Time-Travelling on the Potomac: Accokeek Farm

Enjoyed a leisurely ferry trip from Old Town Alexandria waterfront to the colonial farm in Accokeek park. We were on the Maryland side of the Potomac River directly across from Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s home.

There were living history interpreters playing the roles of farmers, Mr. & Mrs. Bolton, their daughter, and their slave.  Mrs. Bolton was busy boiling the laundry.

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The youngest daughter was in a cheery mood despite the heat and working in one of the tobacco fields with her dad. According to Mr. Bolton, they were trying to cross-breed native mid-Atlantic tobacco with a special variety from Venezuela.  The English don’t like the Venezuelan tobacco but the Dutch love it and pay a lot.

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Mr. Bolton proudly showing off a tobacco cutting ready for planting. He’s hopeful it will take root.

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The daughter got a little less cheery as the day and hard work of tobacco farming went on.  She’s holding a dipper to individually water each new little plant after her father plants it in its own little hill. This is called hill farming. It was necessary because the farmland was previously forested and they do not have the machinery nor manual labor to remove the tree roots still underground. Therefore, they individual mounts of soil are built up into small piles for each plant. Potomac-003Potomac-002

Though as a the daughter of middle-class, free, English-American farmers, her life is much more comfortable than that of the Bolton family’s slave.  The slave was watering tomato and okra plants in her own garden. Mr. & Mrs. Bolton gave her a small plot of land of her own because she was depressed after they sold her 10-year old son, Tom. She was hoping to make enough money from the sale of crops from her garden to buy Tom’s freedom.  The Bolton family did not like tomatoes or okra so she was free to sell whatever she did not need for herself. Potomac-001Potomac-016Potomac-017