Posts Tagged ‘penniman near williamsburg’

Perhaps, Just Maybe, I’ve Turned a Corner Here…

June 22nd, 2017 Sears Homes 6 comments

Wednesday morning, I met with my favorite minister who has been a great source of comfort, guidance and kindness throughout these last 14 months. At the end of our meeting, he prayed with me for at least 15 minutes. It was a lovely thing, and I felt a heavy burden of darkness fall away from me. It was quite an experience.

That same evening, Teddy and I took a walk and stopped at a friend’s house and sat on the back deck, less than 30 feet from her seawall, which overlooks the Elizabeth River. My friend sat with us, and chatted away about everything and anything, and as I listened, I thought to myself, “Perhaps this is heaven on earth - watching the sun set over the vast expanse of the river while listening to the melodious voice of a caring friend.”

Later in the evening, a brand new friend from the brand new church called and we talked for almost an hour.

“I know these are hard times for you,” she said softly, “but you’re going to get through this. This isn’t how the story ends. This is a valley. Good things are going to start happening for you.”

Last week, I talked with a friend who’s done much to help me research this Penniman book. He called to ask a quick question, and we ended up talking for 45 minutes.

“Rosemary, I don’t know how you’ve been able to finish this book,” he said with compassion. “I know it’s been hard, but you did it, and you have every right to feel proud of this achievement.”

I closed my eyes and soaked in his kind words like a sponge.

And then he said, “And I wanted to tell you, I found some more information on Penniman.” He’d found The Penniman Projectile, a company newsletter for which I’ve searched since 2011. He sent it to me, and it’s quite a treasure. That night, after poring over its pages, I fell asleep with a smile on my face: That hasn’t happened in some time.

My daughter called Tuesday night and we talked for more than an hour.

“Mom, maybe you don’t fully understand this, but completing that book was a huge accomplishment, and doing it this year, with all the hell you’ve been through? Wow. I’m so proud of you.”

And then in the wee hours of Thursday morning, I happened to connect with a Facebook friend (”Jane”) who shared some personal and profound insights about the unique struggles that I’ve faced these last several months.

Those insights are too personal to share here, but suffice it to say, she was married to the “same man, different body.” She nailed it. Top to bottom and left to right - she got it right. Her husband didn’t kill himself, but the other similarities were astounding, right down to the nitty gritty.

“Do not be his victim,” Jane told me. “He will not defeat you. No one who writes with as much humor and interest and passion as you do can be defeated easily. It will take some time to heal, and to untangle your mind. You need to learn to be gentle with yourself, but you will survive this.”

I’ve read that a baby chick pecks at its shell as many as 10,000 times before it finally breaks through. Perhaps these last 14 months, I’ve been struggling to peck my way out of this horrible shell of despair, darkness and despondency, and today, I caught my first glimpse of the new world, the world on the other side of this nightmare.

Subsequent to these events and lovely comments, I feel - deep down to my toes - that there are many reasons for hope.

And on a final note, many people have said, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” That’s exactly the right thing to say. And if you’d like to have a glimmer of what “suicide widows” endure, please read this article. It explains my life in shockingly accurate detail.



This email arrived earlier this week from a friend. I framed it and put it in a place where I can read it daily. It has meant the world to me.


Every week, I put up fresh inspirational messages by my desk. These came from my eldest daughter. She said she starts her day by reading messages like this.

Every week, I put up fresh uplifting messages by my desk. These messages were inspired by my daughter. She told me, "Mom, we have to focus on the good things, no matter how tiny or inconsequential they may appear at first."


One of the loveliess surprises was the discovery of this 100-year-old company newsletter. The cover is so fascinating, for so many different reasons.

One of the loveliest surprises was the discovery of this 100-year-old company newsletter.


Inside, I found a litany of familiar names, and now I had faces to go with those names!

Inside, I found a litany of familiar names! The "people of Penniman" - in the flesh.


And more names and more faces!

And more names and more faces! The names listed in the "tags" are the family names I've found thus far at Penniman. Was your grandmother or grandfather at Penniman? Maybe now we can sort it out!


My very first thought - upon receiving this 80-page newsletter was, Wayne will love this. But in fact, hell never know about it, because he chose to skip out in the worst possible way.

My very first thought - upon receiving this 80-page newsletter was - "Wayne will love this." But in fact, he'll never know about it, because he chose to skip out in the worst possible way. This man has caused me so much suffering. If I could travel back in time to May 2006, to our first meeting at the coffee shop in downtown Portsmouth, I'd tap that 46-year-old woman on the shoulder and tell her, "run like hell and don't look back." Perhaps I'm in my "anger phase" or perhaps, I am finally coming to my senses.


If you’re here to read about the Sears kit homes, click here.

Click here to read about Penniman.


Was This School for African-Americans Ever Built in Pottstown?

February 10th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Update! Mystery solved! Click here to read the latest.

“Mr. W. L. Jones, chairman of the Williamsburg school board, said that he…purchased the bricks…[from the demolished Penniman smokestack] to build a public school building [in Pottstown] for the colored children” (Newport News Daily Press, December 22, 1922).

On December 19, 1922, the 250-foot tall smokestack at the Penniman powerhouse was taken down with 35 sticks of dynamite. According to the Daily Press, the powerhouse at the DuPont munitions plant cost more than $3 million to build. The smokestack sat on a solid concrete base that was 30 feet square, and 20 feet in diameter at its base. A DuPont employee told the Daily Press that the smokestack had more than 150,000 bricks.

As historian R. Wythe Davis quipped, “Penniman was not erased, it was dispersed” - right down to the bricks in the smokestack.

Before the smokestack was blown, W. L. Jones had agreed to purchase all the bricks within the stack. Pretty bold, considering that he really didn’t know how this would end.

Now I’m wondering, was this school ever built? Despite some searching, I can’t even find a Pottstown (outside of Pennsylvania) and it seems unlikely that a school board official from Williamsburg would buy 150,000 slightly used bricks to ship to Pennsylvania.

The day that the smokestack was blown to smithereens, the Daily Press reported that the bricks were bought by “Mr. Jones for the city school board to be used in the erection of a colored school building in Pottstown” (December 20, 1922).

I’m wondering, was Pottstown a community near Williamsburg? If so, it wasn’t mentioned in period newspapers (that I can find). Where was Pottstown? Surely these bricks weren’t shipped to Pennsylvania.  And was this school ever built? If it was built within Williamsburg, did it survive the restoration in the early 1930s?

Another mystery.


Penniman about 1918.

A panoramic view of Penniman - in 1918. The York River is in the background, and that's Kings Creek to the hard right. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.


These photos

These old black and white photos show phenomenal detail. This is the base of the smokestack, which measured 20 feet in diameter. The concrete base was 30 feet square. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.


I cant even imagine how long it would take to load 150,000 used bricks into a 1920s truck.

I can't even imagine how long it would take to load 150,000 used bricks into a 1920s truck.


Two days later, this article appeared, providing addition detail.

This appeared on December 22, 1922 in the Newport News "Daily Press."


To read more about Penniman’s dispersal, click here.