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The Work of Nan Harvey

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Nan Harvey, a lifelong Southerner is currently living in Northumberland County of the Northern Neck of Virginia.


A career architect, she first learned of the Northern Neck on a sail to Dividing Creek then bought and renovated an old farmhouse outside of Kilmarnock.


After settlement, her father presented her with the genealogical data he had gathered on their ancestor Robert Lindsay, “the immigrant,” the founding member of the Lindsay clan in the colony and his guardian, Reverend David Lindsay, the second rector at Wicomico Parish Church in the mid-1600's. She continued her father’s research, travelled to the location of the ancestral home The Mount in Fife, Scotland, digging into the Lindsay past.


Using land and court records and historical accounts, she was able to recreate the common man’s life, weaving in her own experiences of sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and hands-on barn construction during a Northern Neck summer.


The product of her recreation is A History Not Past published by Northumberland Historical Press and available from Amazon.


She is currently working on her second historical novel, Susanna's Story and  a book of musings about creating a Leicester Longwool sheep farm, Becoming a Shepherd.

This site is dedicated to showcasing her past and current writing.

Portfolio of Published Work

Pieces of My Career

Sailing Lessons

Spinsheet, June 2001

     My father’s ancestors sailed to this country a long time ago:  in 1652 David and Robert Lindsay arrived in Northumberland County, Virginia from Scotland.  I have wondered, what kind of man would sail to an unknown land leaving behind everything familiar; what dreams could have driven him to take the chance of losing everything, including his life, to head out in a small ship for a strange and distant shore?

Perhaps that same drive passed down through the generations to my father.  Perhaps he had dreamed from birth of sailing.  He’s not the kind of man however who would dream forever fruitlessly.  He must have dreamed of sailing to exotic ports when I was little and our family was growing.  He took me to the boat shows with him for years, the sensuous boat forms jammed under the arch of the Washington Armory, tied at the Annapolis piers.  We looked in the odd volumes, lines and hardware.  He could fathom the sea; I was ecstatic to be able to spend time alone with him looking at the boats.  I remember slipping my small hand into his big warm calloused one, probably the remnants of the last oil change still under his fingernails. 

     When I was in college he started getting the sailing books and reading about wind direction, tacking, weather and wave patterns.  When I was in graduate school he took a six-weeks weekend sailing course with classroom instruction in the mornings - which at this point he probably could have taught - and sailing in the afternoons.  I finished the course with him.

     While we rented daysailers, I know he dreamed of having his own boat.  We shopped for a small daysailer and he ended up buying the first one we looked at, a 19’ Balboa.  We had many adventures trailering until he found a slip in a relatively close marina.  We didn’t talk about his sailing dreams when we sailed; I guessed then that his sailing dreams had been achieved by having his own boat.

     The day we crossed the Bay I learned better.  The day started out like many others:  we met at the boatyard with a cooler and light jackets, dropped the outboard and putted out of the slip.  But this perfect October day, the wind was blowing northerly and we immediately set the main and hanked on the jib and sailed south to the mark, then jibed and started a broad reach across.

     The Bay is wide south of Poplar Island, or appears so out in the middle because Herring Bay dips in at the western shore and the Eastern Shore is low.  In the distance we could barely make out the land through the clear autumn air.  We sailed until we could distinguish the individual trees, the sun glinting on each leaf and when we looked back we could barely see the land we had come from.

     “We’ve sailed across the Bay!” he boomed, jubilant.  His face, beaming with delight and success, reminded me of my parents’ wedding pictures.  He was a young man then, tall and gangly, large featured and full of joy at the present and his expectations of the great things to come.  The man in the wedding photos didn’t know what his life would be like but when I saw the images of his joyous face I did know.  He had worked hard for his family, always putting us first, dreaming his dreams, cheerful, smiling, and true.  He had stayed the course, his course, that of a loving, faithful husband and father and, I thought, missed out on a lot of adventure.

