The Meriwether Society, Inc. hosts an Annual Meeting every year and a Reunion every other year (biennial).
The Meriwethers gathered in Richmond in mid-May for their fourth biennial re-union and the weekend was one of fun and fellowship. It was clear that the members of the Arrangements Committee had worked long and hard to make the meeting an enjoyable and eventful one for those who journeyed to that historic city.
One hundred members, spouses and guests from 16 states, the District of Columbia and the Philippines began arriving at The John Marshall Hotel on Thursday afternoon, 16 May. Registering in the Marshall Room, they were able to “meet and greet cousins and friends”—old and new friends—and each received a “goodie bag” with perfume samples and other souvenirs, including special MERIWETHER SOCIETY coffee mugs for those that had ordered them. For many, the Thursday afternoon gathering continued after dinner, with renewing of friend-ships and sharing of family data.
On Friday morning, 17 May, the Meriwethers were up fairly early for a bus trip to “Castle Hill,” near Charlottesville. This Virginia Historic Landmark is really two houses in one: A clap-board structure built about 1764 by Dr.Thomas Walker for his wife Mildred Thornton Meriwether, widow of Nicholas Meriwether, son of [William] Meriwether. By this marriage, Dr. Walker came into nearly one-half of the Meriwether lands along the Southwest Mountains. The “other” house, a brick building, was built in 1824 by William Cabell Rives, Senator and Ambassador to France. Following a tour of the “double” house, the group enjoyed a delicious box lunch on the grounds. Busses returned the attendees to Richmond in mid-afternoon.
Friday evening’s events began with a social hour, followed by dinner in the Jackson Room of the hotel. The dinner was presided over by Nancy Rountree, Vice President, in the absence of President Elise Franklin. Brigadier General Ron Van Stockum, USMC (Ret.),spoke on “Nicholas Meriwether (1749-1828), Kentucky Pioneer and Land Locator.” The talk was taken from his article in the April 1985 issue of “The Filson Club History Quarterly.” The scope of Ron’s research and quality of his writing made for an informative talk about a fascinating Meriwether ancestor. Following dinner, a number of Meriwethers again stayed behind to continue their visits and sharing.
Saturday, 18 May, was a busy day and began early with the group again boarding busses for some sightseeing. The tour began with a drive around Richmond, with guides pointing out important and interesting points of the city. Then came one of the highlights of the weekend: a stop at “Fairfield,” an absolutely beautiful home built originally about 1750 in Hanover County. The builder was Colonel John Syme, who built the house for his bride Mildred Meriwether, only the child of Nicholas Meriwether and Mildred Thornton.
Originally called “Rocky Mills,” the home, spared the fate of destruction by fire in 1928, was taken down that year and rebuilt with minor modifications in Richmond and renamed “Fairfield.”
Our visit to “Fairfield” was arranged by Dr. and Mrs. Bruce English of Hanover County and we were hosted by the current owner, Mrs. Parke F. Smith. Her home was opened to the visitors in every sense of the word, with opportunities to see the rooms and walk around the grounds. Coffee, sherry and tea cookies were offered. Joining Mrs. Smith as hosts were her son James Smith, and previous owners, Dr. and Mrs. Robert S. Preston.
The visitors were almost reluctant to leave the warmth and beauty of “Fairfield,” but the busses rolled on to Hanover County where we began our visit with another delicious box lunch, this time at Hanover Tavern. Built in 1723, the Tavern was a stage coach stop, offering hospitality to such guests as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette.
Patrick Henry lived there with his wife Sarah Shelton, daughter of the Tavern owner. He occasionally served as host in the absence of his father-in-law. The Tavern presently houses the Barksdale Theatre.
Following lunch, we crossed the road to historic Hanover Courthouse, built in 1735 on the land of William Meriwether, who had founded the town of Newcastle in 1730. The quaint courthouse, still the seat of the 15th Judicial Circuit, is beautiful in its simplicity. Our hosts were Dr. and Mrs. English and the Hon. Richard H. C. Taylor, Judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit, and Mrs. Taylor. Mrs. English (Virginia), described the history of the Courthouse and its significance as the site of Patrick Henry’s charge to the jury in “The Parson’s Cause.” The busses returned to Richmond in mid-afternoon.
Saturday evening, the group gathered in the Roof Garden of The John Marshall Hotel for a reception. Just before we sat down for dinner, the group was called to order and al sang “Happy Birthday” to a surprised Heath Meriwether. (Heath’s birthday actually is 23 August, but those gathered in Richmond wanted to recognize the event early in order to pay tribute to a dear friend and family leader.) In addition to the song, and a birthday cake, Heath was given a book, Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1712-26. published in 1912.
Dinner was presided over by Charlene Benne, Past President of THE SOCIETY and Chairman of the Arrangements Committee for the Richmond meeting. Following dinner, the business meeting was called to order. Following reading of the minutes of the 1983 meeting in Montgomery, AL, and a Treasurer’s report, George Browning, Chairman of the Nominating Committee, presented a slate of officers for election:
Chairman of the Board: Heath Meriwether
President: Dr. Will Meriwether
Vice President: Barbara Smith
Secretary: Nancy Rountree
Treasurer: John Gilmer.
All were elected by acclimation. It was announced that the Board of Directors has established the office of Historian and Mary Gordon Smothers was appointed to the position.
Following the business meeting, the guest speaker was Conley Edwards, Richmond native and currently head of the Public Services Section of the Archives Branch of the Virginia State Library.He spoke on the importance of maintaining original records, particularly in this age of computers when there is a tendency to put records on tapes and disks and to then destroy the original records. He urged his listeners to work with libraries and archives to overcome this dangerous trend.
The evening adjourned after more visiting.
Sunday morning, 19 May, was a little sad, in that people began to return to their homes. The sadness was like that when a member of the family departs. For some who had the time, it was an opportunity to visit Williamsburg and to drive along Loop Road at Jamestowne to see the Meriwether plaque placed by THE SOCIETY.
As the members and friends departed Richmond and the fourth biennial meeting of THE SOCIETY, many said they are already looking forward to 1987 and the fifth gathering of the Meriwether clan. Plans are underway. THE MERIWETHER SOCIETY will convene in Louisville, KY, in mid-June 1987, hosted by Ron and Susanne Van Stockum.