New map details old Stafford
December 19, 2003 1:08 am
By LEE WOOLF
Historian charts county's pre-1950 nooks and crannies
If you are interested in valuable little nuggets of Stafford County
history, welcome to the mother lode.
A new map of the county, prepared by Eugene M. Scheel for the Stafford
Historical Commission, locates structures of historic interest in
Homes, churches, schools, mills, stores, graveyards, roads and streams
are included. Some slave homes, Indian villages and the sites of Civil
War engagements are also featured. Insets showcase Falmouth, Hartwood,
Stafford Courthouse, White Oak, Brooke and Coal Landing.
Scheel, a historian who lives in Waterford in Loudoun County, said he has
tried to include everything of significance that was built in Stafford
before 1950. There are only a few exceptions to give readers modern-day
points of reference.
You won't find subdivisions or shopping centers. But you will discover
where Doeg Indian villages sat beside Chopawamsic Creek, where a pickle
factory once operated near Brooke, and where Dr. Hawkins Stone practiced
medicine on Garrisonville Road.
Anita Dodd, the head of the county's Historical Commission, said the map
project was financed by donations and was first discussed almost nine
The color maps are 36 inches by 30 inches and are being sold for $8 each,
plus tax. They are available at Belmont, the White Oak Civil War Museum
and George Washington's Ferry Farm. Dodd said proceeds will be set aside
to pay for future research into Stafford history.
"The first thing that strikes you when you see the map is that there's
just so much on it," Dodd said. "So many cultural resources of Stafford
County historian Barbara Kirby said the maps should have a wide audience.
"It will be a real good reference for all kinds of people," she said.
"People doing any kind of family or historical research, longtime
residents, surveyors, developers, county officials all of them could
"It answers lots of questions. It shows the early schools and post
offices, old communities and family plantations--most of which are gone."
Several residents who helped proof copies of the map before the final
printing said they were impressed by Scheel's research.
"He's done a fantastic piece of work," said author and historian
Jerrilynn Eby. "I think it would be helpful to the Board of Supervisors.
And the planning commissioners should have to walk past a copy when they
come into their meeting room."
The 69-year-old Scheel has produced more than 50 historical maps of
places in Virginia, other states and foreign nations since 1969. He even
prepared a map of Atoka Farm near Middleburg for Elizabeth Taylor as a
Christmas gift for then-husband Sen. John Warner. His early career
included stops at Rand McNally and the National Geographic Society.
"In mapmaking, you're really interested in just two things: where it is
and what it's called," he said.
Scheel already was familiar with Stafford from earlier projects,
including maps of Loudoun, Prince William and Fauquier counties. He also
spent time at Quantico while serving in the Marine Corps Reserve.
"Stafford is the oldest county I've ever worked in," he said. "There
sites from the late 16th century. Most things in Loudoun date from a
century later. So that meant in Stafford there was more history to dig
through and more questions raised during the research."
Scheel said he begins a map project by learning something about the
general history of a county and locating some of the basic sites, such as
schools and churches. Then he talks with local historians and as many
lifelong residents as he can. He said he spoke with more than 50 people
And then, like a jigsaw puzzle, the map takes shape one piece at a time.
"You try to find people who really know a specific part of the county,
even if it's just a few square miles," Scheel said. "You try to gain
their confidence, then actually go out and walk the ground with them,
asking questions and gathering details.
"That's the best part of the jobmeeting these interesting people, tracing
some of their family history and becoming very good friends, even if only
for a few hours.
"And when you're finished, you ask them who might know what's down the
next road or over the next hill."
Scheel said another invaluable resource was a set of aerial photographs
of Stafford taken in 1937 by the Department of Agriculture.
"These are good-quality black-and-white photos," Scheel said. "When you
blow them up, you can see cars on the roads and even a gate open in
someone's yard. They gave me a good idea of what was standing and what
wasn't at that time."
Scheel prefers calling himself a mapmaker rather than a cartographer.
("Mapmaker is a more specific term," he said.) He does all of his work by
hand and almost always works by himself. He said his production process
is "pretty much the same way they made maps 200 years ago."
He said a computer is not practical for his work because there is an
advantage to having the entire county spread out in front him.
"Fortunately, I still have pretty good eyesight and a steady hand," said
Scheel, who is famous for his attention to detail.
"I remember he called me four times to clarify just one item," Kirby
said. "But he knows how important it is to get the details straight."
One interesting nugget of information on the Stafford map appears where
Rocky Pen Run flows into the Rappahannock River.
In clear and tiny letters, Scheel offers an 1896 quote from E.H. Randall,
a county surveyor at the time. It reads: "A spot where no being will ever
want to go again."
Scheel said the quote turned up in some of Randall's survey notes and
"was just too good to leave out."
To reach LEE WOOLF: 540/720-5470 lwoolf(a)freelancestar.com
Copyright 2001 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.