Historian and Author Tom Perry's thoughts on history and anything that comes to mind.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Mother Raised A Christian

Two times in the last two years I have heard my mother’s voice crack and seen tears in her eyes relating to her flowers destroyed and her years of work disrespected at the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace by the board of directors charged with preserving the site. Last time was in 2009 when azaleas she planted at the entrance were dug up and thrown away after she asked them to be brought to her as she caught members of the organization doing just that. These flowers were very personal to her because she brought them from her father’s garden in Augusta, Georgia, and planted them at the entrance to Stuart’s Birthplace. In fact, she tended the entrance for TWO DECADES. She and my father spent THOUSANDS of dollars at the site and this is how they are treated.

My mother raised me as a Christian. Something many people in Patrick County should be thankful for this week especially two specific boards of directors. On Tuesday, June 1, 2010, the forsythia planted by mother at the entrance to the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace was dug up and destroyed.

My mother’s reaction this time was similar as her voice cracked and tears welled up in her eyes, she said, “They are just flowers and they are not worth the trouble. Just let it be.” Now some people talk about being Christians and some people are. My mother is the latter. My mother planted yellow forsythia “Yellow for the cavalry” she said to honor J. E. B. Stuart and his men. It was the first cover of my book on Stuart’s Birthplace and the way I ended my talks for nearly two decades promoting the site and Patrick County.

While this may seem like a small "Petty” thing, but it is the motivation that I question. This is the second time this occurred. Both times when I was leveling criticism at members of the Stuart clique. These people will not come at me, but instead go after a nearly 80-year-old woman to get back at me. I guess they did not like me bringing a better J. E. B. Stuart living historian than they ever have to Ararat in recent weeks.

Over the last year, the tailgate of my truck was keyed (a long scratch down the entire width) during the Free State Of Patrick Festival in April at the Ruritan building in Ararat as many people with Highland Game T-shirts wandered around. Someone vandalized my booth at the Just Plain Country Store (not while the present owners have been there, but when the “Dix” owned the place and he did NOTHING about it). I had multiple business relationships sabotaged where people worked with me, then suddenly stopped, only to become a chamber member or show up at another festival in Ararat. I received harassing phone calls in 2009 from a number (276-930-4359) in Woolwine that originated from the textile plant where at least one employee was a board member of the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace. Recently, I received a threatening phone call from 276-694-6012, not hard to figure out where that number comes from.

I have seen with my own eyes a person parked behind my truck at the Stuart Wal-Mart, who is married to a member of the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace Board of Directors. They parked not in a parking stop, but blocked the lane for several minutes. I hoped he would get out of the truck because I had my cell phone set to 911 and I was getting ready to have him arrested. I caught this same person peaking around a tent taking a photo of me at the Ararat Festival a couple of weeks ago for what possible reason I cannot imagine. I do not believe any of this is a coincidence.

As you can see there are things at the Laurel Hill Farm that need attention such as replacing the Virginia Civil War Trail Marker shown here that is water damaged. Instead making a 78 year old woman cry is a priority. Here is the reason I believe this happened. Just three weeks ago at the Ararat Festival a representative of the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce told a business associate of mine that in order to work with the chamber the business associate would have to “Distance himself from Tom Perry” in order to work with them. When I complained, I received harassing calls that I asked stopped and one threatening voice mail message and my mother’s forsythia disappeared. Coincidence? I do not think so.

This should be a lesson to the sellouts from Ararat as to what their fates will be if they do not follow the line set by the clique in Stuart. I am from Ararat and not a member of the Stuart clique or a sell out like some of my parent’s neighbors. When you stand up for what it is right, there is a cost, but I would rather pay it than be a hypocrite. What does it gain a person to gain the world and lose his immortal soul.

Last year J. E. B. Stuart IV (shown here with me in 1991 when I raised the money to save his ancestral home) wrote a letter supporting these people and I assume their actions in an obvious dig at me for criticizing the organization I started, but more importantly disrespected my family. I think everyone involved or who support the Patrick County Chamber and the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace need to take a long hard look in the mirror and think about their behavior. I am use to the pettiness and jealousy aimed at me, but when you go after someone’s mother, who has done more than all those mentioned combined to preserve Patrick County’s and J. E. B. Stuart’s history there is something very “rotten in the Free State Of Patrick” to paraphrase Shakespeare.

Every time someone comes at me I think about the roof going on the Bassett Historical Center, something I am very proud of or the person who stopped me in Pandowdy’s Restaurant two days ago and congratulated me for what a great job I did at Stuart’s Birthplace. You can dig up all the flowers you want and bad mouth me all you want, but I know what I did and I don’t need the clique in Stuart to get my satisfaction. I get it every time I ride by Stuart’s Birthplace. I will follow my mother’s sage advice and “Let It Be.” My mother raised me as a Christian. It is a shame that the mothers of those in question did not do the same.

Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin's fee;
And for my soul, what can it do to that,
Being a thing immortal as itself?
It waves me forth again. I'll follow it.


  1. Tom, this just makes me sick. I can't imagine that forsythia's being gone. Every spring, that gorgeous, symbolic yellow marked that historic spot. All that is beside the point when it comes to the love and attention that your Mom put into that place. This behavior is disgraceful.

  2. Here are some of the comments sent to me that I want to share. Thanks to all who have taken the time to support those who really saved J. E. B. Stuart's Birthplace.

    "My mother too helped plant those bushes and plant/flowers with pride and friendship. These are spitful people. Tom we are very proud of the work you do and know ALL that you have done. We love you and your family as our own."

    " I love you so much. This is all a shame. What ever happened to morals and values?!?! Maybe those men/women at the birthplace should go back to kindergarten!"

  3. "Hi Tom, I just read your most recent blog and am very sorry about the trials and tribulations you and your family have endured. I for one want to thank you for your outstanding efforts and dedication to preserve and present the legacy of our favorite cavalier and his birthplace. Keep up the great work and may God bless your family."

  4. Tom this is a sad state of affairs when anyone would stoop to this level to show any spite or jealous feelings. I commend you on your work and your actions (they speak louder than words). I want to personally thank you for taking the time to teach me about the site and allow me to learn from your years of research. I must add, that at no time did you ever utter a single word against any member of the Preservation Trust Committee. In fact, you did just the opposite and encouraged me to meet them and get to know them and form my own opinions. Please let your mother and father know I pray for them and wish them only the best. Your mother is a true Christian woman in a time when many seek to destroy any faith that is left in mankind today. Thank you again for all you have done to help me. A friend always ..Wayne Jones (JEB)

  5. If you can identify the number/person, you can criminally charge someone with making harassing/annoying phone calls. Stalking is also a crime in Virginia. I would consider those options.