For over 200 years Chatham has stood on the high ridge above the Rappahannock River, a serene sentinel watching over the city of Fredericksburg. The house and its occupants have been involved in most of the critical events of Virginia’s history from the American Revolution through the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The design of the house bespeaks the elegance and dignity of the Virginia plantation era at its height. That dignity was sorely strained during the unwelcome Yankee intrusion of the Civil War; like the spirit of the war-ravaged Southerners, however, it emerged from the experience older, somewhat battered but none the less proud.
Kate Waller Barrett (1857-1925), gently raised daughter of a prominent Stafford County family, was confronted as a young woman by a heart-wrenching scene that played out before her in her home. It stirred her heart and propelled her into a public life. The humanitarian work inspired by Kate Waller Barrett’s experience led eventually to established shelters and services across this country and abroad known generally as the Florence Crittenton Mission.
Ferry Farm is best known as the childhood home of George Washington, though it has a history that predates the Washington occupancy.
Just up the creek from Aquia Landing was one of Stafford’s major industries—the sandstone quarries. Located on what is now Aquia Harbor property, the quarries operated off and on from the 1650s until the 1930s and provided building stone for some of the most important buildings in the nation, the White House and Capitol among them.
As America realized her independence, part of what followed was religious freedom and the chance to worship where one chose. Originally, Anglican worshippers attended a “Chapel of Ease” called Yellow Chapel for poplar wood’s color that was part of King George County’s Brunswick Parish. By 1825, the little church was in use by the Presbyterians who eventually built a brick church nearby, circa 1858.
Quakers were long associated with iron working and manufacturing both in England and colonial America. In the early 1720s, substantial deposits of high-grade iron ore were discovered around the periphery of the Chesapeake Bay. Several English companies sent groups of skilled and unskilled laborers to build bloomeries and furnaces in Maryland and Virginia. Chief among these was the Principio Company. Governor Alexander Spotswood recognized iron’s financial potential as well.
Beyond the 95 Corridor
Drive out Route 17 north from Falmouth, past the strip malls, the shopping centers and the subdivisions, and you’ll find that as the roadside gets less crowded, the scenery becomes more historic. In the 18th century, this corridor was more a place for pioneers than for fancy plantation owners, though there were a few of those, too. According to the book They Called Stafford Home, the oldest houses were mainly hewn of logs and did not survive into modern times. Between the natural aging process and the devastating Federal occupation during the Civil War, the Hartwood area saw and suffered through a lot of important history. It would take determined efforts in the late 20th century and beyond to preserve its place in the past and present it to future generations.
Twenty years before Jamestown was founded, over 100 women, men, and children came to Virginia to try their luck at starting a colony. They arrived on the stormy shores of what we know now as North Carolina. They were not the first to land there. Two years before, another group of colonists, all men, gave up trying to settle Roanoke Island and sailed back to England. The supply ships arrived too late to save the abandoned first colony, but they left behind fifteen soldiers to mind the fort who soon vanished into the wilds, driven off by an Indian attack.
This volcanic explosion was worse than Vesuvius, Mount St. Helens, or Krakatoa. When Mount Tambora exploded in Indonesia in 1815, it started a chain of events that would alter the course of global history. In the Klingamans’ The Year without Summer, the authors detail how the resulting clouds of ash led to disastrous weather conditions which affected communities’ histories around the world… and led to the birth of Frankenstein.
A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans, by Michael Farquhar, is a fascinating series of cleverly-penned essays on true-life characters whom you’ve probably never heard of but definitely are a part of American history. Meet Jack Billington, the Mayflower Murderer. Not all of the passengers on the Mayflower were sterling souls. He may have signed the famous Mayflower Compact, but Billington never kept his end of the deal. He was a foul-tempered wastrel whose son almost (accidentally and stupidly) blew up the ship on the way over and Jack had the gall to badmouth Miles Standish. For this he was bound, neck to ankles, at which point his bravado lessened considerably. But Jack Billington did not learn from that experience and went on to meet a knave’s fate.