The Stafford County Historical Society
Stafford County: The County that Built the Nation
From tobacco to amphibious warfare techniques, Stafford County spans more than 400 years of significant contributions in the building of our nation. In 1608, John Smith first noted the abundance of the county where a century later George Washington would grow up.
During the earliest days of the county’s history, the great Aquia sandstone was used for architectural project with the best-known use in the U. S. Capitol and White House. Continuing to be quarried into the 1970s, Aquia stone may be found in buildings from Georgia to Canada, including in Harkness Hall at Yale University.
A resource of iron was discovered and brought iron works and furnaces – including the Washington family – to Stafford. These furnaces have been credited with supplying the Continental Army under George Washington with muskets and bullets, allowing the fight to continue to victory.
During the Civil War, Stafford was most noted for the winter encampment of the entire Army of the Potomac with Aquia Landing a major supply and transport center. In 1863, one of Abraham Lincoln’s many visits to Stafford included the largest troop review in U. S. history. During this period, more than 10,000 enslaved people escaped to freedom in a massive refugee effort through the Union camps.
At the turn of the 20th century, timbering and massive commercial fisheries helped build the nation. With a little ingenuity, local farms made Stafford the largest pickle producer in Virginia selling cucumbers to pickle factories both north and south through the Great Depression. During this same period, the father of the organic and health food industries, Jethro Kloss, conducted his first experiments with soy foods, including tofu, patties, and meat substitutes from his base in Brooke.
The history of flight took a giant leap when the U. S. Balloon Corps settled into Stafford in 1862. This was followed by Samuel P. Langley who chose Stafford County to test his unmanned flying machines in the late 19th century.
The newly created FBI and expanded Quantico Marine Corps base brought fingerprint analysis and amphibious warfare techniques to Stafford along with a host of high-tech businesses into the 21st century offering everything from solar powered buoys that track environmental debris in the oceans of the world to unmanned drones providing recon and rescue support.
All of these commercial and industrial accomplishments were essential to building our nation.
These are among the stories we tell—of people who discovered and created; who built through hard work and ingenuity the backbone of our technology and infrastructure; who forged iron, quarried stone, and harvested produce to nourish a growing nation. Stafford’s stories are America’s stories.