Historical Marker: General Jenkins, “Greenbottom”

I pass this Historical Marker and the house it notates often. Last evening, on my way home from the drop zone I decided to stop and actually read it and take a closer look at the house.

Title: General Jenkins

County: Cabell

Inscription: “Greenbottom” (N.E.) was home of General Albert G. Jenkins, brilliant Confederate officer, mortally wounded at Cloyd’s Mountain in 1864. On raid in Sept. 1862, Jenkins 8th Virginia Cavalry was first to carry Confederate flag into state of Ohio.

Location: WV2, Greenbottom

Three million dollars was invested into restoring this confederate site and it sits empty. I will hold my tongue but offer the “history”.

There was a major renovation planned for this site and a lot of money poured into making it a place to stop and learn about this part of history.

Per WVDCH:

The Plantation

Built in 1835 by Captain William Jenkins and home of Confederate Brigadier General Albert Gallatin Jenkins it has survived wars, floods, wind and weather. Since 1835 a large brick house, essentially a mansion in its time and place, has stood sentinel on the banks of the Ohio River. It is the home of the Jenkins family, the most notable of whom was General Albert Gallatin Jenkins, C.S.A. His family owned more than 4,000 acres and maintained a successful plantation at Green Bottom, in what was then western Virginia.

In an area where both Union and Confederate sympathies were strongly held, Jenkins was a figure who was either despised or admired. His Border Rangers made bold raids into the enemy territory of Ohio. Educated in Pennsylvania and having served in the U.S. Congress, he faced the ultimate question of all civil wars: to choose which side he could in good conscience commit. This aspect of the site is most appealing to history enthusiasts and those enjoying dramatic story.

Not only were the Jenkins family part and parcel of the Plantation, but so were more than 50 slaves who worked and lived at Green Bottom. Imagine the feelings of those destined to be treated as property, living within yards of potential freedom. Their story is another important part of this site.

The goal of the Department of Arts, Culture and History is to preserve and promote the rich heritage of this area. With this in mind, the house is destined for renovation. Restoration to its mid-19th Century appearance will follow.

The Museum was recently added to the Civil War Discovery Trail, which links more than 500 sites in 28 states to inspire and to teach the story of the Civil War and its enduring impact on America.

Plans for expanded activities for the future include house tours, reenactments, and special events, from musical and dramatic presentations to seasonal programs. Ultimately, an interpreted working plantation is envisioned.

Jenkins Plantation
Jenkins parlor

Also posted: The USACE owns the property and the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History operates the facility. Actions include re-pointing the masonry, roofing work, window replacement and moisture infiltration, among others. The work done is intended to preserve the original characteristics of the house. The USACE anticipates that the project will take 12 to 18 months to complete.

The US Army Corps of Engineers took over the project and although a link is offered to “follow their progress”, that link is now dead.

https://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/projects/current/jenkins_house/index.cfm?

Jenkins Plantation Museum closed for preservation actions

The historic Jenkins Plantation Museum, located in the Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area of Cabell County, will be closed while undergoing preservation actions by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), effective immediately. The USACE owns the property and the West Virginia Division of Culture and History operates the facility.

Actions include repointing the masonry, roofing work, window replacement and moisture infiltration, among others. The work done is intended to preserve the original characteristics of the house. The USACE anticipates that the project will take 12 to 18 months to complete.

For more information, contact Adam Hodges, director of museums for the Division, at (304) 558-0220, ext. 127. Lisa Morgan, project manager for the USACE, can be reached at (304) 399-5545.

The Jenkins Plantation Museum is located on West Virginia Route 2 between Huntington and Point Pleasant. A facility of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, the museum is the former home of Confederate Brigadier General Albert Gallatin Jenkins and also interprets the large slave plantation operated by the Jenkins family. The 1835 home, built in the tradition of Tidewater, Va., is noteworthy for its architecture and was built by slaves between 1830 and 1835 for Jenkins’ father, William. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and on the Civil War Discovery Trail.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit http://www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

So, why is it that this house, with all the money put into its restoration? Stands empty of activity with only a dirt road access over tracks to a sign that says this:

GreenBottomHouse.jpg
Photo By Youngamerican at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17983390

I found this article on why it stands empty:

After $3 million restoration, 1835 plantation home stands empty, boarded
Lack of funds, red tape puts plans for Civil War general’s plantation home in limbo
  • Rick Steelhammer
  • Jan 18, 2016
After $3 million restoration, 1835 plantation home stands empty, boarded

GREEN BOTTOM — When plans were announced in 2008 to restore the 1835-vintage Albert Gallatin Jenkins plantation house, located on a gentle rise overlooking the Ohio River near the Cabell-Mason County line, then-Rep. Nick Rahall told a crowd gathered for a ceremony on the grounds of the two-story brick structure that preserving the site to tell its stories about plantation life, slavery and the Civil War “is all about who we are as West Virginians. A society that loses touch with its history is akin to a rudderless ship on the ocean.”

