History of the City of Fredericksburg

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by Quinn, S. J.

History of the City of Fredericksburg


Quinn, S. J.






History Committee, City of Fredericksurg Fredericksurg, VA 1/1/1908

Topics Agriculture,Civil War,Funerary,Fraternal,Communications

Quinn, S.J. History of the City of Fredericksburg. History Committee, City of Fredericksurg, VA, 1908.

[page 169]


We have no means of ascertaining where the fairs previously referred to were held or how long they were continued under the act of 1769 , or any similar act that might have been passed by the Legislature after Virginia became a State. In the first of the nineteenth century an agricultural fair was held on the Kenmore farm, near the Kenmore building. The gate leading to the grounds was on Lewis street, where it intersects with Winchester street. The stock was exhibited on the fair grounds and the ladies' department was kept on the upper floor of the present city hall.

At one time Mr. Samuel Gordon, then proprietor of Kenmore, was president of the association, who was succeeded by Hon. James M. Garnett, of Essex county. It was the custom of this association to have an address by the president on the first night of the exhibition on agriculture and stock raising, which was one of the main features of the fair, and drew together a large number of farmers and others to hear it.

A silver cup, awarded to Mr. Jacob Gore for the best wheat fan exhibited at one of these fairs, is now in possession of Police Officer Charles A. Gore, a grandson of Mr. Jacob Gore. It is in a good state of preservation, the inscription on it being "Presented by the Fredericksburg Agricultural Society, 1823 ." On the left of the inscription is a wheat fan, beautifully engraved, near which is the letter J, which stands for Jacob, and on the right is another fan, near which is the letter G, standing for Gore. We do not know when these annual fairs ceased.

About the year 1850 , possibly a little earlier, fair grounds were laid out on Green House Hill, covering most of that part of the town where Prof. A. B. Bowering now lives. A Mr. White, of Caroline county, was the first president, Mr. W. Wellford succeeding him to that office. The first steam engine for threshing wheat ever seen in this country was exhibited at one of these fairs by the Hope Foundry, of this place, then operated by Messrs. Scott and Herndon. It was constructed by Mr. Benjamin Bowering, foreman of the works. A committee of farmers was appointed to examine it and report upon its merits. After witnessing its work the [page 170] committee condemned it, because "it would burn all the wheat up." Fairs were held on these grounds about three years.

A year or so after the Green House Hill fair grounds were closed, the grounds on which Major W. S. Embrey now lives and those in front of him for some distance east of Spotswood street were purchased and converted into fair grounds. Very successful fairs were held there until the commencement of the Civil war, when they were closed. The last fair held on these grounds was in 1860, only a few months before hostilities actually commenced. At one time Major J. Horace Lacy was president of this society and Major J. Harrison Kelly was secretary.

After the closing of the fair grounds, in 1860 , Fredericksburg had no other fair for twenty-five years. In 1887 steps were taken by the citizens of the town to inaugurate annual fairs. A charter for a society was obtained, stock was subscribed for and the Amaret farm, on the Fall Hill road west of the town and bordering on the Rappahannock river, was purchased and converted into excellent fair grounds. The society inaugurating these fairs is known as the Rappahannock Valley Agricultural and Mechanical Society, and its annual fairs have been a great success. The presidents of the society from its organization have been Hon. A. P. Rowe, of Fredericksburg; Charles Pierson, Esq., of Caroline county; Hon. S. Wellford Corbin, of King George county; Mr. Oliver Eastburn, of Spotsylvania county; Frank W. Smith, of Spotsylvania county; Captain Terence McCracken, of Fredericksburg ; Colonel E. Dorsey Cole, of Fredericksburg; Capt. M. B. Rowe, of Spotsylvania; Chas. H. Hurkamp, of Stafford ; Henry Dannchl, of Fredericksburg, and Thomas F. Morrison, of Spotsylvania.


