“For love, money, or marbles”, the Great Hound Match of 1905

It started with a feud in the paper and two Masters of Foxhounds from Massachusetts. Harry Worcester Smith, MFH Grafton Hunt, wrote in Rider and Driver that the American foxhound should be a recognized breed, separate from British bred foxhounds. Meanwhile Alexander Henry Higginson, MFH Middlesex Hunt, insisted that there was no such thing as an “American” breed, and that if there were, British foxhounds were still superior. A challenge was proposed. Smith was to gather hounds, Higginson would do the same and the packs would duke it out “for love, money, or marbles”, according to Higginson. The goal was simple: the pack that best caught foxes would be the winner. These Massachusetts Masters of Foxhounds decided that Middleburg, Virginia, would be the battleground on which the Great Hound Match would take place, and November 1 would be the first day of reckoning.

The Middleburg and Upperville areas were used to being contested territory. During the Civil War, the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area was a borderland where armies skirmished and partisan rangers prowled. Most residents had at least one family member who had drawn arms in support of the Confederacy barely a generation ago. But newly arrived Northerners found they had a stake in history of the area too. On July 17, 1863 during the Battle of Aldie, Major Henry Lee Higginson, 1st Massachusetts cavalry, was knocked from the saddle, slashed with a saber, and shot twice. The elder Higginson survived the ordeal to become a successful broker, founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and sometime advisor to President Woodrow Wilson. Forty-two years after Higginson’s wounding at Aldie, his son Alexander Henry Higginson returned for a friendly competition in what used to be dangerous rebel territory.

It was no surprise that the Loudoun Valley was chosen as the site for the Great Hound Match. Foxhunting had taken place in the area for nearly 150 years, and it was home to the United States’ oldest hunt club, the Piedmont Fox Hounds, founded in 1840 by Col. Richard Henry Dulany. In fact, the first day’s hunt began at the Colonel’s home, Welbourne, and was dedicated to the 85-year-old hunt progenitor. Dulany’s nephew, Henry Rozier Dulany, Jr., hosted Harry Worcester Smith and the Grafton hounds at Oakley near Upperville. Throughout the Great Hound Match, the field was dotted with equestrians from home and abroad, indeed, participants from 26 hunts joined in on the fun, including one hunt each from Canada, England, and Ireland. Northern Virginia’s rolling hills and rural pastures were (and still are) strikingly similar to traditional hunt country in Leicestershire, England, but the bucolic setting belies surprisingly deep creeks and steep cliffs. It is exactly the right setting for a grand drama on horseback, and that’s just what unfolded in November of 1905 as riders, whippers-in, hounds, reporters, grooms, and over 100 horses descended on the little train station in The Plains.

This undated photo of Welbourne was sent to Harry Worcester Smith, courtesy of NSLM

Far from the glitzy hotels and sparkling nightlife of New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C., visiting equestrians hacked back and forth to Hound Match meets on dirt roads often mired in mud and farm traffic. Higginson’s British hounds from the Middlesex Hunt proved to be most popular during the Match, often drawing a field of 50 or more. Onlookers praised the foreign-born hounds’ cohesiveness, and while the hounds traveled fast, nearly everyone could keep up. Higginson was wont to meet in Middleburg and cast his hounds north of town towards the Fred Farm or at Lemmon’s Bottom just across the Goose Creek Bridge. In comparison, Harry Worcester Smith’s Grafton hounds often met at Oakley but would then gallop across the territory, from Upperville to Unison to Oatlands and back in one morning. On November 9th they met at Zulla and were headed to The Plains when the Grafton hounds ran head-first into the Orange County Hounds, who were out that morning with MFH John Townsend. The OCH was founded in Goshen NY in 1900 and only started hunting in Virginia in 1903. It was only a matter of time before all the Northerners started bumping into each other! Throughout the Match, the Grafton hounds went fast. A field that might start with 20-30 riders sometimes ended with barely a third of that number, and twice the hounds were separated from Smith and had to be rounded up hours later. Among the stalwart hunters who managed to keep up with the hounds were a handful of young riders, and usually a Mrs. Tom Peirce from Boston who rode aside. Flocks of locals followed the match on horseback, hilltopping at key vantage points to see the hunt field surge past in pursuit of the wily Reynard. While hunting near the Fletcher farm, Smith called out to a rider who was trampling through a farmer’s field of winter wheat. Smith demanded that the “son-of-a-bitch” stop destroying the delicate crop, to which the rider responded it was his wheat and he’d ride over it if he pleased.

Piedmont Foxhounds in Upperville, 1921. Note that even the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike (Rt 50 today) is unpaved

The Piedmont landscape took a toll on even the most experienced riders. Frederick Okie of Piedmont Stock Farm nearly drowned in Pantherskin creek when he and his horse stumbled into a deep pool while chasing after the Middlesex hounds. That same day Harry Worcester Smith managed to break his foot and had to be cut out of his riding boot by Upperville physician Charles Rinker. Julian Ingersoll Chamberlain, who served in the New York cavalry during the Spanish American War, was not the only rider to go head over bridle while jumping over stone and barbed wire fencing. And the risks were not only physical. Higginson and a large number of his followers were arrested by Fauquier resident Amos Payne for trespassing in a wheat field. Payne insisted that all he wanted was a promise that the trespass wouldn’t be repeated, but the magistrate got involved and the situation was only cleared up with the intervention of Richard Henry Dulany, who didn’t want to jeopardize the area’s reputation to visitors.

Active Virginia hunts c. 1938. Photo courtesy of NSLM

The Great Hound Match lasted from November 1-14, with either the Middlesex or Grafton hounds running every single day except Sundays. Despite many chased foxes, no wild foxes were killed during the Match, leading some to speculate that it would result in a draw. However, in the end it was decided that Smith’s American hounds had performed better overall. Higginson accepted defeat with grace, and even his most ardent supporters admitted that they were impressed by the performance of the longer-legged contestants. Though the match was over, both Higginson and Smith had long careers in foxhunting ahead of them. The camaraderie inspired by the Match led to the formation of the Masters of Foxhounds Association of North America in 1907 with – who else?- Harry Worcester Smith as its first President. Alexander Henry Higginson was next to serve at the helm. Today MFHA headquarters are in Middleburg, Virginia. While hunt territory across the United States has been disappearing since the 1950’s due to suburban sprawl and new pastimes, open landscape and preservation have kept the sport alive in Virginia. The Old Dominion is still host to 24 active hunts, seven of which are in the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area.