After $3 million restoration, 1835 plantation home stands empty, boarded

In 2012, after four years and nearly $3 million worth of planning and painstaking restoration work, the building was finished, but its role in interpreting the state’s history remains adrift. Since then, “No Trespassing: U.S. Government Property” signs have been posted on the building and on the barrier blocking the driveway leading to it. The plantation house’s doors and English-made, period-appropriate blown glass windows are covered with sheets of weatherbeaten plywood.

After $3 million restoration, 1835 plantation home stands empty, boarded

“From our perspective, we hate to see it boarded up and just sitting there empty,” said Aaron Smith, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Huntington District, which owns the plantation house and the grounds surrounding it. While the Corps of Engineers has the authority to preserve historic buildings on the lands it manages, “we have no mission or authority to operate historic sites,” he said. “We negotiate leases at various levels at properties across the country, and we’ve been proactive in advertising this property.”

After $3 million restoration, 1835 plantation home stands empty, boarded

But so far, Smith said, there have been no takers.

Prior to the announcement of the renovation project, the state Division of Culture and History operated a small museum interpreting the history of the plantation inside the Jenkins house. The Corps suspended the lease in 2008 in order to begin stabilizing and restoring the building.

That work included removing all exterior paint and re-pointing all brickwork and stone foundations with lime-based mortar identical to that used in the mid 1850s; replacing the roof with period-appropriate composite shingles resembling the original wood; re-attaching separated rafters and joists; rebuilding chimneys; replacing doors using period-appropriate hardware and windows with panes of English blown glass; adding humidity control, security alarms and HVAC; and adding floor supports to bring the building up to international load capacity standards for museums.

“All the work had to be done according to the very strict guidelines of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act,” adding to the cost of the renovations, Smith said.

As that work proceeded, Corps officials were handed the additional task of reconstructing plantation outbuildings, traces of which were uncovered in a 2002 archaeological survey of the plantation house lawn. A cellar, the base of a building believed to have served as a freestanding kitchen, remnants of a brick privy with a herringbone-patterned brick walkway leading to it and a nearby building believed to have served as Albert Jenkins’ law office were uncovered during the dig.

But so far, the Corps failed to receive the appropriations needed to pay for reconstruction of the outbuildings, Smith said, and Culture and History “doesn’t want to invest in opening a new museum there until that mission is accomplished.”

Meanwhile, it remains unknown when, or even whether, money to fund the reconstruction of the outbuildings will be allocated.

The plan to reopen a museum in the Jenkins House “is dead in the water, since they’ve run out of funds to rebuild the other buildings,” said Ned Jones of the Green Bottom Society, a Huntington-area civic group that has worked to preserve the Jenkins house and use it as an interpretive center since the Corps acquired the property.

“At one time,” said Jones, a former state senator from Cabell County, “Culture and History had designed a reception center to display and interpret four aspects of the site: the Jenkins family’s plantation life and Civil War history, their use of slavery, the wildlife (in the surrounding Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area) and the prehistoric Clover Village — one of the best Fort Ancient culture sites in this part of the country. If you could put all that together in one place, it would be a magnet that would draw a lot of visitors.”

The Corps of Engineers’ involvement with the Jenkins Plantation house dates back to 1986, when Congress authorized the addition of a new navigational lock to the Robert C. Byrd Lock and Dam on the Ohio River near Apple Grove in Mason County. Inland excavation needed to carve out the new lock chamber destroyed a wetland area, and to mitigate the loss of that habitat, the Corps bought a 120-acre chunk of Green Bottom, the former Jenkins Plantation, about 10 miles downstream. The plantation house was a part of the purchase.