     The day we crossed the Bay though, we stayed the course and discovered new territory.  The boat had less than 2’ draft with the dropped keel up so we could sail until we could see the bottom through the clear autumn water, until we could have walked off the boat and barely gotten our ankles wet.  Then we tacked smartly and looking back over our shoulders at the Eastern Shore, returned to Deale.  The sail back was as fast and sweet a reach as the sail east had been.  When we got back to Herring Bay it was still light the way a late summer afternoon is sometimes gilded.  We rounded the mark, dropped the outboard and pulled it to life, puttered back to the marina, packed the sails in the bags, pulled into the slip, set the lines and stashed the sails below as if it had been any other day of sailing for us.  This day though we had sailed to distant shores and returned by sail.

     Years have passed since that day and I have sailed much farther with and without my father.  No matter.  Every trip seems an extension of that trip, the first crossing.  That day I realized my father had taught me something much more important than how to sail.  He had taught me how to dream.  He taught me that our dreams can power our lives, that with persistence our dreams can come true, though maybe not in the form we originally imagined, sometimes better, sometimes just different.   Sometimes however, achieving our dreams is less fulfilling than dreaming is itself.  My father taught me that sometimes our dreams are the patina on an already rich and full life.

Virginia history Northumberland

A Site to Behold

The Daily Record, November 2003

     The site was a mess. All the sites we've looked at the past couple of seasons have been muddy because of the amount of precipitation we have gotten, but this one was more than muddy.

     Equipment was scattered around the site, steel frame scaffolding was leaning against a tree, and the boards were up against the building. Some of the scaffolding was up, and a worker was applying some stucco finish to the rigid insulation; other workers were making repairs to damaged scaffold framing. Scraps of rigid insulation, wood framing, cardboard boxes, rebar, concrete block and things unrecognizable because of an uneven mud coating littered the site.

     A storage trailer was sitting near the project entrance, far from the building, and the on-site office was opposite the site from it. Stored materials were inside the building, mixed in the woods at the edge of the site and underneath the site office. Debris and dried mud covered the slab inside so that a worker had to clear an area before he could set up a break-metal. County officials had forced work to stop more than once because of mud tracks from the site to the public roads surrounding it.

     This is a project in trouble. It's as readily apparent visiting the site as it is looking over the paperwork.

     Every step in the construction process is taking longer because materials have to be moved or cleaned or replaced. Subcontractors come to the site and have to spend the first hour of the day creating a clean area in which to work. Change orders have been generated because of lost time, and the schedule has slipped.

     This contractor will find himself further behind when the temperatures drop, and unplanned-for winterization costs will dip into his profits. He'll want to (and need to) be more aggressive about submitting change orders for minor changes in the work.

     Contrast this site with another across town. This one is in the same geographic area, is the same approximate size and had to deal with the same weather conditions, but work there was continuing at a breakneck pace.

     The general contractor at that site had put stored materials close to the building so workers weren't dragging finishes through the mire. Materials were staged around the site, and the little waste generated was being used for walkways from the clearly defined parking areas to the building.

     Later the parking areas at that site will have reduced remedial work required, and time will be saved. Every night, laborers broom-clean the building, getting ready for the next day's work. Because the building will be enclosed sooner, they will keep crews working through the winter. The owner will get his building sooner and be able to have it making money for him sooner.

     Not all problem projects can be so readily identified, but there are some telltale signs:

     Built-in impediments, such as poor staging or little regular cleanup and maintenance means the contractor and his crews will spend more time doing basic tasks.

     Debris and other contamination from the site can be cited by the local regulatory agencies, which can stop work until cleanup is performed. Irate neighbors many times will become vigilant about even the most minor of infractions, which will slow construction progress further.

     Lack of attention to "creature comforts" for construction crews can lower morale and turn into a lower-quality product and lack of attention to detail. Providing a place for the workers to eat and park demonstrates the project managers consider them valuable team members, which usually elicits a positive response. Having the construction crews participate in keeping the site orderly increases overall site productivity.

     General confusion--litter mixed up with materials to be used, materials stored haphazardly--easily can turn into accidents, which translate into lost time, delays and in the worst cases, liability.

     Every site visit, the superintendent is in the trailer with clean shoes. For a job to run smoothly, the contractor has to see what's goin on with his own eyes.

     A poorly organized and maintained site does not always mean poorly organized and maintained records, but many times it does. A contractor who had not thought through all the elments of the job more likely will be overcome by contingencies.

