Friday, June 23, 2017

The Prince That Lived In King George, Virginia

For local historians, the Tayloe family has an important role in the early history of King George County. But did you know they had ties to one of the most famous impostors of the 20th century?

An early settler to the Northern Neck, the Tayloe family had ties to other major families like the Lees and Taliaferros and they held land in several counties. One of those pieces of land was Powhatan Farm in King George. As the land was divided over several generations, Powhatan Farm came to be held by Bladen Tasker Tayloe. Falling on hard times in April 1935, Bladen sold Powhatan Farm at public auction to John W. Walters from New York. Mr. Walters would eventually sell the farm in 1955 to the current owners, the Guest family.

While the Guest family may have real royal connections, there was a Russian Prince living at the farm before they purchased it. Prince Michael Alexandrovitch Dmitry Obelensky Romanoff. Don't worry if you've never heard of him. I only knew him from Miracle on 34th Street (1947) when the Doctor is trying to argue his case that Kris Kringle isn't a danger to society and he says:

"Why there are thousands of people walking around with similar delusions, living perfectly normal lives in every other respect. A famous example is that fellow — I can't think of his name — but for years he’s insisted he’s a Russian prince. He owns a famous restaurant in Hollywood and is a highly respected citizen."

That's right, Prince Michael Alexandrovitch Dmitry Obelensky Romanoff, or Prince Mike if you prefer, was an imposter.

Prince Mike went by countless aliases, false names, and false titles. He claimed to be everything from a Count to a Captain and a Vanderbilt to a Rockefeller. In the end, or really the beginning, he was Harry Gerguson. In 1935, with Mr. Walters as the new owner of Powhatan Farm, Prince Mike came to take charge of the farm. Using the alias John William Adams, and posing as a professor from Yale, Prince Mike took over managing the farm. Reportedly in ruins, he kicked out the sheep living in the house and made repairs, built roads, and cleared fields.

Prince Mike was apparently isolating himself so that he, acting as the Yale Professor, could write "The Philosophy of History." Despite his isolation, he did make friends; a horse named Betty and a cat named, of all things, Gerguson. He was friendly with the Tayloe family as well, even gifting them a small puppy that would end up bearing his name.

From Return to Powhatan by Roberta Love Tayloe

His self-imposed isolation only lasted a year. He made a trip to Richmond to see a show and was identified by a society reporter as Prince Mike. He would leave King George in an old, junky car and would turn up in Hollywood a few years later sporting a wad of cash, a fancy car, and a new restaurant.

Prince Mike would become Hollywood royalty after opening his restaurant. Here are a few names from the very long list of Hollywood types he associated with; Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney, Jack Benny, Barbara Stanwyck, Clark Gable, and David Niven. Prince Mike reportedly only came back to the Fredericksburg area once shortly after his re-birth in Hollywood as a restaurateur. He would eventually die in September of 1971, nearly a decade after closing his famous restaurant.

One parting ironic twist. Prince Mike's early childhood was nearly a mirror to that seen in Boys Town (1938) staring Mickey Rooney. As an orphan and runaway and petty criminal, Prince Mike needed a father figure in his life to set him on the right track. While he wouldn't find it until he left King George, both Prince Mike and Mickey Rooney would follow the same path, this time in real life, as they served as pallbearers for Errol Flynn in 1959.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

OPINION - The Newest Stoplight To Avoid

Welcome to your newest form of torture, the stoplight at Dahlgren Road and Caledon Road (Routes 206 and 218 respectively). Before you yell at me and tell me that the light is a necessary evil, I will forewarn you that I only agree that some improvement was necessary there. However, I feel a traffic light is not one of them.

Traffic circles get a lot of negative press, and even more than normal here in King George. But before you shove those fingers in your ears and start yelling "LA! LA! LA!" let me remind you that the science is there to prove traffic circles work at not only moving traffic faster through the intersection but also doing it more safely than a typical stoplight.