The Corps of Engineers created some wetland habitat to add to the existing Lesage Swamp located on the property and leased the land to the state Department of Natural Resources to operate as a wildlife management area. The Corps and the state Historic Preservation Office signed a memorandum of agreement stating that the Corps would make the repairs necessary “to get the Jenkins house open to the public and then turn the property over to the State of West Virginia,” Smith said.

While initial plans called for transferring ownership of both the wildlife management area and the plantation house to the State of West Virginia, wording in the 1998 Water Resources Development Act “precluded us from transferring the property, but we were allowed to lease it to the state,” Smith said.

Culture and History operated a museum in the home until 2008, “when there was a recognition that in order to ensure preservation into the future,” Smith said. “We needed to take on a greater effort than we had been making.” The lease for the house was terminated to accommodate the four years of renovations that would follow.

Archaeological surveys have shown that people have been living on the flat, rich terrace along the Ohio that makes up the Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area for 9,000 years. A large village occupied from about 1550 to the verge of European contact by members of the Fort Ancient culture was unearthed on land adjacent to the plantation house.

In 1812, two years before he was elected governor of Virginia, Wilson Cary Nicholas bought the land and established an overseer slave plantation on the site. About 1820, William H. Cabell, another former Virginia governor and the namesake of Cabell County, bought the plantation, but sold it in 1825 to Capt. William Jenkins, a War of 1812 veteran and businessman from the Richmond area.

Like Green Bottom’s previous owners, Jenkins used slave labor to improve agricultural production at the 4,400-acre plantation, a narrow bench of bottom land stretching along six miles of what was then the Virginia shore of the Ohio. Jenkins’ slaves grew corn, wheat, hogs and cattle, most of which were shipped downriver to markets in the Cincinnati area. While the 1820 census listed 53 slaves at the plantation, as many as 100 slaves may have toiled over the land by the start of the Civil War, according to some historians.

Jenkins’ son, Albert Gallatin Jenkins, was born on the plantation and went on to study at Marshall Academy in Huntington, Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and Harvard Law School. After practicing law for several years in Cabell and surrounding counties, Jenkins was elected to represent western Virginia in the U.S. Congress, where he served from 1857 to 1861, when he declined to run for a third term and, instead, recruited troops for a Confederate unit called the Border Rangers, which later became part of the 8th Virginia Cavalry.

In July 1861, Jenkins and his troops were instrumental in driving back a southbound Union force during the Battle of Scary Creek in Putnam County, and he was promoted to the rank of colonel. The following year, Jenkins was elected to serve in the Confederate Congress, but he left that body after receiving an appointment as brigadier general, going on to command a battalion of cavalry during the Battle of Gettysburg, during which he was wounded. In May of 1864, Jenkins was severely wounded and captured during the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain. Union surgeons amputated an arm, but Jenkins succumbed to his wounds 12 days after his capture.

The plantation remained in Jenkins family hands until the 1930s, when it went into foreclosure proceedings.

“It’s a shame it’s still boarded up after all these years,” said Jones. The Green Bottom Society, he said, “is still trying to see if the situation can’t get turned around. It’s going slow, but we’re not giving up.”

A half-hour video on the plantation, “The Ghosts of Green Bottom,” directed by Daniel Boyd and written by Billy Joe Peyton of West Virginia State University, is available online at www.archaeologychannel.org. Click on “video” and “video guide list” to find the film.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169, or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

For the Civil War history of Albert Jenkins, the WV Archives offers us this:

http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh8-1.html

On that link above, there is this poem by T. B. Summers, of Milton, called Cabell County’s Hero

Where the Ohio gently flows,

Lived a man, as history knows,

Full of life, and at his ease,

Yet he choose to give up these,

And bestir himself in might,

Planning for the seeming flight,

That was hovering o’er the land,

Seeming Peace could not command.

Wild the tempest of the day,

Telling of the coming fray,

When the sons of North and South,

Would each face the cannon’s mouth.

In the Blue, or in the Gray,

As the surge held forth its sway;

Then no heart would fail to swear

Both to Do and Bravely Dare.

Then Four Years of Strife and Strain,

Brave Old Heroes Without Stain.

Back again to friends and home,

But so many could not Come;

In the battle, they Were Slain,

So could never come again,

By Ohio’s rippling shore,

Gen. Jenkins walks no More.

Such a stunning sunset. I paused for a moment to take a picture looking down the tracks and reflected on the history this Ohio River Valley has seen.

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