Going up to The Big House

Cajoe Phillips is buried within boating distance of The Big House- but not off of the same river. First, you would take a little boat down Wolf Creek to the banks of the Muskingum River. You might want to switch boats here to a much larger one, albeit one not too big- it has to fit through the locks.

After sailing down the Muskingum to the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum, the much larger river flows south and west. Any boat traveling down this way would have to be vigilant, the Ohio is a wide and full river.

In the old days it might take most of a day or two to travel down what was then a much more shallow river. Today, a small boat would suffer the pollution of numerous polymer plants spewing Mid Ohio Valley Crud into the air and over the water.

Until your boat slipped past the Little Kanawha River- not so little- pouring out into the ever growing river. Once the boat passed Parkersburg, the river churns all that sediment and the craft toward the isle of Cajoe Phillip’s most impressive residence…on Blennerhassett Island.


Ironically, Mr. Phillips was not a willing resident of the island. Along with several others from the east coast, Africa, and Ireland, he was considered legal property of Harmon and Margaret Blennerhassett, English adventurers who left Ireland (then oppressed by the British Empire) to settle on the edge of Virginia on the prettiest island in the Ohio River.


 Cajoe, owner of a Bible, a hymn book given to him by Margaret Blennerhassett, and not much more, lived on the island with other slaves and servants. Today, the servant cabins are nowhere to be seen, although archaeological digs have been done on the island in search of such structures. These cabins would have been behind The Big House, back toward the gardens and the plantation itself.

This four mile long island was once a single plantation; now it is a carefully controlled state park in the West Virginia state park system. I say “controlled” because the island is not completely open to the general public- just the front part. The rear, an expanse of pasture for “wild” horses and deer, is inaccessible to the voting public…which makes one feel a bit like Cajoe Phillips…as the guided tour stops, and turns around, at a sign that proudly proclaims the site of  “The Blennerhassett Plantation.”


3 responses to “Going up to The Big House”

  1. Are you traveling or are these photos from earlier in your traveling life? I enjoyed the thoughts you generated but also am curious… what DID happen to the slave quarters? The idea of an island reserve, I do respect that those deer and horses are free of onlookers… Take care!

    • Harmon Blennerhassett was quite an interesting character. Aaron Burr, who had been Vice President of the USA, stopped at his mansion and convinced Harmon to part with his money and mind in supporting an expedition to wrest control of an area generally part of Texas from the Spanish. The story is a fascinating one and maybe one that should be told by an expert, not me.

      i went over on the boat to blennerhassett island for west virginia day celebrations this june…

  2. I have been in West Virginia, to a lot of the nice scenic overlooks and the small town of Rainelle, WVA. I think this was well told, I never worry if my thoughts would compare to an expert, you should not worry, yours were fine! Smiles, Robin

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