Orange County, Virginia 1734-1934
Written by D. N. Davidson
General Chairman of the Orange County Bicentennial Committee
Copyright not filed in 1934
HISTORIANS seem to be unanimous in agreement that Orange County, through the achievement of its citizens during the past two centuries, has played a distinguished role in the program of expansion and development of our great nation. Orange County citizenship, whether within the former large confines or within the present limits, has had a fine, progressive point of view and has produced men whose leadership has been of the finest type, and whose influence has been far-reaching. These leaders have faced challenging tasks presented by issues involving adventure and exploration; involving conflicts with hostile forces of nature and otherwise involving the security of horse and the right to worship God as their constituents desired; involving- matters of state building with a whole host of important subsidiary matters tending toward democratic living, and consistently have they reacted in a splendid and becoming manner, in a manner which the present generation justly feels proud. In view of these facts and for the purpose of an interpretation of our social heritage, the present citizens of Orange County are resolved to memorialize the deeds of their illustrious ancestors and to portray in a symbolic way the history of the county on the occasion of its Bicentennial. So true is the above that practically every articulate group within the county, following the lead of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce and the Orange Fair Association, offered its cooperation and service in any way possible. The whole affair is a labor of love-love prompted by meritorious deeds done in the past by our kith and kin.
The pages within give only a few of the more important phases of our past.
D. N. DAVIDSON,
OFFICERS AND COMMITTEE MEMBERS OF THE ORANGE COUNTY BICENTENNIAL
D. N. DAVIDSON, General Chairman
COL. Ch as. D. WINN, U. S. A. retired, Executive Secretary
DALLAS COONS, Assistant Secretary
H. F. PRIEST, Treasurer
Miss Mary Priest, Stenographer
|O. B. Jones||W. R. Preddy||Jos. M. Samuels|
|W. L. Utz||E. A. Brizzolara||A. Stuart Robertson|
|V. R. Shackelford||Paul H. Scott||E. V. Breeden|
|Hon. Harry Flood Byrd||Dr. James Early||Dr. H. J. Eckenrode|
|Dr. John W. Wayland||Dr. John Stewart Bryan||Judge A. W. Embrey|
|Hon. James H. Price||Walton H. Marshall||Gov. Geo. C. Peery|
|Hon John Q. Rhoades||Mrs. Harry St. Geo. Tucker||Dr. Frank R. Crone|
|Hon. E. Lee Trinkle||Col. Leroy Hodges||Hon. Henry G. Shirley|
|Hon. Geo. Gordon Battle||Hon. Howard W. Smith||Dr. Wilmer L. Hall|
|Dr. Sidney B. Hall||Dr. John Lloyd Newcomb||Hon. A. Willis Robertson|
|Judge Daniel Grinnan||Hon. Wm. E. Carson||Hon. John W. Flannagan, Jr.|
|Hon. Clifton A. Woodrum|
|Dr. F. B. Perry||Miss Eleanor Decker||J. P. Clark|
|James T. Payne||T. A. Almond||J. M. McIntosh|
|W. B. Young||Mrs. L. H. Gray||E. H. Rouse|
|Mrs. O. T. Herndon||R. O. Halsey||Mrs. Marshall Cowherd|
|A. B. Taliaferro||Kenneth Brockman||Mrs. L. B. Faulconer|
|Wm. C. Williams||Mrs. J. Marshall Jackson||L. M. Acree|
|Mrs. J. A. Woodruff||Mrs. J. H. Hume,||Geo. Barbour|
|E. E. Wambersie||Keese Brooking||Capt. Phil Scott|
|G. W. James||Miss Bertha Robinson||Mrs. L. D. Thomasson|
|W. C. Whitaker||James Green||Miss Elizabeth Taylor|
|Miss Elizabeth Copeland|
|Col. Daniel L. Porter||E. V. Huffman||O. A. Moeller|
|E. V. Breeden||N. C. Bailey||S. M. Nottingham|
|C. J. Browning||J. B. Fray||Dr. L. Holladay|
|Mrs. J. Marshall Jackson||Mrs. R. L. Ashton||J.H. Stratton|
|J. M. McIntosh||Rev. E. V. Peyton||Mrs. Ellie Marcus Marx|
|Mrs. Joe Mercer|
|Judge A. T. Browning||Mrs. Ellie Marcus Marx|
|T. P. Somerville||Thomas Barbour|
|Frances Rawlings||Dr. E. H. Mack|
|Mrs. R. C. Macon||Mrs. P. W. Hide|
|Miss Lucy Coons||Jack Thompson|
|Mrs. J. VV. Browning||Mrs. A. B. Taliaferro|
|Kenneth Brockman||Dr. C. H. Moncure|
|N. C. Bailey||M. W. Carter|
|E. O. N. Williams||Lawrence Ricketts|
|H. C. Craig||R. D. Browning||E. V. Breeden|
|Patrick Gorman||Mrs. R. L. Ashton||J. W. Brownin|
|O. A. Moeller||J. B. Parrott||L. M. Acree|
|Tom Taylor||John Coleman||Stark Estes|
|Justice Geo. L. Browning||O. B. Jones||W. B. Mason|
