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A new state historical marker on River Road in Falmouth will recognize the accomplishments of Moncure Conway, an Civil War-era abolitionist, author and minister
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By LEE WOOLF
That's because he was threatened and all but run out of town during a visit home in the winter of 1855-56. Conway, who was 23 at the time, already had acquired a reputation for his anti-slavery views.
In his autobiography written years later, Conway said he was surprised to be confronted on the main street of Falmouth by a group of young men and told that his presence in town could not be tolerated. There was even talk of tar and feathers. But cooler heads prevailed.
To avoid any trouble for his family, Conway decided to leave the next day. Alone on a steamboat traveling from Aquia Creek to Washington, Conway reflected on the bitterness directed at him by some who had been his former playmates and schoolmates.
"I sat on the deck humiliated and weeping," Conway wrote in his autobiography. "There now was brought home to me the terrible fact that the tyranny of slavery crushed not only the Negroes, but the most loving hearts of all."
During the war, Union soldiers were sacking the house when one of them recognized Conway from a painting in an upstairs bedroom. A servant then explained Conway's connection to the house, and the building was saved from destruction.
The most dramatic episode in Conway's career as an abolitionist occurred in July 1862, when he shepherded about 30 family slaves on a dangerous journey to freedom in Ohio.
Lenetta Schools and county resident Frank White attended a dedication ceremony in Yellow Springs last summer for a marker honoring Conway, and met descendants of the Stafford slaves who established "Conway Colony" near Antioch University.
The $1,225 cost of the Virginia highway marker that will be unveiled this month was paid by the Stafford Historical Society and a few individual contributors.
"We're very happy about this," said Lenetta Schools. "It has been helpful working with the Stafford Historical Society. They played a big role in this and we're very appreciative."
The Moncure Conway House has been one of the most prominent homes in Falmouth since it was built about 1807. It is on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition, the house recently has been designated by the National Park Service as a site on the Network to Freedom/Underground Railroad.
Lenetta and Norman Schools have owned the home for six years.