Oh, What a Night!
September 3rd the James Madison Museum of Orange County Heritage held an elegant and then booming event to honor "The Honorable" Helen Marie Taylor. "Bloomsbury" was her pride and joy, a wedding gift from her husband Jaquelin Taylor in 1964 which they worked lovingly on restoring until Jaq's death in 1985. For the remainder of Helen Marie's life, she continued the restoration and conservation work on the beloved Taylor 1720's home as well as her dedicated efforts toward preserving the rich heritage of Virginia.
Below is the announcement of the September 3rd event.
The event was free, only requiring an RSVP to ensure enough food, drink, and seating. Over 230 guests were present to enjoy the amazing, delicious food by "Provisions Market" and hear our two guest speakers, Ms. Ann Miller and Mr. Frank S. Walker, Jr. For the first hour and a half, guests were free to walk through the main floor chambers of Bloomsbury while enjoying 18th century music played by a trio from "Got Strings".
A degreed architectural antiquities expert, among Ms. Miller's many accolades and writings is a wonderful book entitled Antebellum Orange, The Pre-Civil War Homes, Public Buildings and Historic Sites of Orange, Virginia. Bloomsbury is included within the covers of this book. Ms. Miller shared the earliest geographic and anthropologic history of the grounds that were granted to Colonel James Taylor, II in 1722. She then gave a thoughtful overview of the architectural history and features of the homes two wings (1720s and 1797).
After Ms. Miller's presentation, Delegate Nick Freitas of the Virginia House of Delegates, presented a Virginia House of Delegates Resolution (No. 55, dated March 7, 2022) to Helen Marie Taylor's youngest son, Howell Taylor. The Resolution celebrates the life of Helen Marie Taylor and commending her almost countless efforts and contributions "as a recognized leader and advocate of historic preservation and restoration efforts in the Commonwealth," her efforts as a patron of the arts and in support of numerous civic organizations. The Resolution recognized her co-establishment of The James Madison Museum, and her hometown museum in Waco, Texas - The Helen Marie Taylor Museum of Waco. Her service to her country included her appointment by President Ronald Reagan to serve as the United States delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization meeting in Paris (1983); and as a United States representative to the United Nations in 1986. This just touched part of her life-long efforts commended that reflected her love of her country and its heritage.
After Delegate Freitas spoke, Mr. Frank Walker, Jr. who claims he is "blind in one eye and cain't see out of the other," was courteously escorted to the podium by Howell Taylor. Frank has deep family roots in this area, has authored two books about Orange County, has given countless delightful presentations covering several topics of Orange History, and who, following his legal career, ran a very successful tour guide of Civil War sites and other historic locations in and around Orange - told us a "Civil War story unlike any others you may have heard."
Frank wove several stories together about the Civil War in and around Orange and the strategic importance of Orange. He spoke of the Rapidan River, the Courthouse battles and the Lee encampment at Bloomsbury, including a story about Mary Jerdone, daughter of the house who was around 13-14, and the "cavaliers" who kept trying to get her to go for rides with them. The General sent a small picture of himself to show the young men as a means to "scare" them away from young Mary. Frank also spoke about "Mr. Lee", the post-war private citizen who put all of his energy and strategic thinking skills to work saving, reviving, and enlarging the near empty and badly looted George Washington University as well as building bridges and binding emotional wounds to ameliorate the angst and anxiety of those he encountered.
Once word spread that Mr. Lee was leading Washington University, donors began sending money and young men from as far away as Texas began to attend the school. All that he achieved in those last 5 years of his life pointed to an educationally-based career that would have rivaled his military achievements. So, yes, Frank did tell a story unlike those we've heard so often in the past, giving us a human story, not just the battles of the war.
As people had been sitting eating and then attending to three speakers, it was time to let our guests a chance to move around a little. While folks walked around outside the tent, the sky was darkening just about enough for our fireworks display. First however we need to unveil the portrait of Helen Marie.
After the champagne was poured and served, her grandson, Zac Munroe, and her son, Howell, unveiled the beautiful painting commissioned by the Helen Marie Taylor Trust.
Most of the 230+ guests had remained throughout the evening and every one seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the event.
Following a brief personal story of how I met Helen Marie, we raised our glasses and toasted the life of "The Honorable - Helen Marie Taylor."
Afterward, we all went outside to enjoy an amazing fireworks display that Helen Marie would have thoroughly enjoyed.
(The Museum's Facebook Page video of the full fireworks program.)