Blog October 6, 2022

Port Royal, Virginia: You may find Food Ghost, Antiques

Port Royal, Virginia: You may find Food, Ghost, Antiques 

Believe it or not, this sleepy tiny town of Port Royal is one of my favorite places to go.  We go there at least once a month and love it.  My favorite is Horne’s restaurant and gift shop.  This 50’s themed diner has wonderful homemade food and serves breakfast (all day), lunch and dinner.  The menu is pretty large for the size of the diner.  One may order Quail, catfish, salt ham, bean soup and other fabulously delicious food. 

Then you have the birthplace of James Madison (fabulous Belle Grove) and wonderful antique stores to visit. If you love history, you’ll love Port Royal. 

Port Royal is famous because it was once a nexus for international shipping, playing host to a bustling port that unloaded goods that were shipped from other countries.  Ships would sail up the Chesapeake Bay, up the Rappahannock River, and stop at Port Royal.  Goods would be unloaded here and then were taken by ground to other parts of the country.  The ships brought wealth to Port Royal, and with wealth came the construction of the homes.

When you visit Port Royal, Virginia, a treasure on the Rappahannock River, be sure to stop by one or all of our museums and to see the history of the area, buildings, and museum artifacts.

General Information

Port Royal is an incorporated town in Caroline County, Virginia, United States. The population was 126 at the 2010 census.

Port Royal was established in the mid-17th century in the Colony of Virginia primarily as a port at the head of the navigable reach of the Rappahannock River for export of tobacco, Virginia’s cash crop. The town developed along an early stage road, which brought passengers and freight for embarkation on ships at the river. It is near the crossroads of the busy modern highways of U.S. Route 17 and U.S. Route 301.

17th century origins

Port Royal is one of the area’s oldest colonial settlements. It was first established in 1652 by English colonists as a port at the head of sea-going navigation on the Rappahannock River. Waterways were the fastest and easiest method of transportation of people and property in the British colony of Virginia. It was an important point for export of tobacco, Virginia’s cash crop.

Local tradition holds that Port Royal was named after the Roy family. Dorothy Roy and her husband John owned a warehouse chartered by the crown, a ferry service across the Rappahannock River to King George County, and a tavern. In the 21st century, the chimneys of the Roy house are preserved landmarks in the town.

Port Royal was incorporated as a town in 1744. The “town green”, where the Town Hall and the firehouse stand today, was forever reserved “for public and civic use”.

19th-20th centuries

Shipping of property from the port began to decline after completion of competing railroads in Virginia, beginning in the 1830s. But the last scheduled passenger ship service ended in 1932, supplanted by highways. However, Port Royal was served by the new highways which became U.S. Route 17 and U.S. Route 301, with their crossroads at Port Royal.

Probably Port Royal’s most notable claim to fame is that John Wilkes Booth was killed about two miles outside town by Sgt. Boston Corbett, part of a contingent of federal troops, at the now obsolete Garrett farmstead on April 26, 1865. Booth had assassinated United States President Abraham Lincoln on the night of April 14, 1865 at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC.

Booth initially escaped through southern Maryland, fleeing to Virginia across the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. He was cornered in a tobacco barn on the Garrett farm at sunrise. Shot through the neck and instantly paralyzed, Booth died on the porch of the Garrett house, where he was carried from the barn. David Herold, one of his accomplices, was with him and captured at the Garrett farm. He was tried, convicted, and hanged on July 7, 1865 in Washington, DC, along with other conspirators.

Poet Judith Lomax lived in Port Royal for some years.


Port Royal is located in northern Caroline County at 38°10′11″N 77°11′27″W (38.169799, −77.190763), on the south bank of the Rappahannock River.

U.S. Routes 17 and 301 intersect just southwest of the town limits. US 17 leads northwest 21 miles (34 km) to Fredericksburg and southeast 27 miles (43 km) to Tappahannock, while US 301 leads northeast 17 miles (27 km) to the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River and southwest 12 miles (19 km) to Bowling Green, the Caroline County seat.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the tiny town’s total area in 2010 was 0.10 square miles (0.27 km2), all land. In July 2014, the county approved new boundaries, and the town quintupled in size to 481 acres (.75 square miles).

Visitor Information



Pamphlets available at The Port Royal Museum of American History

Tour the historic town streets lined with historic homes, churches, and waterfront.




