19th century

Gold in Stafford County

Gold in Stafford County

Gold was discovered in Stafford during the eighteenth century. In 1787 Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Notes on Virginia, “I know a single instance of gold found in this state. It was interspersed in small specks through a lump of ore, of about four pounds in weight, which yielded seventeen pennyweight [1/20 ounce] of gold, of extraordinary ductility.” This gold was found in Stafford about four miles below Fredericksburg on the north side of the Rappahannock.

From Pens to Pistols

Free Lance, Tuesday, March 6, 1888

VIRGINIA EDITORS IN A DEADLY DUEL

A Newspaper War Ends in a Tragedy—Ellis Williams Shot Through the Heart, and Edwin Barbour Seriously Wounded— [illegible]

CULPEPER, VA, March 1. — One of the most desperate and deadly shooting affrays that ever happened in this vicinity occurred here this morning, between Edwin Barbour, editor of the Piedmont Advance, and Ellis B. Williams, son of Governor Williams, editor of the Culpeper Exponent, resulting in the death of Williams and the serious wounding of Barbour.  Both are young men and their families are highly-connected. The cause of the trouble seems to have grown out of a newspaper article, in the shape of a letter, dated from Washington and Signed “Jack Clatterbuck,” which was published some weeks ago in the Piedmont Advance.  The letter made some sharp and caustic allusions to Mr. Williams, of the Exponent.  Last Friday’s issue of the Exponent contained a bitter article denouncing the editor of the Advance and all connected with it, saying the editor was more an object of pity than of resentment, and that he was not the principal, but was put up to it by someone else.  To day’s issue of the Advance contains an editorial in which the editor brands Mr. Williams as a liar, and further says that “his conduct in this matter has been cowardly in the extreme, and highly unbecoming a gentleman, of which class we shall no longer consider him a member,” and winds up the article in this wise “At times it becomes necessary for a gentleman to turn and strike the dog that is barking at his heels.”

The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine by Dave DeWitt

The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized Ame

The Founding Foodies, by Dave DeWitt, is an easy-going chat on matters historic and gastronomic in the Old Dominion and beyond. DeWitt dismisses some food writers’ contentions that colonial food was poor stuff.  Having attended Mr. Jefferson’s university and being thus familiar with the third president’s many accomplishments, he knew that this common opinion was surely an overgeneralization.  Jefferson, as well as Washington and Franklin, were trend-setters—learned men who easily absorbed and promulgated cultured styles of fashion, philosophy, architecture, and, yes, food, derived European trends, especially their French allies.

Besides these Founding Fathers’ culinary preferences, DeWitt also looks at curious historical periods of Virginia history where food, or lack of same, played a noteworthy role.  At Jamestown, the horrors of spoiled ships’ rations and the colonists’ inexperience with hunting and fishing made them very dependent on the native tribes’ shared knowledge. They did learn to hunt and fish which was well since the supply ship was delayed, nearly resulting in John Smith being hanged.  Desperate to turn a profit in the days before tobacco, the settlers took up fishing on a grand scale—thousands of pounds of salted cod to England and dried fish to Spain.

John Randolph of Roanoke

By David Johnson

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"One of the most eccentric and accomplished politicians in all of American history, John Randolph (1773--1833) led a life marked by controversy. The long-serving Virginia congressman and architect of Southern conservatism grabbed headlines with his prescient comments, public brawls, and clashes with every president from John Adams to Andrew Jackson. The first biography of Randolph in nearly a century, John Randolph of Roanoke provides a full account of the powerful Virginia planter's hard-charging life and his impact on the formation of conservative politics."
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An Account of the Freestone Quarries on the Potomac and Rappahannoc Rivers by B. Henry Latrobe

When Benjamin Henry LatrobePresident Jefferson's Surveyor of Public Buildings of the United States—needed local material with which to construct the nation's Capitol and other Washington buildings, he eagerly tapped a sandstone quarry in Stafford County that became known as Government Island.  His scientific comments on that geologic feature and others in our area were set down in this scholarly paper written in 1809, the same year the blocks of sandstone were brought to Washington by barge to be utilized. Today, the quarry at Stafford County's Government Island park may be seen by visitors who can also enjoy its nature preserve and trails.

