What a great adventure with like-minded families! We learned so much about Florida’s history and appreciated the free time between sessions to explore the area. Mr. Potter is terrific at bringing history to life through a distinctly Christian filter.” —Tim A.
lorida has not always been a welcoming tourist attraction. The history of the state is fraught with war, massacres, pirate raids, invasions, and deportation—providential hardships that eventually faded to the past in favor of beaches, football, retirement villas, Walt Disney, and space rockets, not to mention citrus groves and golf courses. We learned about the hard times.
St. Augustine, Florida, founded 1565
St. Augustine is the oldest European-founded city in North America. The governor of Puerto Rico was the first to claim the area for Spain—a stalwart explorer named Ponce de León, who called the area La Florida in 1513. We examined the story of the fabled fountain of youth which has given its name to a lovely historical park along the bay. Historian Bill Potter mused about mankind’s quest to find alternatives to mortality and salvation apart from the Bible, whether Ponce sought such a course or not. We witnessed a re-enactor explain and fire a matchlock gun and a Spanish artillery crew set off a cannon like the ones that defended the city in less peaceful times. We visited a re-creation of the first Christian chapel erected in Florida by Franciscan missionaries in the 16th Century. As an entertaining touch, pea-fowl preened along walls next to signs that forbade sitting on them, and they strutted between two heavy guns that once blasted the British from aboard the fabled USS Constitution (now in Boston Harbor).
Addressing the Florida tour group on the ground of the First Landing
The reconstructed Fort Caroline near Jacksonville provided a picturesque setting for our next stop. Originally constructed by French Huguenots, the site, or one close by, became the first attempted permanent colony along the eastern coast of Florida. Several hundred settlers of Protestant conviction were sent there by the Admiral of France, Gaspard de Coligny in 1564 to establish a base of operation for trade with and evangelization of, the native tribes, and to harvest whatever wealth and resources were available. Led by René de Loudonnière, the infant colony suffered lack of food and proper discipline, almost collapsing on its own. A relief expedition came to aid the failing colonists and secure the place from possible Spanish depredations. The Catholic King of Spain also sent an expedition, under a hard and uncompromising soldier, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, to deal with what he considered enemy intruders on Spanish-claimed land. The ruthless Menendez wiped out the French colony and established St. Augustine as the new base of Spanish operations in that part of Florida. We fought a brief re-enactment, with the French running away, though Mr. Potter actually escaped to the woods to teach another day. Providence is often a great mystery.
On the ramparts of the reconstructed Huguenot Fort Caroline near Jacksonville
Our final destination of the day found our expedition among the distaff pirates of the Pirate Museum of St. Augustine. A mixture of humor, entertainment, and solid information, we viewed and learned about the singular pirate artifacts of the museum. They include such interesting items as one of the two known authentic pirate flags in existence, the Bible of Captain Kidd, and the talking head of Blackbeard. We learned about the differences between privateering and piracy, often a very blurred line, and details of the lives of some of the more prominent pirates of history. Most died violently, having spent their lives violating the law of God in all of its aspects, and being tracked down by the British, French, and Spanish navies. The final room displayed the prominent role pirate stories have played in Hollywood movies—a charming bunch of rogues defined more by the stereotypes created by Long John Silver and Walt Disney, than by careful historical and biblical analysis. We were reminded not to call evil good or good evil.
The nation’s premier Pirate Museum in St. Augustine
Our evening gathering, where we killed the fatted pizza, and schmoozed with our new friends, ended with a talk by Mr. Potter on the role of Andrew Jackson and the Seminoles of Florida, both subjects of controversy, intrigue, violence, and mystery.
Saturday morning we adjourned at the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the United States. After witnessing the burning by pirates and English soldiers of nine previous wooden forts, trying to protect the city, the Queen of Spain authorized the building of the state of the art bastion, which has become the symbol of the City of St. Augustine. It withstood two sieges by British Americans and housed many prisoners over the centuries. Famous chiefs, signers of the Declaration of Independence and common criminals have stared at the four walls of the dungeon. It changed national possession six times in its history, almost always by treaty. Four centuries of people have come and gone in St. Augustine but the Castillo still proudly stands there, flying the colors of Burgundy, the royal house of Spain.
