You Don’t Have to Stray Far from Camp Cardinal to Feel Our Nation’s History

History is close by when you stay at Camp Cardinal.

While you might think of Jamestown, Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg as three of the region’s most historically relevant places, Gloucester offers so much to appreciate. Rather than hopping on the interstate, why not take a driving tour of Gloucester County?

Start at Abingdon Parish at 4645 George Washington Memorial Highway. Established circa 1650, the initial brick church here was established on land donated by Col. Augustine Warner, the maternal great-great grandfather of George Washington. The foundation of that church can still be found inside the south wall of the church grounds. Leisurely walk the property that is especially lovely when everything is in bloom.

Make your way to one of the oldest African American churches in Gloucester, Bethel Baptist, which dates back to 1867. The church at 2978 Hickory Fork Road is on the state’s list of historic places.

Buck’s Store Museum on 8850 Guinea Road interprets the history of the Guinea section of Gloucester. The store is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and serves lunch beginning at 11 a.m. Drop in during those hours on a Saturday to gain a better understanding of Guinea culture, and if you’re a foodie, take home the Guinea Jubilee Cookbook.

Wait until you see walkable Gloucester Main Street, full of unique, independent shops in addition to lots of history and public murals. Park at the court circle at 6504 Main Street and explore this historical area, which includes six buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. One of them is the courthouse from 1766, among the oldest in the nation and still in use. The Gloucester Visitors Center is also there as well as an exhibit featuring Werowocomoco, the village that served as the headquarters for Chief Powhatan.

Learn more about the Indians who inhabited Virginia at Machicomoco State Park at 3601 Timberneck Farm Road. The park full of walking paths and trails contains an open-air interpretive pavilion on the culture, landscape and movement of Virginia Indians.

Continue your trek by visiting Nuttall’s Country Store at 6495 Ware Neck Road. The store has been in continuous use since 1877 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nuttall’s, the social center of the Ware Neck community, an absolute gem. In addition to historical maps and documents, the selection of local artisan foods is vast. The prepared meals by Johnson & Wales trained Chef Win Goodier are extraordinary. Bring dinner and a bottle of Virginia wine back to camp along with fresh seafood to grill.

Next head to 7339 Lewis Avenue, home of the Pocahontas Museum, which includes thousands of items that highlight this enchanting Native American woman. The museum is open by appointment.

If you drove through Gloucester Main Street, you might have seen the mammoth mural commemorating her life. The mural is on the side of the Gloucester County Public Library.

See the ruins from one of the largest homes from the 1700s, Rosewall Plantation, that burned in 1916. You’ll find the ruins from this mansion where hundreds were enslaved at 5113 Old Rosewell Plantation Road.

The oldest church in Gloucester, Ware Episcopal, is located at 7825 John Clayton Memorial Highway. The brick church was built in 1720 with walls that are 3 feet thick. Enjoy the tranquil grounds.

Next, spin by the cottage where Dr. Walter Reed was born at 4021 Hickory Fork Road. Built around 1825, the house is a rare surviving example of what was found in the area from that time period. Nearby, you’ll find Woodville School for African American students, built in 1923. The only Rosenwald school remaining in Gloucester County served African American children between 1912 and 1931. It’s at 4310 George Washington Memorial Highway.

Before returning to Camp Cardinal, don’t miss another of the region’s most famous and still active churches, Zion Poplars Baptist Church & Cemetery. The church from 1894 is named for a grove of seven poplar trees where the African American founders met in 1866. Four of the trees remain on the grounds at 7000 T.C. Walker Road. The sanctuary was hand carved by former slave Frank Braxton.