     Once your eye is educated, a work on the site describes which type of contractor is in charge of the project and gives a sneak preview of the future. If you are contemplating a new construction project, perhaps you'll want to do a little homework before hiring your contractor based on a bid. Visit one of the company's current jobs, and you be the judge. Is that really who you want to build your project?

Virginia history Northumberland


The Urbanite Magazine, April 1999

     My friend is a rabid football fan, physically incapable of missing a game. This fall, we'd drive down to Federal Hill, go east on West Street and pull into the lot with the two most surly, worn-out looking women attendants. The first stop would be the Federal Hill bar with the fence enclosed green grid painted parking lot and the patrons spilling out onto the asphalt "field" drinking beer and listening to a DJ from some local station taking calls. The light pole banner "Baltimore - The City That Reads" hangs upside down over the fence, probably hung by someone who couldn't tell which way the letters are supposed to go or didn't care.

     Walking to the stadium, we'd walk with the other fans, readily identifiable by their Ravens paraphernalia. We prefer taking Cross Street then following the little park along the railroad tracks to the Hamburg Street bridge. The park, nameless as far as I know, was built when the adjacent urban renewal project was constructed in the late seventies. That appears to be the last time the city did anything for it. The wood slat benches are burned up and broken, many of the backs are missing, the trash cans overflow and a couple of discarded mattresses sit on the site of the asphalt path. The trees that remain are stunted and broken too. It's hard to believe this is a main pedestrian pathway to the stadium. What a stark contrast is the stadium--gleaming, sharp, clean, new and modern.

     I wonder what the stadium is going to look like in 30 years - perhaps the same as the park, the novelty work off, the city having moved on to the next urban design fad. American cities are becoming patchworks of fading and neglected urban fashions, this decade's style across the street from the sad detritus of last decade. The high rise urban renewal projects so popular in the 70's are being torn down and replaced by the current rage: the city grid of low density mixed uses which isn't really new but an old concept being re-engineered for modern times with cars. Baltimore is not the only city to be guilty of using simplistic thinking and public dollars to experiment with the Latest Idea. And unfortunately, spending to build something sharp and new is so much more sexy than spending to maintain what you've got which is too much like housekeeping. Much more fun to plan People Mover systems for the Inner Harbor than to replace worn out old water mains which the few remaining residents use every day.

     If the city's resources are so stretched the funds are not available to keep city services working, we should fire all the city planners and put their salaries into maintenance of the existing infrastructure which sorely needs it. Planning should be at the regional level anyway. We've got plenty of planners, a surfeit of planners. What great world city grew under the constant direction of a committee of planners? Great cities have grown because they re the physical manifestation of entrepreneurial energy. The polar opposite is planning's bureaucratic urge. Paris had Hausmann come in and clean things up after the city had become decidedly messy. London, over the millennia, has continually grown like pell-mell, electing their first mayor just within the past thirty years. Planners tend to misdirect the natural urban energy, spending it up maintaining their own administration, and not in maintaining an adequate foundation that forward-thinking, fast-moving enterprises need and want.

     People like things to work and look nice. People move, if they can, to where things do work and look nice. Baltimore's population had diminished another 25% int he past decade. I wonder why.

Virginia history Northumberland

A Lesson From History

The Urbanite Magazine, October 1998

     Six years ago in April I visited the French medieval hill town of Cordes, an hour outside of Toulouse in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. It had its ups and downs since its creation by the will of the Count of Toulouse in 1202. It grew in the middle ages because of the ready availability of water, its security and its location in the middle of verdant fields and bountiful woods. It survived the plague, but was beaten by the industrial revolution because industry wasn't suited to its steep slopes and lack of ready energy. Success came to Cordes in the early 1900's when loomed embroidery lace made the town prosperous again. The industry died when women stopped wearing lace and flounces. An enterprising artist saw the potential of the stone cluster on the hilltop and opened a studio in the early 20th century. The other artists who followed, renovated the stone houses, shops, sheds and warehouses.