Hello from atop the walls of the magnificent Castillo de San Marcos!
We concluded our tour at the excellent reenactment of the Battle of Olustee. Though it rained at the beginning of the day, the weather totally cleared in time for the battle and we were treated to a spectacular demonstration of artillery bombardment, infantry tactics, and cavalry who couldn’t shoot straight. A premier reenactment and the first of the season, it is never disappointing and they outdid themselves once again. The sutlers were actively relieving tourists of Yankee greenbacks, the churches were selling good hot food, and the Re-enactors Missions were handing out Gospel tracts and earplugs. Bill gave a brief summary of the battle at the monument commemorating the men who fought there.
Mustering the troops and commemorating the Battle of Olustee
This tour marked the beginning of the fourth year of Landmark Events and we appreciate all who took the time to attend and hear of the Providence of God in Florida. We trust that the teaching has given you a fuller measure of the Grace of God and his control of our past as he forged the nation in which we live. Whether you joined us in spirit or in person, we look forward to seeing you on a future Landmark Events Tour where we walk the ground where the mighty hand of God directed the affairs of men.
“The Mayflower Compact was the rough draft of the Constitution.” —John T. Adams, 2016
n four days our tour traversed the entire period of American colonial history, especially as it related to New England and to the founding of the new nation. We visited five burial grounds, three battlefields, four museums, two churches, one historic home, a gigantic memorial and many small ones, a rock, a historic village, and most of us saw the greatest small town parade in the United States. We fought three battles, got soaked to the skin, and all the while had great fellowship, special teaching times, and ate high on the hog (or fish), including a Pilgrim banquet. We learned from lead historian Bill Potter with a supporting cast of Richard Holland, Leo Martin, and Dr. Paul Jehle, and all of it, once again, orchestrated by the maestro himself, Kevin Turley.
Local guide Richard Holland on Boston Common
Granary Burying Ground is full of patriots
On the Freedom Trail
We began the tour to Boston with a bus lecture on the Puritans — who they were, what they believed, and how they attempted to establish “A City on a Hill.” We disembarked from our coach at the monument to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment in front of the Capitol building. We gathered at the Boston Common where we talked about the role of the Common in New England history and about some of the other sites nearby like the monuments on the grounds of the Capitol (Gen. Joseph Hooker, Quaker Mary Dyer, orator and Senator Daniel Webster). As we strolled to the Granary Burial Grounds, Ritchie talked about the Park Street Church and its storied history on the Common and Bill talked about the three signers of the Declaration of Independence buried in the cemetery. We also said a few words about Benjamin Franklin’s family, James Otis, the great foe of the Writs of Assistance, and of Paul Revere, also buried in the Granary.
Hello from Old South Meeting House!
Calling evil good… get true history with Landmark!
We followed the red brick path of the Freedom Trail across Boston, making stops for the The King’s Chapel burial ground where we taught about John Winthrop, the greatest of colonial Massachusetts’s governors. Further hiking took us to the site of the Boston Latin School, Chipotle, Old South Meeting House (now a museum), the site of the Boston Massacre and the Old Capitol Museum. Some of us ducked into Commonwealth Books, rarely a dry hole when searching serendipitously for treasure.
We viewed Paul Revere’s house from the outside and noted the multiple skills, intrepidity, and patriotism of the man made famous by his deeds and universally admired by a poem many years after his death. We snapped our umbrella picture at his statue. We ended the first day at Old North Church and the Copp’s Hill burial ground. Our final salute took place by the graves of the Mather family. Their lives and ministries defined the colonial period up to the Great Awakening with faithful preaching, applying the Word of God to all of life including history, science, ethics, politics, and family life. They also faced the spiritual declension that accompanied the growth of the American civilization and fought against spiritual coldness and the rising shift of values that accompanied prosperity and wealth.
