A future project that could yield huge benefits to our historical knowledge of Red Hill is to perform systematic shovel test pits, something that has not been done yet on the grounds. Exploratory archaeology has the potential to turn up all sorts of unexpected information and could result in a huge gain in our understanding of the site.
Depending on the funding we could attain, this project might be undertaken in stages or as a whole attempt. It will require manpower and careful cataloging, making it an ambitious but very worthy goal.
By the 1790s, whiskey production in the U.S. had soared. An 1810 census recorded more than 3,600 distilleries operating in Virginia alone. A year before George Washington began distilling whiskey at Mount Vernon, Patrick Henry obtained a license to operate three stills at Red Hill, which his wife continued to run after his death. Producing around 2,000 gallons a year, Henry sold his rye whiskey to taverns and stores, as well as to nearby farms and plantations. In distilling whiskey at Red Hill, Henry, who rarely drank anything harder than water, was diversifying his means of income and not relying solely on tobacco.
Rebuilding the 30-gallon still that was listed in Patrick Henry’s 1799 inventory will give visitors a better understanding of Red Hill as a working, self-sustaining plantation, and the skills required of his slaves and hired workers to produce the whiskey.
Once the still is built, Red Hill hopes to be part of the American Whiskey Trail and could serve as a half-way point between guests visiting distilleries from Kentucky to Mount Vernon. It is an interesting historical challenge to reconstruct and would be a memorable addition to the grounds for visitors. All we need is a patriotic lover of home brew to take an interest in the project and offer the funding to get started!
Trail Expansion & River Access
One of the most delightful aspects of a visit to Red Hill is the ability to experience the terrain as Henry did. The grounds surrounding the house, which are beautiful themselves, only represent a small portion of the lands Henry owned. Trails into the woods and along the river provide guests with access to the natural beauty of the area, and we are always seeking to expand them.