Violent and destructive flooding has always been a problem on the Rappahannock River Many bridges have stood on the sites of the present Falmouth and Chatham Bridges only to be washed away by floods or ice dams. One newspaper reported:
“The heavy and continuous rain of the past few days resulted in a tremendous freshet in the Rappahannock River, the like of which has not been known since 1814. On Wednesday morning, the swollen, turbid mass of water, increasing rapidly in height and volume, raged onward with such force as to sweep away panel after panel of the Falmouth Bridge, which with similar velocity, borne down by the impetuous current, struck the Chatham Bridge…and carried off about one-third of that structure…In a few hours the whole of Falmouth Bridge had disappeared, and from bank to bank surged the restless tide of waters…Captain Stevens we believe, was accidentally carried down the river on a portion of Falmouth Bridge, but rescued near French John’s after an exciting involuntary voyage” (Fredericksburg News, Apr. 12, 1861).
The Free Lance newspaper of Apr. 4, 1911 reported: “Telegraph Tower at Arkendale Burned. The Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad switch and telegraph tower at Arkendale, in Stafford, burned Sunday morning. The fire was discovered by Operator George Moncure, who made every possible effort to put the fire out with several buckets of water, which were kept in the building, but these were inadequate and the building was burned to the ground. Besides the machinery and apparatus used in working the switches there was in the tower two typewriters and two phones, none of which were saved. There were a number of the wires of the Western Union and R. R. Company burned. The loss is estimated at from $1,500 to $2,000, partly insured. The tower will be rebuilt as rapidly as possible.” The man who discovered this fire was telegraph operator George Vowles Moncure, III (1883-1973). He lived at Rectory in Wide Water, Stafford County. After the government condemned his farm in 1942 for the expansion of the Quantico Marine Corps base, he moved to a farm on Bell’s Hill Road just north of Stafford Courthouse.