Special thanks to Erica Libhart, Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum, for access to the Harry Worcester Smith archive. For a thorough retelling of the Great Hound Match of 1905, check out Martha Wolfe’s book on the subject. For more about Harry Worcester Smith and his prodigious archives, make a research appointment with the National Sporting Library & Museum.

In the Wake of Antietam

Last week marked the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. In a single day over 20,000 men were killed, wounded, or went missing. It was the bloodiest day of the bloodiest war in American history. Lee had lost a large part of his Army of Northern Virginia, but managed to escape back across the Potomac to the relative safety of the Shenandoah Valley. Despite driving Lee out of Maryland, the Army of the Potomac under George McClellan failed to follow up with a decisive victory. In the days and weeks that followed the two battered armies took time to regroup and reorganize for the next campaign.

McClellan’s inaction through late September and early October was a source of great annoyance for President Lincoln and other members of the Union war department. General-in-Chief Henry Hallack wrote that “The long inactivity of so large an army in the face of a defeated foe, and during the most favorable season for rapid movements and a vigorous campaign, was a matter of great disappointment and regret.” For his part, McClellan countered that he desperately needed equipment and feared overextending his bloodied army. It wasn’t until October 26th that the Army of Potomac lurched into motion. Long lines of soldiers, artillery, and wagons moved across the Potomac at Berlin (modern Brunswick, Maryland) and into Loudoun County. The coming campaign would take them straight into the heart of the Heritage Area.

Pontoon bridges across the Potomac at Berlin, looking towards Virginia.

The bulk of Lee’s army was resting in the Shenandoah Valley, near Winchester when reports of the Union advance reached him. Fearful that a rapid movement might cut him off from Richmond, Lee rushed to get his troops out of the Shenandoah and east of the Blue Ridge. To delay the US forces as long as possible he called on his cavalry commander, JEB Stuart, to ride into the Loudoun Valley. The Confederate cavalry crossed the mountains on October 30th and prepared to fight.

Skirmishing between US and Confederate cavalry began the next day in the vicinity of Mountville and Aldie, as Stuart’s troopers drove the blue clad horsemen back. Fighting continued the next day near the village of Philomont. Men of the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry were ambushed while crossing a ford across the frigid North Fork west of town. Soon reinforcements were pouring in on both sides, and for several hours the action raged back and forth. The fighting only dies down as the sun began to set, and the Confederates withdrew west towards the village of Unison.

Beaverdam Ford on modern JEB Stuart Road, site of the fighting on November 1.

Reinforced by infantry, the Union force continued their advance early on November 2nd. The band of the 6th US Cavalry played “Listen to the Mockingbird” as the men moved south in the direction of Unison. The pleasant morning was interrupted as they reached Dog Branch. Confederate troops controlled the ford across the stream, much as they had the previous day. The Union commander, Alfred Pleasanton, used his infantry to pin down the Confederate defenders, while his cavalry fanned out along the nearby roads and tried to flank the rebels. Outmaneuvered and outnumbered, the Confederates fell back to the outskirts of Unison.

JEB Stuart deployed nearly 600 men and six artillery pieces on a line through the village, intending to delay the US troops as long as possible. The open ground east of the village gave them a perfect field of fire as the Union force came into view. Soon the artillery opened up from the high ground near the Methodist Church. Federal guns replied in kind, and an artillery duel continued for an hour. Caught between the guns were the citizens of Unison who cowered in their cellars as the shells flew overhead.

The Unison Methodist Church, near the site of the Confederate artillery position.

The artillery fire did little to slow the Union advance, however, and within an hour Stuart pulled his men back once again. The next line of resistance was located on the high ground near the South Fork Quaker Meeting House and cemetery. Troops from both sides used the area’s numerous stone walls for cover, and Stuart later wrote that they “afforded the enemy as good shelter as ourselves.” By 2:00 PM, US infantry drove the rebels from the meeting house and on to Beaverdam Creek. Skirmishing through the wooded and broken ground continued throughout the afternoon, as the Confederates retreated past Welbourne and Crednal.

Fighting erupted again on the morning of the 3rd, as Stuart made his stand along Pantherskin Creek north of Upperville. Union forces advanced along Trappe, Green Garden, and Willisville Roads in an attempt to drive off the rebels. As the day wore on the Confederate line collapsed and fell back westward towards Ashby’s Gap. As they did they passed by Oakley, home of diarist Ida Dulany. She recorded the events of the 3rd in her diary, writing “For about an hour we watched the battery pouring out shells against our battery, which was planted in the vineyard. The shells from both batteries burst in full sight of us, frightening the servants nearly to death.”

Ida Powell Dulany, who recorded the fighting in her diary.

Although the Loudoun Valley Campaign and the Battle of Unison are often overlooked, the desperate skirmishing that took place would have an immense impact on the war. By the end of November 3rd, JEB Stuart and his men had been driven from the Loudoun Valley, but they had accomplished their mission. For three days they held up the Union advance, backing up the roads of Loudoun County with tens of thousands of soldiers and slowing McClellan to a crawl. Lee was able to move his infantry out of the Shenandoah Valley and in place to defend Richmond. The killing blow that Lincoln had hoped for was doomed.

The Loudoun Valley Campaign would prove to be the last for George McClellan. Frustrated by another blown opportunity, Lincoln decided to act. Late on the night of November 6-7th a courier from the War Department arrived at McClellan’s headquarters tent outside of Rectortown. He carried a copy of General Orders No. 182, stating:

By direction of the President of the United States, it is ordered that Major- General McClellan be relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac, and that Major-General Burnside take the command of that army. By order of the Secretary of War.

Many of the sites where the fighting occurred that fall are much as they would have been over 150 years ago. The road network around Unison is largely unpaved, giving the modern traveler a way to experience the area as the soldiers did. The Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area also works to encourage preservation of the battlefield landscape through the The Bondi Family Land Conservation and Battlefield Preservation Fund, which helps cover administrative costs for landowners looking to place battlefield land in the Unison area in permanent conservation easements.

“With the prisoners at the top of the mountain at Ashby’s Gap”

On the morning of October 17, 1781 the unthinkable happened. A drummer appeared on the British entrenchments at Yorktown, followed closely by an officer carrying a white handkerchief. Their appearance marked the end of the Siege of Yorktown, and in many ways, the end of the War for Independence. Although sporadic fighting would continue until the Treaty of Paris was adopted two years later, the Franco-American victory at Yorktown marked the end of major campaigning in North America and the de facto recognition of American independence. It also marked the beginning of a major problem for George Washington – what to do with thousands of prisoners?