In the evening we met for discussion of a variety of topics with historian Bill Potter. The questions were profound and helpful.
Rain couldn’t dampen hearty spirits on the freedom trail!
Seafood and fellowship back in Plymouth
Off to War
This was battle day. We began on the bus with a review of the political and economic disruptions that preceded the War for Independence. Disembarking on Lexington Green, we drew up our line of battle where the patriots stood on the day the world heard a shot from an unknown assailant. We told of Captain Parker and his thin line of Minutemen facing the Royal Marines and Captain Pitcairn. The Lexington Common, usually the scene of grazing cattle and marketers, political speeches and children playing, in a moment became a place that changed the course of history. We formed our battle lines and charged in commemoration. We remounted our trusty coach and trundled off to Concord Bridge and a picnic lunch. We gathered around the minuteman statue and tried to picture the scene as the British Light Infantry faced off against the local militias and were bested quickly. The long bloody fight back to Boston insured that the war would be fierce and without compromise. We walked the fields and the path taken by the very men who fought and died in defense of their homes.
“Here once embattled farmers stood” Concord bridge
Back in time on Bunker Hill
To Breed’s Hill we drove and once again armed, re-fought the “Battle of Bunker Hill.” British casualties were severe, General Joseph Warren and Captain Pitcairn both died there and the battle became a byword among those whose devotion to independence would be put to the test for the next eight years. Some of our most energetic folk walked to the top of the monument, a testament to their youth, if not their enthusiasm for the cause. Our final stop for the day took place at the Maritime Museum associated with the USS Constitution. Although a hands-on and informative place, we had to make do with seeing the battle ship from a short distance while it resides in dry dock. She still looked formidable, and is an active naval vessel — the oldest one of any navy in the world.
Plymouth Walking Tour
We walked the streets and fields of Plymouth on this day. We began at the National Monument to the Forefathers, a magnificent statue with thirty-six-foot-tall Faith on the pedestal above four seated representations of Morality, Education, Law and Liberty. Dr. Paul Jehle related the story of Hammatt Billings and the history of the monument’s creation. He and local guide Leo Martin then gave us a profound and inspiring explanation of the symbols that adorn the monument, as related to the four seated “principles upon which the Pilgrim Fathers proposed to found the Commonwealth.”
Dr. Paul Jehle and Leo Martin at Forefathers Monument
Reading the role of the dead from the first winter
We walked to the Pilgrim Mothers Monument where we reflected on the terrible sacrifices the women of the Mayflower, and of the church in Leyden made in order to found the colony and raise families in harsh and unforgiving conditions. Many of them died the first winter. The Pilgrim mothers’ devotion, piety and perseverance was paramount to the expedition’s success in planting a Christian civilization. We gazed on Plymouth Rock as Leo explained its significance. Our pause at the Bradford Monument reminded us of God’s Providential provision of good leadership, without which the enterprise would have foundered. We discussed the providence of God on every hand, even to the Chief of the Wampanoags, Massasoit, with whom the Pilgrims found favor and made a treaty that lasted fifty years.
We looked on the Mausoleum on the top of Cole’s Hill that holds the bones of the Pilgrims who died that first winter — a stirring memorial to the cost of following their call to the New World. We ate lunch at the historic site of the first Pilgrim shelter, now 33 Leyden Street. We were greeted by Beth Perera, whose husband Jerry leads the Leyden Preservation, a group of Christian men devoted to the preservation of the truth regarding the Pilgrims and the values they exemplified.
We walked by the Jenny Grist Mill as Leo again related the importance of the site and of its preservation. We then climbed the steep hill to Burial Hill, the site of the first fort and meeting house and the final resting place of most of the Leyden congregation that made it to America. We ended the day at the Pilgrim Hall Museum where we were warmly greeted by the new curator and given the run of the place till we were satisfied. The magnificent paintings, artifacts, and library are a testament to the folks who have sought to preserve the memory and soul of the Pilgrim colony.
