Stafford County Historic Places
Historic Places in Stafford County, VA
Aquia Episcopal Church
Aquia Church is one of the oldest colonial churches still actively used in America. Built between 1751 and 1757, Aquia is noted for its continuous history, three-tiered pulpit and Aquia Sandstone quoins and trim. The Church was an early focal point for social and governmental interaction in Overwharton Parrish. A historic center as well, its communal silver was forced to be buried during three wars (Revolutionary, 1812 and Civil).
Located at the confluence of the Potomac River and Aquia Creek at the end of Brooke Road, Captain John Smith entered Aquia Creek there in 1608, and the first permanent English settlers, the Brents, entered and settled on Brent’s Point (Widewater Peninsula across the creek). The landing served as a key transportation point during the Colonial-, Federal- and Antebellum-periods. The Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad ended there after the 1840s and steamboats connected travelers with Washington, D.C., until the rail was extended in 1877. During the Civil War, Aquia Landing was site of the war’s first ship-to-shore naval engagement in May 31-June 1, 1861, and was one of two major Union logistical centers in Stafford supporting the battles of Fredericksburg (1862), Chancellorsville (1863), and Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign. In the summer of 1862, 10,000-12,000 freed slaves exited the war zone through the landing, earning it the title “Gateway to Freedom.” It is now a county park and beach.
A National Historic Landmark, this 18th century estate was the 20th century home of artist Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne. The main house, gardens, outbuildings, workshop and gallery of his work are included in this estate overlooking the historic port town of Falmouth. It is operated by the University of Mary Washington. Captain John Smith’s Rappahannock exploration (also in 1608) took place below Belmont Hill.
Headquarters of Fredericksburg Spotsylvania National Military Park, this Georgian-style mansion in the only private home in America to have hosted George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, as well as a large number of other historic figures. As Lacy House, Chatham served as a Union headquarters and hospital during the Civil War. Clara Barton and Walt Whitman joined in caring for thousands of wounded soldiers. Operated by the National Park Service and open daily.
This two-story frame building constructed in about 1780 in Falmouth was used as a warehouse, a Masonic lodge and a private residence before becoming the present commercial office building.
The Aquia Crucifix monument was erected in honor of the Brent colony, which welcomed and encouraged settlers of all faiths to reside here. Many churches have called Stafford home, one for nearly 250 years. The first English settled here in the 1650s, not the 1640s. The Brent Town tract consisted of some 30,000 acres that now includes parts of western Stafford, Prince William, and Fauquier counties. It never reached as far east as Aquia Creek but did, most certainly include the Brentsville/Bristow area. Located beside US Route 1 about one mile north of I-95 Exit 143, the Aquia Crucifix is open for everyone.
Then known as Rappahannock Farm, was the boyhood home of George Washington. There he spent his formative years and his mother resided. The term Ferry Farm related to the operative ferry which connected it to Fredericksburg. It saw significant use during the Civil War as a crossing site during three Federal occupations of Stafford. Part of the original 1600s Stafford County, Ferry Farm was briefly in an expanded King George County which stretched into Stafford along the Rappahannock. Now operated by the George Washington Foundation, archeology has revealed the original Washington homesite and numerous other buildings.
The town was quite prosperous from its creation in 1728 until the late 1840s or early 1850s. The economic devastation resulting from the Civil War just finished it off and it never recovered. This historic port town was created in the same 1727/8 charter as Fredericksburg to be “convenient to the inhabitants of the north side of the Rappahannock River, for transporting their commodities.” A prosperous industrial and commercial village by the Civil War, it was first occupied by the Union Army in April 1862. It became an exodus point for some of the 10,000-12,000 escaping slaves that summer, and was a central reference point for the 135,000-169,000 man Army of the Potomac during the winter of 1863 undergoing that army’s “Valley Forge” in Stafford County. Many of Falmouth’s early buildings remain standing, including the Cotton Warehouse; Duff Green Warehouse; Cambridge Inn, Temperance Tavern; Barnes House; Magistrate’s Office; Counting House; Basil Gordon House; Moncure Conway House (boyhood home of the South’s most prominent abolitionist); and Shelton Cottage. Falmouth also contains the remnants of Union Church and the old-site (now Golgotha Church) and the current Falmouth Baptist Church. The Belmont estate adjoins Falmouth. Cambridge Inn is now a tavern-restaurant; the rest of the buildings are in private hands, but can be viewed in a driving tour.
Established in 1891, it was originally home to the Falmouth Baptist Church congregation. For over 110 years, this church has served as a highlight of the Falmouth skyline, a beacon linking its citizens to the past.
Located on Aquia Creek, the quarries provided the sandstone for the White House and the original (now center section of the) U.S. Capitol, in addition to a large number of historic buildings and bridges throughout the Chesapeake region. It is now a county park and accessible from US Route 1 about 0.5 miles south of I-95 Exit 143 via Coal Landing Road. A walking tour on a sound path/trail of 1.5 miles length with signage is open to the public until sunset daily.
