I work in an extraordinary place. I feel incredibly fortunate to get to spend the majority of my time in the world’s largest living history museum (and get paid for it!), portraying a young member of the Revolutionary American Society.
A typical morning for me consists of sipping my coffee outside on a bench facing the Governor’s Palace with the sound of cannon fire in the distance. I get to learn and teach on a daily basis and visit our renowned trade shops on a whim. What a life! Perhaps the greatest joy of my job is meeting all of the wonderful characters and visitors from all over the globe. I have interacted with celebrities, historians, archaeologists, television reporters, and travelers from every corner of the world. They come in droves with smiles on their faces—ready to have a rousing conversation about history, life, and lore.
There are some guests, however, unseen to the naked eye. Some guests who appear to be desperate to communicate but are unable to in the typical manner. One of these guests is Mr. John Greenhow.
But before we get to that, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amanda Doggett and I have been employed by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation since June of 2013. Working for the products division of the Foundation, I am what is called a “sales interpreter,” or someone who dresses as, utilizes the vernacular of, and interacts as if I were a member of 18th-century Williamsburg while encouraging guests to make purchases in our retail locations. Headquartered at the Greenhow Store, my position puts me at one of five retail locations, but more than likely, you can find me at the Colonial Auctions (I’m the redhead whizzing past in striped stockings). My job is a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Recently, I was promoted to supervisor of the Greenhow Group, which came with earlier mornings and later nights, but also my own office in the Greenhow Store right on Duke of Gloucester Street. It’s pretty darn cool that my desk sits right above Mr. Greenhow’s counting room and office. He was one of the most successful merchants of 18th-century Williamsburg and I often try to channel John’s financial prowess when I’m feeling a little less than profitable.
Mr. Greenhow was an interesting man, though little is known of his character. We know the location of his store, and that the 21st-century business sits in the same spot. The structure itself is not original, but the piece of land housing it was certainly owned by John, as it was addressed regularly in the Virginia Gazette as “across from the James Geddy property.” His store (which doubled as his home) was and is still marked by the sign of the ship, denoting his specialty: importation and exportation. His three-man schooner, “the Robert,” frequently traveled between Philadelphia and the James River carrying a variety of wares—from flour and furniture to skillets and soap.
As mentioned before, little is known of Mr. Greenhow’s specific personality. He is said to have been a bit of a curmudgeon, gout-ridden, and aged by the time of his last child’s birth. He died in 1787, buried in the churchyard of Bruton Parish, where his tombstone stands today. Though he has been dead for nigh-on 225 years, he still has much to say. I know because he’s reached out to me.
I have spent many early mornings (and sometimes lonely evenings) in the Greenhow Store, sitting at my desk, preparing an auction in the stockroom adjacent to my office, or counting tills and change for the five stores in the basement just below his counting desk. This is when Mr. Greenhow gets particularly… well, agitated. To put it bluntly, John doesn’t like it when someone else is counting HIS money in HIS store early in the morning. Without fail, once I start counting that money, I hear John’s unmistakably heavy footprints as he paces the store sales floor above me, following a path between the window and his desk. Sometimes it’s fast, John clearly upset with the slow sales that week. Sometimes it’s slow; Mr. Greenhow a little more relaxed if we’ve had a lucrative few days. But that is not the end of Mr. Greenhow’s communication with me.
Other times, it’s as if Mr. Greenhow is trying to motivate me. If I show up to work a little too late, audibly expressing my dismay at the early hour and the long day ahead of me, stalling before I unlock my office, Mr. G will start to rattle the locks on the doors, shaking them as if to say, “Just get to work, kid. Whining won’t do a darn thing about it and there’s money to be made!”
While I wear many different hats and I have many different tasks to perform on a daily basis, my primary function is to be an auction interpreter. As an employee of the Colonial Auction, I have been given a persona to portray. The man who plays Mr. Greenhow (shown above) in the present day suggested I go by the surname Davenport, as John had several nieces of that name who could have very well assisted in his business affairs.
Since taking on the pseudonym, I suppose Mr. Greenhow seems to think he needs to interject in my personal choices, particularly in music. Sometimes, I stay a little later in the evening to unpack an auction, or I come in a little early to tie up the loose ends before an event. If it’s an early morning, I like to listen to music to keep myself motivated or to shoo away the deafening silence of a particularly quiet Williamsburg morning. I, like many other red-blooded 20-something females in North America, love a good, poppy Taylor Swift song to pump me up (who doesn’t love Shake It Off?). John Greenhow, that’s who. It turns out that Mr. G isn’t a fan of T-Swizzle, and he’s not afraid to tell me, either. He likes to knock boxes off shelves when I find one of her stirring ballads particularly moving and feel the urge to join her on the chorus (maybe it’s my singing that disturbs him enough to break his eternal silence… honestly, it’s more than likely my singing). If I feel moved by a power-pop hit and decide to dance my way across his sales floor, he likes to knock soap balls out of the container and roll them across the room. I typically reply with a scoff and an, “OK, John. I get it. I have no rhythm.” which does not typically go over well, either.
John Greenhow can rattle all the locks he wants or throw around my hand-blown Blenko Glass pitchers… I’m not going to stop singing Taylor Swift, and those pitchers are packed within an inch of their life courtesy of Blenko Glass. Deal with it, John. I’m not going anywhere.
You can learn more about our 18th-century hauntings when you take the Official Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Walk or Ghosts Amongst Us, held nightly in the Historic Area. And be sure to visit us for our Halloween spectacular, Haunting on DoG Street: Blackbeard’s Revenge this month for tricks, treats, and stories of the damned!
GUEST BLOGGER: AMANDA DOGGETT
Amanda has been employed by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for nearly three years. Before coming to CWF, she worked as a painter after graduating from Christopher Newport University in 2011 with a degree in History. Drawn here by the prospect of living history and preserving it for the future, she can be found in the Historic Area. Her interest is the paranormal became even greater when she started working at the Greenhow store.
Amanda lives in Yorktown with her fiancée, where they spend a lot of time outside. She is an avid runner who loves getting lost in a book or on a trail.