Conversing with the locals at Plimoth Plantation
A Pilgrim feast for a Farewell banquet!
The morning of our final day provided opportunity to return to sites of the previous day, sleep in, or shop around Plymouth. Some of us returned to Burial Hill where we revisited the Warren grave, Adoniram Judson and William Bradford. After lunch everyone made their way to Plimoth Plantation and the living history portrayed there by professional actors in “first person.” We spoke with most of the costumed interpreters, always an entertaining prospect. We ended our tour with a fine 1623 period banquet attended by Miles Standish and the Mrs., both very engaging personalities. We conducted our traditional quiz about things learned on the tour, with fine prizes as a reward. As is our custom, we gave opportunity for Bill Potter to summarize the tour; he spoke of the bedrock nature of the Pilgrim and Puritan colonies, established for the Glory of God and the implementation of His Law. Testimonials by the attendees concluded the evening, with all attesting to the importance of the fellowship of travelers of like faith and giving thanksgiving to God for the opportunity to do so.
Enjoying a bountiful harvest!
America’s Hometown Parade
When we note the wonderful providences of God, we see many in the founding of our Republic. From the freezing and wind-swept shores of New England came a people whose God was the Lord and whose descendants number in the millions. Noting the spiritual declension that began even as the second generation succeeded in farming and business, we view a steady erosion of the Reformation doctrines and practices that so animated the Founders. God has arrested that decline from time to time with awakenings of true repentance and faith in our nation. We pray for faithful Gospel preaching and those showers of blessing once again, as we reflect on our beginnings in Plymouth, Boston, and across the English colonies in the New World.
The Landmark Events tour of our nation’s capital is the most diverse and complex of all our excursions. It also involves the most walking. It covers, in one form or another, the entire history of the United States from earliest settlements (in paintings at the Capitol Rotunda) to modern times. Our teaching encounters all the nuances of our national history—commitment, compromise, conflict, and consensus.
Tuesday morning we began at Mt. Vernon, the magnificent site of the plantation of our first President, George Washington. We learned of his importance and true greatness as the one man who could lead colonial America to independence. We discussed some of his weaknesses and his attempts to bring those under a stern self-discipline. We discussed the Christian faith of Washington and the attempts to enlist him as a deist wallowing in the humanism of the Enlightenment. His passion for farming and taking dominion over the land was evident to all in the re-creation of his home and properties. A visit to Mt. Vernon is only the preliminary to returning there again someday to learn and see more of the man Providence chose to unite Americans under the Constitution.
The great architectural homage to George Washington soars into the sky over the city named after him. Unlike the neo-classical buildings to the other memorialized Presidents, the Washington Monument took the form of an obelisk, at the peak of which is inscribed Laus Deo — Praise God. With the elevator closed for repair, we could only gaze up, but could see it from almost everywhere we travelled in the city.
We rode in our comfortable coach from the Washington Monument to the Jefferson Memorial where we climbed to the portico to read the inscriptions delineating some of his ideas that transformed America. Col. John Eidsmoe spoke to us of Thomas Jefferson’s complex character and familiarity with the Christian faith. While his acceptance of Christ is somewhat doubtful, his belief in Providence and biblical ethics are obvious, contrary to much academic opinion today. Jefferson’s towering intellect and ability to articulate the ideas behind independence still amaze the world.
Most visitors to Washington, D.C. skip the modest statue in memorial to the Founding Father George Mason. Author in large measure of the Fairfax Resolves and the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Mason was perhaps the heaviest hitter at the Constitutional Convention. Because of the absence of a Bill of Rights, he fought against ratification but deserves much of the credit for their later inclusion. A devoted husband and father, a voracious reader and unbeatable debater, Mason is a man who deserves greater acclaim than he is used to receiving.
Tuesday evening some of us gathered for some discussion of the day’s events and other issues that arose. Bill Potter and Col. Eidsmoe answered questions on law and American history.
