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Stafford County Virginia

The Stafford County Judicial Center is located at 1300 Courthouse Road, Stafford, VA 22554; phone: 540-658-8750.

Beginnings [1]

Stafford County was established in 1664 and originally encompassed most of northern Virginia, including the areas which later became the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William and the City of Alexandria. Stafford County's prehistory is documented with fossil remains of small sea creatures that can be found along the rivers and tributaries. Artifacts identified through archaeological study tell us that prehistoric man occupied Stafford County from the Paleo-Indian Period (ca. 10,000-8,000 B.C.) through the Archaic Period (ca. 8,000-500 B.C.), during which people lived in seasonal, nomadic groups, and the Woodland Period (ca. 500 B.C.- A.D.1600), which is characterized by the establishment of permanent settlements and an emphasis on agricultural practices.

In 1608, John Smith mapped the major rivers, tributaries, and Native American settlements of the Chesapeake Bay area, including substantial portions of Stafford County. Powhatan, chief of the Potowomeks, and his daughter Pocahontas, were associated with these settlements, which included the large village of Potowomek, located at what is now Marlborough Point.

Stafford County has strong connections to events that shaped our nation's history. Rich arable land and early colonial industries, such as iron manufacturing and quarrying of sandstone and granite, attracted important families, such as the Brents, Carters, Masons, Fitzhughs, Mercers, and Washingtons. During the Revolutionary War, James Hunter's Iron Works contributed significantly to earning our freedom from British rule by supplying weapons and implements to the Continental Army and Navy.

Falmouth, founded on the north side of the Rappahannock River, was a prominent port town throughout the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th century. It was the terminus for goods, including tobacco and flour, transported east from Warrenton and shipped to England in exchange for a variety of products. Enslaved Africans were also shipped to Falmouth where slave auctions were held.

Like other port towns of the colonial period, Falmouth attracted Scottish entrepreneurs, such as Basil and Samuel Gordon. The Gordons established a thriving marketing industry. The town also supported a number of water mills that flourished mostly due to the transition from tobacco cultivation to grain. Stafford County residents rallied to defend the country during the War of 1812 by establishing the 45th Virginia Militia Regiment, which defended both Stafford and Westmoreland Counties. British troops rampaged through areas of the County en route to Washington, D.C.

In the first half of the 19th century, Stafford County experienced the rise of the railroad. In 1834, the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad opened its first segment, connecting Fredericksburg with Richmond. Then in 1842, the railway was extended north to Aquia Landing and eventually to Washington, D.C. Situated halfway between the Union and Confederate capitals, Stafford County became a crossroads of military activity during the Civil War. The federal forces arrived en masse in the latter part of 1862. During the Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville campaigns, November 1862 through June 1863, Stafford County was occupied by more than 100,000 troops. The effect of the Federal Army's presence on the Stafford County landscape and economy was devastating. The army denuded the County of its trees and fences, agricultural fields were trampled and neglected, and foraging troops liberated food and other essentials from the civilian population. Four years of warfare left Stafford County barren and ravaged. The effects of the Civil War remained visible on the landscape into the 20th century.

After the Civil War, Stafford County struggled to regain its former economic stability. The agricultural practices of Stafford at this time were characterized by a transition from grain crops to dairying and market gardening. Large family farms were still present, but several were subdivided—many producing only enough to sustain the immediate family and their livestock. This period also saw the rise of the fishing industry in Stafford County.

    Stafford County Virginia, Comprehensive Plan 2010-2030,, accessed September, 2012.

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