Thursday, October 22, 2015

Things Go Bump in the Night at Haunted Henricus Park

Things Go Bump in the Night at Haunted Henricus Park

During the Halloween season, haunted attractions lore in visitors looking for a good scare. Henricus Historical Park makes a great choice for those looking to getting a dose of real haunted history. Henricus Park’s long past has made this a hotbed of paranormal activity, with regular ghost sightings and unexplained occurrences.

A Little Haunted History

Henricus has quite a long history, dating back hundreds of years. Perhaps the source of so much paranormal activity has been its long history which included a bloody Native American massacre as well as two wars.

The first tumultuous event took place during the early 1600s in a bloody massacre between the native Powhatan tribe and settlers. Known as the Powhatan Uprising, the Native American tribe led a surprise attack on Jamestown, leaving some 400 settlers dead.

The land also played important roles during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It served as a training camp for new recruits for George Washington’s Continental Army. Later during the Civil War, Union soldiers came under fire here while trying to dig the Dutch Gap Canal to transport gunboats. Soon after on January 23 to 25, 1865, The Battle of Trent’s Reach took place nearby, bringing chaos, gunfire, and more bloodshed to Henricus.

After so much violence and bloodshed, it should come as no surprise that this place has frequent sightings of the supernatural. In fact, Henricus has been listed as one of the Top 25 Most Haunted Places in Virginia.

One of the Henricus staff members reported catching a glimpse of a female colonist walking just outside:

“’By the time I got to the door, there was no one there,’ he says. ‘I didn’t have anyone on staff who even looked like that. That was the first big hint as far as thinking something [paranormal] was going on there.’”

A team of investigators from Transcend Paranormal left their digital cameras running throughout the park buildings one night. When looking back on the footage, they could hear the mysterious sound of things dragging on the floor in a completely vacant park building. In another video, the investigation crew discovered a ghostly orb floating through one of the park buildings.

Transcend Paranormal also caught evidence on their EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) recordings. The team documented the eerie sounds of whispering and humming. In another, the EVP recorded a man speaking in a Native American language. On another occasion, one of the investigators took a picture and “got a full-body shadow figure of someone standing in the doorway,”

Visitors looking to explore haunted Henricus for themselves can get the full experience at the park’s annual “Things That Go Bump in the Night” event on October 23 and 24th from 7pm to 9pm both nights. For those brave enough, Henricus will also offers an event that includes an overnight paranormal investigation of the park lead by Transcend Paranormal. Come stay if you dare!

Friday, August 7, 2015

“One Went Over” – The Acquisition of a 100-pounder Parrott Round at Henricus

“One Went Over” – The Acquisition of a 100-pounder Parrott Round at Henricus

By John Daniel Pagano

In the business and or noble profession of public history it is often said that you can better understand the past by “hands on” learning.  This is especially true when a work crew delivers to your historic site a 100 pounder Parrott round. You come to realize the drill manual where two men hoisted this into the muzzle of a rather huge cannon and why it took two men to ram it home.

A “Parrott” gun was a style of Civil War cannon used by the Union armies and navies. This one, in particular, could shoot a “bolt” for miles. Bolt was the term used in artillery for solid shot that looked like a giant bullet, rather than having a fuse and an explosive powder charge that would explode. This type of round, like a bullet, was intended to punch a hole through something - fortifications - or in the case, the iron plating on Confederate ironclads. It was designed for objects that soldiers or sailors were behind. It took 10 pounds of gunpowder to fire that projectile something close to 7000 yards. It was a beast.

The round is seen in the picture below, with and without our lead Agricultural Specialist, Andrew Rowand, who is an experienced Civil War artillery presenter.

One of the more interesting aspects to this discovery is to know where and when the round came from, at least mostly sure about it.

On the night of January 23, 1865, the Confederate James Squadron, consisting of several powerful built “ironclads,” attempted to destroy or disrupt the Union supply base and headquarters at City Point. They ventured from near Richmond in a hope to do as much damage as possible, if not force Grant to abandon that base.

