Monday, May 27, 2019

Bristow: A Forgotten Virginia town that began in the 17th Century

When I moved to Virginia I hoped for a bit of the 18th century in which to live. In fact, when I moved here I wrote: What's in a Name? Lafayette, George Mason, Gunston Hall about my hilarious journey looking for a street name tied in to the 18th century. Even though the housing market was theoretically ripe in March 2009, a long sojourn of twists and turns landed us in Bristow. What's Bristow?

What I did know was that Bristow has a lovely view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by neighborhoods and the Prince William Parkway to the east, horse country to the west, and farms to the south. Located in Northern Virginia, it is 30 miles west-south-west of Washington DC, in Prince William County. (But don't be fooled, it's an hour drive to DC with low traffic.)

And I totally loved that I could drive to all points north: Maryland, Pennsylvania, etc via lovely Rte 15 instead of the parking lot of I-95.

Bristow is such a tiny town, 14 square miles with a population of 30,000. We don't even have a mayor or city council. We fall under the county jurisdiction, with our county supervisor representing Brentsville District which is 2 miles southeast of my house. The courthouse is in Manassas, five miles east of my house.  My volunteer fire department, based at its lovely firehouse a block north of my neighborhood, is part of the Nokesville Fire Department, 3 miles southwest of my house.

For years I asked locals, who shrugged but said there was nothing out here until the early 2000s when the huge subdivision, Braemar (where my house is located) was built. I've often been told that Braemar IS Bristow.

I asked the interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg if they knew of any history of Bristow. Was there a burgess? Oops! I stumped them on that one. (I didn't mean to.) No one knew.

Bristow seemed to be a forgotten place.

When my kids and I recently toured the Civil War battlefield down the road, the tour guide had a suggestion. We should check the recently built Sheetz on the corner of Linton Hall and Nokesville Road.

Well what do you know? Historical markers at the local Sheetz, which only a couple of years before were woods? Using this as a base I've had impetus for further research, which bore more fruit. So for my own interest and fascination, I'll be adding to this blog post as I learn more details of the history of Bristow. Join me on the ride if you so wish! Personally I think it's fascinating peak not only into the 18th century, but also the 17th!

1-Bristow looking towards Bristoe Station Battlefield
Looking towards Bristoe Station Battlefield in Bristow

In the 17th century the area was a tiny part of a 5,000,000,000 acre land tract between the Potomac and Rappahanock Rivers, called the Fairfax Proprietory. As a political move it had been granted by King Charles II of England to seven Virginia Englishmen, one of whom was John I Lord Culpeper. However it didn't carry much weight because it had never been mapped. Further the proprietors pretty much ignored this gift, because the king didn't even have a kingdom.

When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, the grant legally took effect. But lets back up. When John Culpeper sided with the troubled King Charles I, the king granted Culpeper peerage in 1644, making him the "first Baron Colepeper of Thoresway, or John I Lord Culpeper." (The Fairfax Grant)
The Culpeper family obtained, consolidated, and retained the grant during the eras of Charles II, James II, and the rule of William and Mary. The Fairfax name is associated with the grant today because a Culpeper daughter married a Fairfax in 1690, and their son ended up owning all the shares granted initially in 1649. (The Fairfax Grant)
(By the way, the eldest son of that marriage, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, inherited the lands in 1719. At this time the boundary lines were in huge dispute which you can read all about here. However I'm getting ahead of myself. This was a just an interesting side note.)

2-Bristow History
Bristow History

From John I Lord Culpeper, 30,000 acres of the tract was purchased in 1687 by George Brent, a member of the House of Burgesses and a Catholic. Joining him in the purchase were three English merchants: Robert Bristow (a survivor of Bacon's Rebellion),  Richard Foote, and Nicholas Hayward.

The 30,000 acre plot in Northern Virginia extended between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers from Stafford County, between the two branches of Occoquan Creek and the mountains. Or in 17th century terms:
...backwards at least six miles Distant from the said Main River and from any Land already seated and inhabited, and upon and between the Southwest and Northeast branches of Ocaquan Creek and from thence towards the Mountains.
The 30,000 acre land tract became known as the Brent Town Tract.

