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Relics offer a lesson in history
Stafford officials receive donation of Civil War artifacts from development site.

  Lee Woolf's archive
  E-mail Lee Woolf
Date published: 2/2/2005


DURING THE WINTER of 1862-63, about 120,000 Civil War soldiers from the Army of the Potomac camped in Stafford.

And today, some of the bullets and other camp items they left behind are bagged and tagged in two boxes in the care of Amanda Lee of the county's Planning Department.

These artifacts were presented to the residents of Stafford during a recent meeting of the Board of Supervisors on behalf of Allen West, the president of Somerset Development.

Most of the items were collected by county historian D.P. Newton during an archaeological dig at the site of the former Stone Farm on Deacon Road in the southern part of the county. Somerset arranged for Newton's study before breaking ground on a new subdivision.

The artifacts were presented to the supervisors by Bob Van Valzah, the director of planning and site development for Somerset. Van Valzah said company officials hope the artifacts can be displayed in the proposed Stafford County Museum to help educate visitors on the Federal occupation during the Civil War and its huge impact on the county's landscape and economy.

"To my knowledge, this is the first time a developer has given historical artifacts to the county in just this way," said Lee, Stafford's historic preservation planner.

She said the next step is to thoroughly inventory all the items that were donated and then to store them in a secure place.

"This is something we try to do all the time," said Van Valzah of Somerset's local projects. "We want to keep intact the history of the area. We want to try to keep a record of what was there."

Newton is the owner and operator of the White Oak Civil War Museum. He is an experienced relic collector and probably knows as much about the winter living conditions for those Federal soldiers as anyone in Stafford.

In a cover letter to his report on the project, Newton praised West and Somerset Development for their interest in preservation.

Newton wrote that too few contractors "even want to know what history may have taken place upon their properties--much less bother to ask someone to preserve those relics and record those sites that might be found there."

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