Lost Communities of Virginia by Terri Fisher and Kirsten Sparenborg

Lost Communities of Virginia by Terri Fisher and Kirsten Sparenborg

You can find them on a map. Barely.  Little towns that used to be rather important hubs dot the Virginia countryside, dating from the days when agriculture ruled along with the horse and buggy or mule and wagon. These central spots, often near rail stations, rivers, or better roads, were communities in their own right and many have faded away as the interstate system grew. The Lost Communities of Virginia, by Terri Fisher and Kirsten Sparenborg, takes a look at these fading places, several of them near our area, including Mineral, Woodford, and Milford.

Fans of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café can relate to little Milford, situated in Caroline County and still located on a railroad line.  Originally the popular area here was Doguetown, named for the Dogue Indians who used the Mattaponi River for transportation. Milford, named for a nearby plantation in 1792, also used the river as a point for shipping—and inspecting—tobacco. The Mattaponi River was connected to both the York River and the Chesapeake Bay. By the early 1840s, the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad ran from Richmond to Aquia Creek with a stop in Milford. Milford’s North-South railroad connections made it a target in the Civil War. 

Military Education and the Emerging Middle Class in the Old South

By Jennifer R. Green

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"This book argues that military education was an important institution in the development of the southern middle class as a regional group and as part of the national middle class in the late antebellum years. It explores class formation, professionalization, and social mobility in the 1840s and 1850s, using this data to define the middle class on a national level, while also identifying regionally specific characteristics of the emerging southern middle class."

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The Confederate War: How Popular Will, Nationalism, and Military Strategy Could Not Stave Off Defeat

By Gary W. Gallagher

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"If one is to believe contemporary historians, the South never had a chance. Many allege that the Confederacy lost the Civil War because of internal division or civilian disaffection; others point to flawed military strategy or ambivalence over slavery. But, argues distinguished historian Gary Gallagher, we should not ask why the Confederacy collapsed so soon but rather how it lasted so long. In The Confederate War he reexamines the Confederate experience through the actions and words of the people who lived it to show how the home front responded to the war, endured great hardships, and assembled armies that fought with tremendous spirit and determination.

"Gallagher's portrait highlights a powerful sense of Confederate patriotism and unity in the face of a determined adversary. Drawing on letters, diaries, and newspapers of the day, he shows that Southerners held not only an unflagging belief in their way of life, which sustained them to the bitter end, but also a widespread expectation of victory and a strong popular will closely attuned to military events.

"In fact, the army's 'offensive-defensive' strategy came remarkably close to triumph, claims Gallagher--in contrast to the many historians who believe that a more purely defensive strategy or a guerrilla resistance could have won the war for the South. To understand why the South lost, Gallagher says we need look no further than the war itself: after a long struggle that brought enormous loss of life and property, Southerners finally realized that they had been beaten on the battlefield."

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Virginia at War: 1865

By William C. Davis and James I. Robertson, Jr., editors

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"By January 1865, most of Virginia's schools were closed, many newspapers had ceased publication, businesses suffered, and food was scarce. Having endured major defeats on their home soil and the loss of much of the state's territory to the Union army, Virginia's Confederate soldiers began to desert at higher rates than at any other time in the war, returning home to provide their families with whatever assistance they could muster. It was a dark year for Virginia. Virginia at War, 1865 closely examines the end of the Civil War in the Old Dominion, delivering a striking depiction of a state ravaged by violence and destruction.

"In the final volume of the Virginia at War series, editors William C. Davis and James I. Robertson Jr. have once again assembled an impressive collection of essays covering topics that include land operations, women and families, wartime economy, music and entertainment, the demobilization of Lee's army, and the war's aftermath. The volume ends with the final installment of Judith Brockenbrough McGuire's popular and important Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War."

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Westward Ho! Eleven Explorers of the West

By Charlotte Foltz Jones

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Biographies of: Robert Gray (1755-1806) -- George Vancouver (1757-1798) -- Alexander Mackenzie (1764-1820) -- John Colter (1774 or 1775-1813) -- Zebulon Montgomery Pike (1779-1813) -- Stephen Harriman Long (1784-1864) -- James Bridger (1804-1881) -- Jedediah Smith (1799-1831) -- Joseph Reddeford Walker (1798-1876) -- John C. Fremont (1813-1890) -- John Wesley Powell (1834-1902).

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