The Surrender at Yorktown by Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe

In the aftermath of Yorktown, over 7,000 British, German, and American Loyalists were now prisoners of the Continental Army. This number was roughly equal to the number of men under Washington’s command, and it was essential to move them away from the coast and any potential British rescue. It was also necessary to move them to the interior of the continent in order to find a place untouched by the war, where food and shelter could be obtained. Throughout the war towns like York, Pennsylvania; Frederick, Maryland; and Winchester and Charlottesville, Virginia were used to house increasing numbers of prisoners. Even smaller inland towns, such as Leesburg, had seen groups of British and German soldiers from time to time.

Camp Security, outside of Charlottesville, was typical of a POW camp in the American backcountry.

Now, faced with a massive number of captured men and officers to house, Washington chose to split the prisoners into two groups. The first was bound for Winchester, the second for Fort Frederick, a disused French and Indian War-era fort near Hancock, Maryland. On October 25th he wrote his Commissary for Prisoners Abraham Skinner the following letter outlining the numbers of prisoners, their regiments, and their destinations:

To the Commissary General of Prisoners
Camp near York 25th Octr 1781

Artillery 193
Guards 467
23d Regiment 205
43d Do 307
76 Do 625
2 Battalions of Anspach 948
Queens Rangers 248
Pioneers 33

Fort Frederick
Light Infantry 594
17th Regiment 205
33d Do 225
71st Do 242
80th Do 588
Prince Hereditory 425
Regt De Bosc 271
Yagers 68
British Legion 192
North Carolina Volunteers 114

You are to dispose of the Prisoners as above.
G. Washington

Now that the arrangements were made, the question became how to get the prisoners to their destinations. Rations and other supplies needed to be collected and a route of march needed to be planned out. For security, Washington called upon a number of Virginia militia companies to act as guards, including several from the Heritage Area. Until 1781, the Revolutionary War was fought largely outside of Virginia, and as a result the militia of the northern Piedmont had seen relatively little combat. Local companies called out to assist the army at Yorktown, especially those of Fauquier County, were chosen to escort the prisoners northward.

The long march began on October 21st. The column stretched out for miles along the road from Yorktown, as soldiers, officers, livestock, wagons, and women and children clogged the route. The militia division marched at the head, with guards scattered about the length. It would take the slow moving mass over a week to reach the Rappahannock River at Falmouth. Near constant rain and dropping temperatures slowed progress further. One British officer noted with some humor that the Piedmont men guarding the column seemed to have little love for their tidewater countrymen:

our guards were all from the upper parts of the state, called backwoodsmen, between whom and the inhabitants of the lower parts there existed no cordiality; and at night when we halted, they not only allowed but even encouraged our men to pull down and make fires of the fence-rails…when the proprietor complained, they only laughed at him

Samuel Graham, 76th Highland Regiment

The prisoners continued northward on the road and into Prince William County, resting briefly near Dumfries. On November 2nd they reached Fairfax Courthouse. Here the prisoners were split into two groups, as outlined by Washington’s instructions. The Maryland-bound prisoners moved northwest into Loudoun County. Marching through Leesburg and turning up the Carolina Road, they crossed the Potomac at Noland’s Ferry, where they were handed over to Maryland militia to continue their journey to Fort Frederick.

Nolands Ferry, where the north-bound prisoners crossed the Potomac into Maryland.

The remaining prisoners, numbering around 3,000, turned westward along the old colonial road to Ashby’s Gap. Decades later the road would become known as the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike, and it is now traced by US Route 50, but in the 1780s it was a muddy wagon road that followed an ancient Native American path. The prisoners trudged on through the increasingly cold weather. They forded Goose Creek just downstream from the current location of the Goose Creek Bridge, and the Blue Ridge Mountains loomed closer and closer each day.

Looking east into Fauquier County from Ashby’s Gap. The view is remarkably similar today to what the marchers would have seen as they took one last look back before crossing the mountain.

The footsore and bedraggled column reached the foot of Ashby’s Gap on the morning of Sunday, November 4th. While the men began the steep ascent up the mountain pass, several officers gathered for a meal at Ashby’s Tavern in the village of Paris. Samuel Graham, a Scottish officer in the 76th Highlanders, recounted his encounter with the landlady many years later:

I asked Mrs. Ashley [Ashby] if she could give two or three of us anything to eat. She stared at my uniform, saying — ” A militiaman, I guess.” ” No,” was my reply. ” Continental, mayhap” to which I also replied in the negative. “Ho!” said she, ” I see you are one of the sarpints [serpents], one of ould Wallace’s [Cornwallis’s] men; well now, I have two sons, one was at the catching of Johnny Burgoyne,
and the other at that of you ; and next year they are both going to catch Clinton at New York; but you shall be treated kindly, my mother came from the ould country.”

Samuel Graham, 76th Highland Regiment
Ashby Tavern in the early 20th century. Sadly, the building was destroyed by a runaway truck in the 1930s.

It would take the prisoners most of the day to make the laborious climb up and over the Blue Ridge. Their discomfort grew when they crossed the frigid and waist deep waters of the Shenandoah near sunset. Many men lost their footing and were dunked in the cold and swirling waters.

Late in the next day the prisoners finally arrived on the outskirts of Winchester. It was a journey of sixteen days and over 240 miles. With the prisoners secured it was time for the Fauquier militia to return to their homes. A number of militiamen would recount their experience decades later as they applied for their military pensions. Spencer Withers of Warrenton was one of those men. In August 1832 he went before the Fauquier County court to testify to his military service. He claimed service in the Carolinas in 1780, and that he had fought with Lafayette in Virginia in the summer of 1781. After Yorktown he “marched with prisoners towards Winchester and was discharged at Ashby’s Gap about Christmass.” Withers would also testify on behalf of the family of Captain Linchfield Sharpe of Fauquier County. The old soldier recalled how Sharpe “was in command with the prisoners at the top of the mountain at Ashby’s Gap.”

To learn more about how the American Revolution affected the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area we invite you to come out to our Drive-Thru History program on August 21st. Visit our headquarters at 1461 Atoka Road, Marshall, VA from 5:30 to 7:30 PM for a casual and family-friendly educational program. We’ll be looking at some of the soldiers from our area, talking uniforms and equipment, and exploring the impact of the conflict on the civilian population. We do ask that all guests maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other family groups and that they wear masks when interacting with staff and volunteers. For more information visit www.piedmontheritage.org/events.

Sweet Home Atoka

If you find yourself driving between Winchester, Leesburg, and Warrenton, odds are at some point you’ll drive through Atoka, historically known as Rector’s Crossroads. A key intersection since the early 19th century, it’s also the home of MHAA headquarters. You will find a handful of historic buildings here, as well as a Civil War Trails sign to tell you more about the conflict here. When you stop by for a visit, here’s what you’ll see in our tiny hamlet.

