Historical Figure of the Week

William S. White was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the only son of Capt. Chester B. and Fannie W. White. After graduating from college, he taught school for a few years before commencing the study of law in the office of his brother-in-law, Judge John Tackett Goolrick. He was admitted to the bar in 1875 and practiced with Judge Goolrick for several years. When Goolrick bought a local newspaper and renamed it The Recorder, he placed William in charge of the editorial department. At about this same time, John B. T. Suttle died and the position of Commonwealth’s Attorney for Stafford County, Virginia became available. White was appointed to this position, took up residence near Stafford Courthouse, and won the subsequent election. A newspaper notice stated, “Mr. W. S. White, who was appointed Commonwealth’s Attorney of Stafford county to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of the late Judge Suttle, and who, we learn will be a candidate for the position at the election in May, has moved from Fredericksburg to Stafford Court House” (Fredericksburg Star, Jan. 17, 1885). William served as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Stafford from 1884 to 1894.

After ending his term in Stafford, William moved back to Fredericksburg and renewed his activity at the newspapers, first with the Free Lance and then with the Fredericksburg Star. He was part owner of the latter when he died. William was one of the original members of the Battlefield Park Association and was chairman of the Battlefield Park Commission. In 1896 he was elected mayor of Fredericksburg and was president of the Virginia Press Association (Free Lance, Nov. 27, 1897).

In 1891 he married Helen (Sibley) Stokes (1841-1911).

William J. Wallis was the son of Alfred Wickliffe Wallis (1823-1894) who came to Stafford County, Virginia around 1870 from Canada. The family settled on Windsor Forest, the old Downman family farm on the southwest side of Garrisonville Road (Route 610) between Joshua Road (Route 643) and Rock Hill Church Road (Route 644). The eastern part of this farm is now a subdivision by the same name, but the house, which survives, is now surrounded by Willowmere Park off Mountain View Road (Route 627). On July 21, 1893 William J. Wallis became a U. S. citizen in the Stafford Court. He was a member of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors from 1894-1896.

Abram H. Van Doran was born in New York. In 1850 he married Rachel Schenck (1821-1866) and came to Stafford shortly thereafter. He purchased land on the Warrenton Road (U. S. Route 17) not far from its junction with Poplar Road (Route 616). He called his farm Peach Lawn and Peach Lawn Drive (Route 749) is all that remains. In 1867 Abram Van Doran was Overseer of the Road “from Accokeek run to the Court House.” Abram left Stafford sometime after 1880. For him to have been overseer of the road from Accokeek Run to the courthouse suggests that he was living in that area at this time.

Thomas N. Towson was the son of Thomas Towson (1774-1861) and Eleanor Norman (1782-1848) of Stafford County, Virginia. In 1843, he married Mary Frances Smith (1824-1895) of Fauquier County, Virginia and they resided in William W. Robertson’s old stone house located between Garrisonville and Courthouse Roads in Stafford. Thomas inherited a freestone quarry from his father, but he died shortly after his father. His estate inventory included 1 jackscrew, 1 pair of quarry wheels, wedges, sledge hammers, picks, and 1 sawmill and fixtures. The total value of his estate was $1,570.95.

Herbert Minor Tolson (1856-1936) was the son of James E. Tolson (c.1795-c.1867) and Anne E. Hickerson (c.1827-1897) of Stafford County, Virginia. He married Virginia Page Johnson (1855-1926) and lived at Stafford Store in the northern part of the county. In 1895 and 1896, Herbert M. Tolson taught school at Chappawamsic School. He served as the county’s Commissioner of the Revenue from 1895 to 1898 and from 1910 to 1924. He died of a stroke.

James B. Templeman was the son of Edward and Setha Templeman of Stafford County, Virginia. He married Louisa Holmes (1830-1900) and resided on a 100-acre farm called Hopewell. This tract adjoined modern Lake Arrowhead subdivision. James was a member of Rock Hill Baptist Church where he served as clerk. He died of consumption. His obituary appeared in the same issue of the newspaper as did a brief article about the home of Mrs. James B. Templeman being destroyed by fire (Fredericksburg Star, Feb. 17, 1892).

James L. Taliaferro lived near Potomac Run in Stafford County, Virginia. He was a Confederate veteran and was shot in the leg “which made him a cripple the remainder of his life.” In 1868, James purchased from John Moncure a tract of land “near Potomac Run Bridge, for the purpose of establishing a vineyard on a large scale, as he is well assured that no section of the country can surpass that portion of Virginia in grape growing” (Native Virginian, Nov. 27, 1868). James was a Judge of Elections for the Brooke Precinct in 1885. He died in 1904.