[p. 185]


Soon after the citizens of Fredericksburg returned to their desolated homes at the close of the Civil war, and had gotten their dwellings in a condition to be occupied, the thoughts of the patriotic ladies were at once turned to the Confederate soldiers who had fallen and were buried in Fredericksburg and on the several adjacent battle-fields. They were anxious that the remains of these brave men should be gathered up and interred in some place [page 186] where their dust would be preserved and the names of the known saved from oblivion.

As a result of a consultation, and a call published in the newspapers of Fredericksburg, the ladies of the town met in the basement of the Presbyterian church on the 10th day of May, 1865 , one month after the surrender of Gen. Lee, and organized the Ladies' Memorial Association of Fredericksburg, elected officers, appointed a board of directors, an executive committee and an advisory board. This was the first ladies' memorial association chartered in the South and among the first to decorate the soldiers' graves with flowers.

The best methods for accomplishing the patriotic work of the association were discussed and adopted at this early date. The plan was to raise as much money in town and in Virginia as possible and then issue an appeal to be sent all through the Southern States for funds, because every Southern State was represented on the battle-fields in and around the town by their heroic dead. These appeals were sent out as soon as they could be gotten ready and had the desired effect. Funds soon began to flow into the treasury and a suitable site was selected, west of and adjoining the city cemetery, which was purchased, and the work of gathering up the dead commenced. The number gotten from the different battle fields and buried in the ground purchased by the association numbered about fifteen hundred. The circular sent out had, in addition to the organization of the association and the list of officers in full, an appeal, which was as follows:

"To all true hearted women and men, who would rescue from oblivion the memory of the brave, who died in defence of home and country, we present this appeal: The stern pressure of military necessity made it impossible, properly, to care for the remains of the gallant dead who fell on the bloody fields of Fredericksburg, Wilderness, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania Courthouse and in scores of skirmishes which, in a war less terrible, would have been reckoned as battles.

"Our Association proposes to preserve a record, and, as far as possible, mark the spot where every Confederate soldier is buried in [page 187] this vicinity, whether he fell on these memorable fields or other wise died in the service. To the bereaved throughout our suffering South we pledge ourselves to spare no exertion to accomplish this work.

"In a land stripped of enclosures and forests, desolated and impoverished as ours, we cannot, without aid, guard these graves from exposure and possible desecration: we can only cover them with our native soil. And, with pious care, garland them with the wild flowers from the fields. But, with the generous aid and cordial cooperation of those who have suffered less, but who feel as deeply as we do on this subject, we confidently hope to accomplish far more -- to purchase and adorn a cemetery, to remove thither the sacred dust scattered all over this region, and to erect some enduring tribute to the memory of our gallant dead.

"Shall that noble army of martyrs, who, for years of toil and suffering, bore, in triumph, the 'Conquered Banner" from Chattanooga to Gettysburg, sleep on the fields of their fame unnoticed and unknown? Shall their names pass from the knowledge of the living to be treasured only in the mind of Him 'to whom the memory of the just is precious?'

"What spot so appropriate for the last resting place of these heroes, as some commanding eminence overlooking the memorable plain of Fredericksburg? And what nobler work for the hearts and hands of Southern women, than upon its summit to rear a monument to the unrecorded Confederate dead, which, through all time shall testify to the gratitude of the people for whom they so gloriously died? As no State, and scarcely a town or county 'throughout the limits of the late Confederacy, is unrepresented on these battle-fields, may we not hope that the cooperation required in order to accomplish our holy work will be as universal?

"An act of the Legislature of Virginia will be obtained, incorporating our Association, so that the property may be held perpetually dedicated to its sacred uses. We solicit such contributions as the appreciative sympathy of friends in all parts of our country, and of the world, will extend us. As soon as sufficient means are obtained our Association will proceed to purchase and improve [page 188] grounds appropriate for a cemetery, and remove thither the remains of the honored dead.

"Our Association, although its organization is but recent, has been enabled to rescue from oblivion the names and places of burial of many of the noble dead, who fell upon the fields of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and all the objects of the Association will be pressed as rapidly forward as the requisite means are procured. All auxiliary societies, which may be formed, are requested to correspond with our Association; and, should they desire their contributions to be specially appropriated to the graves of any individuals, or of any particular State or section, the trust will be sacredly discharged.

