Whether you’re a 17th century history buff or seeking a fun family outing, Port Royal, Virginia is a destination worth visiting. From the moment you cross the 301 Bridge into Port Royal, nearly every aspect of outdoor activities and historical walking tours are available. More importantly, your visit will leave you yearning to learn more about early American life.
On the streets of Water, Caroline, Middle, Cumberland, Main and Frederick, you will encounter the following historic walking home and business destinations: James Bowie, Fox Tavern, Parish Printing, Peyton, Mason Lodge, Holloway, and the Dorothy Roy Chimney remnant. In Addition, along the trails of the walking tour visitors will find Old School House, the Portrait Gallery, Old Medical Museum, and Town Hall.
John Wilkes Booth, vilified for assassinating President Abraham Lincoln sought refuge at the Peyton House on King Street. Booth’s final resting is located by a road marker on the outskirts of town, at the former Garrett plantation.
The slow paced lifestyle and atmosphere is a perfect fit for lifelong resident, former educator and Port Royal Museum director, Caroline “Cookie” Davis. “Because I grew up here, I am a retired school principal, this is what I love to do,” Davis said. “I was a history major in college, and I’ve done all these other things along the way—now I’ve learned more about this town I grew up in.”
Throughout the year, travelers from over the country patronize the museum, and businesses associated with Port Royal. Davis along with four volunteers eagerly welcome visitors throughout the year on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The goal of Davis is to preserve the property that has survived, and to encourage property owners to save them.
Inside the Museum, visitors will be immersed with a wealth of history including: One of America’s largest collections of toleware paintings by early American settlers, hall of American History featuring a time line, Skinner Native American Collection, Sidney King Art Gallery, Civil War Diorama, White House China Collection, and a room displaying examples of 18th and 19th century Virginia-made furniture.
With a current population just under 200 residents, the Caroline County incorporated town of Port Royal was once noted for the cash crop of tobacco. In fact, after the owner (John Buckner) of the Fox Tavern died, Dorothy Roy took over ownership of the property.
News of her success as the nation’s first woman business owner of a tobacco franchise (Virginia’s cash crop during 17th century), ferry service (across the Rappahannock River), and tavern operator made her the center of commerce in Port Royal. President George Washington was a frequent of Roy’s tavern.
Noted for being one of America’s oldest towns, Port Royal was established in 1652 with land grants given to Englishmen. In addition, it is rumored that the town is named after the Roy family. The brick remnants of the Tavern chimney are still standing as a reminder of the town’s early beginnings.
The Nantaughtacund Native American tribe departed Port Royal after the arrival of English settlers. Soon progress in the form of the railroad brought a halt to the shipping industry. Later in the 20th century, transportation opened its doors to new highways, broadening access to the town to a new generation of cultures and visitors.
After a full day of exploring the town, visitors can satisfy their hunger urges with Port Royals finest American cuisine at Horne’s Restaurant, and Randolphs on the River.