The history of Lofton County, Fruitland Memorial Park, and their connection with Captain Lee's first great love affair, all rolled up ... all rolled up with his official beginning to his second great love affair!
To get totally caught up on The Posture of Innocence, here are the prologue, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 3.5, day 4, day 4.5, day 5, day 5.5, day 6, day 7, day 7.5, day 8, day 9, day 9.5, day 10, day 10.5, day 11, day 11.5, day 12, day 12.5, day 13, day 13.5, day 14, day 15, day 16, day 16.5, day 17, day 18, day 19, day 19.5, day 20, day 20.5, day 21, day 22, day 22.5, day 23, day 23.5, day 24, day 24.5, day 25, day 25.5, day 26, day 26.5, day 27, day 27.5, day 28, day 28.5, day 29, day 29.5, day 30, day 30.5, day 31, day 31.5, day 32, day 32.5, day 33, day 33.5, day 34, day 34.5, day 35, day 35.5, and day 36!
Old Fruitland … 12 square miles of a 60-mile tract owned by the richest of the Loftons: General Joseph James Lofton, born in 1790. He had retired a brigadier general in 1840 – semi-retired, anyhow, for he would come out again for the Mexican War, and retain his berth at West Point until 1854. But by 1840, he had been rich enough to buy 60 miles of failing crop land, renew it, and make a great orchard – Fruitland, 12 miles square – of his personal residence. He had done this without ever owning a single slave. The prolific mathematician, author, and inventor had been blessed to be born right at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and to have a knack for business and in using his military travels to get those businesses positioned.
In 1840, General Lofton had freed all slaves on all 60 miles of his holdings, thus unofficially turning his land into Virginia's only free soil. Virginia had not been pleased, but there was nothing it could do. General Lofton was simply not going to be bothered – and was not even going to be bothered after his death, because his younger brother, Major Jonathan Lofton, inherited all 60 miles and kept it after the old rules – and then he had remarried to one of the richest widows in the whole nation – Rebecca Mae Slocum, heiress to three fortunes spanning the Atlantic – and they, ever after the first of the Slocum-Loftons, had left the whole thing in a huge trust that maintained the old rules.
The old major had lived until 1900, and his second wife to 1904. They had left a trust so endowed that it went on, and on, and on. Although Virginia eventually purchased the major's own slave-free plantation Big Loft, most of the old Slocum lands, and most of the 60 miles to make up Lofton County, Fruitland Memorial Park and its Veteran's Lodge on the western edge were still managed by the trust, in partnership with but outside Virginia's direct control. General Lofton and his brother were still having their way, 179 years after Fruitland had come into being.
People who did not fit into Virginia's rules had found refuge in Fruitland as soon as it was free, and General and Major Lofton had not only winked at it: they had encouraged it. They too and their sister Beatrice had been outcasts as children, cast out by their father and the children by his father's first wife and forced to return to the mountains from whence their mother had come. The rumor was that Myrtle Solton Lofton had possibly been of mixed blood, making her children also of mixed blood – but it was just as likely that young Joseph was not of the temperament that he could see murder done before his eyes. He had thrown himself upon a slave to keep that slave from being beaten to death, and had taken the beating himself until his mother had intervened. Such an act of defiance from a slave owner's heir was unthinkable. His mother had backed him up, so they had paid the price... but God had blessed that young Joseph, and he had paid it forward.
Not that General Lofton's record was perfect in such matters – he had come out of retirement one last time, lured into the Confederacy to train young men that he knew otherwise would be mowed right down. He hated slavery, but could not bear to see the generation of his grandsons mowed right down before his eyes by the North whom he knew had no more love for Black people than the South did, and who wanted to reduce the South to serve its own industrial projects. An accident had led to General Lofton needing to lead a retreat – one thing had led to another, and there he was with a whole brigade. Yet he had transcended that as well. At Saunders Field, since he was already dying, he took horse and started pulling men in both blue and gray out of the fire there, the only soldier on either side of the battle to volunteer to brave the flames. Other men followed him, and in total, more than 240 men in both blue and gray were saved. For this, history remembered him as the “Brigadier of Fire,” and his Confederate transgressions were forgiven and forgotten by the nation swiftly.
There were other rumors, too … that General Lofton's son had a child by a slave maid, a child who had lived hidden away with his grandfather at Fruitland for many years, and to whom the general had left everything outside Virginia – quite a lot! There were a big bunch of very, very rich Black Loftons around Washington D.C., and in New York. Captain Lee had met some of them because they invested heavily into Morton Technologies. They were quiet about exactly how they had gotten their money, but quite a few of them had huge ears, huge ears like the Lofton children born from Myrtle Lofton … so, perhaps the story was true...
Old General Lofton must have lived a very interesting life, for Fruitland to still have the old rules observed all the way into the 20th century, where a shy, runt Lee boy raised in the mountains had found refuge … and brought his Black beloved, Vanessa, to that refuge so they could be together in peace before they had decided, like many who had passed through Fruitland before them, to flee northward to a better life.
