I am blessed to do what I love. I love to research and I love to share what I do with people. I am happiest in a library or on my laptop. In expanding my business I realized that I could no longer work from home so my husband and I decided to purchase the cutest little building in Mathews County. I love the history of the little building almost as much as I love the building itself.
It is located in the historic courthouse area and is a wonderful place to work. It has 2 rooms and a small half bath. It comes in at a whopping 447 square feet. It is a stand alone building nestled next to one of the biggest buildings in town, the building now known as the Halcyon Building. The great thing about this building is that is used to be the phone company office. The kind with the switchboard. Mathews County was an early user of the telephone with the Tidewater Telephone Company being formed in 1890 to serve Mathews, Gloucester and Middlesex Counties. In Mathews there were seven county operators manning the switchboards and taking care of about 400 customers by 1950. Alas,progress and technology took away the need for good old fashioned operators. In the years since, the little building at 36 Court Street has been the home of Diggs Insurance, a restaurant, office space, and various other businesses who rented space. Alas, two years ago I was fortunate enough to buy it and grow my business. I love this little building and love being in the heart of town. Watching the folks walk by, the folks going to yoga, the people taking thier dogs to the groomers, the smell of the restaurants in town cooking lunch. It is what small town America should be like.
Where do I start? I have recently begun to have a relationship with the Dirty Martini. I was a girl who came of age in the 1990's. The era of the Cosmo-think Sex and the City. Everything I drank was sweet. I didn't like wine (crazy right?) and only did shots of Tequila when I went out with girlfriends. Fast forward a decade or two and here I am at 40 discovering good drinks for the first time. I think it helps that I am a partial empty-nester. The oldest is off at college experimenting with who knows what. The middle child is driving and has her own life and the baby at 14 eats, sleeps and breaths soccer and has little use for Mom other than as a taxi services and sideline cheerleader. This past Valentines Day I declared it family getaway weekend so we could all go skiing. It was on this family ski trip that I stumbled over the Dirty Martini quite by accident. I really LOVE Bloody Mary's but I am also getting older and as such have this wonderful little thing know as GERD. I manage it well, but the hot sauce in the Bloody Mary well...we don't agree with one another. We stayed at this fantastic resort in Hot Springs, Virginia called The Homestead. It is one of my favorite places in the world. My husband and I spent our Honeymoon there. Isn't it pretty? That's me there on a business trip last year.
Now back to the Dirty Martini! We arrived at the resort Saturday morning and skiied for a few hours. The weather was perfect and we were able to sit at the ski lodge and partake in hot chocolate. Later that evening the husband and I made our way to the Great Hall to sit by the fireplace and have a few cocktails before dinner. What to drink? I didn't want anything sweet. I couldn't risk a Bloody Mary while on vacation, so what else could I drink?? Well it came to me in a flash. A Dirty Martini. I love olives in any form. They are good for you, right? It was love at first drink. My affair with the Dirty Martini began. Back home- which was undergoing a major kitchen/living/dining room remodel- I decided I needed to figure out how to make these. So off to google school I went. In my world I was used to everything being made with Vodka, so therefore that is how I liked them, but...gasp...it was all WRONG! Who knew? Certainly not I! Gin? I don't think I like Gin. So as a Historian I wanted to know the HISTORY of the drink. How was it originally made? The only sure answer I can seem to find is that there is no sure answer, just some very interesting myths. One thing that is certain is that the Martini came of age during Prohibition. Gin was cheaply made and available and tasted even better mixed with some lemon or olives to disguise the poor taste of the Gin. Now it is well known, thanks to James Bond, that we prefer our Martini's shaken, not stirred but did you know that a Martini that is shaken is then known as a Bradford? Right? Who knew? David Embury did in 1948 when he published The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. What else did I miss? I know that they should be served in a chilled Martini Glass and that too much shaking can bruise the alcohol. Are these more myths? I must know. Apparently a Martini on the Rocks should be served in a Lowball Glass. The one thing I am certain of is that there is no right was or wrong way to make a Martini. Straight up (no ice in the glass) shaken with a lemon twist or a Gibson which is straight up with pickled onion garnish. This list goes on and on and on. So here is my take on it. It is a drink that has evolved with time. I am sure what I drink today does not taste anything like it did 100 years ago. I like Stoly vodka, queen olives stuffed with pimento and extra brine. A real salty one. Here is my home recipe which I think is pretty good.
