It ain't over 'til it's over! Every year kids and adults build up a head of steam for the Christmas holidays. Then the magical day comes and goes too quickly, leaving scraps of wrapping paper and half-munched cookies all around the house, as well as the nagging feeling that someone special has been left off the greeting and gifting list.
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!
Chances are if you are studying colonial times, your teacher will assign a hands-on project. You could make a model of the Jamestown Fort or a copy of the Declaration of Independence-but why not try a craft that the colonists themselves would have done?
Every colonial family except for the very rich had to be able to make their own soap, candles, furniture, cloth, baskets, toys, and musical instruments. Below is one practical craft to try. Scroll down and check our lists of books and Web sites for more ideas.
FREDERICKSBURG IN REVOLUTIONARY DAYS
We come now to the record of one of the most important of Virginia's institutions for the prosecution of the war: the manufactory of small arms established by ordinance of the Convention of July, 1775. The facts here presented are those discovered in files of correspondence at present in the Department of Archives of the Virginia State Library, Richmond. There are large gaps in the record of this manufactory: the books and papers of the director seem to have wholly disappeared, and we are forced to rely on the ordinance of Convention establishing this institution, a few subsequent laws and single documents for its history prior to September, 1780; but, from that time forward there remains the correspondence of Charles Dick, on whose shoulders rested the burden of keeping up this institution.
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.
Fiction authors sometimes begin historical narratives by announcing the discovery of a long-forgotten strong box in a dusty attic containing purportedly true accounts of times passed handily preserved for the modern reader’s enjoyment. T.O. Madden, Jr.'s We Were Always Free starts with just such a scenario, but unlike historical fiction, this is no ploy. The history unearthed is real and traces back to colonial Virginia when Mary Madden, an Irish woman, gave birth to a child of mixed race on August 4, 1758 in Spotsylvania County.
Because of the laws of the time, just as the mother was free so would Mary’s child, Sarah, be considered free, as would all of Sarah’s descendents. Mary and her newborn were first tended at the Collins farm in Spotsylvania, and the church vestry paid the Collins for their year of upkeep with 600 pounds of tobacco taken in tithes from the parishioners. In 1759, still being paupers, Mary was sent along with her baby, to the local workhouse where the poor labored to support themselves.
Lake Anna State Park is a favorite local destination for campers, boaters, and families who just want to spend a summer day at the lakeside beach. For most of us, the way to the lake runs down Lawyers Road. These days, there’s not much to take in with the view from this one-lane road, which passes through as quiet a stretch of Spotsylvania countryside as remains in the 21st century. But in centuries past, the western part of the county was the scene for tribal wars, slave labor, religious awakenings, whiskey barrel politics, gold mining, and Civil War armies on the march.
Follow Marlborough Point Road down to the eastern tip of Stafford County, and you will pass by lots of new housing mushrooming into the forests and fields that were once favored by both the Native Americans and colonial settlers. This section of the county is home to not just centuries of local history but millennia.
The Central Rappahannock region produced many of the men who led the fight for independence and fashioned the new American nation. Some are remembered, and afforded their due. Some, like John Francis Mercer, are not remembered -- but should be….
With steaming cups in hand, today's Fredericksburg area coffee shops continue a tradition which dates back three centuries to the founding of the town.
Walk in gentlemen, rest at your ease,
Pay for what you call for, and call for what you please.
This verse hung over the doorway of The Coffee House in colonial Fredericksburg. Read on for details of the Old Town's revolutionary brew of politics and polite society.