Atoka owes much, if not all, of its history to the highway it once straddled. For over 200 years Ashby’s Gap Turnpike/State Rt. 50 ran right through town. This tiny village saw stage coaches, slave coffles, adventurers, rebels, yankees, and automobiles travel between Alexandria, Winchester, and Marshall, before being bypassed by the US highway system in 1957. A generation later the Atoka Preservation Society was formed to save the crossroads from development and to preserve its historic buildings. In 2014 the Society gifted the Rector House and Angus Brown House to the Heritage Area, along with the responsibilities of maintaining the homes and interpreting Atoka’s history.

Rector’s Lane follows the grade of the original Turnpike, and was bypassed in 1957

The Caleb Rector House was built in 1801, with several additions made over the centuries. A traditional Quaker stone house, the original property included several outbuildings and a stone springhouse. The springhouse still stands across the road from the main home, and was used by Rectors, enslaved workers, Civil War soldiers, and travelers over the years. The home is named for Caleb Rector, who lived in the home with his wife Mary Ann by 1861. In the years before the Civil War at least eight enslaved people lived at the property. Caleb and Mary Ann’s son, Caleb Jr., joined the local Confederate cavalry after war broke out. Caleb Jr. was captured at Yellow Tavern s in 1864 and died in Point Lookout POW Camp in Maryland. The Rector House’s biggest claim to fame came on June 10, 1863 when John Singleton Mosby formalized his partisan group as the 43rd Virginia Cavalry inside the Rectors’ parlor. With orders to run a special unit using selected Confederate cavalrymen housed in willing local “safe houses,”  Mosby’s men regularly gathered at the crossroads for raids on Union troops and supplies. This is also where JEB Stuart received orders before Gettysburg, inspiring his infamous ride. The home remained in Rector family possession until the 1980’s. Many still remember sitting on the porch, watching passers by, and drinking cool sodas from the Rectors’ store across the street. Now the Rector House is home to MHAA offices and is open to visitors (please call to make an appointment!) Recently, a fascinating artifact was discovered in the attic here- a pillow constructed from the WWI uniform of resident and veteran Maurice Bryant Rector.

The Rector House, c. 1801
The springhouse

The Blacksmith lies to the right of the store, on the north side of the street. This unassuming white clapboard structure was built in 1927 as a gas station. Before the Civil War stood the gas station’s predecessor, a blacksmith shop.  Reputedly run by a fellow named Davis, civilian travelers and soldiers alike would have used the services of the blacksmith at this crucial crossroads. The smith’s location next to a spring made it a perfect “pit stop”. It was one of the reasons Mosby often selected Rector’s Crossroads for a rendezvous. Behind the store, the blacksmith’s simple four-room house still stands on private property.

The Store and restaurant that stands on the north side of Rector’s lane was built in 1892, but records show a store and post office having stood on this site as early as 1838. Visitors and residents could purchase stage coach tickets for turnpike trips between Alexandria and Winchester from the postmaster, Elijah Anderson. In 1892, the US Postmaster General declared that post office names should match their railway stops, and that both should match their town names. Nearby Rectortown already had a railway stop, so to prevent further confusion “Rector’s Crossroads” changed its name to Atoka. Though the post office came and went, the new name stuck. The store is now home to Pizzatoka, a local landmark in itself.

Pizzatoka, in the 1892 store

The Angus Brown House, next to the store, is not named for a former occupant. Though the log home was built circa 1830, it received its moniker thanks to the 1863 battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville. In the field opposite the house on June 21, 1863, Angus Brown’s 1st South Carolina Cavalry made a stand, having fallen back from the ridge on the east side of the village. Brown was buying time for General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry and horse artillery to get across the four-arch stone turnpike bridge over Goose Creek just to the northwest. The stand succeeded in buying time, but at the cost of Angus Brown’s life. The house served as office space for local non-profits for some time before becoming a private home again.

An inside view of the Brown House, showing some original timbers on the walls and ceiling

Kaos, aka The Deane House was built by storekeeper Asa Rector in 1893. This commodious Victorian home is the newest home in the Atoka Historic District. Some of the outbuildings behind the Deane house are most likely original to the Rector House’s property, and would have included things like a smoke house and enslaved quarters.

When is the last time you stopped by Atoka? Call ahead to schedule a tour of the Rector House, or come any time to see the tiny settlement we call home.

Extra-Ordinary History

For centuries the Heritage Area has played host to travelers. Some came through on business, or on their way to settle elsewhere, using the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike and Carolina Road. Farmers drove wagons of produce and herds of livestock to markets across northern Virginia. Coffles of enslaved people were forcibly moved along to auction houses in Alexandria and elsewhere. Soldiers from the French and Indian War to the Civil War have marched to battle along the roads. Today’s tourists have the advantage of speed and comfort as they visit wineries, parks, historic sites, and other attractions. They also have the advantage in accommodations over our fore-bearers, and the area offers a wide variety of places to stay, from luxury resorts to historic B&B’s. For most travelers in the 18th and early 19th century, however, travel accommodations often meant staying at an Ordinary.

The term “ordinary” refers to a specific type of lodging in the historic period. Initially, ordinaries were locations that offered food, drink, and lodging at “ordinary” or set prices. These prices were set by colonial governments, who also promoted the licensing of ordinaries at set intervals. Unlike inns and taverns in larger towns and cities, ordinaries typically offered the barest minimum of services, with basic food and shared sleeping spaces. In some respects, they were similar to modern hostels. Gradually the term came to apply to any sort of inn, and in Virginia the two terms were used interchangeably by the time of the Revolution. Looking at maps of the Heritage Area from the eighteenth century, you’ll quickly notice that the landscape is dotted by a number of Ordinaries.

A detail from the Fry-Jefferson Map, showing Nevill’s, Watt’s, West’s, and Minor’s Ordinaries

Ordinaries were located along major travel routes, and were often spaced an easy day’s journey apart, giving travelers a chance to rest themselves and their horses at regular intervals. Two such ordinaries were Nevill’s Ordinary and Watt’s Ordinary. Both were located along the road from Fredericksburg to Winchester – today’s Route 17. George Nevill (or Neavill) established a plot of land along Cedar Run in the 1730s, near today’s village of Auburn. His home was lodging visitors at least as early as 1748, because a young George Washington stayed there with George Fairfax during a journey to the Shenandoah Valley.

Fryday March 11th. 1747/8. Began my Journey in Company with George Fairfax Esqr.; we travell’d this day 40 Miles to Mr. George Neavels in Prince William County.