     The town that I saw that April day in 1992 was charming to the max: artists's shops with their crafts and wares open to the narrow streets although we saw snow flakes in the late afternoon. I found earrings that would have been good to wear to visit the Queen. Easter lights were going up into the hotel lobby. The sometimes abrupt change in elevation, the stone walls and red roof tiles and plane tree shadows with a very green pasture backdrop was of time but also out of time. A four star restaurant, Le Grand Ecuyer, served the most intricate meal in the most luxurious surrounding I have ever encountered. The window of our hotel room looked out onto sheep pastures that surrounded the village and hills. Walking in the town square with its pergolas tone buildings' walls and stone paving, was somehow as familiar as putting on an old pair of jeans.

     The town had been preserved but the city that exists today is not what had originally been built. I found that not necessarily to be a bad thing. We must ask ourselves when we undertake to preserve our city, "What city is it we are preserving?" to make sure it becomes what it wants to be and what we want it to be. Is it the pre-fire Baltimore of the 1890's, the booming '50's early post-war, or is it the mass exodus to the vanilla suburbs of the '80's? The only ones left are those who can't leave (one is reminded of the 1980's billboard in Seattle with the collapse of Boeing: "The last one to leave, turn out the lights.") Is it the city of 800,000 or 650,000, or even less? Perhaps the city that Baltimore wants to urn into is a place with the density of Columbia.

     I applaud the tireless and largely unappreciated work of the preservationists trying to keep the few connections to our past intact. They have the worst of enemies: big money which usually is on the side of the "tear-it-down" camp arguing that more efficient use of the space is only possible with a new building. "People don't want that anymore" meaning we would rather have our history pasted onto the outside of our new homes and shopping places in the suburbs than have it integral to our buildings and the relationships of the buildings to each other and to use.

     We are at a crossroads now: we have the attention of our public officials. Our governor has wisely negotiated model Smart Growth Legislation which allows public funds to be redirected to our more urban areas. We have tremendous potential in the existing infrastructure of Baltimore. Now is the time to re-invent Baltimore so our built environment matches the realities of this new age. Some places just have too mcuh energy to curl up and die.

Virginia history Northumberland

James Gordon, Dissenter

TimeLines, Fall, 2011

     The Carter Center's new interactive display on the rise of religious liberty in colonial and revolutionary Virginia features a number of journal entries from Colonel James Gordon. Born in Ireland, Gordon immigrated to America and became a well-respected merchant-planter in Lancaster County. His home (today known as Verville) was located south of Lancaster Courthouse with a landing allowing access to the Rappahannock River. 

     From his home, Gordon attended services at both Christ Church and St. Mary's White Chapel, but in his journals he often expressed dissatisfaction with the preaching he heard from Reverend David Currie, minister of Christ Church Parish from 1743-1791. On August 26, 1759, for example, Gordon made this entry: "Sunday. At home with my wife & family, where I have much more comfort than going to Church to hear the ministers ridiculing the Dissenters." That October 7th, Gordon and his wife went to "White Chapel Church, where we heard Mr. Currie--a very indifferent discourse--nothing scarce but external modes; much against Presbyterians--so that I was much disappointed." After services at St. Mary's White Chapel on September 6, 1761, Gordon observed, "It really seems mispending the Lord's Day to go to Church to hear such sermons as are preached there." But Currie was the rector at Christ Church for longer than any other, obviously to some parishioners' satisfaction if not Gordon's.

     At that point Gordon was involved in the efforts to start a dissenter church, the first Presbyterian meeting house in Lancaster County. In his entry January 9, 1759 he describes overcoming what he imagined was one of his last hurdles: "Col. [Richard] Selden after breakfast; then went to Col. Conway's, where Mr. Crisewell joined us, and was very agreeably entertained. This gentleman has now fully dropped opposing the meeting house which is mostly occasioned by a letter he lately received from Mr. Ben Waller, who advises that the Dissenters have power to build a house and enjoy their religion by act of toleration."

     With Selden and others, Gordon was instrumental in procuring the land for the meeting house and organizing a lottery to raise funds to construct it. Ten days after his meeting with Conway, court records show a half-acre parcel located south of the Lancaster jail was subdivided off of land owned by William Tayloe and recorded. The subscribers for the Presbyterian Meeting House, James Gordon and Richard Selden, paid 5 shillings for the land. Gordon's journal entry that day is succinct: "Went to Court with mr. Crisewell." How delighted Gordon must have been to get land for his longed-for meeting house almost within walking distance of his house!