2 Shots Stoly Vodka
1 Shot Martini Vermouth
1 Shot Olive Brine (or a little less-taste varies)
Shake with Ice
Garnish with 4 green queen olives(for snacking)
When I tell people what I do for a living, I tell them I talk to dead people and tell their stories. I am not like Theresa Caputo, The Long Island Medium, but I do spend a lot of time discovering what the lives of those I research was like-and they are almost always passed on. One of the first people I was tasked with researching when I started my business in Virginia was that of Captain William Nicholas Worthington, CSA. It was all based on this photo:
This grave is located at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia in an area of the cemetery that is called Presidents Circle. This is one of the most elite burial grounds in Virginia after Arlington National Cemetery. Buried in Presidents Circle are two US Presidents: John Tyler and James Monroe. Elsewhere in the cemetery Confederate President Jefferson Davis is laid to rest. Hollywood Cemetery is also the final resting place of 28 Confederate Generals. The question that my client came to me with was why was this grave special enough to be in Presidents Circle and who was W.N. Worthington?
William Nicholas Worthington was born in Washington DC on July 16, 1841 the son of William M. Worthington, Esquire and Alice Brown. They lived in a palatial mansion called Halcyon House (see photo below).
William Nicholas Worthington's life at Halycon House was not to be. A year after his birth his father died. The estate was put into trust for young William until it was sold in 1849. Alice Brown Worthington had married William Henry Haxall of Richmond, Virginia in 1848. Mr. Haxall was a man of high means in his own right, owning the Haxall Mills in Richmond. Young master Worthington was educated at Hanover Academy near Richmond followed by The University of Virginia in Charlottesville where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Society. The 1860 Census shows us how well off both William Worthington and his step-father were. His step-father’s real estate was valued at $40,000.00 and his personal estate was valued at $120,000.00. William, still living at home, had real estate valued at: $30,000.00 and had $20,000.00 in personal estate. It is assumed that young William's wealth was from his inheritance from his father which had included Halcyon House.
In 1861 William was enrolled at the University of Virginia when the Civil War broke out. Pledging his allegiance to the Confederacy, he first enlisted as a Private in Charlottesville assigned to The Southern Guard, Capt. Hutter’s Company-Infantry. He was then assigned to the 4th Virginia Infantry out of Richmond where he was an Aide de Camp to Joseph Anderson. William didn't stay enlisted for long due to his family connections. William was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant in Richmond, Virginia on June 13, 1862 as an Aide de Camp to General Beverly Robertson. William was promoted to Captain on February 18, 1863. Later in the war he served as an Aide de Camp to General Crutchfield. William was at both the Battle of Brandy Station and The Battle at Saylor's Creek. The war was a family affair with his half brother William H. Haxall, II serving in the 1st Virginia and his step cousin Philip Haxall serving as an Aide de Camp like William. His family was dealt a blow at the end of the war when hi step-father lost the Haxall Mill when Richmond was burned in April 1865.
Following the war, William moved to New York City where he was a private banker working on Wall Street. He died while visiting Toledo, Ohio at age 29 on June 30, 1871. His obituary appeared in newspapers in Toledo, New York City and Richmond and read as follows,
"In calling to mind the depth of this young gentleman, those who knew will dwell with peculiar satisfaction on the amiable traits of his character and courteous suavity of his manners. Possession much that too often leads to vanity and self-conceit, his modesty and gentleness were always more prominent than either. Destined to fill an early grave; the calm consciousness of it neither awed nor terrified him. He met his fate with fortitude of a Christian exulting in the hope of a brighter hereafter."
His burial in Hollywood Cemetery was due to the influence of his step-father William Henry Haxall. In 1847 "...Haxall and Joshua Fry, inspired by a recent visit to Mount Auburn cemetery near Boston, decided to open a similar cemetery on the outskirts of Richmond. Together with 40 prominent Richmond subscribers, they started a company that would later be known as the Hollywood Cemetery Company. Notable architect John Notman of Philadelphia was enlisted to design the cemetery. He suggested the name “Hollywood” due to the large amount of holly trees that dotted its hills." (from http://www.hollywoodcemetery.org/about/our-history)
It is obvious that William Nicholas Worthington was loved by his family. His mother, Alice and step-father William Henry Haxall are buried right next to him in Presidents Circle. The final piece of the puzzle is not yet found. I would very much like to find a photo of William Nicholas Worthington. Somewhere out there I know in my heart there in a likeness of him. If you have any information that could lead to this please leave a comment below!