Before we continue debating the pros and cons of lights and signs and circles, let's take a moment to look at a potential solution. VDOT has installed the stoplight and we all know they’re not likely to remove it anytime soon. Maybe we can find a solution that will make some of you happy. Or at least less upset at driving through yet another stoplight on your daily commute. With nearly 10,000 employees, Dahlgren is the host to our area’s primary employers. Factor in Potomac Elementary School during the school year, limited capacity on local roads, and it's a recipe for a commuter's nightmare.

What I propose is an alternative route to Dahlgren. My proposal is based on a few assumptions so let's get those out of the way first. I'm assuming that most of the traffic comes from the Fredericksburg area. I'm assuming that most of the traffic is going to Dahlgren's Main Gate. I'm assuming that we are all driving the speed limit because, well, we all know that’s the right thing to do.

To measure my distances, I used two points; Sealston Elementary School and the Dahlgren Post Office. I measured various routes using main roads and secondary roads, counted the stoplights, and even compare distances that are two lanes versus four lanes. Below is the end result of what I found.

Route Used
Total Distance
Number of Stoplights
2 Lanes vs. 4 Lanes
Route 3 to Route 206
19.6 miles
7 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, St. Paul's, WaWa, PES)
11.0 miles vs. 8.6 miles
Route 3 to 603 to Route 218 to Route 206
20.7 miles
4 (Sealston, St. Paul's, WaWa, PES)
20.7 miles vs. 0 miles
Route 3 to Route 205 to Highway 301 to Route 206
20.7 miles
10 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, KGHS, KGES, Rankins, Hillcrest, WaWa, PES)
4.2 miles* vs. 16.5 miles
Route 3 to Route 206 to 611 to Highway 301 to Route 206
21.8 miles
7 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, Hillcrest, WaWa, PES)
7.4 miles vs. 14.4 miles
Route 3 to Route 301 to Route 206
22.8 miles
11 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, KGHS, KGES, Tractor Supply, Rankins, Hillcrest, WaWa, PES)
2.9 miles* vs. 19.9 miles
Route 3 to 694 to Route 218 to Route 206
23.2 miles
4 (Sealston, St. Paul's, WaWa, PES)
18.4 miles vs. 4.8 miles

*The distance from St. Anthony’s Road to Tinsbloom Lane, where Route 3 goes to two lanes, is approximately 1.1 miles.

It’s pretty easy to see that the shortest distance is the tried and true Route 206 (#1). But when you look at #2 and #3, you’ll see the distance is only another mile further. For the fewest traffic lights, you’ll need to use #2 or #6. For the longest distance on four lane roads, #3 and #5 are your best bet while #2 has only two lane roads.

After crunching way more numbers and datasets than I expected, after learning more about the differences between geometric mean and harmonic mean, I finally stopped my circular calculations and decided to arrive at a ground-breaking opinion.

I say ground-breaking because I’m going to disagree with my own data as well as my own attempt at weighting the different routes based on these factors. In other words, I’m going to go with my gut. And my gut says, use option #3 (Route 3 to Route 205 to Highway 301 to Route 206). I feel like this gives you the best option to drop off your kids at all the different schools, it allows you to safely make left-hand turns, and it gives you the best combination of faster roads and shorter distances.

Distance (miles)
4 Lane %
Stoplight Time (seconds)

*To determine the best 2 vs. 4 Ratio, I subtracted the 4 lane distance in miles from the 2 lane distance in miles. This would give the routes with more 4 lane mileage a lower number, which would better align them with the other scores.
** The Stoplight Time is based on an average of 70 seconds per cycle. I then divided each cycle in half (35 seconds) and multiplied by the number of lights on the route.
***The Mean and the Average only differed by a small amount in the Distance and the Total columns. Because the difference was so small, I felt it wasn’t important enough to include this math in the chart.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - June 1977 - Part II

When it comes to historical research, there are times where the content can be disturbing. I recently sat down with my mother to go through some old photos and she did a great job giving me dates and stories and names of people in them. But along with that great information came some horrible stories. While I don't want to white-wash history and make everything look great, there will be certain aspects of my research that I will keep private.

