By Ruth Fitzgerald*
Blacks first inhabited Virginia in 1619. They came to the sparsely settled Rappahannock Valley long before Fredericksburg was officially founded in 1728.
In colonial times, Fredericksburg and Falmouth, across the Rappahannock River in Stafford County, were important centers of trade. The towns were considered the gateway to the mountains and the way west, and they also served as major seaports.
There have been newspapers published in
With Google's now infamous detailed photos, it's rather easy to see how a town is laid out today. But what about 50, 100, or 150 years ago? Where are the maps that show how the towns and counties grew through the years? One excellent source of information is the Sanborn fire insurance maps.
What was it like to live long ago when Virginia belonged to England? When there were no cars, no computers, few hospitals and no free public schools?
Without cars, trains or airplanes, people traveled by boat, horseback or on foot by "shank's mare". The reason so many colonial towns were located next to rivers is that often the roads were terrible seas of mud. It was so much easier to travel on the rivers!
In antebellum Fredericksburg, the Knox family was rather well-off and respected by their community. The family home at 1200 Princess Anne Street, now the Kenmore Inn, was nigh unto their house of worship at St. George’s Episcopal Church. They ran a successful business and had a pleasant life filled with many luxuries.
Yet by the time the Civil War was over, sons Robert and James Knox had experienced the dire consequences of battle from trench to prison camp. The rest of the family, forced to evacuate the Fredericksburg several times, learned to live as refugees and take care of themselves as well as the people they met.
From The Fredericksburg News, Thursday, January 10, 1878
THE ICE HARVEST is a large one, and the business activity of the past few days to gather it in, has been a stirring scene on our wintry streets. Men and horses, waggons and carts, have improved the fleeting hours in the most rapid manner and the rumble of wheels over the icy ground has been unceasing from morning till night. Mr. A. P. Rowe's pond has furnished a large amount of excellent ice, about five inches thick, and all the Ice houses in town and country will be filled with this indispensable luxury, of home production this Season.
From the Central Rappahannock Regional Library
- A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania, Virginia by Ruth Coder Fitzgerald.
- These chapters are of particular interest: Chapter 2, Occupations and Owners (Antebellum period) and Chapter 13, Occupations (post-Civil War).
- Economic Challenge and Mercantile Enterprise in a Southern Urban System: A Case Study of Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1835-1880 by Keith Edward Littlefield.
- A doctoral dissertation written under the auspices of the University of Maryland, Graduate Studies in Geography. 380 pages.
- Fifty Years of Service in the Printing Business, 1894-1944: Fiftieth Anniversary, May 10th, 1944 by Robert A. Kishpaugh.
- Mr. Kishpaugh noted important local dates in the city's history in his 31-page book.
- Four Mayors of Fredericksburg: An Oral History collected by Archer Williams.
- Mayors Cowan, Rowe, Cann, and Davies recall the events of their administrations in 20th-century Fredericksburg.
- Spotswood's Iron by Ralph C. Meima.
- Alexander Spotswood's blast furnace was an important early step for industrialization in the Virginia Colony.
- Fredericksburg Business Directories
- The library has the 1852 directory (photocopies) and the 1888-89 directory (combined with Alexandria). The 1892, 1910 (copied), and 1921 directories are also available. CRRL has a run of directories from 1938 to the present with the exceptions of 1957, 1960, 1963, and 1988 which are missing.
- The Fredericksburg Fire of 1807 by Edward Alvey, Jr.
- The 1807 fire destroyed six city blocks, including 45 homes, plus warehouses and stores.
- The Fredericksburg Times.
- This local magazine often featured articles by local historians. A separate index is available.
- The Fredericksburg Wood Working Plant by Peter Pockriss.
- Built in 1896 and shut down in 1904, the wood working plant produced milled lumber and house trim for orders that were shipped as far as New York City and Boston. It was adjacent to the old Bridgewater Mills, near Amaret Street.
- The Free Lance-Star Historical and Industrial Number: Portraying the Glorious Past and Future Possibilities of Fredericksburg, Virginia (1907) edited and compiled by Albert E. Walker.
- This intriguing glimpse into Fredericksburg's industrial past is complete with photos. An index, compiled by Robert Hodge, is available separately.
- Historic Fredericksburg by Oscar H. Darter.
- A 55-page account, written in the 1950s, by a local historian and college professor. Each year, the University of Mary Washington's history department gives a scholarship in honor of Dr. Darter’s memory.
- History of Fredericksburg, Virginia by Alvin T. Embrey.
- A history written in the 1930s that includes biographical notes.
- The History of the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia by S.J. Quinn.
- This lengthy 1908 history is often affectionately referred to as "Quinn." Also available online.
- The Journal of Fredericksburg History.
- Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc.'s annual, illustrated, and scholarly volume.
- Oral History Index, 1997-1999 indexed by Ruth Coder Fitzgerald.
- An index to Historic Fredericksburg Foundation's oral history project. Click here for a listing of titles.
- Reference Materials for Historic Preservation 463 Laboratory in Museum Design and interpretation compiled by John N. Pearce, Tad Czyzewski and Kathy J. Beard.
The Industries of Fredericksburg, c1720-1996
Fredericksburg Business Data
City/Battlefield Industrial Park (Fredericksburg Industrial Park)
Fredericksburg Businesses: Major Employers
Fredericksburg: All Businesses, by Street
Documents relating to the creation of an exhibit with the working title, "Industrial Fredericksburg," at the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center
Major headings from A History of Technology, Volumes III, IV, and V, and from Technology and Society in Twentieth Century America
From the Central Rappahannock Regional Library
- America's Forgotten Architecture by Tony P. Wrenn and Elizabeth D. Mulloy.
- This book teaches how to look for architectural beauty in old buildings which may have been forgotten and whose loveliness deserves to be preserved. It features crisp black and white photos from across America. The authors explain early architectural styles and define preservation terms. Wonderful for browsing.
In the summer of 1910, hundreds of electric lights shed their radiance on the Rappahannock River for the opening of Casino Island Park.
We were recently interviewed for possible inclusion in a book about word-of-mouth-marketing. The authors are intrigued with how we market our library services and resources not just to our patrons, but also to our funding organizations, other libraries, and other organizations. For example, staff have used free software programs to create a video entitled "Who Needs the Public Library?," which you can view on YouTube in our crrlvideo "channel."