Wednesday greeted us with our first Metro experience, Washington, D.C.’s commuter rail system, which everyone survived and some really enjoyed. We began the day at the Newseum, a state-of-the-art, interactive and entertaining museum of how Americans get their news, now and in the distant past. Col. Eidsmoe gave us a delightful excurse through the First Amendment — a place where he makes his living. We then dispersed to explore six floors of displays, information, artifacts and news. From the 4D theater and the Berlin Wall, to the catwalk with Bernie Beal, everyone watched, interacted and enjoyed the history of America in black and white and living color as it came to Americans courtesy of the First Amendment.
A short walk brought us to the National Archives where we saw the supremely protected Declaration of Independence as well as the United States Constitution and other important documents. With Benjamin Franklin Gates (aka Nickolas Cage) nowhere in sight, we made the long walk to the United States Capitol where historian Bernie Beal gave us the cook’s tour of the various statuary halls, and discussed the importance of the various historical figures represented there, along with a lecture concerning some of the historical development of the Capitol itself.
We made the trek to the Supreme Court, a massive structure that in many ways symbolizes the architecture of Washington and the legal heritage of our nation. Dr. Eidsmoe held forth on how the court is structured and of the influence of Chief Justice John Marshall, whose court established many precedents in the early 1800s.
Across the street we entered the Library of Congress, the repository of more than 35 million books and many millions more of magazines, newspapers and miscellaneous documents. Bill and Bernie talked about the symbolism of the interior artwork and sculpture and the importance of the Gutenburg Bible on display. We viewed Thomas Jefferson’ library enclosed in beautiful glass cases in a remarkable special display.
Wednesday evening we again met to discuss aspects of the day’s adventures and explore other historical topics of interest to our group with Col. Eidsmoe and Bill Potter.
Thursday we boarded our coach and drove through the beautiful western Maryland countryside as Bill summarized the Civil War narrative up to September, 1862. We arrived at the Battlefield of Antietam and after a brief visit to the visitor’ss center, Bill talked to us about the early morning engagement of the two veteran armies arrayed across the verdant fields of the German farmers. We looked in on the Dunkard Church and then walked up the Hagerstown turnpike to the Miller cornfield. We heard of the sacrifices of the Texas Brigade on that part of the field and the stories of the 1st Texas. We rode to the Sunken Road and learned of General John B. Gordon and his wounding in the road cut. Our final stop and lunch overlooked “Burnside’s Bridge” where two Georgia Regiments saved General Lee’s right flank for hours against an entire Corps of the Union Army.
From Antietam to the Lincoln Memorial we drove for a brief look at the iconic looming statue of President Lincoln. Antietam had given occasion for the Emancipation Proclamation and the memorial to the later martyred President reminded us of the great sacrifices that were made in the Civil War.
The Arlington National Military Cemetery greeted us at the last stop of the day. We climbed the hill to Arlington House, the former home of General Robert E. Lee, and the bird’s eye view of the Capitol that that location affords like no other. To the Tomb and ceremony of the Unknown Soldier presided over by the Old Guard — always impressive and somber.
The evening’s gathering was the occasion to see the feature film Conspirator, concerning the trial of the accused accessory to the murder of President Lincoln, Mary Surratt.
Friday, our final day of the tour, began with a Metro ride to the Spy Museum, a most informative and entertaining museum of all things espionage. From there we walked to the series of War Memorials that grace the Washington Mall area — World War II, Vietnam and Korea. Bill and John talked about all three wars — their causes and meaning. The rains came down in torrents at the Korean Memorial the second tour, cutting a bit short our visit to the site. From there, most of the group toured various Smithsonian Museums. We talked briefly about how to view the artifacts and displays from a biblical perspective, with the realization that those who create them do so from some religious worldview, usually Darwinian and evolutionary.
Friday evening was given over to feasting and giving thanks at the historic toll house, Mrs. K’s Toll House Restaurant. We testified of God’s goodness and providential creation and care of our country as well as the abandonment of the founding principles in our day. Kevin sought to encourage all of us to remember God’s mighty hand and the certainty of victory for his people in history.
hey came from over fifteen states, California to Massachusetts, dedicated Daddies and their precious Daughters, enjoying one another, learning and growing in the Lord together and making new friends at the Father Daughter Retreat.