Unfortunately for those Confederate sailors, the Union Navy, engineers of the Union Army, and members of the 1st CT Heavy Artillery had set up a network of defenses around the historic loop at Farrar’s Island and Dutch Gap that got the CS navy, literally hung up on obstructions and a shallow tide. What ensued was one of the most impressive night and daylight land and sea battles, in terms of gun fire, witnessed in Virginia during the Civil War, the January 24, 1865 Battle of Trent’s Reach.

Colonel Henry Abbott’s 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery manned most of the big guns in the defenses at those points on the James River. There were four 100 pounder guns within a two mile radius of Dutch Gap, or what is today Henricus. Two of those were at Fort Brady – but both of those guns were disabled by Confederate artillery fire the evening before. That left one gun at Battery Sawyer and one gun at Battery Parsons.

Sawyer was at a distant range, somewhat short of two miles, of where the Confederate ironclads were hung up. This battery served a variety of functions in covering the work parties at Dutch Gap, and all approaches along the James. Sawyer was commanded by 1st Lt. Mason, 1st CT Heavy Artillery.

Parsons was a closer range, around ¾ of a mile. The battery was designed to protect that approach of the river and counter the Confederate fort known as “Battery Danztler.” Parsons was commanded by Yale graduate, 1st Lt. Henry Andrews Pratt, 1st CT Heavy Artillery. Pratt was a school teacher and administrator before the war.

He gave us a great account of the fighting and possibly the exact round we found. Lieutenant Pratt wrote in this report, “"Of nine solid shot, one did not take the grooves, one went over, seven struck the ram." Our round looks like it has groove lines in it, and the round has no discernable impact or ricochet marks, that this could be in fact, the “one went over” bolt that Pratt was referring to. [1]

The 1st CT Heavy Artillery fired seventy-eight (78) 100-pounder rounds at the CS squadron around Farrar’s Island. Thirty-seven (37) struck, leaving 41 rounds. Keep in mind that half of those rounds were fired through the night of January 23. During daylight, most rounds hit their mark. Of those 78 rounds, however, only 24 were bolt. Of that amount, 9 came from Battery Parsons, only 1 bolt overshot in the area where it was found. That is most likely our round. [2]

This image shows the 1st CT heavy Artillery at Fort Brady with two of the four 100-pounder guns. They were certainly impressive specimens of scientific achievement that war often initiates. 

So what is the significance of this find?

This is an almost perfectly preserved artillery projectile that was used in a Civil War combined arms battle with army and navy forces. It allows a person to inspect and assess the math and sciences of artillery technology in the Civil War, plus the human factors of strength and ability to load and fire this round. Most certainly does it bring an awareness to this relatively little know navy battle on the James River. Sadly, it makes us judge the scope of preservation failures, whereas only up to a few years ago, the Union fortifications along the James River were there, but destroyed to house construction. 

Does Henricus interpret the Civil War?

Yes, but mostly in signs and one or two special program weekends. Looking ahead, some believe that Henricus Historical Park should acquire and regularly demonstrate a full scale heavy artillery cannon to load and fire over the bluff and along the James River. What kind of draw would it bring to fire to siege or navy gun that could be heard as far away as Richmond! What do you think?

Can we see the location of the battle site where this was found?

Sure. We will not release where the projectile was found, directly, we can encourage people to visit the fighting location. Where Battery Parsons was located is seen today from our hiking trails. This area is near where the “dog leg point” wayside and river view is today, a spur of our hiking trails. If you go there, a new Battle of Trent’s Reach wayside marker was placed to describe the battle. If you stand at the wayside interpretive sign, look to your left and across the river, to a prominent set of knolls in the distance. That is Parsons and the other batteries. Look to your right and in the distance a few hundred yards were the Confederate ironclads.

Any questions?

If you have any questions or would like to inquire about donating any Civil War artifacts appropriate to our story at Henricus, please contact John Daniel Pagano, Interpretation Supervisor, at

Lastly, if you would wish to be a donor to help us increase our Civil war interpretation, likewise, let us know. We would love to further demonstrate Civil War heavy artillery!

