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LEE WOOLF: 'Movers and shakers' of early Stafford remembered
A new book chronicles Stafford County officials since 1664.

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Date published: 3/14/2001


TODAY'S STAFFORD County has a reputation as home to many sophisticated, well-educated and technically savvy residents.

Figures from the 2000 census tell us that Stafford continues to be among Virginia's largest and fastest-growing localities.

And most Staffordians see their county not only as a place that offers all of today's modern conveniences, but one that will continue to be on the cutting edge of life in the 21st century.

But this has not always been the case, as pointed out in Jerrilynn Eby's latest book: "Men of Mark in Stafford County, Virginia: A Listing of County Officials 1664-1991" (Iberian Publishing Co., Athens, Ga., 260 pages, illustrated, $29.95).

"In its early days, Stafford was very much a low-rent district," says Eby, a local historian, author and lecturer. "In fact, even as recently as the 1930s, there still were a lot of residents who couldn't read and write."

Eby spent two years on the book, which follows an earlier work, "They Called Stafford Home," published in 1997. This latest book lists most of the people responsible for 350 years of day-to-day operations in Stafford.

Eby says the lack of education is one of the reasons so many of the same names are repeated throughout her lists.

"These county jobs required a literate person," she says. "So you had the same people sharing jobs. The burgess also was the sheriff, and the justice of the peace also might be the coroner. These people had to take on multiple jobs. And often, they were passed down from father to son."

Still, it is not necessary for long-time Stafford residents to be embarrassed for their ancestors. Eby says there were few literate people throughout most of Virginia's "frontier" counties--and that's exactly what Stafford was during its early history.

"Stafford originally was part of the Northern Neck," she says. "And residents tended to be more literate as you moved down [the Neck].

"The land wasn't as good in Stafford [for farming]. Some people moved here because they liked being removed from the main streets. But still, there wasn't much wealth in Stafford."

Eby's book is divided into five chapters:

Burgesses, senators and delegates.

Justices of the peace.

Miscellaneous county officials (includes among others, sheriff, commonwealth's attorney, commissioner of the revenue, superintendent of schools and clerk of the circuit court.)

Post offices and postmasters.

Business licenses.

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