Stafford County's new hospital became its unofficial museum this week with the dedication of the new History Wall at Stafford Hospital Center.

The completion of the 48-foot mural by Stafford artist Dale Glasgow was celebrated yesterday with a ceremony in the hospital lobby.

The display traces more than 400 years of county history through words, images and artifacts. Hospital officials donated the space to the Stafford County Historical Society, the sponsor of the project.

The mural takes viewers through time from the age of dinosaurs to the creation and later expansion of Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Dozens of developments are featured, including Stafford's Indian civilizations, the early English settlements, its Civil War history and the Langley flight on the Potomac River at Widewater.

The challenge, Glasgow said, was to make the wall both concise and interesting.

"You have to pull images that will really engage people," he said.

Glasgow chose Washington, Lincoln, Pocahontas, artist Gari Melchers and an Algonquian Indian to anchor the mural.

These images are surrounded by a dozen smaller ones, including those of Capt. John Smith, George Mason, Moncure Conway and Palmer Hayden, one of the Harlem Renaissance painters.

"We're very, very pleased," said Jane Conner, a Stafford author and one of the organizers for the project. "It's a way to showcase our history."

Featured artifacts include ancient sharks' teeth, a stone ax, Colonial pipe fragments and a set of World War I dog tags that belonged to Sgt. Lester Williams, the great-grandfather of Paul Milde, a current member of the Board of Supervisors.

The inscription on the mural is "Stafford Through Time: Freedom, Perseverance, Hope."

Glasgow, a resident of Hartwood, has lived in Stafford for 15 years.

"This is something we've really needed and don't have," he said.

Conner said that she hopes the mural will spur interest in Stafford's long history and in the creation of a county museum.

The Board of Supervisors set aside money for a county museum about three years ago. But this year, when revenues dropped, it retrieved the money to use for other purposes.

Jim Hall: 540/374-5433

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