John O. Tackett was one of four known children of Charles Addison Tackett (1814-1896) of Stafford County, Virginia. The first of this interesting family to come to the New World was Lewis Tacquitt, a French Huguenot who settled on Cedar Run (now Fauquier County) just below Broad Run. Sometime prior to 1872, John O. Tackett commenced running a stable on the Stafford Courthouse lot to care for the horses ridden or driven to court. From 1871 to 1875, he was Clerk of the Circuit Court. In Stafford, the Tackett family owned and operated Tackett’s Mills on the upper part of Aquia Run. For years, this local landmark provided a place to have grain ground, a store that carried many necessities, a lumber mill, post office, and a school. Tackett’s Mill was long the center of the upper Aquia Run community. In the late twentieth century, the surviving iron gearing from the mill was dismantled, moved, and reassembled in a shopping center at Lake Ridge in Prince William County, Virginia. John O. Tackett was a minister and was buried in the Tackett-Burroughs family cemetery near Remington in Fauquier County.

Joseph F. Swetnam (1835-1892) was the son of John A. Swetnam (1792-1854) and Sarah Sanford (c.1811-after 1893) of Stafford County, Virginia. Joseph married Araminta Carneal (1846-1919) and lived for some years at Locust Grove near the junction of Sanford Drive (Route 670) and Greenbank Road (Route 656). Prior to the War Between the States, Joseph was employed as a clerk in Fredericksburg. During the war, he served with the Fredericksburg Artillery. Some years after the close of the war, he moved to Richmond, Virginia. In 1868, Joseph was overseer of the road “from Pedens Gate to Falmouth in the place of Abram Van Doran removed from the County.”

Broaddus Sullivan married Virginia Roberson of Stafford County, Virginia. In 1896, the Stafford Clerk of Court wrote, “Whereas the Bridge erected by the County over Potomac Run is in imminent danger of being destroyed by the back-water caused by the heavy driftwood &c, which has clogged the Run in the vicinity of said Bridge & demands immediate [sic], it is ordered that Broaddus Sullivan, overseer of the said road leading to said Bridge, shall proceed at once to clear out said drift and relieve said clogging & protect said Bridge at the least possible cost” (Stafford County Court Minutes, 1887-1898, pp. 467-468).

Edward L. Sterne was the son of Charles Montgomery Sterne (1827-1901) and lived at Roseville, Stafford County, Virginia. A newspaper announced, “Mr. E. L. Sterne, of Stafford, raised a cucumber from some seed sent him from Bakersfield, California by his friend, L. H. Jones, which measured 3 1/2 feet in length and 9 inches in circumference. This will be hard to beat” (Free Lance, Aug. 11, 1904). In December 1914, Edward paid $200 for a Trayser piano (Stafford Contracts 6). Edward L. Sterne was a trustee of the schools in the Rock Hill District from 1897 until at least 1913.

Richard Mason Shelton was the son of Gustavus Shelton and Lucinda Pates of Stafford County, Virginia. He ran a livery stable at Stafford Courthouse where people coming to court could leave their horses to be fed, watered, and cared for. He also pleaded cases in court and served as attorney for some Stafford residents who submitted applications to the Southern Claims Commission after the Civil War. Richard married Eliza E. Shackelford (born c.1827). During the Civiil War, Richard M. Shelton was a Unionist and served as a guide for Federal troops. He spent part of the war in Washington where he had a job with the government. He lost property to both sides, the Confederates taking from him 2 horses, a gun, a drum, “& sundry articles.” The Union took vegetables from his garden, cordwood, fowls, and livestock. He submitted an application to the Southern Claims Commission asking for a reimbursement of $500 for his losses. Despite clearly being a Unionist, the commission granted him only $219. In his application, he deposed that he had been a drum major in the Stafford County militia prior to the war, but resigned on the day of the vote regarding secession. Two days prior to the vote, his militia captain, Aquilla Randall, told him that any man who voted against secession would have his property confiscated and be driven from the state. Robert Flatford told him that any man who voted against it would be shot. In April 1878, Richard claimed his homestead exemption, which consisted of 110 acres of land, 1 clock, 1 cart, 4 cattle, 1 colt, 1 mule, 5 shoats, 9 sheep, 1 table, and 7 chairs, all valued at $513.75.