By D. N. DAVIDSON
ORANGE COUNTY is exceedingly rich in history. It was named in honor of William of Orange, King of England. It has the unique distinction, according to reliable historians, of being the largest county ever formed. Originally it extended from Germany on the Rapidan River to the Great Lakes and back as far as the Pacific Ocean. The claim to this vast area was the result of the aggressiveness of Governor Alexander Spotswood, who was probably the greatest imperialist ever sent to Virginia by the English government. When he took charge of the colony, in 1710, he rearranged Indian affairs so as to permit exploration and settlement of white men farther west than had been possible up to that time.
In 1714, Governor Spotswood planted a little colony of Germans on the Rapidan River, who formed the nucleus of Germany, which later became a famous colonial outpost settlement. This action was the entering wedge to further settlement; and the pushing back of the frontier by the immigrants at that time got an impetus that was never successfully opposed thereafter. Germany, deserted today, constitutes a landmark in American history. It was there that the first Reformed congregation in America was organized. This first non conformist parish, five miles square, was carved out of the wilderness under the influence of Governor Spotswood. There also was established the first Lutheran congregation in Virginia. From the little village of Germanna, which served as a rendezvous in 1716, Spotswood led his Knights of the Golden Horseshoe across the Blue Ridge mountains to the great Valley of Virginia.
In 1722, James Taylor, II, who was a member of that famous party, took up about 15,000 acres of land in the vicinity of Orange, and his settlement grew steadily and progressively. Bloomsbury, the first home in the area of that valiant frontiersman, still stands and may be seen from the present highway leading from Fredericksburg to Orange. It is a beautiful colonial home, well preserved and essentially unchanged.
In passing, it may he of interest to say that James Taylor, II, was the founder of a line of descendant, as numerous and as distinguished as any other line in American history. Within a period of three or four generations, two members of his offspring, namely, James Madison and Zachary Taylor, had served the United States in the highest office within the gift of the electorate.
Upon the heels of this distinguished old adventurer, other scions of Great Britain followed in rather quick succession, and settled farther toward the west. The Germans, according to their particular groupings, left Germanna for places farther inland. The Reformed group moved near Warrenton, Virginia, and the Lutheran group moved into the present Hebron Church community in what is now Madison County. Descendants of these original German settlers have proved themselves most worthy citizens and have made an important contribution to the development of American institutions. They are scattered today throughout the United States. During the Orange County Bicentennial Celebration it is proposed that the descendants of the settlers of Germanna organize themselves into a patriotic group and undertake the erection of a suitable memorial to their ancestors.
In 1732, Colonel William Byrd made a visit to Governor Spotswood’s home at Germanna for the purpose of seeing the iron mines and the state of economic progress in that vicinity. The account of his visit which he left is a vivid picture of conditions in and around Germanna at that time. Governor Spotswood was keenly interested during his day in the movements of the French who had established themselves near the Great Lakes. His dream of their encroachment upon English soil became a reality; and in 1753, when George Washington was sent into the Ohio region to request the French to withdraw, William Russell, a former sheriff of Orange County, was sent, it seems, to that same general section to ask the Indians to continue their former trade relations with the English and not to ally themselves unduly with the French. Both of these emissaries were unsuccessful, but their cause finally triumphed in the treaty of 1763.
