Priscilla woke up, startled from a vivid dream. Some would even say it was a premonition. The Civil War was raging all around her and it was only a matter of time before the Union army showed up on her doorstep. Priscilla Brooke Fleet Smith had lived on this Virginia plantation all her life, which was well steeped in history. It had been deeded to her family by the King of England. One couldn't turn over a rock without coming across an Indian arrowhead or stone tool. And Priscilla's own relative, Meriwether Lewis, just decades before, had joined William Clark to explore the great American West, guided by the Indian princess, Sacagawea.

After anguished contemplation, Priscilla gave into her sixth sense and collected all her family's portraits and valuable possessions. "If the Union is going to burn my plantation," she thought, "it's not going to turn these treasures into cinders." With that, she moved her belongings to her daughters' houses, far away from the plantation. It didn't hurt that those houses were made of brick, unlike her 17th century clapboard main house, which could easily ignite with the strike of a match.

One night, the Union army invaded Priscilla's plantation and actually spent the night on the grounds. Motivated by war and destruction, they burned the outlying area to the ground, including her daughters' brick houses containing the family's prized possessions. Ironically, Priscilla's main house was left untouched and still stands to this day.

Almost one hundred thirty years later, during our own inspection of the main house, we made a startling discovery. With Priscilla's premonition fresh in our minds, we examined the interior roof of the attic space, and noticed the timbers had been charred where the hips and rafters met the chimney. Had a long-ago ember from the fireplace found its way up here and began to burn, but never fully ignited? Had Priscilla’s fear of a fire actually been legitimate? Or had fate simply been on the side of this house, giving it a chance to remain in light of its place in history? Whatever the truth, we felt incredibly fortunate to now play a small part in preserving the estate’s extraordinary history.