Hartwood Presbyterian Church
This active, red-brick church, built by its congregation in 1858, replaced a small wooden Episcopal chapel and (after 1825) Presbyterian church. The current building was used as an outpost by Union cavalry guarding Confederate approaches from the southwest. It was involved in several Confederate raids during the Civil War, the most notable being on February 25, 1863. That raid at once demonstrated continued Confederate cavalry superiority and marked the impending rise of the Federal cavalry which engaged in a retaliatory operation the following month at Kelly’s Ford (Culpeper County).
The Hobby School is the believed architectural style of school at which George Washington would have received his early education, between the ages of seven and eleven. Little has been documented on this structure. Such schools were open to plantation owners’ sons. It is located beside Union Church.
This small, red brick building is Stafford county’s oldest existing municipal building. The architecture, Late Federal, suggests it was constructed in the 1820s or 1830s. It was once used as a Customs Office, later as a magistrate’s office, as a voting precinct, and a small museum.
This small peninsula at the confluence of the Potomac River at Potomac Creek served as an important Native American location (“Petomek” village) associated with the northernmost Powhatan Confederacy tribe, the Patawomecks. Pocahontas, one of Powhatan’s daughters, was visiting there in 1611, when she was kidnapped and held hostage by Capt. Samuel Argall. (The precise kidnapping spot is arguable between Indian Point on the peninsula and Passapatanzy further down river.) Captain John Smith visited the location in 1608 and it was subsequently used as a Virginia outpost (1609-c. 1620) and tobacco storage site. During the Civil War, the large Union Windmill Point Hospital occupied the eastern end of the peninsula. Today, private residences fill the area.
Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers
Stafford is bordered to the east by the Potomac River and to the south by the Rappahannock River, for a combined total of 51 miles of shoreline. The rivers and their tributaries were extremely important as Amerindian villages and during Colonial- and later periods, when water was used to power mills and to transport people and goods. Critical to winter survival as the staple was salted fish provided by what was once one of the largest privately owned commercial fisheries on the east coast of the United States.
This historic workman’s cottage dates back to around 1770. It is unique and somewhat upscale in that it contains a chimney with six fireplaces in the center of the structure, rather than on the ends. It was used as a residence into the 20th century and is part of the Falmouth hamlet.
Stafford Civil War Park
The Stafford Civil War Park contains an Army of the Potomac winter camp; three large artillery batteries; segments of two corduroy roads; and a late 1700’s sand stone quarry. The majority of sites in the Park are linked to the Union Army of the Potomac’s 11th Corps’ 1st and 3rd Divisions. The 11th Corps is most often associated with soldiers and regiments made up of native German speakers, however, many of its regiments also were non-immigrant U.S. soldiers from NY, OH, CT, PA, WI, and MA.
Outnumbered 15 to 1 by Union soldiers the winter of 1862-1863 brought suffering to Stafford’s civilians as well. Homes became hospitals or headquarters. Half of Stafford’s historical records were taken as souvenirs or destroyed when Stafford’s Courthouse was looted and later partially burned. Miles of fences, thousands of acres, and many farm houses or outbuildings were used to construct camps or feed thousands of Union campfires, that burned 24 hours a day. It took more than 60 years for Stafford’s population and economy to again reach its pre-war levels.
The site of an earlier courthouse, the current (1920s) building stands near the land route passage of Washington’s and Rochambeau’s Revolutionary War column transiting to and from Yorktown. During the Civil War, the courthouse was raided by Sickles’ brigade in April 1862 (during which many documents were destroyed, damaged and stolen) and a number of Union headquarters and camps surrounded it in the winter of 1863. At this site, in April 1863, President Lincoln and Major General Oliver Otis Howard conferred, leading to Howard’s later appointment to head the Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands Bureau, a major force during Reconstruction, and his role in founding Howard University (Washington, D.C.) and Lincoln Memorial University (Tennessee) for poor blacks and whites respectively. Nearby in a camp in February 1863, Captain Robert Gould Shaw, 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, was offered command of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, composed of African American soldiers and made famous in the film, “Glory.”
Land was set aside for a church yard in Falmouth’s charter of 1728. The present structure, the third church to be erected on this lot, was built in the early nineteenth century. The church was used on a rotational basis by four denominations. Except for its remaining brick narthex, this place of worship was destroyed by a heavy rain storm in 1950.
White Oak Civil War Museum and Stafford Research Center
This is across Va. Route 218 from the White Oak Church and occupies the former White Oak Elementary School – Over 225,000 Civil War soldiers occupied Stafford County between 1861 and 1865. White Oak Civil War Museum honors the common soldiers of both armies and displays one of the world’s most extensive relic collections of Civil War artifacts, almost all of which were found in this region. Recognized by the Virginia Historical Society, the museum and its founder D.P. Newton provide unique insights to America’s Civil War.
White Oak Primitive Baptist Church
This church, organized in 1789, was first known as White Oak Church of Christ but changed its name in the 1830s in opposition to Baptists straying from original doctrines. Many early black members had been slaves at Chatham plantation. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.