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White Oak has link to Yankees
Two White Oak area churches owe a debt of gratitude to some New Jersey men with Civil War connections

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Date published: 5/2/2006


M OST STAFFORD COUNTY churches suffered terribly during the Civil War at the hand of occupying Federal troops. It was common for Union soldiers to burn the pews as firewood, break the windows, deface the walls and even use sanctuaries as stables.

So, I was interested to learn recently that two houses of worship in the White Oak area owe a debt of gratitude to some visitors from New Jersey, at least one of whom was a descendant of a Union soldier who fought here. These men came to the area in the late 1800s and left a legacy of kindness and generosity--and a collection of photographs that is valued by the National Park Service.

Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that a few babies in White Oak were named after these New Jerseyites.

The group, from Morristown, N.J., included, J. Frank Lindsley; Henry B. Hoffman; his brother, Dr. Joseph R. Hoffman; Judge John B. Vreeland, a state senator from New Jersey; and Thomas B. Ironside. They were good friends who shared an appreciation of history and of helping others.

Lindsley's father, Capt. Ira J. Lindsley of the 15th New Jersey infantry, was killed in the Battle of Salem Church in Spotsylvania County in May 1863. The previous winter, Capt. Lindsley's unit had camped near White Oak Church in Stafford.

During the 1880s, the New Jersey men began making trips to the Fredericksburg area to walk the campsites and battlefields where ancestors had lived and fought.

Apparently, the men were distressed to discover that White Oak Church had been abandoned and was wasting away. Perhaps feeling that part of the destruction had been caused by Union troops, the men repaired the old frame building and bought an organ and hymn books.

The circuit preacher, however, determined that an organ wasn't appropriate for White Oak's Primitive Baptist services and should be removed.

So, the New Jersey contingent joined with others in the White Oak community to build a new church. Although they were Presbyterians, the New Jersey men accepted that the locals were strongly Baptist.

Thus, the congregation of Bethel Baptist (first called Jersey Baptist Bethel Church in honor of its Northern benefactors) began meeting in 1889. The first church building on White Oak Road was dedicated in 1891.

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