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Showcasing treasures from the Civil War

LOUISA LIFE • May 18–June 21, 2012
By Linda Salisbury, Correspondent

If you’re in the market for a stagecoach or two, check with Russell Anderson. He might be willing to part with one that he was told appeared in the television show “Gunsmoke,” or perhaps one of his 40 antique buggies. However, most of his artifacts are not for sale, the 94-year-old Louisa resident said. They are part of his private Civil War Museum in Trevilian, near the salvage yard he owns with his son, “Andy.”

IMG_6648wAlthough Anderson welcomes tourists, tours are by appointment only and a $5 donation is suggested. There is much to see in museum located in the Netherland Tavern that Anderson replicated on his land. The “footprint” of the original structure, built in 1822 (there may have been an even earlier building) and demolished in 1950, is visible behind a barn/fire department Anderson built to house his horse-drawn pumpers.

During the Battle of Trevilian Station in June 1864, Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton made his headquarters at the tavern and slept outside its door one night on a carpenter’s bench. Reenacters have occasionally used the recreated tavern and surrounding grounds when the battle is portrayed, he said. And part of one of the reenactments has been featured on a tourism CD.

Anderson’s eyes twinkle and he laughs heartily as his private tour showcases the assembled treasures collected from his travels and auctions around the country.

The tavern’s interior is filled with artifacts, including Civil War era letters, a hand-crank Silvertone Tru-Phonic record player, a collection of “10,000 records,” an old meat grinder, a printing press from Ben Franklin’s era, a stagecoach strong box (“where they carried gold and bandits would shoot at it”), books, photographs and paintings.

The upper rooms are set up as bedrooms, with Civil War uniforms, and dresses on display. He noted that in addition to serving as Hampton’s headquarters, the tavern (renamed during the Civil War for owner William A. Netherland) had accommodated travelers who came by coach or rail because of the proximity to the tracks, station, and Fredericksburg Stage Road.

The personal museum requires a personal tour. Displayed objects are not identified or dated, but Anderson’s enthusiasm for his collection overcomes lack of specifics.

He said that many objects are one of a kind and notes that people have no idea what he has in his collections. One such curiosity located outside is a horse-drawn gazebo that he believes was made by the Amish. The gazebo, with circular bench seating around a small table, is in the center of the wagon, with a high seat behind it for the “brakeman.”

His other buggies in the yard and under shelter evoke early times. There’s a calliope, food carts, a medicine wagon, plus one that was used by peddlers selling pots, pans and farm implements. His fire equipment is unusual, and clearly prized. One in particular “is my pride and joy,” he said. Bright red, it has a bell and siren.

How old? “Old,” is his response. His recreated fire barn includes a table for playing cards, a stove, and a pump organ that needs rehabbing. Besides the pumpers with water tanks on top, he also has a bucket brigade wagon with leather buckets.

Another outbuilding resembles a small store and it also displays a somewhat playable pump organ, wooden laundry tub, and an antique homemade banjo made with goatskin.

Anderson is far from finished with his museum and projects. He has plans to take down a few trees in an area beyond the barn complex, bring in white sand, and construct and old-fashioned playground.

Anderson PavingBig plans to increase tourist traffic? “That’s the way I’ve been all my life,” he said.

That comes from a man who started his own business at age eight, and during his working life, paved celebrity driveways through his excavating and paving businesses. Those celebrities included the likes of Shirley Temple, Dan Quayle and Roger Mudd, he said.

Aside from the playground development, Anderson would like to fix up some wagons so that they can be part a greater part of the tourists’ experience at the museum.

If the museum wasn’t off the beaten path, there would be more tourists, he said. That could change in June with the reenactment of the Battle of Trevilian Station. Tourists are likely to find him and the museum as they watch the famed cavalry battle and take the driving tour of the battlefield . . . but call first.

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