Saturday, November 14: This morning, Mike and I are driving through Loudoun County and the quaint Village of Waterford, Virginia and making our way to Shepherdstown, West Virginia. It’s our anniversary weekend. Legally, it’s our 27th, as we got married on November 13, 1988. But Mike, who has a great sense of humor about the whole thing, says it’s really only 20 years as we have to account for our 7-year separation, initiated by me.
So, it’s been many years since we celebrated an anniversary. Last year I was in China, although before I left for China, we decided to give it a go again. We separated in 2007 and got back together in 2014. I argue that Mike has been married 27 years because he’s always been there for me, while I, on the other hand have only been married 20 years, as I considered myself a free spirit during that time. Truth be told, I think he enjoyed his time being a free spirit too, but that’s another story.
The separation really wasn’t about Mike at all, to be honest. It’s one of those cliché things about me having a mid-life crisis, needing to find myself, blah blah blah. Actually, as much pain as I caused to my family, I really needed that time to find my adventurous and independent self. I regret any heartbreak I caused, but I can never regret finding the sense of wonder, adventure, independence and confidence that those seven years gave me. It will be the subject of a book I hope to write one of these days, hopefully sooner rather than later. I do have some stories to tell. 🙂
Anyway, thank goodness Mike is forgiving and that he has a sense of humor. I doubt many men would forgive and move on as he has done. I cherish him for that, and for being by my side even when I wasn’t by his. Marriage is a strange thing all around, and people make of it what they will. Everyone’s is different and no one can understand other people’s relationships, no matter how much they observe from the outside. I try to never judge other people’s relationships, as they’re complicated and rich and often messy things. I know many people, even some of my “closest friends” do judge, but I’m not concerned with their judgments. I’m beyond all that.
So, today, we are driving. Mike had the idea to come to this corner where three states meet: Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. I have been on many drives through Loudoun County and it’s a beautiful part of our state, with rolling farmland, horse farms, old barns, and small towns with general stores.
I love driving through horse country because I’ve always been a horse-lover, ever since I was a little girl. We stop at a horse farm along the road to take some pictures, and the horses, happy for some human company, come over for a friendly visit. I think they’re hoping for food, but alas, we have none and the owners probably wouldn’t appreciate us feeding them anyway.
Looking away from the horse farm, you can see what most of the countryside looks like in the western part of northern Virginia.
Outside of the little town of Waterford, we see some cows in a pasture. One of them is making his way through the creek.
In town, we see some log cabins and the Presbyterian Church.
Once we leave the town, we pass through more farmland, this time with some sheep and llamas.
After our leisurely drive, we arrive in Shepherdstown, where we first come upon Elmwood Cemetery. On the plaque at the entrance to the cemetery, the history is told: On Wednesday, September 17, 1862, twelve-year-old Mary Bedinger, asleep at her home Poplar Grove outside Shepherdstown, was awakened by the roar of canons. Confederate and Union forces in position near Sharpsburg, Maryland, just across the Potomac River, were desperately trying to dislodge one another. The bloodiest day in American history had begun. Soon a seemingly endless stream of wounded men flowed into dozens of buildings in and around Shepherdstown that were pressed into service as hospitals. Unfortunately, not all of the wounded men would survive.
The Southern Soldiers’ Memorial Association of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, was organized in 1867 to acquire a burial site for Confederate soldiers who died during and after the battle. In 1868, the association purchased a lot … adjacent to the Methodist Cemetery. A total of 114 men, many unknown, are interred here from other initial burial sites. The cemetery was dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day, June 5, 1869, and a monument to the dead was dedicated the next year. The Confederate Soldiers regimental monument erected in 1935 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the State of West Virginia lists the names of 535 Jefferson County men who served in the Confederate army. in addition to the men buried in the Confederate cemetery, about 125 Confederate veterans are buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Mary Bedinger Mitchell wrote, about that bloodiest day in the Civil War, “On Thursday [September 18] … they continued to arrive until the town [Shepherdstown] was quite unable to hold any more disabled and suffering. They filled every building and overflowed into the country round, into farmhouses, corn cribs, and cabins. … There were six churches, and they were all full; the Odd Fellows’ Hall, the Freemasons’, the little Town Council room, the barn-like place known as the Drill Room, all the private houses after their capacity, the shops and empty buildings, the school-houses … and yet the cry was for more room.”
The history of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle in Antietam is all around us, and after we explore some of Shepherdstown, our plan is to explore some of Antietam. Little do we know at this point that the battlefield is so huge it will take us hours and hours to explore just a portion of it.
We arrive in Shepherdstown too early for lunch, so we take a walk around the streets of the small town, ducking into spots that look inviting, like Four Seasons Books.
Here we chat with the bookseller about places to see in West Virginia, and she tells us to explore Babcock State Park and Beckley, West Virginia. Those places are quite some distance from here, so we take note of her recommendations for another trip.
We walk up and down the charming streets. It’s actually quite a cold and blustery day, but at least the sun is shining and skies are blue.
We stroll past The Press Room, one of Shepherdstown’s recommended eating establishments. We don’t know at the time, but we will be eating here tonight for a special anniversary dinner. We’re actually going to be staying at a bed & breakfast in another town close by, Sharpsburg, Maryland, no more than 15 minutes by car, The Jacob Rohrbach Inn.
I like how the Public Library sits in the median strip between two one-way streets.
Shepherdstown is home to Shepherd University. Shepherd State Teachers College was “established in 1872 as a branch of State normal school system. It was an outgrowth of the old Shepherd College. This is the site of early settlement made by Thomas Shepherd who built a fort here during Indian days.”
We see an old bank that’s been converted into a Mexican restaurant, Mi Degollado Mexican Restaurant. It turns out we end up eating lunch here on Sunday before we leave the area.
We discover small community gardens and some overgrown, derelict buildings.
After walking up and down the streets of Shepherdstown, it’s finally lunchtime and we head to the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery where we eat their special grilled cheese sandwiches and vegetable chipotle chili.
Then we drive to the Rumsey Monument, completed in 1915 and dedicated to inventor James Rumsey, born in 1743. He built water mills and, later, “two of the earliest steamboats, designed the first true water turbine and envisioned the entire field of power hydraulics. He was America’s first engineer,” according to The Rumseian Society, which was “founded in 1788 to develop Rumsey’s inventions. It was disbanded at his death, but was recreated in 1903 to build the Rumsey Monument.”
Though the monument today is pretty scraggly and deserted, it does offer a nice view of the Potomac River and the railroad bridge.
After our brief visit to this little park, we head to Antietam National Battlefield, home to the bloodiest one day battle in American history. On that fateful day of September 17, 1862, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat.