Thursday, July 31, 2014

Staycations: Explore Historical Fauquier County

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the Fauquier Fair is just a memory and you can’t walk into any store without being bombarded by back-to-school specials. That’s right, for better or worse, summer is quickly drawing to a close, and while it may be a little too late to plan a cross-country road trip, there’s still plenty of time for a quick outing to some of Fauquier’s hidden historic treasures!

Do you call northern Fauquier home?  Then you should check out the Chapman /Beverley Mill historic site at Broad Run.  Built around 1742, the mill is thought to be the tallest stacked stone building in the US.  When Fauquier was formed in 1759, Chapman’s Mill was used as a dividing line, so when you visit, you can actually stand in two counties at once!  The mill was gutted by arson in 1998, but the stabilized walls of the structure and the mill store still stand as a reminder of the history of milling in our county.  The Mill is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Know Before You Go:  Check out Water Powered Mills of Fauquier County by Lee Moffet for a detailed history of Chapman’s Mill.

Make a Day of It: While you’re in the area, be sure to visit The Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County in The Plains where you can view special exhibits including “The Underground Railroad in Fauquier.”

Prefer a day in Warrenton? Visit The Caboose at the Warrenton Branch Greenway,
which opened in 1852 as a spur off of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad line.  It carried passengers, including the infamous Col. John Singleton Mosby, until 1941 and continued on as a freight line until 1982.  Today, you can tour a restored 1969 Norfolk and Western Caboose, take a peek inside the Switchman’s Shanty which contained all the tools needed to maintain the trains, and view a section of the train turntable which was in use until 1954. The Caboose is open 9-11am the first Saturday of the month from April to October and by appointment. 

Know Before You Go: Check out Virginia Railroads Volume 1 by Thomas W. Dixon, Jr. to discover the history of Virginia railroading.

Make a Day of It: Pick up a copy of the Fauquier Historical Society’s Warrenton Walking Tour at The Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail or download a copy and spend some time discovering the site of the invention of the coffee percolator and the home of Thomas Jefferson’s physician!

How about southern Fauquier?  Well, there’s a great hidden gem in Midland – the John Marshall Birthplace Park.  John Marshall, born in 1755 in Midland (then known as Germantown), went on to become the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Incidentally, he’s also the longest-serving Chief Justice.  The park includes picnic areas, a walking trail and markers to fill you in on Marshall’s life and accomplishments.  At the end of the trail, you’ll find a pyramid marking the site where Marshall’s home once stood.  The park is open every day from dawn until dusk.

Know Before You Go: Find out more about the life and times of John Marshall in Jean Edward Smith’s John Marshall: Definer of a Nation.

Make a Day of It: Starting at the park, it’s just a quick trip down Rt. 610 to the Elk Run Anglican Church Site where John Marshall’s grandfather, James Keith, served as minister in the 1740’s.  In the mini museum at the site, you can find out more about the history of the church and the archaeological efforts that went into uncovering its past.

So, seize the summer before it gets away and make sure to enjoy a little slice of the history that our community has to offer!

Happy Trails! 

Frances @ the Warrenton Library 

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