     Interestingly, at almost the same time, February 1759, the residents from both the upper, White Chapel Church and lower, Christ Church, precincts petitioned the General Assembly in Williamsburg over the double vestry arrangement in the Christ Church parish, 12 for the upper and 12 for the lower. The vestry was dissolved and a "new" vestry of 12 was elected for the entire parish. Dissenters were forbidden from serving on vestries throughout the colony.

     Gordon's journal also provides insights into his efforts to get a minister for the new meeting house. His August 7, 1761 entry "Yesterday Mr. Creswell wrote to Mr. Tod about James Waddell, a tutor in Louisa County who had been educated by Samuel Davies at the "Log College" in Hanover.

     Waddell began preaching at the meetinghouse the following spring. On April 18, 1762, Gordon lauded Waddell after hearing him preach there for the first time: "May the Lord be praised, I at last have had the comfort of going with my family to meeting, where Mr. Waddell performed to admiration! and to a very great number of people. I'm not the least doubtful that he will give general satisfaction. He came home with us." According to Gordon, Waddell quickly endeared himself to his congregation. Among Gordon's many glowing entries on Waddell are these: "April 29, preached an excellent sermon to a large number of people who seemed much pleased," and "May 15, Mr. Waddell gave us two fine sermons to a vast number of people. He is so universally like that the people flock to hear him."

     Although Waddell's preaching skills are well documented--no less than Patrick Henry, himself a moving speaker, calls Waddell a great orator--is this all that's going on! The single entry for April 7, 1763 is "Mr. Waddel spoke to me about Molly." James Waddell and Molly Gordon married in 1767 and became the parents to ten children. Some of James Gordon's praise may be the result of his pride in his future son-in-law!

Virginia history Northumberland

Fall Parish Crawl

Past Times, Spring 2011

     With a forecast of rain and drizzle all day, a busload of intrepid Historic Christ Church volunteers and friends boarded a bus for the Fall Parish Crawl. An early start was required because of an ambitious schedule: first stop Montpelier, two hours away in Orange County, then Monticello, 45 minutes beyond, followed by a visit to Blenheim Vineyards and dinner in Charlottesville.

     Montpelier was the family home of James Madison, fourth President of the United States, Father of the Constitution and life-long friend of Thomas Jefferson. A Visitor's Center film gave us the highlights of both the house and the people who occupied it, and we had an opportunity to view a detailed timeline of the property and family. The original land grant was to Madison's grandfather, Ambrose Madison, who moved to the 2,500 acres from King and Queen County in 1723. The original house, named Mount Pleasant, is no longer standing. The first portion of the house we know as Montpelier was constructed from 1763 to 1765 when the 13-year-old future president moved there with his family. Later Madison serve as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention, the Virginia General Assembly and the Continental Congress and was the architect for the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

     In 1794 Madison married widow Dolley Payne Todd. The couple added four rooms to the mansion, which became a "duplex" housing two generations of Madisons. Following his service as Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson and eight years as President of the United States, Madison, Dolley (who was the true "First Lady"), and Dolley's son Payne moved to Montpelier, where Madison died in 1836. Sold in 1844 to pay debts incurred by gambler and alcoholic son Payne, Montpelier passed through many hands before William duPont bought the home in 1901. Significant renovations were made between that time and 1983, when his daughter Marian duPont's heirs deeded the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation with the request that it be restored to its appearance during Madison's time. Restoration of the exterior was completed in 2006.

     Our group got to see the recently completed architectural restoration of the interior of the house to its status when Madison retired from the presidency in 1817. Our docent showed us the signs of the original end of the house and described the house's transformations to accommodate the changing Madison family from more modest plantation house to duplex to grand home fit for a retired president. The first level guided tour included many household artifacts that either belonged to the Madisons or are replicas of period pieces, since much was lost or sold soon after Madison's death. The second level self-guided tour was enhanced by well-informed docents who showed us the library in which Madison researched the foundations of the new American democracy; the room looks out over the paddocks and tracks built by Marion duPont, an avid horse racing enthusiast, the last private inhabitant of the house. As we walked in the continuing drizzle back to the bus, we passed the current archeological dig of the slave quarters, where observers can participate in the dig between March and November. The grounds include the Gilmore Freedman's Farm, the Madison family cemetery, slave cemetery, trails in the James Madison Landmark Forest, the Annie DuPont formal garden and a self-guided Civil War Trail tour - much to recommend going back for another, longer visit!

