History Blog

12/02/2013 - 1:25pm
Quakers in Stafford County

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.

12/16/2013 - 3:53pm

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.

08/30/2013 - 11:36am

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.

08/28/2013 - 9:31am
The Fredericksburg Welsh Festival Poetry Contest, the Library, and Your Ancestor

Yes, there is a connection between the upcoming Fredericksburg Welsh Poetry Contest, the library, and your personal ancestors. Although it seems a tad far-fetched, it really is easy to see how the library can connect you to anything and anyone. Here’s how this connection works: since the library is a community center and encourages local groups to keep us informed as to their upcoming public events, we discovered that the Welsh Society of Fredericksburg is sponsoring a poetry contest as part of their upcoming annual festival this September 21. The deadline for entries is September 1.

07/09/2013 - 9:17am
The Year without Summer: 1816

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.

07/02/2013 - 3:00am
A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans

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.

05/15/2013 - 2:05pm

When the storm destroyed Union Church’s roof in 1950, there wasn’t much to be done about it. It had not been used since 1935, after all, and rebuilding a church requires a committed congregation. But churches are centers of the community, and during its lengthy, active history, Union Church was established as an important part of Falmouth’s past--and America’s, too. So, in an effort to preserve what they could, local people bricked up the narthex (the front of the church) to house a few things from years gone by, including a bell and a pew dating to just after the Civil War. What we see today is a slice of the original building, but that building has quite a history and what was preserved will soon be shared at the new National Museum of African American History on the Washington Mall.

05/05/2013 - 4:15pm

Now that the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville is upon us, it seems a fitting time to look at how the lives of a family of mainly young women were affected by being suddenly thrust into a war zone and how they were able to survive with the aid of an enemy officer. Sue Chancellor was only fourteen when the area around her home became a bloody battlefield. Their house, called Chancellorsville, was used for a headquarters by first the Confederate and then the Union army while the family continued to live there.

10/20/2014 - 11:54am
Crash Course in Genealogy

Genealogical research is a profession for some and a hobby for many.  With the advent of TV shows such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the multitude of resources available online, there are some interested novices entering the field who need a little help knowing where to start.  The following brief overview is for these beginners.

04/19/2013 - 7:40pm
Ruth Coder Fitzgerald: A Life Filled with Determination

“She was always very generous with her time and hospitality to me, and I loved working with her. She helped me with my walking tour as well. I have not been in touch with her over the past several years, but to this day whenever I give one of my walking tours downtown, I make sure that all on the tour with me are made aware that the basis for most of the information shared on the walking tour is the result of the great work and passion of one Ruth Coder Fitzgerald and her book -- A Different Story. In my view, Ruth was always a caring and powerful voice for the underdog, the ‘little guy,’ and her lifelong commitment to inform, to teach, and advocate for that particular constituent speaks volumes about her makeup, her sense of fairness for all, and her heart of gold. My admiration and love for Ruth, and what she stood for, is never-ending.”

--Jervis Hairston, former City Planner and local historian

On April 10, 2013, a highly-regarded pioneer in local African American history died at her home in downtown Fredericksburg. Ruth Coder Fitzgerald was well-known throughout the community for her historical research and writings as well as for her championing of an important cause for Vietnam veterans.

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