After the close of the French and Indian Wars, the Mother Country had more time to study the colonies and out of such a survey certain trade limitations and barriers which were detrimental to general living conditions of the colony along with new taxes were imposed. Out of this new program of taxation developed dissatisfaction with the colonial political organization, and a new movement of freedom and democracy was inaugurated. The Virginia citizens of Orange County grew rather restless under the restrictions set up by England. Former loyalists of the English government were gradually transformed into groups seeking a larger participation in governmental control. This same feeling became evident in matters of religion and here and there within the county, which, by that time, had become considerably smaller than it was formerly, there were formed groups of religious dissenters. A clash developed between the old forces of authority and the new forces representing the spirit of local self-government. Orange County citizens, always sensitive to every influence which had to do with the problem of freedom took a leading part in repudiating the status quo, and many former !oval colonists laid down their property and their lives for new measures of freedom Their faith and work carried them to victory.
In making new adjustments after the Revolutionary War, in which citizens of Orange County took an active and conspicuous part, and in drafting political policies and governmental documents, local, state and national, Orange County leaders stood in the forefront. The Virginia Bill of Rights and the United Mates Constitution were influenced very definitely by statesmen from Orange County. The first ten amendments to the Constitution, which grew out of demands of dissenting religious and other groups, led quite lamely by Parson John Leland, who fought for the insertion of the principle of freedom into the actual document of the Constitution, were submitted to The Congress by James Madison, who had drafted the Constitution some years before.
The War of 1812 offered another splendid opportunity to Orange County talent. At that time, James Madison was President of the United States, and James Barbour, his neighbor, was Governor of Virginia. These two most worthy sons of Orange County put their heads together, and won lasting recognition for their public service.
The period from the close of the War of 1812 to the beginning of hostilities of the War Between the States may be termed one of assimilation and progress in the life of Orange County. Internal improvements both public and private were the order of the day. Arteries of transportation were considered and built. These projects ranged from the small community road to macadam turnpikes and the construction of railroads. Following in the wake of these activities, new types of homes representing the best in eighteenth-century architecture were built throughout the county. These can be seen today. A larger and more beautiful type of tavern for the benefit of travelers using the stage coach and private conveyances was built. The Chestnut Hill tavern located about six miles from Orange is a gem of architectural beauty and is said to have been the favorite resort of Henry Clay when he was in these parts.
When the railroads came, villages sprang up at new places, trade and transportation increased, large-scale farming and stock raising were engaged in, and, all told, prosperity was general. Private schools were scattered here and there and churches were erected at intervals of only a few miles. Social life in general was unusually attractive. Slavery was general but conducted most humanely although there were rumblings of its evils among political philosophers abroad. The sons of Orange shone splendidly during this period. Their names are to be found on the rolls of Presidents of the United States, cabinet members, members of the United States Senate and of the House of Representatives, justices of the United States Supreme Court, high United States military and naval officers, American ambassadors, presidents of the Virginia constitutional conventions, and of other important state and national leaders.
At the Secession Convention in Richmond, which began in February, 1861, the representative from Orange County held tenaciously to the principles of states’ rights and took an active part in all the proceedings. The conclusions of this conference received the approval and support of the inhabitants of Orange County, which later on from time to time entertained large units of the army of the Confederacy. While there was little actual fighting on Orange soil, more than one hundred thousand Americans lost their lives in the War Between the States, in an area included within a twenty-five-mile radius from a point in the county. Orange furnished its quota of officers, men, horses, clothing, food, hospitalization and provender for the Confederate cause, enjoyed giving its hospitality to the officers and enlisted men of the Confederate forces, and treated the enemy with becoming civility when occasion offered.
Orange County got through the reconstruction period in a very satisfactory manner, and from the seventies to the present time the county has made constructive advances. The county agricultural achievement has been noticeable; free schools have moved forward in a progressive way; a fine system of roads has been well constructed, and new industries have from time to time been established in the county.
Altogether, the people of Orange County remain a homogeneous group. Many of them are direct descendants of the first settlers, and possess the qualities of progress, sturdiness, thrift and integrity characteristic of their forebears. They have long been noted for their hospitality and social charm, and are worthy of their illustrious heritage.