George Washington, The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 1, 11 March 1748 – 13 November 1765

When Fauquier County was established in 1759, records show that Nevill applied for a license to operate an ordinary at his home, and his license was renewed in 1761 and 1770. Sited as it was at the intersection of the Carolina and Dumfries Roads, it was an ideal location. The ordinary continued to operate after Neavill’s death in 1774, and travelers continued to mention it into the 1780s.

A 1767 plat showing Nevill’s Ordinary

Watts’s Ordinary was located approximately 12 miles north of Nevill’s, in the vicinity of modern Delaplane. Thomas Watts received an ordinary license in 1753, and was in operation by the time of the French and Indian War. A 1755 order from George Washington to his Virginia provincials listed Watts’s Ordinary as one of the stopovers for soldiers marching to Fort Cumberland. Washington’s letter decreed the following:

Fredericksburg, 6 October 1755

Orders to the Ordinary-Keepers, on Captain Woodwards Route to Fort Cumberland.

You are hereby Ordered and strictly Required, to make proper provisions of Meat, Bread, &c. for Sixty men one day: they will be at your House on the [ ] Day of October, on their March to Fort Cumberland: and I will see you paid a reasonable allowance.

George Washington, The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 2, 14 August 1755 – 15 April 1756

In the late 1750s, it appears that the property passed to Robert Ashby, who continued to operate an ordinary at the site. In 1760, Robert constructed a new home on the land, called Yew Hill, which still stands today. Washington was a frequent visitor throughout the 1760s, as were numerous others heading between the tidewater and the Shenandoah Valley. Yew Hill continued to be a tavern and lodging house well into the 19th century as Shacklett’s Tavern. Civil War artist and correspondent David H. Strother remarked on what he called “Miss Kitty Shacklett’s Quaint Old Fashioned Cottage,” and JEB Stuart and John Mosby rendezvoused there. Visitors continued to stay there until the 1880s.

Yew Hill as it appeared in 1995.

Washington was also a frequent guest of West’s Ordinary, just outside of Aldie. Like other ordinaries, it was located on a major thoroughfare – in this case the road between Belle Haven (Alexandria) and Winchester.

Tuesday [April] 12th [1748]. We set of from Capt. Hites in order to go over Wms. Gap about 20 Miles and after Riding about 20 Miles we had 20 to go for we had lost ourselves & got up as High as Ashbys Bent. We did get over Wms. Gap that Night and as low as Wm. Wests in Fairfax County 18 Miles from the Top of the Ridge. This day see a Rattled Snake the first we had seen in all our Journey.

George Washington, The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 1, 11 March 1748 – 13 November 1765

The ordinary was established by William West, but by the 1760’s had passed to Charles West. Charles would go on to become a close friend of the future president, and would serve as an officer in the 3rd Virginia Regiment in the Revolutionary War.

Washington didn’t hold quite so high of an opinion of Maidstone, or Floweree’s, Ordinary, located in modern Rectortown. As a young man he had stopped there on occasion, but in the 1790’s he chided his brother-in-law who was looking to buy property in the neighborhood. He wrote bluntly, “Let me ask you what your views were in purchasing a lott in a place which, I presume, originated with and will end in two or three gin shops which probably will exist no longer than they serve to ruin the proprietors?”

Maidstone has been lovingly preserved.

Ordinaries not only served as places for weary travelers to rest. They also served as community centers, where locals and strangers alike congregated. In an age before cable news, daily papers, and twitter, the ordinary was a place to exchange news and rumors. Local legend claims that the citizens of Leesburg may have first heard the news of Lexington and Concord at McCabe’s Ordinary. This is probably untrue, as the building likely dates to the 1780s, not the 1760s as originally thought. Citizens did gather there, however, in 1825 to greet the Marquis de Lafayette on his triumphant return tour of America. Graffiti still exists inside on the walls that is attributed to that momentous occasion.

McCabe’s Ordinary, also known as the Patterson House.

It’s obvious that much of what we know about local ordinaries comes from the letters and papers of people like George Washington, but they were far from the typical crowd at these establishments. As the name suggests, these were places where ordinary travelers would stay as they went about their business. They hearken back to a time when the northern Virginia Piedmont was a busy crossroads where people, goods, and ideas moved through the region. They also represent the beginnings of the hospitality industry that is nearly three centuries strong. We welcome modern visitors (and locals too!) to come and explore our area’s rich heritage!

Before Garden Week: Early Garden Clubs in the Heritage Area

Springtime in Virginia means many things: peepers, daffodils, country drives, spring races, and of course, Historic Garden Week. While garden tours are postponed this year, spring is the perfect time to take a look at two of the Mosby Heritage Area’s earliest garden clubs. For many years before the first Historic Garden week, these organizations served their communities and advocated for education, preservation, and the beauty of our landscape.

Garden as though you will live forever.

Thomas Moore

Virginia’s first garden club took root in Warrenton in 1911, founded by Mary Goodman Appleton and Elizabeth Sharpless Keith. Appleton was inspired by friends and relatives who had founded the Garden Club of Philadelphia only a few years before. A society of ladies, the Warrenton Garden Club began as a way to swap plants, study gardening books, and beautify the roadways of the mud-choked Piedmont. In 1913 the Warrenton Garden Club earned the distinction of being the only Virginia club present at the founding of the Garden Club of America.

5 Warrenton homes open for Historic Garden Week
The Appleton garden at Marshfield

In turn, the Warrenton Garden Club propagated the Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club. Mrs. Hetty Cary Fairfax resigned from the Warrenton group to found a new one, organized at the Middleburg’s Confederate Hall in 1915. The first established committee was tasked with roadside maintenance and beautification. As in Warrenton, the roadways throughout the area were often mired in mud or deeply rutted by carriage wheels. Only a few automobiles dotted the landscape, and new road building projects often left shoulders bare and ugly. Even worse, billboards were starting to appear, marring Virginia’s natural verdure. Virginia garden clubs would rally to oppose them for generations to come.

The garden of Hetty Cary Harrison, founding member of the Fauquier Loudoun Garden Club, at Belvoir in The Plains. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1928

Those early couple of years were exciting and pleasant for the Warrenton, and Fauquier and Loudoun clubs. Each held a flower show, one at Oatlands Hall, another at the Warrenton Horse Show clubhouse. But soon they, and millions of other Americans, were called to a higher responsibility. During World War One, both clubs raised funds for the Red Cross. Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club founding member Charlotte Haxall Noland became a Colonel in the Land Army and recruited hundreds of area women to pick fruit, harvest crops, and perform numerous other tasks in support of American troops.

