Historical Events in Proximity

The Battle of Point Of Forks

The Battle of Point of Forks:  The Point of Forks is the juncture of the Fluvana River and the James River at what is now the location of the town of Columbia, just a few minutes drive north of the Hillcrest.  During the Revolutionary War there was a large supply depot there, under the command of a General von Steuben, a German National fighting for the revolutionaries.  While Cornwallis was making his way up the James River during the Virginia Campaign of 1781, he sent a small company of British troops under the command of General Simcoe to scout the supply depot.  Although von Steuben held the upper hand with a larger contingent of men, he was tricked by Simcoe into believing the entire British Army had arrived on the James just north of the Point of Forks.  Simcoe accomplished this by lighting a series of campfires along the James River giving the impression of a large contingent of men camping for the night in anticipation of a daylight raid.  In the middle of the night von Steuben retreated south toward Farmville, leaving behind a large store of supplies which were captured by Simcoe the next day without a fight.  This dubious "battle" became known as the "Battle of the Point of Forks".  This depot was recaptured some short time later by the famous young revolutionary, General Lafayette.  Cornwallis would surrender at Yorktown within the same year.

It is of note that on the evening of June 2nd, 1781 Colonel Jesse Thomas rode from his homesite located just a couple of miles from the Hillcrest to warn Von Steuben of Simcoe’s approach to the Point of Forks.  Jesse Thomas rode his infamous horse “FearNaught”.  There is a commemorative plaque in the Cumberland State Forest which attests to this important event, located at the old homesite of Jesse Thomas.  Jesse's timely warning allowed Baron Stuben to avoid capture and transfer most of the stores from the arsenal at that location. Jesse had the most famous steed in Virginia at the time, a horse named "Fearnaught." Jesse's will details some 53 slaves that were parceled to his children and wife at his death.

Lee's Journey Home

Lee's Journey Home:  The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Battlefield, with the formal surrender consummated on April 12 at Appomattox Courthouse.  Appomattox is less than an hour's drive from the Hillcrest.  After the formal surrender proceedings, General Lee made his way home to Richmond, the journey home taking 3 days, escorted along the way by a small contingent of Union soliders.  The first night of the 12th he spent camped at the Cumberland-Buckingham border on what is now Route 60.  The second night was spent at Flannigan's at Trice's Mill, at the junction of Rt 690 and Rt 612, a short 5 miles from the Hillcrest. The third and final night of travel was the night of the 14th, where he camped at the roadside  across  from his brother's residence in Powhatan.  It was the night of April 14th that President Lincoln was shot, only to die the next day on April 15th, 1865. 

St. Katherine Drexel

St Katharine Drexel and St Joseph's Chapel:  In the late 1800's a wealthy English immigrant named William Wakefield settled in the town of Columbia, a few miles north of the Hillcrest. He was a devout Catholic and had nine children, 3 of which entered religious life.  One son, Richard, became a priest and was eventually commissioned by his father to erect a chapel in Columbia so that Richard could say Mass there when he visited the homestead during his vacations.  This became known as the Wakeham Chapel, the first Mass being held in 1884.  Mass was held at this chapel until the death of Mrs. Wakeham in 1891, and then remained vacant for a period of time.  In early 1900 a Sister Katharine Drexel  started a mission (St Frances de Sales) in Powhatan to serve the poor Indian and Black indigent of the local community.  One day she traveled to Lynchburg by train, stopping in Columbia at a small train station along the way.  As she looked up from the station to the top of a hill nearby, she noticed a Gilt Cross gleaming through the tree tops.  She asked her traveling companion whether  there was a Catholic church located here, but to her companion's knowledge no Mass had been held at any church between Richmond and Lynchburg.    When Sister Drexel returned to Powhatan she learned from one of her students that there indeed had been a Catholic chapel in Columbia, but it had not been used for some number of years.  Sister Drexel returned to Columbia to investigate the presumed abandoned chapel.  As she entered the chapel at the top of the hill, she was surprised to find that the chapel had been meticulously cared for, swept and cleaned, with fresh linen and flowers, not at all what would be expected from an abandoned chapel. She heard steps behind her, turning to see an old black man looking at her with keen interest.  He told her he was Uncle Zach, and had been with the Wakeham's for many years.  His daughter, Rebecca, was the student in Powhatan that had informed Sister Drexel of the Wakeham Chapel.  Uncle Zach had become a devout convert during the time that the Chapel was active, and once the Chapel closed he took it upon himself to keep the Chapel well maintained, hoping and praying that one day Mass would once again be held in the Chapel.  He showed Sister Drexel the Wakeham family cemetery which was also very carefully tended to.  Sister Drexel then convinced the local Bishop to arrange for Mass to once again be held  monthly at the chapel, and she also started a local mission there.  Eventually Mass was held weekly, and eventually renamed St Joseph's Chapel.  Sister Katharine Drexel was canonized a Saint in the year 2000 by Pope John-Paul II, and I would refer you to a number of references detailing her missionary work throughout the  United States.  She founded Xavier University in New York in 1925.  Eventually the small chapel in Columbia, became known as St Joseph's Shrine of St Katharine Drexel.  The local Bishop had dedicated a shrine in her honor at the Chapel on December 17th, 2006.