History Feature Articles
In the summer of 1910, hundreds of electric lights shed their radiance on the Rappahannock River for the opening of Casino Island Park.
At times, a sense of things past seems to envelop tourists and residents who stroll quietly along Fredericksburg streets at twilight or drive through a countryside still scarred by the battles of the Civil War. Some swear that more than a general sense of the history of the place overwhelms them. At twilight, at midnight, or even at high noon, specters and shades of those whose place this was may return to their homes and habits to pray, to flirt, to dine, and to stroll, to fire their rifles and march in formation, or lie wounded in hospital beds, wearing uniforms of gray or blue.
In August of 1889, C. W. Wilder of New York and George F. Wheeler of Baltimore were introduced by J. R. Clarke of Baltimore, owner of the Fredericksburg Water Power Company, to the Corporation Council of Fredericksburg.
In return for the donation of an acre of land and exemption from city taxes for a period of ten years, the men agreed to construct and put into operation within six months a silk factory that would employ up to 200 girls and women from age 15 upward. It was also understood that they would enlarge the works when the opportunity demanded.
In 1883 Charles E. Hunter, an industrious Fredericksburg foundryman, purchased what was then known as Beck's Island just below the dam in the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg.
In July, 1872 it was reported an enormous serpent, supposed to be a python, anaconda or boa constrictor, escaped from a traveling menagerie. Its body was said to be the thickness of a lamp post, and it had been seen in the meadow below the papermill (today's water treatment plant). It had also been seen in the trees overhanging the water at Beck's Island, and "we may soon expect to hear of the disappearance of the boys who go bathing" there.
When Christmas morning dawned in December of 1862, the sun rose over the battered town of Fredericksburg. Once a bustling colonial port, more recently a pleasant stop for travelers by coach and boat, on this day, the little town lay in ruins. And, if the brick and mortar firmaments suffered such catastrophic damage, what of the flesh and bone of the human armies that had battled there mere weeks before? What became of the wounded who survived the first days of battle?
Brilliant, Beautiful Light!
On May 24, 1852, the General Assembly of Virginia passed an act incorporating the Fredericksburg Gas Company. This act authorized William Hargrave White to sell stock at $50 per share to raise not less than $15,000 nor more than $100,000 to be used for the purchase of up to three acres of land for the construction and operation of a works to manufacture, from bituminous coal, gas to be distributed and used for private illumination.
As the first Germania Mill blazed, local artist Gustavus Erickson captured the fury of the flames. Earlier, he had painted the conflagration at the woolen factory. The painting was given by Mrs. Frances Jones in memory of Charles Seddon Latham and William Deacon Latham, both Gustavus Erickson paintings are owned by the Fredericksburg Museum and Cultural Center.
Travelers who take a turn off of busy Route 1 near Aquia Harbor find themselves viewing a living monument to colonial Virginia's past. Protected from the surrounding sprawl by its location, nestled on a hilltop surrounded by trees, this beautiful church dates to the decades before the Revolutionary War. Its long and sometimes difficult history--preserved in bricks, stone, and written memories, includes tales of preachers, firebrands, soldiers, and star-crossed lovers.
He was a great leader, an inspiring general, and a reluctant president who was fully aware that his public identity would become the country's solace during the difficult times of crafting a new nation. His careful silences may have contributed to his social and political success, but they did not entirely satisfy a populace who desired an icon of such moral superiority that Parson Weems' largely fabricated Life of Washington was a bestseller for years.