Stafford County (Va.)
Every year brings a lot of newcomers to the northern Stafford area. At first glance, they may see its many stores, wide roads, and convenient subdivisions. That’s modern Stafford, bedroom community to D.C. and Quantico Marine Corps Base. But Stafford County has a significant place in history, too.
Well-known local historian Jerrilynn Eby’s Land of Herrings and Persimmons is a tremendous volume that chronicles the county’s farming and industrial past, place by place, including Stafford County communities that were enveloped and lost when Quantico was established.
"I was born on the banks of the Rappahannock River. Taken Home to White Oak where I was raised and educated in the World's finest three-room university, White Oak School--now known as tribal member, artisan and historian D.P. Newton's Civil War Museum. Spent my time there with the other Patawomecks during World War Two getting lessons between the sounds of the big guns being tested at Dahlgren. They rattled the windows as the concussion came up through our Land. It was the sound of Freedom fighting back. We loved it. Attended Falmouth High and graduated from Stafford High. Graduated from a little Indian School in a place once known as Middle Plantation. Turned 78 nearly a year ago. Not much else to say, except, I am known as Johnny Mac."
The simple house of worship on White Oak Road, across from the White Oak Civil War Museum, has its historic roots in the separation of church and state and was a hub of Union Army activity in the winter of 1862-63.
Stafford County has a rich Civil War history including a naval battle, cavalry skirmishes, and Union encampments. Many of these Civil War sites can still be visited today.
1903 was a banner year for aircraft development, and Stafford County was on the bleeding edge of it. On December 17, Orville and Wilbur Wright had the first successful manned flight of a mechanical, heavier-than-air machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. But two months before that, on October 7, Samuel Pierpont Langley—with the blessings of Smithsonian—launched his design at Widewater in Stafford County. The only problem was, the well-funded flight crashed, dooming Langley’s dreams of being first in flight.
By 1900 the forests had recovered sufficiently from the ravages of the Civil War to support a lumber business again. Long boats sailed from Coal Landing to Aquia Creek, up the Potomac and on to Baltimore.
Between 1890 and World War I, wood provided one of the few available cash incomes in Stafford. The locals would cut what timber they could and haul it to Coal Landing by wagon or boat to sell for pulpwood. The stacks of logs waiting at the docks were often forty feet high. Because the docks at Coal Landing were fairly extensive, there were a number of fishing boats that worked out of here, also.
Aquia Creek would have so many tales to tell if only that were possible. The creek has been a vital part of the development of the county since Giles Brent established his home there in the late 1640s.
James Hunter (1721-1784) was the son of James Hunter, merchant of Duns, Scotland. His uncle, William Hunter, settled in Virginia in the 1730s and was one of the first Scottish merchants to settle in the Fredericksburg area. James was brought up in the mercantile business and soon began making business trips to Virginia during which time he also bought property here.
For over 200 years Chatham has stood on the high ridge above the Rappahannock River, a serene sentinel watching over the city of Fredericksburg. The house and its occupants have been involved in most of the critical events of Virginia’s history from the American Revolution through the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The design of the house bespeaks the elegance and dignity of the Virginia plantation era at its height. That dignity was sorely strained during the unwelcome Yankee intrusion of the Civil War; like the spirit of the war-ravaged Southerners, however, it emerged from the experience older, somewhat battered but none the less proud.
Ferry Farm is best known as the childhood home of George Washington, though it has a history that predates the Washington occupancy.