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Colonial-era vault clue to Westmoreland’s past

Posted on Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

Submitted by Lynn Norris
Exec. Director Kinsale Museum

Many of us are curious about where local landmarks get their names. Some were assigned by the Native Americans. Others carry the names of early landholders or the places they emigrated from. Still others salute geographic features.
In the case of Vault Field, located between Acorn and Kinsale, there is actually a vault located on Route 602 that is the final resting place of Samuel, Martha and Jeremiah Rust, the last of whom died in 1731. Preservation Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula (PNNMP) and the Vault Field Winery invite the public to a re-dedication of the vault on June 9 in recognition of its discovery and in tribute to an important Northern Neck family.
Around 2007 when Keith and Joanne Meenan and their son Dan were excavating for the future winery building,  they hit something solid a few feet underground. To protect the brick structure, they moved the building’s location a few feet. When road names were recently created, Route 602 was named Vault Field Road. It is believed that the vault sat in an open field for years before being covered up.
As part of PNNMP’s ongoing program to identify and preserve historic places, this long buried historical site was uncovered last year by PNNMP and Vault Field Winery. The brick and oyster shell masonry structure is about eight feet square and three feet high. It was obvious that the top once was covered in brick. The vault is large enough to accommodate two or three persons. After a summer rainstorm gave indication that water was going into the vault, the top was covered in plastic and the whole structure re-buried.
At the brief June 9 re-dedication ceremony light refreshments will be served and the vineyard’s wine will be available. You may wish to bring a chair. A tour of the winery is available on request. Please RSVP to ewhite9159@gmail.com.
Historian and genealogist Edward White of Kinsale, President of the PNNMP, has guided this effort. Much of what follows is from research that will soon appear in his work on land holdings in eastern Westmoreland County.
The first recorded mention of this property and a vault was in a deed on Feb. 6, 1768, when Jeremiah and Frances Rust sold 100 acres to Fleet Cox for “£60 current money of Virginia.” The deed stated that it was the same property as the late Jeremiah Rust devised to wife Magdalene for life, after which it was to pass to son Jeremiah, the seller. It went on to say that all was sold “except the graveyard within a bunch of cedars where there is a vault.” The list of landowners bordering the property at the time makes it clear that this is the same land as the 96 acres the winery sits on today.
The earliest reference to the Rust family was in a 1661 court order in Northumberland County, referring to land owners William Rust and Anne Rust of Yeocomico, which is now in Westmoreland County.
William’s son Samuel (c. 1665-1718) owned various parcels of land within a seven and a half mile area stretching from the Potomac River to close to the county’s southwestern boundary. He and his wife Anne had seven sons and two daughters. The sons and their sons created quite an empire, acquiring about 3,000 acres in the area by the end of the eighteenth century.
In the early 1900s, the family left Westmoreland and moved to Old Frederick, Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax counties. Today, one of them is a member of the House of Delegates, and another branch of the family owns Rust Construction Company of Alexandria.
The area where the vault and the vineyard are located abounds in other historic structures.
Just across the road from the vineyard is Gilberts, built around 1846 on the land of the Rust’s eighteenth-century neighbors, the Gilberts.
A mile northwest is possibly the oldest structure in Westmoreland County, Elba House. Probably built by Charnock Cox (c.1675-1751) somewhere around 1690, Elba remained in the Cox family until 1963.
About a mile from the winery is another Rust enterprise, the old Rust Mill, which is in ruins.
Vault Field Winery is located on Rt. 601 near the intersection of Rt. 602.  The vineyard location is marked on blue and white state winery signs on Routes 202 and 203.