VIRTUAL MUSEUM An online collection of Stafford history and artifacts

Stafford Federal Census Numbers

An examination of the population growth in Stafford (below) in the ten-year increments of national censuses is always useful. Notice the population in 1860, prior to the Civil War. The departure of over 2,000 former slaves and destitute whites between 1860 and 1870 represents Stafford’s single greatest population decline.

Plans of the Patawomeck Tribe of Virginia

The Patawomeck Tribe of Virginia is planning to build a replica village and cultural center in White Oak, as 80% of the current tribe lives in that area of Stafford. The village will contain long houses and such things as dugout canoes in various stages of development along with interpretive signs.

Patawomeck Tribe is Reborn

For years the Patawomeck Indians of Stafford County desired to be recognized as an official Virginia Tribe. Due to the relentless efforts of its leaders, tribe members, and local Stafford resident and Virginia Speaker of the House, Bill Howell, their request was presented to the General Assembly in February of 2010.  

Gratitude for Resolution

Chief “Two Eagles” Robert Green wrote the following letter of gratitude in appreciation of the Resolution making the Patawomeck Indians an official Indian Tribe of Virginia:

With  the passage of House Joint Resolution 150, the Patawomeck Indians of Virginia are now the ninth formally recognized tribe in Virginia. 

Captain John Smith

Much is known of the Indians in Stafford County because of oral traditions and the writings of Captain John Smith.  In 1608, he explored Aquia and Potomac Creeks from the Potomac River. He visited the Indians at Indian Point in Marlborough Point as well as exploring the Rappahannock River.  

George Brent joins his Stafford Family

George Brent, nephew of Giles (I), Margaret, and Mary Brent, joined them in Stafford in 1673.  As a young man he was sent from England to reside with them “to learn how to live.”  He certainly accomplished this; he later became captain of the Militia, lawyer, attorney general of the Colony, and Stafford representative to the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg .  

Identifying Friend From Foe

Silver “badges” were presented to “friendly” or allied Amerindian tribes by British colonists.  They demonstrated friendship and protected the bearer from violence by colonialists.

Kidnapping of Pocahontas

While Pocahontas was at Indian Point, English Sea Captain Samuel Argall, decided this was the perfect opportunity to kidnap the Indian princess.  He was hoping this move would encourage Powhatan to free English prisoners. According to tradition, Argall went to Japazaws, “Ye King of Patowmeke,” and said if his wife would lure Pocahontas onto his boat anchored at the point, he would give her a copper kettle.  

Pocahontas and the Marlborough Point Peninsula

From the water, with homes hidden, the Marlborough Point Peninsula near the old Indian Point area, probably looks much like it did during the time of the Patawomecks.  There are two theories about Pocahontas being in this area during 1613.  Some believe that she was living with the Patawomecks and actually married an Indian named Kocoum.  

Native American Tribes in Stafford

From 2,500 years ago, tribal groups expanded in present-day tidal Virginia and in the Piedmont region. Hunting, fishing and agriculture provided reliable means of subsisting within evolved societies.  Two principal Native American tribes populated the area of present day Stafford, the Patawomecks and Manahoacs.    

Ax Head

Between 5,000 and 1,000 years ago, native-people tribal groups occupied the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay including the Stafford area. Subsisting primarily on small game and nuts, they migrated from hunting camp to camp. About 3,200 years ago the Woodland-period began.


Tracks of huge herbivore dinosaurs, such as this 60-foot long Astrodon, have been found in local rivers and streams. Not only was the Astrodon long, but it was as tall as a three story building.

Former Slaves Capable of Economic Viability

After situating the former Conway slaves in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Moncure Conway traveled to Boston.   He had speaking engagements along the way and visits with abolitionist activists Samuel Gridley Howe (shown above) and Julia Ward Howe (author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”).

Description of Stafford, its people, and Confederates

This Union soldier from the 95th Regiment, N.Y.S.V., describes some of the people of Stafford as well as some of the terrible things he heard that North Carolina Confederate troops did while they were in the county.

AQUIA CREEK, VA, May 21 [1862].

Soldier Letter from Stafford

This letter is written by a German-American soldier who was serving in Stafford overlooking Fredericksburg.  His letter, written phonetically, shows what the common soldier went through during this First Federal Occupation.

May 15th, 1862, Virginia Staford Co., Camp Near Falmouth

Dear Cousan,

As i have a fue lasur [leisure] moments to write to let you no that i am well at presant and hope that these fue lines will find you and all the rest the same. 

Former Slaves Join Union Army

One of the Stafford slaves that escaped was Andrew Weaver, a slave of J. Horace Lacy of “Chatham.”  He escaped in spring/summer 1862 and was later a soldier in the 23rd U. S. Colored Troops (USCT) Infantry Regiment.

Freedom-Seeker Honor Roll

For years Norman Schools (current owner of the Moncure Conway House), John Hennessy (chief historian of the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Park), and Al Conner (of the Stafford County Historical Society) have been gathering names of slaves who sought freedom.  The following list is constantly changing when new names are discovered.    

Path of Conway Slaves to Freedom

Georgetown, D.C. to

Baltimore, MD.  to

Pennsylvania to

Columbus, OH. to

Yellow Springs, OH.

The Gwinns

Conway brought this group of his father’s former slaves to Yellow Springs, Ohio, to settle in freedom.  Eliza and Dunmore Gwinn were the patriarchs of the group.  Eliza was mother of 19 children, 9 of whom she brought to Yellow Springs.  

Conway Slaves leave Falmouth

In May of 1862, after saving and securing the Conway House,  household-slaves Eliza and Dunmore Gwinn led a group of at least 42 former Conway slaves  north to freedom.  Some historians say that there may have been more freedom-seekers who joined the exodus and traveled north to Georgetown in D.C.,

Moncure Daniel Conway’s Account

“It had been long since tidings concerning my relatives in Virginia had reached me. A small parcel containing an old china cup and saucer and a silver spoon had been sent me from Washington at the request of a Union soldier who had saved them from the wreck of things at Conway House, Falmouth.

Solomon Northrup in Stafford

Prior to the two “Trail to Freedom” exoduses during the Civil War, Stafford’s Aquia Landing witnessed other fugitive slaves attempting freedom.  This slide, and the next two, will talk about three famous “Seekers of Freedom.”  One of those was Solomon Northrup, the subject of the movie, “12 Years a Slave.”

Succeeding in Georgetown, D.C.

Immediately, the Gwinns and the rest of the former Conway slaves established two businesses, a laundry and a bakery in Georgetown.  By July, they were making a profit when Moncure Conway found them.  He then realized that African Americans, if free, could make a living for themselves.  

Conway Colony

The Conway former slaves did well  in Ohio.  Moncure Conway, despite his travels to Boston and the United Kingdom, constantly sent the colony money to help them out.  Other family names besides the Gwinns were Hempsteads, Morgans, and Taylors.

A slave saves the Conway House

When Union troops entered Falmouth and marched along the King’s Highway (today’s River Road) a shot was fired. Not knowing if it was from the house or from the grounds, the soldiers damaged the lock and broke down the door. Finding an empty house, they searched each room.