[1] Abott, Henry, History of the First Connecticut Heavy Artillery, pgs. 138-140
[2] Ibid.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Citie of Henricus Search Continues

Henricus Historical Park is endeavoring to find the original site of the Citie of Henricus. An early theory was that the original site—as it probably stood at the narrow part of the land in the curve of the James River at Dutch Gap—was probably demolished in the digging of the Dutch Gap Canal by Union General Benjamin Butler during the Civil War in 1864. Other theories included the thought that the site stood at a different spot or near a different bend in the river. Several test pits were dug over the Park more than 10 years ago, but yielded very little.  Our current archaeological work is due to an extensive look at maps and existing records that indicate that the original site of the fort itself might still be present, but perhaps buried deep beneath the soil that was excavated during the digging of the Dutch Gap Canal — under the present location of Henricus Historical Park.
Work began about four years ago and has grown to include GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) testing to locate building walls underneath the soil; test trials to locate these have begun.  A partnership with Longwood University’s Department of Anthropology is ongoing. 
 So far, early GPR readings have hinted at potential walls located deep beneath the surface.  Test pits have so far revealed only mixed era materials of both early Virginia Indian and possibly of late colonial era and of Civil War materials.  Nothing yet has been found “in situ” or in its original place.  

 Why are we looking for the Citie of Henricus?  Its place in early American history is an important one.  It was possibly the site of much of what happened with early American government, economic development, of Indian and English interactions and by important figures in history – Pocahontas, Powhatan, Sir Thomas Dale, Alexander Whitaker.  Being able to pinpoint its original location will help to firm up its existence and its importance – to add to the history of the Age of Exploration and the development of the American experience.
Today, we our continuing our search for Henricus; we also provide public education regarding Archaeology: our Archaeology Spring Break Camp, our middle school program People in Environment, our inclusion of the archaeological method in our teacher training sessions on primary sources and through our yearly Archaeology Lectures.  Currently, three staff members, including a trained Field Archaeologist, are leading this joint effort with Longwood University.  

Visit to learn more about Henricus Historical Park.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Henricus Selected for Virtual Field Trip for Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Graduate Course Led by University of Richmond President

Henricus Historical Park is honored to have been selected for a virtual tour of the living-history museum for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.  The video will be used for a 2015 online graduate course for history educators across the United States. One of the spring offerings, “The South in American History,” will be led by University of Richmond president and historian Edward L. Ayers, Ph.D.  A variety of short video field trips will showcase significant sites that evoke the rich and varied history of the region. Henricus his thrilled to have been selected to participate in this prestigious program.

Here is a link to the virtual field trip at Henricus:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Henricus Honors Emeritus Founding Board Members

On Friday, September 20, Henricus Historical Park welcomed Godspeed from Jamestown Settlement for Publick Days and recognized the first class of Emeritus Board Members of the Henricus Foundation. Honored for their service in founding Henricus Historical Park were J.E. Causey Davis, The Honorable Ernest P. Gates, C. Hobson Goddin, Dr. Dennis A.J. Morey, Kenneth M. Perry, John K. Taylor and Pauline A. Mitchell.  Music and dinner were enjoyed at the event where George P. Emerson, Jr. and J. Fletcher Kelly served as Masters of Ceremonies. Representatives from BB&T, lead sponsor for Publick Days, were recognized and thanked for their generous contributions.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bring History to Life by Volunteering at Henricus Historical Park

At Henricus Historical Park, we appreciate our volunteers!

Henricus volunteers play an essential role in inspiring and engaging people across our region, and we are always on the lookout for dynamic and energetic people who want to be a part of our team.

Volunteers help greet and orient museum visitors, assist historical interpreters in the living history areas, serve customers in the gift shop, provide support for special events, help with administration, and work behind the scenes in many other ways.

Please join us! We invite you to explore our many volunteer opportunities and discover the right volunteer program for you. Our volunteer opportunities are divided into several categories:

Gardens & Horticulture
Lend us your green thumb! Henricus nurtures plants in a greenhouse and across our 32-acre site in Virginia Indian, kitchen, physic and flower gardens. If you love plants, this is the opportunity for you!

1611 English Citie & Virginia Indian Site
Step back in time and assist our living historians and educators by demonstrating Virginia life in the 17th-century. Our volunteers are highly trained and enjoy a special camaraderie with our full-time staff.

Animals & Habitats
Goats, chickens and a pig reside at Henricus and all of them need love and attention.  If your calling is with animals, please help our staff care for them and share their unique stories with our guests.