3-Four Sections of Brent Town Tract by investor
Bristow History showing division of Brent Town Plat among the four investors

Because Catholicism was illegal, Hayward obtained special permission from King James II for this tract of land to be a sanctuary for those seeking religious freedom. The land owners first attempted to bring solely Huguenots and then later Catholics to the area. Neither attempt was successful.

5-Brent Town Tract Plat 1737
Bristow History

Population registered 39 households in 1737.

4-Robert Bristow portion of Brent Town Tract
Bristow History

So, who is Robert Bristow, Esquire? (To prove that many resources agree, I grouped information according to source.)

Robert Bristow arrived in Virginia from England in 1660, settled in Gloucester County, and became a burgess. As a result of his support of the government during Bacon's Rebellion, he was captured by rebels and lost land holdings. (Notes on often-cited persons, places, things in Robert Carter's diary and letters)

Born in Hertfordshire, England in 1643 he arrived in Virginia in 1660 and started acquiring property three years later. Serving as major of the militia, Bristow sided with Royal Governor Berkley during Bacon's Rebellion. Because that venture failed, he returned to London in 1677 where he attained wealth as a merchant. (Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography)
After the fallout from Bacon's Rebellion, "Commissioner Berry's highest praise for a Loyalist was perhaps saved for Major Robert Bristow, who was a rebel prisoner while his plantation and store was plundered. (Loyalists and Baconists: the participants in Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia, 1676-1677)
Major Robert Bristow, a Gentleman of good estate and an Eminent sufferer in his being kept prisoner until Bacon's death and after, he hath had a general knowledge of most passages relating to the unhappy Troubles, and is able not only to justify most Particulars of our Narrative, But also is a person very fit & necessary to be examined to divers particulars in the generall Greivances. Being a man of good understanding in the Virginia affaires and one of Integrity and moderacion, see that wee could wish hee might bee sent when there shall bee occasion & use of him in any of the aforesaid affaires being now an Inhabitant in Tower Street, London, Agt. Barking Church. Signed, John Berry Ed. in, October 15th, 1677. [The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol 5, No. 1 (Jul., 1897), pp64-70]  
Here I discovered that Robert Bristow was described as a purchaser of "valuable estates." Upon his passing in 1707, his grandson, also a Robert Bristow, was "bequested the lands in Virginia which consisted of estates in Gloucester, Lancaster, Stafford, and Prince William Counties."

Portions of a drafted letter Robert Bristow's grandson wrote to Robert "King" Carter, Jan 10, 1708:
Mr. Robert Carter
By the death of my honoured grandfather Robert Bristow Senior Esquire my father being dead above a year since: Those plantations, & that estate he had in Virginia become mine--Bequeathed indeed to me per Will, the Copy of which attested per Notary Public is sent to Mr. Nathanial Burwell son of Major Lewis Burwell I was advised per some friends of mine to desire him with Major Lewis to take an Inventory...(The Correspondence and Papers of Robert "King" Carter of Virginia. 1701-1732)
Because Robert Bristow was a loyalist, the Commonwealth of Virginia confiscated his portion of 7500 acres during the American Revolution.

Overtime the spelling mysteriously changed to Bristoe. I've heard various stories, none confirmed. One explanation is that the spelling changed because of the confiscation of land from the Bristow family. Bristoe Station was the name of the RR depot for the Orange and Alexandria that was fought over in the Civil War. Few lived here at the time. In 1906 the Board of Geographic Names settled on Bristow.

Oh, and one more historical marker at the Sheetz parking lot on the corner of Linton Hall and Nokesville Roads.

6-Bristoe Station Battlefield
Battle Bristoe Station

Little known Bristow is the location of the little known Civil War drama: Battle of Kettle Run and Battle of Bristoe Station.

Yet don't estimate our supposed unimportance. The Battle of Kettle Run defined the Second Battle of Manassas. The Battle of Bristoe Station defined the end of Lee and the open door for Grant.

And Bristow? The importance of a little Virginia town of Bristow is perhaps of little significance except to a history lover, like me. What can I say? It's because of Colonial Williamsburg. They taught me to love history and to love digging for the historical record.

Stay tuned for more history from Bristow.

Historical Markers at Sheetz on corner of Linton Hall and Nokesville Rds, Bristow, Virginia

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Battle Bristoe Station, Stonewall Jackson, and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad

Every day I hear the train in the distance...and I imagine battles between the Confederates and the Union forces.

