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Event commemorates Civil War Battle of Sutherland Station

DINWIDDIE — For most people, the tour through historic Fork Inn transports them back to 1800s America. But for Janie Olgers and her two daughters, walking through the 1803 plantation home helped them re-live some of their own history as well.

It has been decades since N.C. Olgers, Janie's husband, or his two daughters slept in the rope bed at Fork Inn, which is also known as Sutherland's Tavern. But nights under piles of quilts with hot water bottles tucked in the sheets are hard to forget. Because the house was once heated with an oil stove, placing hot water bottles in the bed was a common practice.

On Saturday, N.C.'s daughters showed their own daughters a piece of their past and their grandfather's past.

"It feels like we have celebrities in the house," said Michelle Olgers, who now shares the home with her husband, Darrell Olgers, and their 11-year-old daughter, Emma.

Janie Olgers and her daughters joined a tour during the 18th Annual Southside Virginia Heritage Days. Each year, the Olgerses open the plantation home for free to commemorate the anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Sutherland Station that occurred at the site on April 2, 1865. The event also includes mid-19th-century military and civilian living demonstrations, a moonshine exhibit, open-hearth cooking demonstrations, children's story telling by Jimmy Olgers, and vendors selling antiques, produce and food.

"I'm so glad that they do this. The main reason we came was to show my granddaughters. It is important for them to see the heritage," Janie Olgers said.

The Battle of Sutherland Station delivered a decisive victory for Union troops because their capture of the South Side Railroad cut off Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's last supply line to Petersburg, according to the National Park Service.

At one point during the war, the home was a Union army hospital, Michelle Olgers said. And after the war, the Olgerses believe that the home was never able to go back to its original function as a tavern, where brawls were common. But relics from those tavern days still exist in the house.

A .39-caliber bullet hole in the entryway must have a good story behind it, Darrell Olgers said.

In 1903, the Olgers family purchased the home.

Like many of the stories that surround it, the home is frozen in time and filled with antique furnishings that come with stories of their own.

Michelle Olgers explained that the rope bed was responsible for the phrase, "Don't let the bed bugs bite," since the pegs that held the ropes would occasionally "bite" someone who was trying to tighten the ropes.

On Saturday, N.C. Olgers' daughters looked at a tintype of F. David Davis, an ancestor of the Olgers family, which sits on a dresser in the master bedroom.

Just down the hall, parts of a clock in the guest bedroom helped explain the origin of the nursery rhyme, "Hickory Dickory Dock." Mice would often be attracted to the wooden cogs of clocks of the time, which were greased with bacon fat.

And in the parlor, Darrell Olgers lifted the lid of an ornamental egg to reveal flasks. The egg concealed the flasks for ladies who may have wished to drink while not in the company of men.

"It gives me a lot of pleasure to see the younger generation coming here and enjoying history," Darrell Olgers said. "It is different than going to a museum. Here, you are living history."

 vremmers@progress-index.com

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