Mrs. John H. Wallace, President.

Miss Ann J. Carter, Corresponding Secretary.

President -- Mrs. John H. Wallace.

Vice-Presidents -- Mrs. J. H. Lacy, Mrs. Jane Ficklin, Mrs. James W. Ford, Mrs. A. F. T. Fitzhugh, Mrs. Fannie S. White.

Board of Directors -- Miss Mary G. Browne, Miss S. Freaner, Mrs. W. K. Howard,* Mrs. S. J. Jarvis, Mrs. E. A. Fitzgerald, Mrs. L. J. Huffman, Mrs. J. H. Bradley, Mrs. Magruder Maury, Mrs. Joseph Alsop, Mrs. Monroe Kelly, Miss Ellen P. Chew, Miss Lizzie Braxton.

Treasurer -- Dr. F. P. Wellford.

Recording Secretaries -- Miss L. G. Wellford, Mrs. Lucy Herndon.*

Corresponding Secretary -- Miss Ann J. Carter.

Assistant Secretaries -- Miss V. S. Knox,* Miss Mary Thom, Miss Bettie L. Scott,* Miss Lizzie Alsop, Miss N. S. Wellford, Miss Mary G. Browne, Mrs. L. T. Kearsley, Miss Helen G. Beale. Miss Xannie Taylor, Miss Virginia Goolrick, Miss S. Freaner, Miss Lizzie Braxton.

Executive Committee -- Major J. H. Kelly , Thomas F. Knox, George Aler, J. W. Slaughter, Edwin Carter, Joseph W. Sener, Dr. L. B. Rose.


[page 220]


The first lodge of Odd Fellows organized in Fredericksburg was in the year 1839 , and was known as Rappahannock Lodge, No. 14. It continued a working lodge only about three years. The last [page 220] report it made to the Grand Lodge showed a membership of thirty-nine.

Its suspension seems to have been brought about by some unruly, if not unworthy, members who had brought strife and discord into the lodge. In the year 1847 , on the petition of five members of the old lodge -- Wm. Baily, Wm. Smith, George Waite, Wm. T. Lowery and A. B. Adams -- a charter was granted for instituting Myrtle Lodge, No. 50, and which has continued in active operation to the present. It has a large membership, composed of our best citizens. The charter of this lodge was signed by Major J. Harrison Kelly , who then lived in Charlestown, now West Virginia, and who was Grand Master of the State. In after years he became a citizen of Fredericksburg and ended his days in this town.

The meetings of the lodge were at first at private houses, and at one time in Haydon's Hall, on Charlotte street, in rear of Wheeler's livery stable. After the Civil war the meetings were held in the room immediately under the Masonic lodge-room, and continued there until about 1892 , when the Odd Fellows, in connection with the Knights of Pythias, erected the splendid hall on Main street, where they held their meetings for some years, but, believing it to be to their interest to dispose of their stock in the new hall, they did so and moved the lodge to the third story of the Bradford Building.

In 1903 a second Odd Fellows Lodge was organized under a charter from the Grand Lodge, known as Acorn Lodge, No. 261. Although young, this lodge has grown with great rapidity and has a large membership. It was organized in the Masonic lodge-room, and afterward rented the hall under the said Masonic lodge, where it now holds its meetings. Among the membership of these Odd Fellows lodges may be found many of the most substantial and progressive citizens of the town.


[page 225]


The first newspaper established in Fredericksburg was the semiweekly "Virginia Herald and Falmouth Advertiser," in 1786 , by Timothy Green. It was soon found that the name was too long and was no advantage to the paper, and in a few months the Falmouth Advertiser part of the name was dropped and the paper was continued as the Virginia Herald. Some years after its establishment Mr. Green associated with him in the conduct of the paper a Mr. Lacy and Mr. James D. Harrow, and the firm name was Green, Lacy & Harrow. This firm was succeeded by Wm. F. Gray, and he by James D. Harrow, a practical printer, who conducted the paper for many years, with Jesse White, afterwards known as "the old practical printer," as foreman.

