April 5-April 7, 2019



Once again, we hope that our conference attendees will join us on both the Friday and Sunday conference tours as we take you out of the area to learn more about American history.  Both tours are priced separately on the registration form.

Riding Freedom's Train Tour
April 5, 2019  8:00am - 5:00pm

On Friday, we will depart from Surratt House at 8:00 am and travel across the Chesapeake Bay to Maryland's Eastern Shore, where we will visit the new Harriet Tubman Museum Railroad Visitor Center located in Church Creek Maryland.  Many of you may have read the book Assassin's Accomplice by Kate Clifford Larson.  Before she changed her focus to Mary Surratt, Kate (a good friend of the Surratt Society) wrote the book, Harriet Tubman: Bound for the Promised Land that is a great resource for studying "the Moses of her people."

Kate was the driving fource behind the creation of the huge museum that we will visit, including getting the National Park Service involved.  The site is now a joint venture between the State of Maryland and the NPS.  As Kate explains, " We've tried to not just always focus on Tubman, but the communities she worked in, the communities that raised her, the communties that she went back to.  They kept the secrets.  They held the stories," she says.  "They protected those who were left behind."

During our visit, you will see exhibits that focus on Tubman's life and the Underground Railroad resistance movement.  This is a 17-acre site surrounded by the beautiful Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.  Spend some time seeing if you can spot rare birds and waterfowl who often visit from next door.

When we leave this site, we will visit the Bucktown Village Store where Tubman, as a young girl, was accidently hit in the head with a heavy object.  This affected her health for the rest of her life.  We will leave the store and head to downtown Cambridge's popular Jimmy and Sook's restaurant for a delicious lunch.  Then we will head back to the James O. Hall Research Center for our annual gathering and reception.  The doors there are set to open at 5 pm. 

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Mr. Madison's Valley Tour
April 7, 2019    8:00am - 6:30pm

Note that this tour will depart from the Colony South Hotel lobby at 8am on Sunday morning, April 7.  On Sunday, we will head to Orange, Virginia, to visit the James Madison Museum of Orange County.  This museum is dedicated to our fourth president and his wife Dolley.  (This is not, however the Madisons' home, Montpelier.)  Here at this showcase museum, you will find interesting artifacts that touch on many facets of our history, including the area's agrarian heritage and its enslaved people.  There are even items related to Zachary Taylor (the General and President and native of Orange) as well as some tied to Washington, Jefferson, and Monroe.  After our tour, we will have lunch at the museum, and then head south to Gordonsville, Virginia, to visit the Exchange Hotel and Civil War Medicial Museum.

Travel on the early railroads of the 1830s-1850s was a tiring, dangerous and dirty experience. By the time of the Civil War (1861-1865), things had somewhat improved, at least when it came to avoiding collisions.  Schedules ran smoother thanks to the invention of the electric telegraph - traffic controllers used it to communicate with one another.  The wealthy in particular, began to enjoy more pleasant rides - the idea of segregating cabins by class had been introduced in the 1840s.  But for everyone else, trains were still a miserable means of travel.  Thus, in major railroad towns, little hospitality establishments known as exchange hotels began to spring up.  They catered to weary passengers who needed somewhere to stay while they waited for their trains to be refueled.

One of the most important famous exchange hotels is located in Gordonsville, Virginia. Today, it is known as The Exchange Hotel Civil War Medical Museum.  Just from its title one can see the variation in its history.  Since this hotel was near the Virginia Central Railroad and the Alexandria Railroad, it was a grand place for passengers to stop and stay a while.  With the advent of the Civil War, this grand hotel became the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital.  They provided care for over 70,000 - both Confederate and Union soldiers.  Between 1865 and 1877, during Reconstruction, the hospital provided care and education to newly freed slaves as a Freedman's Bureau.  As things got better and the railroads began to run again, this building went back to its original use as a lovely hotel until a preservationist group transfrmed it to what it is today: a good place where tourists go to see Civil War artifacts, learn some American history... and encounter ghosts.

After a full day of touring we will head back to the Colony South Hotel.  We should get back by 6 pm.