Another History at its Best

Jul 5, 2020 | Historic Preservation, News & Announcements

A little trivia about Happy Retreat.

Hello from inside Happy Retreat on Her 240th Birthday

My favorite thing to do as the historian of Happy Retreat is look behind Happy Retreat’s walls, under her floorboards, in closets, read long stored away Bibles and ledgers. A while back we were made aware of a pencil sketch of a panoramic view of Charles Town in 1862. The white building in the center of the drawing turned out to be Happy Retreat. Wow, to this discovery. It really piqued my interest. Who was living there at that time and what about all the other residents of Happy Retreat?

I recently started research on others who lived here. We found deeds, wills, Federal Slave Schedules, estate sale records, photos and more recently names written in the margins of family bibles and general store ledgers, including the names of Happy Retreat’s enslaved people. 

Happy Retreat has seen everything – births (birth of twins more than once), marriages, wars and, sadly, many deaths. Foreclosure and many different occupations and trades. And yes, even ghosts. There were times when Happy Retreat had a very active social life, parties, get-togethers and Sunday School Picnics.  

At Happy Retreat we are working on bringing all this history where it can be seen by visitors. We want to recognize everyone who helped bring Happy Retreat together over three centuries and considered it home. We have even brought some of Charles’s and Mildred’s descendants into this. The descendant list is amazing to see. It helps bring Charles and Mildred to life just to see something so personal that they would love to have seen themselves. 

Let me bring you up to date on some of the early residents. Of course, we had Charles and wife Mildred with their family who arrived about 1780. Their youngest daughter, Mildred Gregory Washington, married Capt. Thomas Hammond in 1797. The Hammonds were Happy Retreat residents for several years after the death of Charles and Mildred. Our list of owners and tenants goes on from this point to Isaac Douglass, a Circuit Court Judge, and then Frances Drew, a very popular local farmer, and right on up to Bill and Mary Gavin, who set in motion the effort for Friends of Happy Retreat to purchase this beautiful mansion

Happy Retreat was home to the man who gave Charles Town it’s birth and its name. If you can help with any information on early history, please contact us. I am working on the Hammond family and I’m interested in any photos that might be out there. They lived at Happy Retreat from 1800 until 1837. A lot of changes took place at that time. 

My plan is to bring to light and recognize all the residents of Happy Retreat. Including the enslaved who gave their help and hard work. Those who gave it her name, history, life and at times even a face lift. Please keep your eye on our “Rising Sun Newsletter”. You will know some of these people I’m sure. See you in the next issue with more names and information. Meanwhile let’s celebrate 240 years of History at its Very Best.

Marjorie Gaestel, 

Historian/Archivist of Happy Retreat

From the July 2020 Rising Sun Newsletter