Mr. Harrow died in 1851 , and the office, fixtures and good will were purchased by Major J. Harrison Kelly , who conducted the Virginia Herald successfully as a semi-weekly until the year 1875 , when failing health compelled him to discontinue its publication and it has never been resumed.

A bound volume of this paper, running through the years 1796 , 1797 and 1798, is now owned by this writer, who prizes it very highly. Its columns have furnished accounts of incidents, dates and gatherings of the people in public meetings, noted in this historical sketch of the town.

In the year 1795 another paper was started in Fredericksburg, known as the "Genius of Liberty and Fredericksburg and Falmouth Advertiser." This name was even larger, longer and less euphonious than the first name of its competitor, the Virginia Herald, and, like its competitor, soon dropped most of it. This paper came into existence at a time when party spirit ran high and the political blood was at fever heat. It vigorously espoused the cause of what [page 226] was then known as the "Strict Constructionists" of the Federal Constitution, while the "Virginia Herald" as vigorously supported the "Loose Constructionists."

The Genius of Liberty was conducted by Robert Mercer and George Carter as a weekly paper until 1798 , when it was changed to a semi-weekly, at "twenty shillings per annum, ten shillings to be paid on subscribing and the remainder at the end of the year." In 1800 the paper was purchased by James Walker, who changed its name to "The Courier." Mr. Walker was both editor and proprietor, and under his management it was enlarged to "nearly double the size of the Virginia Herald." We have not been able to learn at what period its publication ceased.

A volume of this publication, from November, 1800, to November, 1801 , substantially bound, is now in possession of Mrs. James L. Green, of this place. It is valuable and interesting because of its hoary age and because of the fact it was published in Fredericksburg.

"The Fredericksburg News," a semi-weekly paper, was published by Robert Baylor Semple for several years. At his death, in 1853 , the paper was purchased by A. Alexander Little, who conducted it, except during the War Between the States, to the time of his death in 1877 . When its publication was resumed after the war, when old things had passed away and many things had become new, it bore the name of "The Fredericksburg New Era," but neither the times nor the name suited the editor, so he changed the name back to the News and made the best he could of the times in which he lived.

After Mr. Little's death the publication of the News was continued for a few years by his sister, Miss Bella Little, who assisted him very much in the editorial management of the paper during his ownership of it, but finding it unremunerative its publication was finally suspended.

Several other publications of a less permanent nature have been started and conducted in Fredericksburg, but they were short lived and but little is known of their history, therefore they can be only mentioned as having existed.

"The Political Arena" was commenced in the year 1830 by Wm. [page 227] M. Blackford and lived for about fifteen years. In 1845 Mr. Blackford moved to Lynchburg and the publication of the paper was discontinued.

In 1848 Rev. James W. Hunnicutt established the "Christian Banner," which continued to exist until 1862, when Mr. Hunnicutt, being a Union man and opposed to the Civil war, went North, and it has been stated that the Banner office was destroyed by Southern soldiers. This statement, however, is thought not to be true.

"The Virginia Baptist" made its appearance in Fredericksburg about the year 1857 . It was edited and conducted by Rev. "W. R. Powell, Rev. John C. Willis and Rev. Joseph A. Billingsly as a temperance advocate. Its publication was suspended in 1860 and never resumed.

"The Democratic Recorder," established in 1842 , was owned by James M. Campbell, but in 1850 he removed to Manchester, N. H., and the office was purchased and the publication of the Recorder was continued by Robert B. Alexander, S. Greenhow Daniel and James B. Sener, in the order named. Its publication was suspended during the Civil war, but upon the return of peace in 1865 it was resumed by James B. Sener, the name being changed to "The Fredericksburg Ledger." In 1872 Judge Sener was elected to Congress and the publication of the Ledger ceased.

The office and fixtures were sold by Judge Sener in 1873 , and for twelve or fifteen years it changed hands often and several publications were started, only to cease after a struggle of a year or two. After the publication of the Ledger was discontinued the first paper sent out from the office was the "Independent," by Berry & Tierney. One year marked the life of the Independent and then came the "Bulletin," by Quinn & Tierney; "The True Standard," by a joint stock company, and "The Recorder," by the Mander Brothers. None of these publications lived more than two or three years at most.