     The 45-minute bus trip from Montpelier to Monticello gave us time to eat our own bag lunches and reflect on the eight hours that it would have taken Jefferson or Madison to make the same trip. Our bus parked below the house, and we walked through the new Visitor's Center and Smith Education Center complex to the shuttle bus that whisked us to the encircling rive at the mountaintop. At the main entrance, the East Front, our remarkable docent quoted Thomas Jefferson saying that the weather evolved at the mountain, which was readily observable with low hanging clouds and ever-present fog the day of our visit. The mansion was essentially a life-long project, begun in 1770 when Jefferson was 27 by leveling the mountain on the 3,000 acres he had inherited six hears before, Jefferson continued to carryout his architectural vision for 40 years, as he served in the Continental Congress and the Virginia House of Delegates, drafted the Declaration of Independence, and was Governor of Virginia, U.S. Ambassador to France, Vice-President, and third President of the United States (1801-1809).

     The original mansion was a two-story, eight-room plantation house, classically symmetrical. The house that we see today is approximately 85% from Jefferson's time, an extraordinary accomplishment due in large part to the stewardship of the Uriah Phillips Levy family who bought the house shortly after Jefferson's death. The house is brimming with examples of Jefferson's inexhaustible curiosity and intellect, from the seven-day clock in the vestibule, the skylights and storm windows to the wine dumb waiters built into the sides of the dining room fireplace. The house design stemmed primarily from Jefferson's study of Andrea Palladio's classic The Four Books of Architecture and the neoclassical buildings he saw when he was American ambassador in Paris. The few books remaining of Jefferson's library are behind glass; he sold 1,500 of his books to form the original Library of Congress in order to get out of debt. His debt however extended beyond his lifetime; his granddaughter Cornelia Randolph had to inventory the house because of bankruptcy, but that inventory has allowed us a rare glimpse into the actual contents of each room. Our guided tour covered the first level only; private "behind the scenes" tours are available for viewing the second level through We had time to explore the cellars and dependencies under the house, the terraces, the grounds and the gardens. The shuttle bus ride back to the Visitor's Center took us past Jefferson's grave with its modest epitaph listing those accomplishments for which he was most proud: "Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia."

     Once our bus driver got out of the cramped parking lot at Monticello (we cheered when he succeeded), we had a short trip to the Blenheim Vineyards. Musician Dave Matthews established the vineyard in 2000 on land originally patented in 1730 by Secretary John Carter, son of Robert Carter. The 1730 claim house, a red painted frame building, is now in its original location on a hill overlooking the impressive timber-framed tasting room with its tank and barrel room and awe-inspiring views of the Virginia countryside. The staff had set up tasting tables on the veranda, where we sampled seven wines produced on the estate. Five thousand cases are produced each year; 50% of the grapes are grown at the 40-acres vineyard and 100% are Virginia grown. thus refreshed, we hopped back on the bus for the jaunt into Charlottesville to Fry's Spring Station, a charming Italian eatery in an adaptive re-use of a 70-year-old gasoline station.

     Throughout the day, the volunteers were graciously hosted by Robert Teagle, who plied us with fruit and donuts, juice and other drinks, along with words of wisdom about the history of the places we visited. We arrived in Weems tired but intellectually stimulated, back in our cars and back in the 21st century, after our day with the founders of our country--another enjoyable, rewarding experience as volunteers and friends of Historic Christ Church.

Notebook and Pen


Summer 2022

Coming soon!

More about Point Pleasant Farm and our small but growing flock of Leicester Longwool heritage breed sheep. A stunning but sheepish example is BossyPants, below, with her lustrous curly fleece which has obviously been field tested.



328 Point Pleasant Rd
Kilmarnock, Northumberland County 22482


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