BROOKNEAL — A Brookneal area historic site is receiving statewide recognition — plus some financial help to create an impressive new exhibit. Red Hill, the Patrick Henry National Memorial, finished No. 1 in a special people’s choice awards-style online voting competition and received a $2,000 award last week to help it preserve an important letter Henry wrote. Red Hill received 1,716 votes in the Virginia Association of Museums contest, the most among 10 finalists chosen from an original field of 30 entrants from all around Virginia. Red Hill’s rare 1792 handwritten letter by Patrick Henry showcases his character as a man ahead of his time as he writes to advocate for the rights of the Cherokee people in the fledgling United States.
“He had great concerns how the native Americans were being treated and the letter voiced his concerns,” Red Hill Community Relations Coordinator Myra Trent told The Union Star Friday. “Everybody’s excited we came in first. We were going against Northern Virginia entries — little southside Virginia doesn’t always get noticed. Our delegate James Edmunds (R-Halifax) was at the awards celebration with us at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond (Feb. 5). He came and accepted the award with us.”
The letter, which is currently getting ready to be conserved and is wrapped up and packed away awaiting shipment, features the beautiful penmanship of Henry, the first and sixth post colonial governor of Virginia and a noted early supporter of independence from Great Britain. He is likely best known for his famed “Give me liberty or give me death” statement.
Henry spent the last three years of his life living at Red Hill, a then 2,930-acre plantation. He is also buried there. Although fire destroyed the original main Red Hill home in 1919, a reproduction of it was created there in the 1950s and the Patrick Henry National Memorial site still includes more than a third of the original plantation land — about a thousand acres. “We’re about preserving Patrick Henry’s legacy … it’s important to us to be good stewards,” Trent said.
Red Hill officials hope to have the conserved letter on display by this coming Fourth of July.
The Virginia Association of Museums’ Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program identifies
significant, endangered artifacts in the care of museums, historic sites and other collecting institutions across the Commonwealth of Virginia and Washington, D.C. and creates awareness of their importance as well as the expense of their stewardship, according to an association news release. A partner panel of conservators and collections care experts from the Library of Virginia, Preservation Virginia, Virginia Conservation Association, Virginia Department of Historic Resources and a private conservator selected the honorees following a competitive review process. Members of the public could then vote for their top pick among the 10 finalists Jan. 13-22. For information on the finalists, visit https://www.vamuseums.org/virginias-top-10-endangered-artifacts.
(For the full story and more photos, be sure to pick up a copy of the Feb. 12 print edition of The Union Star. It’s available NOW on newsstands throughout the greater Brookneal area.)