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.
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.
The will of Captain C Wistar Wallace, who died May 20, 1907, left $15,000 to the City of Fredericksburg for the purpose of establishing a public library (See November 1985 Times Magazine.) The will stipulated how the money was to be used and provided for certain conditions to be met.
When Dr. Edward Alvey, Jr., died at the age of 97 on July 11, 1999, generations of Mary Washington College students remembered him as their beloved Dean.
They -- and generations of Fredericksburgers -- also remembered him as a writer and historian who illuminated the life and times of our area.