From the 1780s until the early 1920s, Stafford County’s jail was a small, two-cell affair built of freestone blocks. It was notoriously insecure throughout the years it was used. Fortunately, until recently Stafford had a very limited problem with crime. One newspaper reported: “Stafford jail having been without an inmate for the last eight or ten months, has been turned into a corn house. How’s that for an orderly county?” (Fredericksburg Star, Feb. 21, 1880).
In February 1824 Robert Lewis (1769-1829) of Fredericksburg placed a notice in the Fredericksburg newspaper. Robert was the son of Col. Fielding Lewis (1725-1781) and Betty Washington Lewis (1733-1797) of Kenmore. Robert Lewis had a country estate located on what’s now known as Stefaniga Road (Route 648) in Stafford. Here he had a water-powered mill that not only ground corn and wheat, but also picked the seeds from cotton bolls. His notice read: “Cotton Picking Machine. The Subscriber has established a Machine of the above description, at his Corn Mill, on Potomac Run, Stafford County, about ten, or eleven miles above Falmouth, upon the most approved plan. This Machine was put in motion to day, and answers all the purposes for which it was intended. The terms on which Farmers can have their Cotton picked, will be according to the common usage, which will be the eighth part of the cotton in the seed. Mr. Wm. Harding, (my agent, residing on the spot,) will attend to all directions forwarded in regard to the wishes of the customers, and from his known probity and honesty, I have no doubt will give general satisfaction. Robert Lewis” (Virginia Herald, Feb. 21, 1824)