Yet before that had happened, the shy, runt boy had walked alone one day, in tears, madly in love with a girl that all of history in Virginia said he could not honorably have... a way would have been found for him to abuse and take advantage of her, for that had been approved for years in Virginia, but even as late as 1989, there would be trouble for a Lee boy, half Slocum-Lofton, in taking Vanessa Morton as his girlfriend openly, in route to making her his wife. Not that any of that yet mattered – he couldn't even get up the nerve to talk to her! Henry Fitzhugh Lee had been self-aware even at 15 – he knew what he wanted, and even how to get it and what it would cost … it was just getting over that first hurdle, and he had seen no way to do it … so he had walked alone in Fruitland, and prayed, and prayed, and prayed, every day for two weeks, until the opportunity his grandfather said would come at last came...
30 years later, the still-shy but also powerful while yet deeply wounded man that Henry Fitzhugh Lee had become returned to that solitary walking route, feeling as alone as he had three decades before, but just as sure that his Lord would hear him...
“Here I am again, 30 years down the line … I asked You to make me a fit young man for the privilege of being with the finest young lady in the whole world, and give me occasion when it was time, and You did. You gave, and You took away in Your good time … and I have never asked again, not in three decades. It hurt me so much, Lord, to give Vanessa and Henry Victor up to You … to be alone again in the world, having known what it was to have the family I have always wanted.
“Now I am entered upon middle age, having used the last 27 years in every way that has come to hand, and I thank You that You have permitted me to serve my country honorably in that remaining three years at West Point and Special Forces Training, then for the next 23.5 years in Special Forces, in JAG, and now in the Reserve and on Big Loft's police force. Yet I am now 45, and my days of being able to do the physical things I once did easily are coming to a close. I thank You that You have spared me all major injury, and that I am still in excellent condition, but I know it will be time to transition to full civilian life after the purpose for which You led me to Big Loft's police is complete.
“In returning to a full life, I must have a return to love … You know me, that I am not as strong as I present to the world, and to those I must lead … You said in an orchard, in a garden of fruit trees like this that even for a perfect man, it was not good that he be alone. I am nowhere near perfect. I cannot do this thing alone, Father, I just can't … .
“I love Magdalena Thornton. I have loved her for many weeks, and months, and perhaps from the beginning, when she was the one light in that dark office full of corruption, overlooked and mistreated and still shining, still doing her duty to You … when I learned she was my neighbor and I could hear her crying after work, and still coming in on time in the morning, doing her job with everything collapsing around her, holding things together until You brought the right man into that office, and then brought the man in that office to You. Like Vanessa, she is one woman in a million … a woman I could never, ever deserve, but please … please …
“Fit me once again, Father, please … fit this mind, so wrapped around protocols and procedures, to think as it must to be able to know how to love a woman, fit this heart to not operate in brokenness, but to be open again to give and receive love, fit these hands that have have shed so much blood to be gentle and loving once again, fit these eyes, eyes constantly assessing threat levels and tactical moves in everything and every person, to just see how beautiful she is … and to let her see that I see her as such in my eyes … oh, God, she is so beautiful!”
Oodles of curly dark brown hair, warm amber eyes, button nose, dark rose coloring – for Magdalena Thornton had been born Milano, and so was Italian by heritage – tall, ample figure – oh, yes, she was beautiful, and many men wanted her. Captain Lee had never been an exception to the rule, but he had simply shut that part of himself off as expertly as he had cut off many parts of himself off after Vanessa's death. He had determined to be a chaste widower, and for 27 years had not permitted himself even a date with the many attractive women that he knew. He had overcompensated for the fact he knew just how it would go if he allowed his passion free reign – he had immense desires, and upon his marriage had found that it was good that he had waited, because he was nearly insatiable, and would have had “baby mommas” every which way by age 18 otherwise! But after Vanessa's death, he had shut everything down again – an act of will even greater than it had been before he knew what he was missing.
So, for the first time in 27 years, Captain Lee allowed himself to feel the deep craving of desire that a healthy man tends to have for the woman he wants … he just stopped and endured it until it passed, and then returned to his prayers.
“I thank You, Lord, that You have not allowed me to be physically damaged … my body, at least, still has in it the capacity for love, wired for life before I ever learned to kill. But Lord, all the rest … You know I am a broken man … please, Lord, please refit me as a whole man, fit to take Magdalena Thornton to wife, and, if it be Your will, give us a child – she has lost her daughter and I my son, but she is still young … please, Lord, fit me as a father too, to her child, inside the holy bonds of marriage … please … please, Lord, make me what I need to be, and show me the way!”
Captain Lee was not on his knees – he was actually running, running the old path because the days were getting shorter and there was no time to walk it all before he had to leave for Tinyville. He came back to his car quite winded, temporarily exhausted … he had made a complete emotional, spiritual, and physical effort in that hour that had nothing to do with a military mission. But it felt good, and when he had recovered enough, he drove off, feeling at peace … he had finally said aloud all that God already knew was in his heart, and now, it was all in God's hands, the hands of the Commander Who would give him perfect direction for what was next.