March to December

Admission is FREE but DONATIONS are greatly appreciated

FOR SPECIAL GROUP TOURS call Carolyn Davis (804)370-5285



FOR SPECIAL GROUP TOURS call Carolyn Davis (804)370-5285



FOR SPECIAL GROUP TOURS call Carolyn Davis (804)370-5285



FOR SPECIAL GROUP TOURS call Carolyn Davis (804)370-5285

THE SACRED LOT, 1817 – 1883


The first known church in Port Royal was built here with a stone foundation and brick external walls. It was originally inter-denominational, but by 1844 it was known as the Methodist Church. Many years later the church was abandoned and consequently fell into disrepair. It was demolished in 1977 with only the burial plots remaining.



Belle Grove Plantation

Belle Grove Plantation, the birthplace of President James Madison, located in King George County Virginia, is now the home of Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast. This Historic Landmark was established in 1670 on the banks of the Rappahannock River. Belle Grove’s stately, historic mansion has four Master Suites with private baths and views of the river and plantation. Each room is named after families that owned Belle Grove Plantation through its history, and each is decorated in period antiques to reflect the period that family lived at Belle Grove. Gourmet Breakfasts and Delightful Four-Course Dinners await you in the formal dining room or on the riverside balcony.

Built in 1791, this Mansion offers the charm of days gone by. Here you will find the elegant wedding of your dreams or a peaceful retreat for corporate and social gatherings. With historic and local attractions within easy drives and award winning vineyards just around the corner, Belle Grove Plantation makes a great place to come home to after a day of adventure.

Just 90 minutes from Washington DC or Baltimore, 50 minutes from Richmond and less than a half hour from Fredericksburg, Belle Grove Plantation is a hidden jewel of the Northern Neck.

You are invited to come, sit back, relax and allow us to show you what true Southern Hospitality is really like.

Check their website for events, teas and booking a room.  I had tea there and it was a true English high tea and it was Superb!  The planation does host personal events such as weddings, etc. 

Last Item, Haunted?

Many guests and the Owners themselves claim that the house is haunted. The rumors of hauntings caught the attention of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters and they featured it in the “Dead Presidents” episode.

A total of 23 full body apparitions have been reported since March 2013. Most of these are Union soldiers who are seen standing guard at entry posts or walking in the fields. There are also two ghost cats. Visitors and staff have heard their disembodied meowing and felt them walk across beds during the night or even curl up on the pillow beside them! One guest claimed to actually see the cat and couldn’t believe it when the owners said that they had no cats. Ghostly faces and orbs with faces have been captured in pictures.

According to the onwers the more well-known ghosts are a girl dressed in white who stands on the balcony, an African–American girl in a yellow dress that wears a turban and is carrying an object and an apparition of a soldier that has been so clear that the owner could see the color of his hair.  “Back in September, 2012, our caretaker and his family were living in our quarters in the mansion as their home was without power due to an electrical fire. They told us during their stay, they woke up around 4am in the morning to what sounded like a rubber ball bouncing on the floor. It really scared them. To this day, the caretaker’s wife doesn’t like to come in at night alone. Just after this event, I started having ‘things’ happen during our visits to the mansion. (This was before I moved up in April 2013.) I had heard if you set down the ‘rules’ with the ghosts, for the most part they would follow them. So that is just what I did. My rules are as follows:

1. You can’t call or whisper my name

2. I don’t need to hear footsteps or door slams to let me know that you are here, because I know you are here.

3. I don’t want to see you because it can scare me.

4. If we have guests that are afraid of ghosts, we ask that you don’t make your presents known. We don’t want people scare of the mansion because we have to make money to keep the doors open.

5. If a guest comes and is wanting to see or talk to you and you are up for it, then you have our blessing. Go for it.

6. When I am in my room (which is in the mansion) and my door is closed, you aren’t to come in. I don’t want to see you standing in the room or wake to see you watching me. This is my space and I need to feel safe.

Since I made the “rules” things have really calmed down. For the most part, they seem to understand and comply with them.”

The Darnells had a medium come into the home in December of 2012. Her name was Laine Crosby and she claimed that there were two boys (twins) that were standing at a door. She told them to come in, but they claimed that they could not because ”Mama says we can’t play in there any more.” Laine also explained that the boys said that they were the ones who bounced the ball. She didn’t know what they were talking about, but Michelle did. The ball continues to bounce every so often in the second floor hall. There are reports of a boy named Jacob bouncing a ball in the house and I wonder if he is one of these twins. He is described as being mischievous in his nature and loves to move and even steal kitchen utensils from time to time. Paranormal teams have recorded EVP’s of Jacob in the Turner Suite which is one of the most active spots in the entire building.

