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Stafford County notes 350 years of history


MORE PICTURES: View bonus photos from the Founders Day celebration.

As the timeline of Stafford County’s history, presented like a movie in parade form, rounded the final corner of the route Saturday, Carol Wilson stood up and took out her camera.

Carol and Richard Wilson had set up their plastic chairs with a cluster of people at the endpoint of the Saturday parade that was part of Founders Day, a two-day series of events to honor the county’s 350th anniversary.

Like many of the hundreds around them, Carol, a Stafford native, and Richard, a county resident since 1960, craned their necks to catch a part of their own history passing them by.

Carol Wilson looked for her two cousins representing the Patawomeck tribe’s Virginia Indian community. The Patawomeck was one of several tribes that settled in the county before Stafford was officially established in 1664.

“I liked all of it. It was a beautiful day,” Carol Wilson said.

Richard Wilson nodded to the familiar faces driving the parade’s classic vehicles, recollecting the auto body shop he helped design at North Stafford High School.

The classic cars had also caught the attention of Jacob Case and Elijah Sampson, two North Stafford High School JROTC members who volunteered to help at the event.

“The Corvettes,” they both said of what they remembered most.

Sitting in one Corvette was a face many recognized from history textbooks. Waving a gloved hand at the crowd, Abraham Lincoln wished Stafford a happy birthday.

The parade had divided Stafford’s history into chapters, with Lincoln in one of the later chapters called the Civil War era.

The Patawomeck community and George Washington atop a horse had helped lead the parade by representing Stafford’s beginnings and the Revolutionary era.

Vietnam veterans and two World War II veterans who had survived the storming of Normandy beach helped mark the World War I and World War II eras.

The high school marching bands followed most of the floats and historical faces. The feet of hundreds of musicians punching the ground as they belted out songs often left the crowd dancing and cheering.

“We loved the Mountain View High School marching band,” Jessica Neves said, admitting a bias because a relative attends the school.

Bringing Stafford County up to the present were two JROTC groups, an NAACP float, Miss Stafford and the Mayor of the Borough of Stafford in England.

The Borough of Stafford established a friendship association with the county in 1992. Since then, representatives of the borough and the county have exchanged visits.

“I have been coming here since 1992,” Ian Tavernor of the Borough of Stafford said. “I am enjoying it thoroughly. I already had a chat with George Washington.”

Much of the history from the parade spilled over into a history square and fine arts festival at Brooke Point High School.

Children scrambled up a replica of the barge John Smith used to explore the Chesapeake Bay for 94 days in 1608. The map that resulted from that 1,700-mile voyage can still be used today, according to Lionel Whitcomb of the Reedville Fisherman Museum. Whitcomb and his coworkers had read Smith’s diary to create the replica, which has since been used in two movies, Whitcomb said.

Other children lined up to play a mathematical game called “four and ten” that was created in the late 16th to early 17th century. Paul Smith, a member of the local nonprofit George Washington’s Friends, was teaching the children the game to help shed light on what life was like during Washington’s time. Washington lived in Stafford from age 6 to 19.

“You spend a day and a half on this stuff in the classroom. This keeps it alive,” said Bob Bailey with George Washington’s Friends.

Still other youngsters and parents flocked to the Patawomeck village from 1650 that included a 40-foot longhouse, two canoes and a corn grinder.

Nearby, vague footprints in prehistoric rocks pointed to a time in the county’s history that not many knew.

“I didn’t even realize there were dinosaurs in Stafford County,” Marie Monday said after visiting Jon Bachman’s dinosaur exhibit.

Every couple of hours, the boom of an 1812 cannon could be heard across the high school grounds. The cannon was shot off not far from where someone demonstrated a World War II flamethrower.

Student art performances and art exhibits were featured inside the high school.

According to the Stafford 350 website, the history square and fine arts festival will continue today from noon to 5 p.m.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975