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May 23, 2001 A Community Remembers
Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association

A community remembers

As part of the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation's day-long event at Spotsylvania Courthouse, William Taylor (left) receives an American flag from Sgt. Grant Searer of Quantico Marine Corps Base Color Guard to celebrate National Armed Forces Day.  [Spotsylvania County Supervisor Gary Jackson (right) looks on.]
Suzanne Carr  /  The Free Lance-Star
The Free Lance-Star

May 23,  2001

This excerpt is taken from the 2000 interview with Dr. Altamont Dickerson, 75, who was born and raised on Salem Farm in Spotsylvania.

"After milking the cows, which we had to start at four o'clock in the morning.  I had to clean the barn up and then run and jump on the school bus and go to school. This was at Spotsylvania Courthouse where I went to school in a one-room school.  I think it was eight grades [which] all met in one room.  And when you finished your lessons, you'd go and sit at the back of the room while the next class would have their lessons.  So you learned a lot during those days if you listened because you could take advantage of the class you were in, plus the classes at the higher levels that were being taught."  The full interview, conducted by Christine Walsh, secretary of the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation Inc., is available at branches of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

GEN. ULYSSES S. Grant's efforts to surprise Gen. Robert E. Lee's troops around the Spotsylvania Courthouse area in May 1864 were thwarted in part by rain.   "They got bogged down in the mud," said John Cummings of the Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association.  As if on cue, the rain fell again 137 years after the Battle of Spotsylvania ended, as people celebrated Spotsylvania's history Saturday.

Families and history buffs withstood the wet weather as they wandered in and out of Spotsylvania's historical spots, not far from where Grant assembled his bedraggled troops.   The Trolley Tours of Fredericksburg trolley brought people to and from the Old Courthouse, the Spotsylvania County Museum, Christ Episcopal Church, Spotswood Inn, Old Jail, Zion United Methodist Church and the 1920s-era One-Room School.   On display in the Episcopal Church was a Civil War sword found under the floorboards, as well as a 1754 Bible.

Against the far wall of the museum rested a blood-stained gurney, used to carry the wounded from the Fredericksburg battlefield in December 1862.   Visitors could also see the cartoon-like graffiti from prisoners held in the Old Jail, built in 1856.   The Confederate Cemetery, where about 600 Confederate soldiers killed in the Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness and Spotsylvania battlefields are buried, was open as well.  Spotsylvania resident Ruth Martin was glad of the opportunity to see the historical sites.  "I've been here for three years, and it's the first time I visited the churches and the courthouse," Martin said. "The town is beautiful."

The Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation Inc., a nonprofit all-volunteer organization established in 1988 to help preserve and protect the county's natural and historic resources, initiated the event to bring attention to national Historic Preservation Month.  The foundation had also planned a short ceremony to present bound copies of oral interviews of local residents to libraries and participants, said Bob Kurtinitis, SPFI treasurer.

Christine Walsh heads SPFI's oral history program, which records what it was like when the participants grew up.   "It's opened my eyes how this was all farmland and everyone had dairy farms," said Walsh, who is originally from England.  "Spotsylvania reminds me of an English muffin; it's full of nooks and crannies."

To broaden the event and to bring attention to the area's history, the Spotsylvania Courthouse Tourism Development Committee decided to open up the doors of the historical buildings.   The committee, made up of groups and businesses that have a vested interest in tourism in the courthouse area, organized the event, said Bonnie Smith, director of tourism for the Spotsylvania Department of Tourism.  Smith established the committee about a year ago to bring awareness of tourism potential to the courthouse district.

So that the event could be free to the public, Chewning Grocery, Courthouse Café, Courthouse 7-Eleven, Courthouse Pharmacy, Fas Mart No. 23, and Jarrell, Hicks & Sasser, Attorneys at Law, The Pear Tree, Pendleton's Grocery, Spotsylvania Animal Hospital, M. Madison Williamson, the Civil War Life Museum and Gifts and the Spotsylvania Department of Tourism sponsored the day's activities.

By 4 p.m., the rain had cleared and a small group assembled in the Old Courthouse. Spotsylvania County Supervisor Gary Jackson and SPFI President Caroline Hayden spoke after the Rev. Jerry Weigel of the Zion Methodist Church gave the invocation and Cummings spoke about John Henry Meyer, a land owner during the Civil War.  Christine Walsh presented bound living-history reports to local libraries and participants.

To emphasize the military connection with the Battle of Spotsylvania and Armed Forces Day, the Quantico Marine Color Guard took down the flag and presented it to Korean War and Vietnam veteran William Taylor.  William Bovee and Charles Graves from the Spotsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars laid a wreath by the Veteran's Memorial in front of the Old Courthouse.  To end the ceremony, Boy Scout Charlie Nicotera played taps.

"This was the first effort to have a stand-alone Spotsylvania historic day," Hayden said. "It was a good turnout for the first weekend celebrating the county's history. We have enormous opportunity for tourism in the courthouse area."

Copyright 2001 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.

Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association

PO Box 1964

Spotsylvania, VA  22553

(540) 582-7469