Three miles from my home the Civil War battles were fought. Since it was Memorial Day Weekend, my kids and I decided to explore Bristoe Station Battlefield Historical Park, which was recently established.

When we arrived in the parking lot we were met by a tour guide so...we got our own personal private tour!

The Orange and Alexandria Railroad was established by the General Assembly in 1848 and was completed in 1854, running from Alexandria (on the Potomac River near Washington DC) to Gordonville (north of Charlottesville in central Virginia). The venture was a commercial success. Farmers could more cheaply transport their goods to Alexandria, which helped Alexandria become a thriving port and manufacturing center. With an extension of the railway completed in 1860, passengers more easily traveled from Alexandria to Lynchburg (south of Charlottesville) in 8 hours by train as opposed to the previous 3 day journey by stagecoach.

It has been argued that the O&A was the most fought over railroad in Virginia during the Civil War. Most popular are the First and Second Battles of Manassas. Less popular are the battles fought at Bristoe Station, located 7 miles from the infamous Manassas Battlefield. (The Second Battle of Manassas occurred the day after the Battle of Kettle Run at Bristoe Station in 1862. A second battle was fought here in 1863, specifically called the Battle of Bristoe Station.)

Walking trails, however, cannot take the story sequentially, as these grounds were used several different times in several different ways by both the North and the South. So I'm going to try to break this down topically. More details are provided at the links.

The first part of the trail took us to this hut, a replica of those built by the Pennsylvania regiment to endure the winters of 1863 to 1864.

1-Federal_Pennsylvania_ Winter Quarters_1863-1864
Bristoe Station Battlefield

One account from April 1862 is of  days of  rain that turned to snow, accumulating to over a foot, which after it melted turned the mud into a near 3' deep quagmire.

2-Bristoe Station Battlefield Encampment Area
Bristoe Station Battlefield
The tour guide led us to one of the many cemeteries of the 1861 encampment.

3-Bristoe Station Battlefield
Bristoe Station Battlefield
Many died at these camps due to unsanitary conditions. The regiments of the different states formed their own cemeteries.

4-Bristoe Station Battlefield
Bristoe Station Battlefield
The better marked cemeteries were primarily those of Alabama and some of Mississippi. The others "are mostly unmarked and defy identification."

5-Bristoe Station Battlefield
Bristoe Station Battlefield

Burial of the dead was a daily occurrence at Bristoe; military homage was paid to the remains of each departed soldier by the comrades discharging musketry volley over the grave of the deceased at the interment. Reports of musketry could be heard throughout the camping grounds of the entire brigade and it was a signal well understood. -Pvt. Bailey George McClelen, Co. D., 10th Alabama Infantry

6-Bristoe Station Battlefield Cemetery
Bristoe Station Battlefield
The tour guide now led us to the portion of the trail where the Battle of Kettle Run was fought in August 27, 1862.

8-Bristoe Station Battlefield
Bristoe Station Battlefield
Before I moved here in 2002 these homes (Centex) were built, back before this was a historical park. There has much controversy about these homes, and new nearby road improvements. It's a good discussion to have, to balance daily life with historic preservation.

PWC announces on their website that in 2004 Centex, Civil War Trust, and Prince William County agreed to preserve 130 acres of the battlefield.

In 2007 Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park opened to the public.

In 2016 it was reported that there is 80% more battlefield to protect.

In 2017 the Civil War Trust announced it would preserve 34 acres of the battlefield.

Here is a 2019 announcement from the American Battlefield Trust announcement for donations to help purchase 118 additional acres. (Lots of great historical details of the October 1863 Battle of Bristoe Station.) More details on that here, with lots of history, from the Emerging Civil War website.

9-Bristoe Station Battlefield and Modern Neighborhood
Bristoe Station Battlefield
This is where the Battle of Kettle Run, August 27, 1862, is interpreted. So, let's set the stage.

In June 1862 fighting centered in the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia. When Union Gen. Pope took the newly formed Army of Virginia to the O&A railroad junction in Gordonsville. Gen. Lee sent General Jackson with 25,000 men to challenge the new opposition.

