VIRTUAL MUSEUM An online collection of Stafford history and artifacts

Progress can push out History

With growth, sometimes historic sites are removed. The picture here is of Doctor Stone’s home. Stone was Today, an I Hop restaurant takes its place. Look at the “Photo Gallery” to see other places that have been removed.

Higher Education

Mary Washington College opened a Stafford branch in the fall of 1999. It was specifically designed for mid-life professionals seeking academic degrees. It was originally called James Monroe campus. Later on, Mary Washington changed its name to The University of Mary Washington.

Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church

The Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church was organized in 1868, just three years after the end of the Civil War, by the Reverend York Johnson. Johnson, an ex-slave, and twenty-seven others separated from the White Oak Primitive Baptist Church. Originally it was called the Bethlehem Church of Colored Members.

Union Bell Baptist Church

On October 28, 1922, the Union Bell Church was organized. What started out as a lodge hall is now the driveway of the church. Gradually, the church members added rooms such as the dining hall. During the decade of 1978-1988 the building was bricked and a stained glass window was added over the front door.

Little Forest Baptist Church

Little Forest Baptist Church’s founding members met in homes or under a persimmon tree.  Led by Pastor Uriah Johnson, they finally built their first church in 1905.  In 1959 that building was demolished to make a road later renamed Interstate 95. 

Mount Hope Baptist Church

Mount Hope’s Sunday School gathered in 1877.  The church, itself,  was established in 1880 and originally worshiped at St. John School House near Brooke.  Land, two miles south of Brooke, was donated for the church.  In 1904, their cornerstone was laid and the church was built closer to Brooke.  

Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church

Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church was established in Ruby in 1870 by acquiring one acre of land that was purchased for $1.00. The first church was a bush harbor or shelter.  The second one was constructed of logs.  In 1894, a frame structure was erected.               

Mount Olive Baptist Church

Mount Olive Baptist Church, near Roseville, was the first African American Church in Stafford County.  It was founded in 1818 near Roseville by the Rev. Horace Crutcher and five other members.  The original place of worship was a slab wood shelter.  

Pontoon Bridges arrive late

This is a drawing of a pontoon bridge train on the road.  These trains were brought from Washington and traveled overland south toward Stafford.  At the Occoquan River, the water was too high, so they transferred the pontoons and horses to ships to complete the trip.  

Henry Box Brown

Henry “Box” Brown was a slave in Louisa County, Virginia.  He was saddened when his wife and children were sold to another master.  After that traumatic event, he had a “heavenly” idea to “mail himself to a place with no slaves.”  With the help of a white storekeeper, he shipped himself via a box to a Quaker merchant.

The Crafts seek freedom

Ellen and William Craft were slaves from Georgia who escaped and traveled north via train and steamboat in 1848.  They traveled openly.  She posed as a white male planter since she was a light skinned mulatto and he as her servant.  

Washington’s time with Union Soldiers

Washington’s own words describe his time with the Union troops in Falmouth:

“They [Union soldiers] insisted on my going up to their camp on the hill, and continued to ask all kinds of questions about the ‘Rebs.’ I was conducted all over their camp and shown  every thing that could interest me.

Washington, a “slave no more”

John Washington wrote about standing in Fredericksburg (at today’s Old Mill Park) by the shore of the Rappahannock River :

Very soon one, of a party of soldiers, in a boat call out to the crowd standing around me do any of you want to come over–Every body said “no,” I hallowed out, “Yes I want to come over,” “all right–Bully for you” was the response. 

Gateway to Freedom

The mass of self-emancipators launched on an uncertain journey.  Some took paid jobs as workers with the Union Army.  Thousands more moved northward by foot, wagon and rail, most of them boarding steamboats at Aquia Landing, Gateway to Freedom, bound for Alexandria and Washington, D.C.

Burial at Union Church

The previous exhibit talked about the “Skirmish in Falmouth” where Union soldiers were killed.  Escaped slave John Washington actually witnessed the burial of the soldiers at Falmouth’s Union Church.  He wrote, “…. very early next morning … the soldiers had a sad duty to perform.”   He realized that people were actually dying for his freedom.

Berea Church and Falmouth

After the skirmish at Aquia Church and Sickle’s antics at Stafford’s Courthouse, Sickles men withdrew from Stafford.  A larger Union force moved from the west towards Falmouth from Germantown, Catlett Station in Fauquier County.  These troops clashed with the Confederate rear guard near Berea Church on the afternoon of April 17th.  

The First Federal Occupation Ends

The First Federal Occupation ended in September 1862.  From April through September, slaves in Fredericksburg and surrounding counties realized if they crossed the Rappahannock River and went into Stafford they would be “free” in Union hands.  The following quotes from Major Rufus Robinson Dawes, 6th Wisconsin Infantry (in what became the Western “Iron Brigade”), reflect the perspective of the Union soldiers:

“Our camps are now flooded with negroes, with packs on their backs, and bound for freedom.  

Union Skirmish at Aquia Church

On April 2nd, Sickles and a large force of  “one thousand cavalry and 2,000 infantry” left Maryland by steamboat and traveled to Evansport, now called Quantico.  On April 4th, they headed south and had a brief skirmish at Aquia Church with “forty Texas scouts.”

Mt. Olive Baptist Church

Mt. Olive Baptist Church was founded in 1818 in Hartwood.  It is the oldest active black church in the county and up until after the Civil War, had a white minister because blacks, whether free or slave, could not legally congregate without a white person present. 

Newspaper Accounts of Skirmish at Aquia Landing

Even though no side came out the decisive winner, the Southerners had a different take of the engagement.  According to an article in “The Fredericksburg News,” dated June 4, 1861, the final result was reportedly limited to the death of a chicken and horse, the destruction of the wharf, and damage to part of the railroad tract and earthworks.  

Cipher Wheel

The Confederate Signal Corps and Secret Service Cipher Wheel was used by Secret Service operatives to encode and decode secret messages.  Phrases such as “Complete Victory” or “Come Retribution” were used as code keys to align encoded or decoded letters.

Oak Grove Baptist Church

Oak Grove Baptist Church in Widewater was founded in 1873 and is one of Stafford’s oldest black churches. Originally called Saint Ross Baptist Church, the congregation met in a log cabin until formal structures could be built.  It was the church home of Harlem Renaissance artist, Palmer Hayden.                     

Ebenezer United Methodist Church

Established in 1856, Ebenezer was one of the first Methodist churches in the Stafford community. This original brick building is located at today’s corner of Onville Road and Ebenezer Church Road in North Stafford. It survived, despite damage, during the Civil War.  

White Oak Primitive Baptist Church

The White Oak Primitive Baptist Church was built sometime between 1789 and 1835.  Still standing today are outbuildings consisting of a woodshed and men’s and women’s outhouses.  The property contains two cemeteries.

During the Civil War the church became the center, for seven months, of an encampment of Union troops.

Church of England

In Colonial Virginia, royal taxes and church tithes were paid through and to the Anglican Church.  Taxes were usually in the form of “hogsheads” of tobacco (shown here). Tobacco was considered “cash.”  There were two parishes in Stafford which recorded the taxes.