Michelle also said, “In July, 2013, one of our guest, who had stayed the night told me that she had heard a woman’s voice on the second floor, where she was sleeping. The woman called out, “Twins” in a song like manner. We figured the boys and their mom were now hanging out upstairs. This morning, around 4am, I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep. I sat up for an hour and watch a little television to relax myself and tried to get back to sleep around 5:30am. Just as I got comfortable, I heard at the end of the bed, a rubber ball bouncing. I knew at once it was the twin boys playing. These boys have been a little more active over the last month. They have gone as far as to hide my kitchen utensils from me only to return them later. So I knew they were being mischievous this morning. So I called them out saying. “Okay, you know you aren’t suppose to be in here. Please leave so I can sleep.” Just after I said that, I heard a woman’s voice say, “Come”. So I guess the boys were called down by their mother and she got them out of the room.”

Michelle has seen soldiers countless times and said, “I saw four late one evening as I was leaving the house to go to dinner. It was just twilight, but I could still see pretty well. As I turn the corner of the walkway, there standing between me and my car were these four soldiers. Dressed as you would expect Civil War period, you could even make out their height and difference in looks. At this point I had seen so many, it had become common place. So I jokingly said, “Well you could have at least turned the light on.” The light is a motion detected light we have on the garage. We have two of them, one on each side. At the point I said this, I wasn’t close enough for it to turn on. But not a second later, the lights came on. Now they think it’s their job to turn them on. The last time was during a really bad storm that produced a tornado in the area. I was racing home to beat the storm. When I arrived at our white entry posts, the lights came on. I was over an acre away! I laughed and said, “Guys, I’m not there yet.” My husband said that he thought an animal could be triggering it. So on the way back to the house one night, just as we got halfway down the drive to the garage, the lights turned on. I looked at my husband and said, “See!”. There were no animals around.

The soldiers have also been seen by our overnight guests. One couple were leaving for dinner when they saw what looked like riding boots quickly crossing the driveway. They caught this when their headlights flashed around as they turned out of there parking space. Other soldiers we have seen – One standing guard at the white entry posts. He had a gun resting beside his leg as if he were standing at attention. Another was seen as we came home from dinner. As we drove down the highway that runs beside our property, I saw a soldier cross the highway and walk into our plantation field. Our plantation was held as a Union (Federal) headquarters from 1861 to the end of the war. General Burnside, General Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson have all been here.

One last sighting of a soldier happened when I first arrived. The next morning, I was up sweeping the formal dining room. We didn’t have any furniture at the time and I was just doing something to keep busy. As I glanced out of the formal dining room window, I saw a Union (Federal) soldier walking from the side of our porch along the outside wall area going towards the south side of the house. He had a blue shirt, untucked, black belt on the outside of his shirt, blue pants, a Union (Federal) cap with a symbol on top, no pack or gun and had brown hair that was shoulder length. He didn’t have glasses and he was walking with his head down so I couldn’t see his face!” Michelle says that she is not afraid to be in the house alone and feels almost comforted by the ghosts. Much of the activity has settled since the remodeling is done. And the Darnells feel that the ghosts are happy with them because they are remembering and honoring their past.

Southeast Virginia Paranormal Investigation hosted a ghost hunt in 2013 and reported, “On Saturday, in the Summer Kitchen, using the spirit box, Todd asked questions and was getting responses! He found that he was talking to someone named ‘Robert.’ ‘Robert’ stated that he was a visitor to the plantation during the Conway period. He also stated that he had died from being hung. He stated that he was hung by someone named ‘Edward.’ From what I know of the plantation and its history, I do not have any confirmation that anyone was hung here. But of course, things happened that were never reported or recorded.” They also had experiences in the Turner Suite using a ghost box. A man and woman came through. The Belle Grove website says, “The woman didn’t speak much, but the man did. When Todd ask if the man could see him, the answer was “Yes”. Todd asked if the man could see him all the time and the answer was “No”. Todd asked him what he (Todd) had on his head and the man answered “hat”. Todd started waving his hand. He asked the man what he (Todd) was doing. The man answered “waving”. Todd grabbed his vest that he was wearing and pulled on it. Todd asked the man what he was pulling. The man answered “vest”. When Todd asked the man his name or time period, the man would not answer.”

The Ghost Hunters caught evidence on their investigation in 2014 as well that seems to back-up many of the claims made by the Darnells and their guests. Jason and Steve heard growling, Tango and Sam heard a whistling noise and the team agreed that the basement definitely was haunted. Regular ghost hunts are hosted at the house and a Facebook page details their findings. It would seem that the plantation is not only famous for its rich history, but also for its plethora of spirits. Is Belle Grove Plantation haunted? That is for you to decide!