As the Second World War ended the Northern Neck experienced its own share of the soaring economic trends taking place across America. An important aspect of that explosion was the increasing demand for waterfront property, principally voiced by Richmonders seeking weekend getaways.
In lower Northumberland County one response came with the development of Sandy Point, the peninsula bordered by the Great Wicomico River, Ingram Bay and Cranes Creek. The land had been purchased by F. R. Hillier who, in turn, had sold it to developers who platted out the building lots and began marketing them in 1946.
That same year Al Winston, a widower from Richmond, married Christine Rickman, originally from Nelson County, who later became the first woman president of the National Association of Personnel Management. Christine was a descendant of Dr, William Rickman, the Surgeon General of the Continental Army during the War for Independence, who lived at “Kittiwan” in Charles City County.
The new couple learned of the development at Sandy Point, came down to see the lots, bought one looking into the mouth of the river, and built a cabin-type cottage on the site. Later, upon retirement, the greatly expanded original cottage became their permanent home. Ironically, part of the enlargement included moving a modern log cabin to adjoin one end of the original building.
Had Sandy Point been an incorporated town, either of the Winstons would have been its mayor. Their cottage was a truly happening place, with family and friends coming and going, playing everlasting bridge marathons, enjoying bounteous crab feasts, as well as partaking of all sorts of culinary activities undertaken by Al.
His particular forte was preserving and canning the abundant summer produce that he either grew or purchased at local farmers’ markets. He only canned in pints, and each summer he would place an ad on WKWI saying, “Mr. Winston will trade quarts for pint jars.” I do not know what the level of response was, but as the ads continued, I assume it was favorable. He sold none of his handiwork, but rather enjoyed giving it to family and friends who came to visit. A guest left the Winston establishment always with a pint of something Al had made.
The Winstons thrived on the unexpected. When a friend found a newly hatched quail chick, they adopted the little orphan, and named him Herman. He lived with them for many years, and totally forgot that he was a quail. He lost part of a foot, but could hobble along, and he enjoyed company. Any visit to the Winston homestead was incomplete without spending time conversing with Herman.
Al and his first wife, who died in 1941, had a son, Alfred Sumner Winston III, and a daughter, Frances Warriner, who settled on the York River in Gloucester County. Alfred III was a prodigious researcher who specialized in genealogy. His magnum opus was a masterful rendition listing his family ancestors from 1666 through 1992. The volume was his life’s work, replete with the names, dates, marriages and descendants of every known Winston for over 300 years.
In his last years, Al experienced precarious health concerns and died in 1981 at the age of 83. Christine lived on in their cottage until she received a terminal diagnosis, upon which she planned her own living funeral, to be held under her auspices at the cottage. She said she wanted to be able to enjoy her funeral while she still was here.
What resulted was a jolly gathering of family, friends, neighbors and professional colleagues from her days in Richmond, with all of those present telling her of their esteem and admiration. The actual service that took place after her passing seemed anticlimactic.
Today, the Winston cottage remains in their family’s hands—happily continuing to host the traditions they began.