Visitor Center & Gift Shop
Visitor center docents are the first and best source of information for our guests. Greeters introduce all that Henricus Historical Park and the Dutch Gap Conservation Area have to offer.

Special Events
Volunteer at one or as many events at Henricus as your schedule permits and know that you are brightening the lives of the families who attend.

Volunteer Benefits:
·         Complimentary family admission to the living history museum
·         15% discount in the gift shop
·         Invitation to our special events
·         Opportunity to make new friends and bring history to life for thousands of people each year

To request a volunteer application, please contact us at (804) 748-1611 or

For more information about joining the all-volunteer Henricus Militia, please visit this site:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

New Movie Filmed at Henricus Historical Park

Henricus Historical Park was selected as a location for “The Wreck of La Belle,” a film for The Bob Bolluck Texas State History Museum. Filming took place on March 16, 18, 19, 20 and 21. Approximately 50 crew members from Cortina Productions were onsite during this timeframe. Henricus Historical Park honored normal business hours during the filming and all school programs took place as scheduled. This was the fourth movie filmed at Henricus in five years. Most recently, “To Have and To Hold” in 2011 which is scheduled for release next year. Virginia has been increasing incentives for movie productions to bring more jobs to the Commonwealth. Richmond recently served as a location for “Lincoln” which received 12 Oscar nominations. For more information about filming at Henricus, call (804) 748-1611.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Grant Invited to Join Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Virginia

Charles Lewis Grant, executive director of Henricus Historical Park, was recently invited to join the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Virginia (VASCW). The society was established to recognize the importance of American colonial history, commencing with the settlement of Jamestown on May 13, 1607 and leading up to the Battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775. VASCW was formed to commemorate the events of that colonial period and the military and naval personnel and high civilian officials who assisted in the establishment, defense and preservation of the American colonies and were the founders of this Nation. Significant financial contributions from VASCW have been made towards restoration work at sites such as Jamestown Island, Colonial Williamsburg and Stratford Hall. Annual donations are also made by VASCW to the Henricus Foundation to support education of young people at Henricus Historical Park. Membership in VASCW consists of adult males directly descended from an individual who served in the colonial militia or British army or held high civilian office during the colonial period. For more information about the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Virginia, visit:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Founding of Henricus Commemorated During Publick Days on September 15-16

On Friday, September 14, Henricus Historical Park hosted a welcome reception for Publick Days and dedicated the Drumwright Education Fund in honor of recently retired Henrico Deputy County Manager, George T. Drumwright, Jr. The Drumwright Education Fund will enhance the Henricus Foundation’s ability to meet increasing demand from area Title I schools for SOL-aligned education programs. A number of local officials attended the Friday night reception including incoming Henrico County Manager, John A. Vithoulkas; Dorothy A. Jaeckle, Bermuda District Supervisor for Chesterfield County; and former Virginia Lt. Governor, John H. Hager among other dignitaries. On Saturday and Sunday, Henricus Historical Park welcomed several thousand visitors to Publick Days which featured more than 100 living history interpreters representing 1611-1917. Visitors could tour 17th-century ship replica, Phoenix, and participate in history and nature pontoon boat tours of the James River. One visitor was so impressed, that she wrote a kind letter with a $1,000 donation. We are pleased that Henricus Historical Park has become the cultural focal point for our region and was recently voted 2012 "Best Park” by readers of To learn more, visit or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Educator Open House at Henricus Historical Park This Week

Please join Henricus Historical Park for a complementary Educator Open House on Thursday, August 23 from 1 until 4:30 p.m. Public, private and home school teachers are invited to experience education at Henricus through a variety of hands-on demonstrations including crafts for children. Throughout the year, the living history museum offers multi-curricular, SOL-aligned history, math and science programs for pre-K through grade 12. Topics for upcoming programs include Virginia Indian and Colonial English history, the Civil War, archaeology, 17th-century sciences and the James River, among others. Tours of the historic site will be available and activities will be demonstrated in the classroom. Admission is free and light refreshments will be provided. Immediate family members are welcome to attend. Registration is recommended by contacting Victoria Sweeney in the education department at (804) 318-8797 or