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Residents’ treasures shown off in Stafford

Marty McClevey arrived at Stafford County’s “Treasures from the Attic” event on Sunday with a bag full of items, including documents his mother had collected over the decades.

“She kept everything,” the Widewater resident said.

McClevey, 58, brought an assortment of documents including an envelope postmarked May 19, 1938, that commemorates the first airmail flight from Stafford to Washington and a program from the May 6, 1956, dedication ceremony of the “Church of St. William of York.”

He also brought a pewter button he found as a boy at Aquia Landing to see if it dated to Colonial times as he suspected.

And he brought a few tools including a “divider” that he said was used to notch logs for building cabins.

His father, now 96, still lives in the log structure dating to the 1820s where McClevey’s late mother was born and where he found the tools.

McClevey was among the first people to arrive at Gari Melchers’ Home and Studio in Falmouth on Sunday afternoon for an event geared toward identifying and cataloguing items linked to the county’s history.

The event was sponsored by the county Historical Society, the Stafford Museum and Cultural Center Foundation and Gari Melchers’ Belmont.

It was part of Stafford’s 350th anniversary celebration and linked to the county’s efforts to establish its own museum, said Scott Mayausky, Stafford’s commissioner of revenue and a member of the museum board.

Mayausky said the county hopes to have its virtual museum online within a month, which will mark the first phase of establishing the museum.

The second phase is community outreach, which was kicked off by Sunday’s event. The final phase will be the creation of a physical museum.

Mayausky said he hopes to break ground for a structure within five years.

Though Sunday’s event wasn’t about collecting anyone’s items, the items were scanned in or photographed and labeled with the owner’s information and could one day be part of the online exhibits, Mayausky said.

People from the community with various expertise were on hand Sunday to help identify items and try to determine their age.

Among them were Bill Beck of Beck’s Antiques in Fredericksburg and James Monroe Museum Director Scott Harris, a Stafford museum board member.

Al Conner, a Stafford historian and author, examined a 3-inch solid cannonball brought in by Hartwood Manor residents Connie and Steve Hilker.

Conner suggested the ball predated the Civil War and could date as far back as the Revolutionary War. He provided Connie Hilker three places to do additional research.

She found the tennis-ball-size ammunition while gardening and brought two large plastic bins full of other items she’d uncovered such as pieces of pottery, pieces of glass in various colors and a small vase.

Hilker, a member of the Stafford County Historical Society, said she came to Sunday’s event so people would have a record of what she had found.

Jeri Monroe Brooks lives in Prince William County now but grew up in Hartwood and showed up with several items documenting her family’s time there.

Her artifacts included two crucibles that had been used for gold mining in that region, something her great grandfather, Tom Downs, did after arriving from England in 1847.

Bringing the crucibles helped another woman attending the event who owned one of the cup-like objects but hadn’t known its purpose.

Sharing knowledge and gaining more was the goal of people who showed up on Sunday and Mayausky thought the turnout and enthusiasm were a good sign.

“There’s definitely a buzz in this room,” he said. “It speaks to the fact that this is something people want. People want to talk about their history, about their family’s history and that’s what a museum is about so I think we’re tapping into a real need in the community.”

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972