Miss Charlotte harvesting one of the many Victory Gardens planted by the Women's Land Army in 1918.
“Miss Charlotte” working with the Women’s Land Army. Photo property of Foxcroft School

On May 13, 1920 burgeoning independent clubs were gathered together as the Garden Club of Virginia in Richmond. Warrenton founders Mary Appleton and Mrs. E. Nelson Fell were present (The only VA group represented at the founding of GCA and GCV), along with representatives from the James River, Augusta, Norfolk, Dolly Madison, Danville, and Albemarle Garden Clubs. Hetty Cary Harrison and Marguerite Davis of the Fauquier Loudoun Garden Club were counted as founding members of the Garden Club of Virginia though they were unable to attend the May 13 meeting. The newly formed Garden Club of Virginia banded together to support the preservation of colonial gardens at Monticello and Kenmore Plantation. English boxwood plantings and colonial style gardens were wildly popular during this period, encouraging new scholarship on the history of colonial homes and their properties.

Marguerite Davis, First Lady of Virginia, at the gate of the boxwood garden at Morven Park. Photo property of Morven Park.

Much more should and will be said of the Garden Club of Virginia’s support of preservation and stewardship in the Old Dominion. For generations these tenacious ladies have accomplished much for our state and the Heritage Area. Whether in private homes, historic properties, or open spaces, their contributions encourage a love of the landscape we all share.

The viewshed from Virginia’s rural roads was a priority for the Warrenton and Fauquier Loudoun Garden Clubs.

“I Am Now No Longer Your Commander”, The Disbandment of the 43rd VA

Reminiscing about his time with Mosby’s Partisan Rangers, John Munson recalled that after March 1863’s successful kidnapping of Gen. Edwin Stoughton, “To get his men out of the trouble into which it had been so easy to get, was now Mosby’s care, for he always looked after that part of his exploits.” In two years of operation, including 1 year, 9 months, and eleven days as the official commander of the 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry, John Singleton Mosby got his men into and out of plenty of trouble. On April 21, 1865 he performed his last duty to lead the men in his command from harm, which was to disband the unit and give Mosby’s Rangers a free choice to surrender to the United States.

The decision to disband did not come lightly. On the same day that General Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, a newly-formed company of Rangers was on its first raid against Union supply lines. Mosby himself first learned of the surrender through a copy of the Baltimore American, and his first correspondent about surrender was from United States Major General Winfield Hancock, stationed in Winchester. On April 11th he relayed a message from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that cavalrymen of the 43rd were to be offered the same generous terms of surrender as the men in the Army of Northern Virginia, with one caveat: “The guerrilla chief Mosby will not be paroled.”

John Singleton Mosby, photographed shortly after his promotion to Colonel, 1865

John Mosby stalled for time, agreeing to an armistice but no surrender until he had clearer instructions from General Lee, via scout Channing Smith. Lee’s weary advice to Smith and the 43rd was to “go home . . and help build up the shattered fortunes of our old state.” A dutiful (if irregular) soldier, Mosby prepared to do just that when he rode into Millwood on April 20th. Tensions were high in Clarke’s Hotel, where nearly forty men, both Union and Confederate, crammed into the parlor. Before Mosby could make a decision to sign the terms, a young and uninvited ranger burst into the room, declaring that the Yankees had a thousand cavalrymen stashed in the woods ready to capture them. Mosby stood, ready for any action but with his characteristic steely nerve, and led his men out of the Hotel and eastward back over the Blue Ridge. The phantom Yankees never appeared.

Clarke’s Hotel, Millwood, VA

The Colonel knew his time was up. He had been given a chance to surrender his command and the offer wasn’t likely to come again unless forced on the end of a bayonet. Thinking again of the men in his command and not his own status as an outlaw, he penned a final farewell to those who had fought with him in numerous hair raising adventures. About 200 riders of the 43rd Virginia gathered just outside of Salem Virginia on April 21, 1865. Mosby did not recite his farewell aloud, instead company officers read the letter to the men assembled. Many, including the Colonel, wept openly at his words:

Soldiers! I have summoned you together for the last time. The vision we have cherished of a free and independent country, has vanished, and that country, is now in the spoil of a conqueror. I disband your organization in preference to surrendering it to our enemies. I am now no longer your commander. After association of more than two eventful years, I part from you with a just pride, in the fame of your achievements, and grateful recollections of your generous kindness to myself. And now at this moment of bidding you a final adieu accept the assurance of my unchanging confidence and regard. Farewell.

Jno. S. Mosby, Colonel
Glen Welby, the Confederate safehouse where Mosby penned his farewell message to the 43rd battalion.

While most of his Rangers surrendered and paroled, Mosby first intended to join General Johnston before learning of his surrender to Sherman. After that point he lived with relatives, living under the radar of the $5,000 bounty on his head. On June 13, with assurances from his brother William, he tried to surrender in Lynchburg, Virginia, but was denied parole there. Finally, with the help of a personal plea from his wife Pauline Mosby, the Colonel was granted parole from Ulysses S. Grant. The Gray Ghost never regretted his actions in the Civil War, nor did he regret the tortuous decision to disband the 43rd VA. He went on to serve his state and country as a consul in Hong Kong, an agent in the General Land Office, and as an assistant attorney in the Department of Justice.

Want to learn more about John Mosby at the end of the Civil War? Want to see the sites for yourself? Enjoy this Driving Tour, or visit the Mosby Heritage Area Association website for more!

Reading Questions: In your own words, please answer the following questions.

  1. Why did John Mosby stall for more time when General Hancock asked for his surrender?
  2. In what ways did John Mosby demonstrate leadership? Give at least two examples.
  3. Who is a leader that you respect? What makes him or her a good leader?

Fauquier County’s Golden Age

 I knew a single instance of gold found in this state. It was interspersed in small specks through a lump of ore, of about four pounds weight, which yielded seventeen penny-weight of gold, of extraordinary ductility. This ore was found on the North side of Rappahanock, about four miles below the falls. I never heard of any other indication of gold in its neighbourhood.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

When we think of gold rushes in American history, the mind usually goes to California and the great gold rush of 1849. Beyond that, there is the gold rush in the hills of northwest Georgia that resulted in the displacement of the Cherokee, or the Yukon gold rush that turned Seattle into a major port of departure for Alaska and northwest Canada. Although it never reached the scale of these larger strikes, Virginia had a small but profitable gold industry through much of the 19th century, and the southern portion of the Heritage Area was at the epicenter of this industry.

