchanted by Southside Virginia and its lore, you will thoroughly enjoy this book."
-- Publishers Review
Ch. 6: Colonel Powhatan Bolling Whittle, CSA
Powhatan Bolling Whittle (1829-1905) was the youngest of Fortescue and Mary Ann Whittle's 14 sons that grew up along the Meherrin River. Powhatan grew up a handsome and dashing young man, an attorney educated at the University of Virginia. He opened a successful law practice in the rough and tumble riverboat town of Troupville, Georgia.
Powhatan returned home when Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861 to raise the famed 38th Virginia Regiment from Mecklenburg, Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties. Follow Powhatan Whittle from the Battle of Malvern Hill, where he lost his arm, to Picket's Charge at Gettysburg where he was shot three times as his regiment made the deepest charge into the Federal line -- the "high water mark of the Confederacy." Read about his final return late in life to Mecklenburg and the mystery of Powhatan Whittle's grave overlooking Whittle's Mill.
Ch. 7: The Old Mill and the River
The ruins of at least 35 old mills lie hidden along the Meherrin and its tributaries in Southside Virginia, of which Whittle's Mill is the oldest and best known. This chapter describes the role of the grist mill in early American life and traces the history of Whittle's Mill to the present. Learn about the Great Flood of 1940, the real story behind the Legend of Angie's Bridge, South Hill's 1962 water crisis after Whittle's Dam failed and the current effort to generate new energy from Fortescue Whittle's old dam.
Afterword: The Ghosts of Whittle's Mill
"Truth be told, it's hard to visit the old mill these days without seeing all the ghosts of the river with whom I have become so well acquainted."
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