In May, 1887 , the office was purchased by Col. John W. Woltz and Wm. E. Bradley, who established the "Free Lance," which they conducted until the death of Col. Woltz in 1893 , when it was soon purchased by a joint stock company and its publication continued [page 228] to the present. Under its first management the "Free Lance" was issued as a semi-weekly, but as its circulation increased it was changed to a tri-weekly, and was the first and only tri-weekly publication the town ever had. Another innovation the "Free Lance" made in the newspaper history of Fredericksburg was the introduction of a power press. Prior to this all the newspapers were printed on Hoe hand presses, but the "Free Lance," under Woltz & Bradley, boasted of a power press of a capacity of twelve hundred papers an hour, which was soon exchanged for one of six teen hundred an hour. A third innovation made by the "Free Lance" was the purchase and use of a folding machine. This was a new machine in town and was observed by those who had never before seen one with much curiosity. It can fold papers as fast as they are printed, and is quite an improvement on the old way of hand folding.

The publication of the "Virginia Star" was commenced in the year 1869 by Rufus B. Merchant as a semi-weekly, and was so conducted until 1895 . During that year Mr. Merchant added another edition and sent out the "Daily Evening Star." This was something "new under the sun" in Fredericksburg, and its advent and probable success were freely discussed by the public and various opinions were expressed. The prevailing opinion, however, seemed to be that its publication was a mistake on the part of the proprietor and the scheme would end in financial loss. Others thought it would flourish for a short time and receive support because it was a home enterprise, but that it would eventually be crowded out by the big dailies of neighboring cities and would disappear. But such was not the case. It is yet making its daily evening visits, improves as the days go by, and has evidently come to stay.

In 1896 the Star office, with its entire outfit, was purchased by W. Seymour White and Alvin T. Embrey, who continued to publish both editions of the paper, and upon the death of Mr. White, in the early part of the year 1898 , his interest was purchased by Mr. Embrey, who became the sole editor and proprietor of the Star. In 1900 Judge Embrey sold out to a joint stock company, and under its management both editions of the paper [page 229] made their regular visits to the homes of subscribers. This paper has been purchased by the Free Lance Company, which sends out both the Free Lance and Daily Star.

On the 2nd day of January, 1837 , the first issue of the "Masonic Olive Branch and Literary Portfolio" was published by James D. McCabe and John M. Ball. It was a semi-monthly publication, at two dollars per annum in advance, and was devoted principally to Masonry and Odd Fellowship. A bound volume of this publication is now in possession of Fredericksburg Masonic Lodge, and, from its typographical appearance, one would suppose it to have been printed by Jesse White, the practical printer, on his old Ramage hand press. By Mr. Ball's retirement a few months after the appearance of the paper, Mr. McCabe became the sole editor and proprietor. We have no information as to how long the Portfolio was published.

In 1868 "The Little Gleaner," a thirty-two page periodical, was published by Miss L. Fauntleroy. It was a monthly publication, devoted to general subjects, and intended especially to interest and instruct the young folks. After two years' labor, toil and sacrifice, not meeting with the success she had hoped for, the proprietress discontinued its publication.

In the year 1900 a number of the progressive business men of the town, feeling that Fredericksburg was not moving along in public improvements as rapidly as it should, and that the City Council was too slow in passing the necessary measures for such improve ments, organized a joint stock company and commenced the publication of "The Fredericksburg Journal." The Journal, different from the other papers of the town, was at first a weekly issue, its subscription price being twenty-five cents per annum. It has in formed the public in strong language that it has come to stay and progress is its watch word. In a short time it was sold to Mr. R. L. Biscoe, when he in turn sold it to the Fredericksburg Journal Company, who put more life and vim into it, and now its customers are served with both a semi-weekly and daily, which give the general news from the surrounding country and stand for improvement of the town, honesty in city affairs, and justice to all with special favors to none.