Candles flicker in the windows of many area homes, a throwback to years gone by and a sight that still offers a warm welcome to evening travelers. Residents of the Fredericksburg region treasure their history.
Throughout the city and the surrounding counties are reminders of time spent here by America’s Founding Fathers. George Washington grew up on Ferry Farm in Stafford County, just a stone’s throw across the Rappahannock River from the City of Fredericksburg. James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, was born here. James Monroe, diplomat, statesman and the last of the Revolutionary generation to win the presidency, began his law career in the city. While visiting Fredericksburg in 1777, Thomas Jefferson penned Virginia’s Statute of Religious Freedom—the inspiration for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Captain John Smith explored the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers, making contact with the area’s Powhatan Indians. Colonel Giles Brent brought his family to Fredericksburg from Maryland, making them among the area’s first English settlers.
Stafford County (named after Staffordshire, England) was formed in 1664, followed by Spotsylvania, Caroline and King George in the 1720s.
Fredericksburg was established in 1728 as a frontier river port near the falls of the Rappahannock. The 50-acre town took its name from Crown Prince Frederick.
Fredericksburg became a regional commercial center, receiving manufactured goods from England and exporting agricultural products and gold. Early business ventures in the region included Governor Alexander Spotswood’s Tubal Furnace, James Hunter’s Ironworks and a variety of commercial mills.
The Civil War wreaked havoc upon the region when both the Union and Confederate armies occupied the city and its outlying areas. The battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania Courthouse and Wilderness cost 100,000 American lives. Decades passed before the region fully recovered from the devastation.
Today, visitors and residents relive the area’s history by visiting 6,000 acres of battlefields, historic sites and museums, homes of the Washington family and a 40-block National Historic District filled with specialty shops and restaurants.
Once a primarily rural area, this is now one of the fastest-growing spots in the U.S., generating unprecedented prosperity in the last few decades. In 1970, about 77,000 people lived in the region. Today, that number has grown to nearly 300,000. The growth continues, yet it’s a comfortable place to raise a family and get involved with the community.