by Henry Lane Hull
The three great resources of the Northern Neck are the water, the land and history. In the latter category, the three most important contributors are George Washington’s Birthplace, Stratford Hall Plantation and Christ Church. Since the founding of the Foundation for Historic Christ Church in 1958, the building has been conserved and its attendant history has been explored and studied, thereby significantly enhancing our knowledge of far more than the background of the church itself.
Over the last two decades much of the credit for that advancement may be attributed to the work of Robert Teagle, who has furthered both the study of the church’s past and its interpretation in a wide and diverse arena of contexts. Robert is truly one who understands the dynamism of tradition and has spent his professional life in working to make history as real to all whom he meets as it is to himself.
Robert is from Gloucester County, where he still lives with his wife and two children, commuting each day over the Rappahannock to Christ Church for his work as the Foundation’s education director and curator. He majored in history as an undergraduate at The College of William and Mary, following which he earned a Master of Arts in American history from Virginia Tech. He is one of three sons, another of whom teaches high school history, hence one can say that history runs in their family.
One of Robert’s most far-reaching engagements has been his establishment of the Hands-on History Days at Christ Church. They are programs that afford school children the opportunity to experience the reality of history in their lives. The program allows the students to interact with the past, thereby making it a reality in their lives. They learn how bricks were made, buildings constructed and life proceeded in colonial times. Our family first came to know Robert many years ago when my Good Wife and I enrolled the two B.E.s in the program. Those sessions motivated them to learn more about the past and I am sure were contributing factors in leading the Elder B.E. to major in architectural history in college and graduate school.
As a research scholar Robert’s work is impeccable. He undertakes his investigations with enthusiasm and resolve, leaving nothing unexamined in pursuing his objective to make the past alive once again. He has worked with other museums and repositories in sharing exhibits and hosting events that expand their own horizons based upon the foundation work done at Christ Church. As a result, the broader history of the Northern Neck has come to be understood and appreciated well beyond the boundaries of our local environs.
Oral history has been another means of expanding the limits of historical inquiry. Robert has organized sessions for individuals to come and be interviewed about their memories of Christ Church before the Foundation was established. The church continues to hold many mysteries, such as the non-perpendicular angle of the Carter tombs behind the rear wall and the on-going interest in David Miles, who rated burial in the place of honor beneath the crossing of the aisles.
Robert has worked to extend both the historians’ and the visitors’ appreciation of the value of Christ Church to our understanding of the history of the Northern Neck. His enthusiasm for his work is obvious and contagious. Thanks to him, we know more and many are motivated to know more still. Monday being Robert’s birthday makes the present a good time to thank him for what he has done for the past, for he genuinely understands the historical continuum between what has gone before and what is yet to come.
Happy Birthday, Robert! “Ad multos!”