jjjb J. Matthew Hogendobler, DMD, MD, EBD
The Historic Preservation Commission of the City of Virginia Beach will hold its Annual Meeting at 6:30 this evening at Central Library to hear comments and answer questions from the public following a panel discussion about the status and plans of the “Cape Henry Historic Site.” While the borders of the site weren’t identified, the area from Pleasure House Point to the Atlantic is so steeped in the same history, it would be impossible to conceive of any discussion excluding the Lynnhaven Bay inlet. Countless issues and ideas, many of them decades in the making, have emerged and evolved over the years, and they are, at once, as significant to the nation and countries elsewhere in the world as they are to residents of Virginia Beach and the Commonwealth.
The 7:45 PM Q&A section of the meeting agenda does not appear to be limited in scope, although a speaker is planned earlier during the meeting, so discussions, if any, are likely to follow the lead and flow of the moderator, if not severely limited by constraints of time. Coupled with the number and array of related, yet unresolved issues already before the city, it is therefore appropriate to identify in advance of the meeting, some of the more recent proposals made by a handful of local, state, national and international interest groups and individuals, not only to increase public awareness, but to provide a voice to public opinion, especially to those individuals and organizations otherwise unable to attend.
The historical significance of Cape Henry extends well beyond the borders of the city or, for that matter, the nation. The connections between the United States, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and, most especially, Great Britain, predate the birth of our nation and live -even today- in the documents with antecedent ties to former Princess Anne County.
Though by no means intended to be inclusive of all events which occurred on or near the shores of the southern promontory entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, over 5000 years of the presence of indigenous cultures notwithstanding, the time period being considered by the Commission likely begins historical recognition as King James, the First (of England) would have wanted: in 1607, when the Englishmen who journeyed to and landed at Cape Henry opened sealed orders and proclaimed Virginia (named centuries earlier) in the name of the King of England. (Accordingly, Capes Charles and Henry were named after the eldest two of his three sons.)
Such a starting point makes sense. After all, the King, to whose reign the most widely adopted translation of the Bible is attributed, officially established the first forms of government and religion for the first colony, Virginia, “the Old Dominion,” with borders which lay as far north as the country itself. But no such historical discussion would be complete without incorporating references to the actual documents of the time, and they should be laced with a basic understanding of the subjects granted the authority to act, by whom and why. [Visit America’s Holy Covenant for more information.]
There is probably no better expert than meeting speaker Dr. Bob Albertson, Virginia Weslyan College professor and president of the Order of Cape Henry 1607, to address some of these questions and provide a brief foundation for the actions of those first settlers. (Readers may wish to research the complex, faith-based history of the evolution in England of the Virginia Company itself, since, ultimately, it would result in three charters for the Colony, although none would survive for any appreciable length of time.) The formal establishment of an organized religion, represented in the cross planted on Cape Henry’s shore, provided a foundation for the first mandatory church services in Jamestown, the erection of the colony’s first church and the first meeting of the colony’s leaders, resulting in a representative form of government which survives in America today.
The next period of Cape Henry history occurred prior to 1775, during the remainder of the 17th and most of the 18th centuries, when the Chesapeake Bay, like other large seafaring lanes of travel into and out of the new world, witnessed untold masses of vessels carrying passengers and cargo to grow the thirteen colonies.
After awhile the call of the open sea became irresistible, and Blackbeard returned to piracy along the southeastern coast, ranging as far north as Pennsylvania in the eight-gun sloop Adventure. Tradition in the James River region maintains that he eluded British naval vessels by disappearing up Pagan Creek in the neighborhood of Smithfield, Virginia. Blackbeard’s Hill still dominates Lynnhaven Bay near Cape Henry. From its summit, pirate sentinels could scan the Chesapeake Bay entrance through the Virginia Capes.