Emily Dickinson and I Did the Same Thing

Emily Dickinson at Mount Vernon

This is the second in a series of story-saving techniques

I’m an avid reader of Emily Dickinson poems and letters  – always have been. Recently, one of her letters stood out because we shared an experience: Visiting Mount Vernon.

Years ago, when traveling to George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, I wandered down the trail and stood in front of George and Martha’s tomb. It was chilling, knowing that the Father and Mother of the country were just inside, their marble sarcophagi simply inscribed: Washington and Martha, Consort of Washington. I still get chills thinking about it.

And of course, going into the house, knowing that George had walked these very floors. Again, chilling. What is it about walking in the footsteps of history?

Apparently, Emily Dickinson felt the same way. In a letter written in 1854, she wrote: “…I will tell you how on Emily Dickinson Letters - Weaving History into Genealogyone soft spring day we glided down the Potomac in a painted boat, and jumped upon the shore – how hand in hand we stole along up a tangled pathway till we reached the tomb of General George Washington, how we paused beside it, and no one spoke a word, then hand in hand, walked on again, not less wise or sad for that marble story; how we went within the door – raised the latch he lifted when he last went home…oh, I could spend a long day, if it did not weary you, telling of Mount Vernon…” *

Since those days, I’ve visited many historic places that were also visited by people of note, the most recent Pecos Pueblo in New Mexico. There, I walked the same pathways walked by Coronado five hundred years earlier. But, I’ll save that story for another time.

And if you’re interested, this is the Emily Dickinson book I was reading:

Using History in Your Family Stories

This week I challenge you to use history to weave a family story. If you don’t have access to historical books that were written about a time or place your family lived, go to Google Books and find one. (If you’re not sure how to do that, watch my short (free) video). Then, think about how a place or event might have impacted an ancestor – or you!

Using the Internet, it’s easy to find stories about people and places that lived in the same time period or same area as an ancestor. There’s something magical about putting their lives into context; I think it brings them back to life.

For example, in reading a book about Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, I discovered that one of my ancestors attended at the same time as the Washingtons. Is there a chance he saw Mount Vernon? I sure hope so!

Once you find a story, write, record or video a few minutes of your memories or thoughts about how history is woven into your life and the lives of your ancestors. Leave a comment about a story you’d like to save! Better yet, save it!

An Evening With the General

My sister was lucky enough to attend an evening event at Mount Vernon. Here are three of her photos from that night. (I’m so jealous I wasn’t there!)

If You’re Interested in Learning More About Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon: The History of George Washington’s Famous Plantation

The General in the Garden: George Washington’s Landscape at Mount Vernon

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Official Guidebook

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Did you know that Emily Dickinson (the reclusive poet from Amherst, MA) visited Mount Vernon? I promise you, she did. Knowing the impact Mount Vernon had on Emily was so amazing as I felt the same things. Read more about weaving history into your genealogy and family stories.

Love to know what you think!