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Inquiry Question

Historical Context




Table of

Locating the Site

Map 1: Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay region.[Map 1] with link to higher quality map.

Several visitors to Montpelier have left interesting comments about the house and its location. The earliest account is found in a diary entry of Anna Brodeau Thornton:

Sptr. 5th 1802. arrived at Mr. Madisonís country seat, about 110 miles from the City of Washington and situated in Orange County Virginia 5 miles from Orange Court House on one of the is in a wild and romantic country, very generally covered with fine flourishing timber & forest trees.¹

In December 1824, while visiting Thomas Jefferson at his Virginia plantation home, Monticello, Congressman George Ticknor drafted a letter to a friend describing the trip he and his companion, congressman and orator Daniel Webster, made from Washington to Montpelier:

We have had an extremely pleasant visit in Virginia thus far, and have been much less annoyed by bad roads and bad inns than we supposed we should be, though both are certainly vile enough. We left Washington just a week ago, and came seventy miles in a steamboat, to Potomac Creek, and afterwards nine miles by land, to Fredericksburg....

On Saturday morning we reached Mr. Madisonís, at Montpellier [sic]...a very fine, commanding situation, with the magnificent range of the Blue Ridge stretching along the whole horizon in front, at the distance of from twenty to thirty miles.²

Questions for Map 1

1. Examine Map 1 and read the notes that accompany the map above. Now locate Washington, D.C., Montpelier, and Fredericksburg, Virginia.

2. What is the location of Montpelier in relation to other important towns and cities of the region during Madisonís time? to natural features? to transportation routes? How might these elements have contributed to the movement of people and goods into and out of this place?

3. How many miles is it from Washington, D.C., to Montpelier? from Montpelier to Monticello (Thomas Jeffersonís plantation home near Charlottesville)? from Fredericksburg to Montpelier? If the average travel time was approximately 25 miles a day, how many days would it have taken Anna Thornton to get from Washington to Montpelier according to Map 1? according to her diary entry? What might account for the differences?

4. Why do you think Congressman Ticknor described the roads he traveled on as "certainly vile enough"? How might this have influenced travel?

5. What mountains do visitors to Montpelier describe as being quite beautiful and close to Montpelier? How many miles is it from Montpelier to those mountains? Of what major mountain range are those mountains a part? How might the mountains have impacted the houseís location?

¹Diary of Anna B. Thornton (Mrs. William Thornton), 5 September 1802, Library of Congress.
²George Ticknor,
Life, Letters, and Journals of George Ticknor (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1876), vol. I, 346.

* The map on this screen has a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a high quality version of Map 1, but be aware that the file may take as much as 40 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.



Comments or Questions

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