There is a narrow band of gold-bearing rock that runs along the Appalachian foothills from Maryland south, running right through the southern tip of Fauquier County and central Virginia. Small amounts of gold had been noticed there in the colonial era, but it wasn’t until the early 1800s that intensive mining was established in the area. The Whitehall Mine, established in 1804 in Spotsylvania County, was the first commercial gold mine in the state. Within two decades, however, the number of mines began to explode throughout Virginia. These early mines were strip or lode mines, where the top soil was stripped off in wide swaths to get to exposed seams of gold ore. This method, although destructive, was the easiest method to get at gold deposits close to the surface. Later, as these deposits wore out, some mines adapted to shaft mining, where shafts were sunk deep into the earth to get to less accessible deposits – a much more costly and dangerous system.

An abandoned gold mine shaft in Virginia.

The earliest gold mine in Fauquier County was the Union Gold Mine, chartered in 1818. Located near Sumerduck, the company hired experienced English miners from Cornwall to dig a 5,000 foot shaft. The Union Mine remained in operation until the gold was exhausted in 1869. The nearby Franklin Gold Mine was opened in the 1820s, and was likely the most profitable in Fauquier County. Between 1825 and 1861, this mine supposedly produced $1,200,000 worth of gold. All together, Virginia gold mines sent over 74,000 ounces of gold to the US mint in Philadelphia between 1829 and 1860. During this same period there were around twenty different mines operating in Fauquier County alone.

1876 Map of Fauquier County, showing several gold mines near Morrisville (Library of Congress)

The gold mining industry in Fauquier County was dealt a significant blow by the coming of the Civil War. Some mines tried to remain in production, as the Confederate government desperately needed gold to support the war effort. The lack of manpower became acute, however, as men joined the army and enslaved workers escaped. Many of the mines became targets for the US Army, and much mine equipment was destroyed.

Some mining operations resumed after the war, and by the end of the century, fourteen mines were opened in Fauquier County. The Franklin Mine reopened in 1868 and operated on and off until the 1930s. Most Fauquier gold mines did not last as long. By the turn of the century, most of the easily mined veins had been exploited, and the cost of labor and equipment made shaft mining too costly. Fluctuations in the price of gold occasionally prompted some mines to reopen, but the industry never again approached its pre-Civil War prominence. The Virginia gold industry finally came to an end during World War II, as gold mines were again shut down so that workers could join the war effort.

“Hornet Balls” were filled with ore and rolled to crush the rock and release gold

Although commercial gold mining in Fauquier County has been dormant for decades, individuals can still visit the area and pan for gold in the local streams. Another important reminder of Virginia’s gold mining past is located in Goldvein, Virginia. The Gold Mining Camp Museum at Monroe Park features several structures depicting a 1930s mining camp, and the museum staff also conducts gold panning demonstrations.

1930s Mining Camp buildings at Monroe Park (Fauquier Parks)

In your own words, please answer the following questions:

  1. Describe the two mining techniques used in Fauquier County. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
  2. What factors led to the end of commercial gold mining in Virginia?

Richard Norris Brooke: A Reconstructed Artist?

The Mosby Heritage Area is full of historical figures and their stories, from Daniel Morgan to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Most of the Heritage Area’s most famous individuals were political or military superstars, but our five counties are also home to some nation-building artists. This is a brief look at one such artist and how his perspective changed during Reconstruction.

In October 1847 Richard Norris Brooke was born in Warrenton, Virginia. He came of age during the Civil War, though as a teenager he never took up arms. His father, James Vass Brooke, was a prominent lawyer, mayor of Warrenton, and signer of the 1861 Order of Secession. James Vass Brooke also raised “Brooke’s Battery”, which served throughout the war and at Gettysburg. Richard’s barely older brother (they were born nine months apart) served in Company D, 43rd VA, commonly called Mosby’s Rangers. William Throckmorton “Willie” Brooke so impressed John Mosby that he appointed the younger man as his vice consul in Hong Kong following the war. Local historian John Toler believes that as a boy, Richard Norris Brooke painted crosses for soldiers killed during First Manassas, hundreds of whom came to Warrenton to be treated and later buried. If this was his first experience with painting, it was quite an education. At the Civil War’s conclusion, Richard studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and taught art in Philadelphia and then at VMI.

“Furling the Flag”, Richard Norris Brooke, 1871.

In the years following, Virginia reeled from the Civil War. Towns had been shattered, families sundered, and traditional culture turned on its head. For many white residents, Reconstruction and the 13th and 15th amendments were uncomfortable bedfellows. Former Confederates were not used to seeing African Americans working for wages, going to schools, and even voting. In art and popular media they were portrayed in unflattering caricature. The perceived otherliness of black people is evident in some of Brooke’s earliest work published in Harper’s Weekly. Brooke depicts these Americans as pernicious, shabby, cruel, and comical. Modern viewers cannot know Brooke’s personal thoughts about race at this time, or if he made artwork to match what he saw other illustrators doing.

As Brooke’s career developed, so did his artistic eye and ability. From 1873-1877 he served as a consul in La Rochelle, France, and began studying French Realism (also called Naturalism.) His instructor, revered artist Leon Bonnat, prized simplicity and truth in painting. No artifice, no flash, just authenticity and humility. Brooke studied peasants, farmers, cottages, and scrubby landscapes in Italy and France. Whereas previous artistic movements encouraged artists to make moral statements about poverty, dirtiness, and decay, Realism and Naturalism uncovered the dignity of simple life. Bonnat and other artists strove to observe and reflect what they saw, rather than commentate. Brooke’s art journal includes dozens of studies and sketches from this period. While he does not outwardly discuss the parallels between European peasants and Virginians of color, his artwork later makes the comparison clear.

“Old Brittany Woman” Richard Norris Brooke. From his personal journal, which listed over 800 paintings, charcoal drawings, and sketches, along with a small thumbnail of each piece.

When illness brought Richard Norris Brooke back to Warrenton, he set up a portrait studio in town near his father’s house and began taking commissions. Many artists of this time made their living by painting portraits for the affluent and upper middle members of society, and Brooke was no exception. But it is also around this time he struck out to paint an honest genre scene of black Virginians. According to his journal, Brooke contemplated the piece for a long while before undertaking it. It was a posed genre scene, specifically set to represent an occasion that would be universally understood: a family hosting the pastor for supper. To populate the scene Brooke called on individuals (neighbors? friends? former servants?) he knew. A gentleman named George Washington was the model for the pastor, and a younger man, Daniel Brown, sat for the host. Georgianna Weeks portrayed the wife figure. Brooke’s level of detail suggests familiarity with the children as well. The end result is the 1881 piece, “The Pastoral Visit.”