“Amazing time to get away with my daughter! The venue was terrific! The meals were first class! The time meeting likeminded dads and daughters who are in the same cultural trenches fighting against the world’s barbarians at the gates was so encouraging!” —Tim A.
We watched as Dr. Lew Sterrett transformed an unbroken colt into a useful horse through gentle, consistent discipline and reward, constantly quoting Scripture and drawing our attention to clear applications illustrated by vivid object lessons. Bill Potter encouraged fathers and daughters alike recounting the lives of Jane Guthrie and Cornelia Peak McDonald, two great women of courage and fortitude, while Tom Ford and his daughters gave us an intimate look at their family and God’s pattern of inside-out preparation for ministry and life.
“The Father Daughter Retreat was such a lovely experience!! My dad and I had an amazing time and loved every part!” —Carina L.
We were well fed with a delicious lakeside BBQ buffet on Thursday and a beautiful dress-up prime rib dinner on Friday. There were new friendships formed and old ones strengthened and plenty of dad-and-daughter memories made, including paddle-boating, canoeing and even a daddy-daughter round of golf!
“I thought the little touches such as candles, name plates, and gifts for the girls were absolutely wonderful and went above and beyond my expectations. Well done!! We will attend next year!” —Gary S.
After the retreat, many of us gathered for a mini-history tour, as Bill Potter inspired our girls with the story of Carrie MacGavock, Civil War heroine of Carnton Plantation.
The Lord was indeed gracious as He knit us together in a very special way that made parting ways on Saturday bittersweet. With full hearts and lots of hugs, we headed home, trusting the Lord to bring the increase from the seeds that were sown and watered.
Having just experienced the beauty, power and excitement of rafting the Colorado River on our Grand Canyon Adventure, Landmark Events historian Bill Potter offered this personal insight that we thought you would enjoy.
Dispatch from Rim World
hile lying on my cot a mile beneath the surface, next to a roaring river, staring up at the Milky Way, the thought occurred to me that everyone in a hundred yard radius was related to me through common ancestors who were floating in a boat when the Grand Canyon came to be. Most of us likely would trace our genealogy back to a man named Japheth, or for some, perhaps, Shem. In any case, God chose our grandfather Noah to ride above the greatest judgement ever meted out to mankind. A verse from the hymn, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise, written by a Free Presbyterian minister from Aberdeen, Scotland, Walter Chalmers Smith, also came to mind:
Unresting, unhasting and silent as light
Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above,
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love. (sung to the Welsh hymn tune Palestrina)
The canyons of rock layers bespoke of catastrophic judgement — base rock (“day three of creation”) piled high with myriad other layers of sandstone, shale and limestone, frequently coated or injected with basalt — lava. It all exudes an awe-inspiring grandeur that only first-hand viewing can convey. The record of the event of those days comes from the hand of the historian and prophet, Moses, as informed by God Himself. Unlike most ancient historical events, a geological record was left behind that even to this day is astonishing in its complexity, beauty and message. We were privileged to be among the few people who have ever lived to see such a wonder, from the river at its base, and ponder the majesty of God, man’s accountability regarding obedience to His law, and the justice of God like mountains high soaring above.
We rode in little arks of (mostly) safety but the greatest message of the Grand Canyon comes from those few people who rode in The Ark, who, by the shear Grace of God were preserved alive and who became our progenitors. Salvation is truly of the Lord who made the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.
Mark Your Calendars!
We are planning a return trip to the Grand Canyon August 12 -16, 2017. Details available soon!
Additional Pictures from the Tour
Cliff Jumping at Pumpkin Springs
Embarkation at Whitmore Wash
Enjoying the falls at the Travertine Grotto
Fun and Fellowship
Moonrise from my cot
Rim ranch to river in six minutes!
Side hike into Three Springs Canyon
Touching Day 3 rock and Noah’s flood rock simultaneously!