10-Bristoe Station Battlefield site 1862 battle
Bristoe Station Battlefield
Union Gen. McClellan led his 90,000 men (Army of the Potomac) north, leaving Lee with his 55,000 men in Richmond. Because the Union threat left Richmond, Lee led his men west to the Rappahannock to await McClellan.

Recent rains flooded the Rappahannock, preventing Lee's ability to cross the river.

Lee sent Jackson to destroy Pope's communications to Washington DC along the O&A, in order to force Pope's retreat.

11-Bristoe Station Battlefield site 1862 battle
Bristoe Station Battlefield
On August 26, 1862, Jackson and his men arrived at Bristoe Station where they cut the telegraph lines and tore apart the O&A railroad, then the Confederates awaited empty freight trains coming from Warrenton Junction. Four Union trains appeared. The first somehow escaped with only bullet holes. The second plunged over the embankment. The third crashed into the second. The fourth realized what was happening and reversed course to Catlett Station. Our tour guide told us that one of the Union soldiers who had crashed discovered the severed telegraph line, repaired it, and alerted the Union forces to stop the trains headed to Bristoe Station and Manassas Junction.

12-Bristoe Station Battlefield site 1862 battle
Bristoe Station Battlefield
On August 27, 1862, the Battle of Kettle Run was led by Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Union Maj. Gen. Hooker.

13-Bristoe Station Battlefield site 1862 battle
Bristoe Station Battlefield
In the distance we heard the train come through...can you see it?

14-Bristoe Station Battlefield site 1862 battle
Bristoe Station Battlefield
Modern train on the old O&A line, for which this battle ensued to determine control of this strategic line of transportation.

15-Bristoe Station Battlefield site 1862 battle
Bristoe Station Battlefield
It was a miserably hot day, not only for us but also for the soldiers. It seemed ten degrees cooler in the shade, though the air was still sticky with humidity. Thunderheads grew above our heads.

16-Bristoe Station Battlefield Louisiana takes a stand
Bristoe Station Battlefield
Of course there are many details to the actual battle that can be read here. The Battle of Kettle Run is considered a prelude to the Second Battle of Manassas, that was fought the next day, August 28-30, 1862. A tactical error by Hooker led to the Union defeat at Second Manassas.

17-Bristoe Station Battlefield
Bristoe Station Battlefield
We then took the trail for the actual Battle of Bristoe Station, fought October 14, 1863. We had been outdoors in the heat for hours, so we decided to enjoy the view on a park bench at the park headquarters (which looks like someone's house in the middle of a cornfield) under a shady tree, and listen to the tour guide tell more stories!

18-Bristoe Station Battlefield 1863
Bristoe Station Battlefield
The tree line is where the train tracks run. Behind those tracks is where the American Battlefield Trust hopes to gain another 118 acres, which I think includes the Union position.

19-Bristoe Station Battlefield 1863
Bristoe Station Battlefield
The Battle of Bristoe Station has an interesting turn of facts. On October 14, 1862, Gen. A.P. Hill saw two Union corps crossing the nearby Broad Run and attacked, presuming they were the last of a long line of Union troops passing through.

(The tour guide told us that Gen. A.P. Hill's position was on top of a's Harris Teeter at the corner of Linton Hall and Nokesville Rd.)

Meanwhile Union Gen. Warren's Second Corps was posted nearby, behind an embankment of the O&A. Warren's men destroyed two brigades and captured a battery. Hill reinforced his line but to no avail. When darkness descended, the Union army continued on to Centreville. Due to lack of supplies in Bristoe Station, the Confederates continued to the Rappahannock, destroying railroad track of the O&A as they marched.

"We've grieved, we've mourned, we've wept, we've never blushed before." -Gen. Lee

Moving far too cautiously Union General Meade followed Lee, repairing track as his men marched. More engagements led to more defeats for the Confederates. The Bristoe Campaign, the last of Lee's offensive campaigns, ended on November 7. Lee's march to Bristoe Station was his last in Northern Virginia. Meade's retreat led to Lincoln seeking a more aggressive replacement.