“The Pastoral Visit” or “A Pastoral Visit”, Richard Norris Brooke, 1881. National Gallery of Art

In this piece the viewer sees a much more nuanced depiction of black individuals and black social life. The bespectacled pastor in somber clothes occupies the best seat in the home. He is served first, and after the meal the pastor will be given a cigar box containing his parishioners’ weekly offering. The banjo suggests that a song or tune will cap off the evening. The scene includes domestic details that might be seen in any modest home. A coffee grinder, ginger jar, and iron occupy the mantel. A kitten drinks milk from a dish. The family’s hands and faces have all been scrubbed for this social occasion, and while furniture and clothing may be worn, everything is clean.

It is striking how different this rendering is from Brooke’s illustrations for Harper’s Weekly less than ten years prior. His perspective had clearly changed, and he had no patience for artists who perpetuated the stereotypical treatment of African Americans. In a letter to the Corcoran’s trustees, Brooke decried “the flimsy treatment and vulgar exaggeration” usually afforded to black subjects. He readily admits to having painted the scene on purpose, “to elevate it to that plane of sober and truthful treatment which. . . should characterize every work of Art.” Though he didn’t want to be typecast as a painter of black subjects, some of his best received works were in that vein, including “The Pastoral Visit”‘s companion piece, “A Dog Swap.” A painting with more nuance, A Dog Swap is much less rigid in both its setting and painting style. While Brooke did not list the models he used for this piece, the figure on the far left looks very similar to George Washington, the man who sat for the Pastor.

Richard Norris Brooke, A Dog Swap, 1881, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Colonel Thomas G. Young, Jr., 1956.

Even though the setting is rougher, Brooke still treats his models with dignity. Instead of painting ‘a person of color’, he is clearly painting real individuals. While The Pastoral Visit shows a family in their Sunday best, perhaps A Dog Swap shows what Warrenton’s poorer families might be up to in their own informal spaces. Every figure is relaxed, indeed, every figure is leaning or resting on something or someone else. Nods to rural life- including a cabbage and a homemade birding net- would be familiar to Americans throughout the continent. What did the sitters think about having their likeness seen in the Corcoran Gallery of art? No record is left, but it is interesting to think that these genre scenes are probably the only remaining portraits made of Warrenton’s black residents during Reconstruction.

Both The Pastoral Visit and A Dog Swap helped Brooke achieve notoriety, though of his 800+ paintings most were landscapes and formal portraits. In 1881 he opened a studio on Pennsylvania Avenue, splitting his time between Washington D.C. and Warrenton. He was a leader in many arts organizations including the Washington Art Club and Society of Washington Artists. His most prestigious role was as Vice Principal of the Corcoran School of Art from 1902 to 1917. Sadly, a 1909 fire in Warrenton destroyed his studio there, along with some 225 works of art. Nevertheless, Brooke’s artwork has been shown in the National Gallery of Art, the Chicago World’s Fair, the Army and Navy Clubs, the U.S. Capitol Building, numerous courthouses, and countless private homes.

Richard Norris Brooke

In your own words, please answer the following questions:

  1. In what ways did the Brooke family participate in the Civil War?
  2. Compare the black and white Harper’s Weekly images to the painting The Pastoral Visit. Which one do you think is more truthful, and why?

Historic Pillow Talk

The Caleb Rector House has seen a lot of history over the last two centuries. From the coming of the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike to the modern highway system. During the Civil War it was a headquarters and a hospital, and was frequented by John Mosby and JEB Stuart. Today, it serves as the headquarters of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, but for 150 years it was home to generations of the Rector Family. The Rector legacy is written on the landscape, with Rectortown, Rector’s Crossroads, and Rector Lane all appearing on local maps at one time or another. The history of the Rectors can also be found in one of the most unusual artifacts to have come out of the Rector House.

The ca. 1801 Caleb Rector House

Several years ago an object was discovered in the attic of the Rector House. Made of cloth and embellished with ribbons and buttons, it resembled a strange sort of pillow. A longtime resident of the house nearly threw the old moth-eaten pillow away, but thankfully brought it to the attention of the MHAA staff instead.

The front of the pillow.

The pillow proved to be a fascinating artifact from one of the house’s earlier residents. It was quickly recognized that the pillow was made from portions of a military uniform from the early 20th century. The body was sewn out of the uniform cloth, while the cross-like design was made with a disassembled campaign hat. The blue hat cord – signifying the infantry – was arrayed over top, and in each corner there are buttons sewn onto ribbon. The back side of the pillow gave us a clue to the owner. Embroidered onto an epaulet are the initials MBR and the dates 1918-1919.

The rear of the pillow.

MBR was Maurice Bryant Rector, who spent most of his life here at the Rector House. Born in September, 1898, Maurice grew up in the village of Atoka, where his father operated a general store. Maurice came of age just as the United States entered the Great War. He was too young to be drafted initially, but in late 1918 the draft age was lowered from 21 to 18, and Maurice was called up for service. He was one of over 4 million Americans to be mobilized for the war effort.

Maurice Rector

Maurice reported to a depot in Warrenton and was inducted on October 23, 1918. From there he was sent to Takoma Park, Maryland for assignment at the Bliss Electrical School. The school had been commandeered by the Army for the training of electrical engineers, and Maurice was one of 700 men who studied there in 1918. Fortunately for Maurice, he was not among the 2 million Americans sent “over there” to the European front. He had barely begun his training when the armistice was declared on November 11th, and by 1919 he was back home in Fauquier County.

The Second Training Detachment at the Bliss School, 1918. Maurice was in the Third Detachment.

Maurice came back to Atoka, and by 1923 he had taken over running the general store and gas station. He and his wife Thelma continued to operate the store for the next 50 years, even after the new highway construction bypassed Atoka in 1957-58. The store lived up to it’s slogan of carrying everything “from beans to jeans” and both Jackie Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor made frequent stops when they visited horse country.

In later years Maurice was an avid fisherman, but he never revealed his secret fishing spots.

Maurice Rector passed away in 1982, and just a few years later the Rector House passed from family ownership. In 2019, the pillow was chosen by the Virginia Association of Museums as one of their Top 10 Endangered Artifacts. Thanks to a generous grant from VAM, we were able to send the pillow to a textile conservator, who stabilized the artifact for display. As we work on creating interpretive space inside the house, the pillow made from Maurice’s uniform will take a central place in our exhibit on the family who lived here. It certainly is a one of a kind reminder of one local man’s experience, however brief, of the First World War.

MHAA would like to thank Alexander Barnes for his research into Maurice’s military records, and Newbold Richardson, for doing a tremendous job conserving the pillow.

Class Activity: In your own words, please answer the following questions:

  1. What makes the Rector House unique or interesting?
  2. Did Maurice Rector fight in any battles? Why or why not?
  3. What is this unusual pillow made from? How was it saved?