A Student of History

January 9, 2008

New Va. Historical Markers Announced

Filed under: Historic Places — John Maass @ 2:38 pm

Eleven New State Historical Highway Markers Approved

 —Markers cover topics in the counties of Albemarle, Caroline, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Henrico, Middlesex, Orange, and Southampton; and the cities of Fredericksburg and Lexington— 

Richmond – The Department of Historic Resources has approved for placement along Virginia roadways and public places eleven new historical highway markers covering topics that range from prehistoric Virginia Indian camps to twentieth-century environmental conservation efforts.   

The eleven markers approved by the Historic Resources Board of the Department of Historic Resources during its quarterly board meeting in December are as follows: 

·        “Benjamin F. Hicks 1847–1925,” for placement in the county of Southampton, discusses the efforts of a local man to improve peanut farming technology.  Inventions included a gasoline powered machine for stemming and cleaning peanuts, as well as contributions towards the development of a mechanized peanut harvester.  Hicks is believed to have helped revolutionize the peanut farming industry in the Southampton and other peanut farming areas. ·        “Early Indian Tool Making Camps” draws attention to the Caroline County location of several tool making camps used by Virginia Indians beginning around 8,000 years ago.  These camps were repeatedly used, and provide an interesting look at the development of technology along Virginia’s fall line, including the progression from stone to clay pottery used in vessel-making. ·        “Ira Noel Gabrielson 1889–1977” discusses Fairfax County resident Dr. Gabrielson’s contributions to the fields of wildlife and environmental conservation.  Among other items, the marker mentions that Gabrielson served as the first director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the first president of the U.S. chapter of the World Wildlife Fund and founder and first chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. ·        “John Mitchell’s Map,” which will be placed in Middlesex County, offers a brief look at the life of John Mitchell and his creation of a map of the eastern portion of North America.  According to the marker, “British and American diplomats used the map, acclaimed for its accuracy, to negotiate the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which ended the Revolutionary War and established boundaries for the new nation.”  ·        “Oakley,” to be installed in Orange County, is about a nearby Greek Revival–style house constructed for prominent local physician Dr. Robert Thomas.  The house was later owned by Dr. Thomas’s son-in-law G. Judson Browning and frequented by well-known satirist George Bagby. Browning went on to organize the Orange Raiders during the Civil War. ·        “Original African American Cemetery” commemorates the location of a Lexington cemetery for African Americans which dates to the days of slavery.  One person of note who was buried there is Jim Lewis, who according to the marker “served as Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson’s body servant and cook during the Civil War.”   ·        “The Sentry Box” discusses the Fredericksburg house of the same name which was built around 1786 by Brigadier General George Weedon, who later served as mayor of Fredericksburg.  The house saw intense fighting during December 1862, when the Union army built a pontoon bridge across the Rappahannock just below the Sentry Box’s location. ·        “Tommy Edwards 1922–1969” honors the life of Henrico County native Tommy Edwards, African American singer/songwriter. Edwards was the composer of 13 songs to reach the charts, as well as 12 full albums. Although he composed songs for such performers as Tony Bennett and Tony Fontane, Edwards is best remembered for his number one hit, “It’s all in the Game,” the 1958 version of which sold over 3,000,000 copies. ·        “William Ransom Johnson 1782–1849,” which will be placed in Chesterfield County, notes Johnson’s contributions to the early days of horse racing.  Nicknamed the “Napoleon of the Turf,” Johnson trained more than twenty champions.  One of these, Sir Henry, raced against American Eclipse in one of the many North-South match races held in Long Island. ·        “Wilson Cary Nicholas 1761–1820” notes the life of Albemarle County resident Wilson Nicholas, a close friend and political ally of Thomas Jefferson.  Nicholas served several terms in the General Assembly, as well as the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and as Governor of Virginia from 1814-1816.  Nicholas was buried at Monticello. ·        “Wreck at the Fat Nancy” discusses an incident of July, 1888, in which a train of the Virginia Midland Railroad broke through a trestle in Orange County, sending the engine and several cars plummeting into the creek 44 feet below.  One of the passengers killed was civil engineer Cornelius G. Cox, who had designed an alternative to the unstable trestle, but had not yet had a chance to install it.  The Virginia highway marker program, which celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2007, is one of the oldest in the nation. Currently there are 2,000-plus official state markers, mostly installed and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation.  Funds for new highway markers come from private organizations, individuals, and local jurisdictions. 

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