20-Bristoe Station Battlefield 1863
Bristoe Station Battlefield
And what happened to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad? During the last half of the 19th century it changed hands many times. Then in 1914, it was acquired by The Southern Railway who later joined the Norfolk and Western Railway. Today Amtrak and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) operate on these tracks as well. (On a side note, interesting that the modern day Manassas line of the metro is the Orange Line which runs from Washington DC to Manassas in the west. Wonder if it was named as such in memory of the Orange and Alexandria?)

Spring in Colonial Williamsburg

I just love Colonial Williamsburg in the late spring.
44-CW Gardens
Colonial Williamsbug

45-CW Gardens
Colonial Williambutg

Many thanks to my son for this photo!

47A-CW Governor's Palace Garden Laurie
Governor's Palace Gardens

Perhaps the Governor's Palace gardens are my favorite.

48-CW Governor's Palace Garden

Governor's Palace Gardens
My kids (B and C) had fun making sure my daughter's boyfriend (A) got lost in this maze. They had a blast!

49-CW Governor's Palace Maze

Governor's Palace Gardens

50-CW Governor's Palace Canal

Governor's Palace Gardens

My favorite house in this historic area is the Robert Carter III house. I love this breezeway. It was a lovely place to await the Drummers Call Tattoo.

63-CW Robert Carter III House
Robert Carter III House

64-CW Robert Carter III House
Robert Carter III House

At the time I was reading this great journal by Philip Vickers Fithian, tutor to Robert Carter III's children.

65-CW Robert Carter III House
Robert Carter III House

When the cupula looks like this, cressets are lit and the Fife and Drum Corps units start the Tattoo march.
66-CW Governor's Palace cupula
Governor's Palace Cupula

See more Drummers Call photos here.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Tin Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

Next we took my daughter's boyfriend to the tinshop, one of the newest trades featured at Colonial Williamsburg.

60-CW Tinshop

They can be found at the recently constructed Armoury Complex which served the American Revolution soldiers.

61-CW Tinshop

Of course their work is amazing.

62-CW Tinshop

Read all about them here.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Brickyard at Colonial Williamsburg

Next we took my daughter's boyfriend to the brickyard.

57-CW Brickyard

Impressed as he was, we could not talk him into helping to make bricks. Perhaps on a hot summer day?

59-CW Brickyard

Learn more about the brickmaker here.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A brook runs under the Cabinetmaker Shop

The next trade we took my daughter's boyfriend to was the Cabinetmaker. Their craftsmanship in fine woodwork extends to these stunning sketches.

51-CW Cabinetmaker Shop
Craftsmanship of the Cabinetmaker at Colonial Williamsburg

All supplies neatly organized.

50-CW Cabinetmaker Shop
Cabinetmaker supplies at Colonial Williamsburg

Love looking at the view of the brook that runs underneath the shop. My daughter's boyfriend was amazed.

52-CW Cabinetmaker Shop
A brook runs under the Cabinetmaker shop at Colonial Williamsburg

This trade, along with the others, research primary source documents to replicate 18th century techniques.

53-CW Cabinetmaker Shop
Books for the Cabinetmaker at Colonial Williamsburg

Outside enjoyment of the bridge and brook...

54-CW Cabinetmaker Shop
Outside the Cabinetmaker Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

Such a charming area...

55-CW Cabinetmaker Shop
Outside the Cabinetmaker Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

The kids wanted to hang here for quite some time.

56-CW Cabinetmaker Shop
Outside the Cabinetmaker Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

Stay tuned for the brickmaker!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A fearful trip to the Wigmaker

After visiting the milliner and the silversmith, we ventured to the wigmaker.

18-CW Wigmaker
Wigmaker Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

My kids had been terrified the first time they visited the wigmaker years ago, who kindly suggested she'd happily shave their heads for them, in preparation to more properly wear a wig.

19-CW Wigmaker
Wigmaker Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

Today my kids were willing to test the waters because they were showing the sites of the historic area to my daughter's boyfriend, who as making his first journey into the 18th century.

20-CW Wigmaker
Wigmaker Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

Thankfully, all was well, as no threats for free shavings were offered on this day.

21-CW Wigmaker
Wigmaker Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

I just loved the lovely displays of more beautiful craftsmanship abounded.

22-CW Wigmaker
Wigmaker Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

Located near the Capitol, many a burgess could easily conduct business to update his attire before returning to his burgess duties.

23-CW Wigmaker
Wigmaker Shop at Colonial Williamsburg