I want to make it clear that it's not an attempt to make my life look better or to make anyone else look better, or worse, than they're perceived to be by the rest of the world. Instead, I just want to preserve the privacy of those that are still alive and not force them to re-live their nightmare.

With that being said, here's my mother, her step-father Ted, and his dog Teddy. My grandparents always had a poodle of some sort for as long as I can remember them. So it's no surprise to see one in this picture. I don't have an exact date on the photo, but the month and year are pretty clear.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - June 7, 1977

Big surprise here, I had another ear infection. This appears to be just in my left ear. But as I learned from my mother, my dad didn't have spell check. So what he wrote as "serious" was actually "serous" which is essentially fluid in the ear. You can see my update on my last "serious/serous otitis media" entry on May 31, 1977.

Once again I saw Dr. Cho. This visit was a "recheck" a week after my the last entry at the end of May. My last recorded ear infection (but not serous otitis media) was on April 26, 1977.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - June 1977 - Part I

This is actually a bit of a deviation from my personal story as it's a letter to my grandmother Dorothy, but I wanted to include it because it had a wealth of family information in it. I thought by sharing it, it may allow other distant relatives find a familial link or fill in some empty spots on their family tree.

The letter is from Ruth who lived at 2205 E. Linden #29 in Caldwell, Idaho, 83605. It was sent to my grandmother, Dorothy Hollingsworth, who was living at 4001 Mockingbird Lane in Oxnard, California, 93030. Below is a transcript.

Thurs. P.M.

Dear Dorothy:

How I enjoyed your letter that came this A.M. I have certainly been thinking of the past!!! Ralph Jones was in your Mother's + my 8th grade picture!!! (I have it!) And Mrs. Kate (?) Jones (mother) was my Sun. school teacher for several years. And I certainly remember the sisters and the Butmans - Everyone would remember Jessie as she was very good and generous giving "readings" at any and all gatherings - I wish I had kept some of them - She was very good, too. Meeting the public where I was shy and kept in the background.

It is interesting that you should meet + get into conversation with Margaret -

Perhaps you have heard that I flew to So. Calif. with Bob the 13th of April. He was going down on College business. We went to Ontario where he picked up a rental car and we drove to Whittier. We called on Bob + Margaret and drove around town some, then he left me with my old (?) childhood chum and he went on to San Diego. Chris' niece lives in Corona del Mar + she came up to Whittier after me on Fri. A.M. and Bob stopped there that eve. on his way up to West Covina where my nephew (Howard Way, Jr.) lives. Bob had to go on to Las Vegas still on school business and I stayed in West Covina until Wed. A.M. when I flew up to L.V. to meet Bob for our trip home - (Are you still with me?) Dorothy Way + I drove up to San Bernardino

Del Rosa, etc. My! but every place in So. Calif. has grown!! It was a great fun week and I would like to go again and visit with you folks - Am not real sure about doing it but will think about it. Thanks for the invitation -

The Howard Way your Aunt Mildred (I met her once!!) spoke of was, no doubt, my nephew. And the baby you mentioned in the other letter you wrote was his grandson. My brother's oldest daughter, Katherine Kelly, died of cancer about three (3) months ago and was buried in San Ber- She lived in Sunset Beach.

Yesterday I mailed two paintings (by your grandmother) and frames to Bob + Marg. as it seemed the like an Ashton should have them. I showed them to Shirley

Ashton once when she was going to our college + said - Aunt Ida painted them + she had no idea who Aunt Ida was - (her great grandmother) I guess that is understandable, tho'.

Even tho' I am 84 I still drive and am as active as I want to be (??) I live in a one bedroom mobile home + take care of my own yard except mowing the lawn !! Bob's live about two miles from me but there are phones and lots of communications -

Tho't you might be interested in this picture - Have other things I know you and Cleta, too, would be interested in so come see me!!!
Love - Ruth