Stafford’s history is impressive. Prehistoric animals of all sorts lived in Stafford; their fossil remains litter the shores of the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers. Native Americas lived here in substantial numbers. Captain John Smith sailed up the Potomac from Jamestown to present-day Stafford and explored its shores. The legendary Indian princess, Pocahontas, was kidnapped from Stafford’s Marlborough Point. The Brents of Maryland established the first English Catholic settlement in Virginia, on Aquia Creek, and opened it to all faiths. All of this took place before Stafford County was formally established in 1664.
Stafford’s fisheries, tobacco plantations, iron works and flourmills were major suppliers to Great Britain in the Colonial period. George Washington, the father of our country, and George Mason, author of the Bill of Rights, lived here as youngsters. James Hunter’s Iron Works was one of the major industrial plants in the Revolutionary era and supplied the colonial army with arms in its fight for independence. Aquia sandstone provided stone for the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and trim for private homes. Demonstrating that we still had to face up to the momentous issue of slavery, Stafford’s Anthony Burns was the subject of America’s first major fugitive slave case.
During the Civil War, the bloody Battle of Fredericksburg took place across the banks of the Rappahannock River in December 1862. Chatham Manor, in Stafford County, was utilized as the Union headquarters and a hospital to treat the wounded. And it was in Stafford the next spring that Union General Hooker bogged down his army on the famous “Mud March,” on his way to another Union defeat at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
The civilians of Stafford may have been the first in the world to suffer the devastating effects of a modern war, having to host the entire Union Army from 1862-1863. Over 125,000 men (more than today’s population) had to be housed, fed, warmed and entertained, straining the county’s resources to the point of collapse.
Prosperity did not return until World War I when the U.S. Marine Corps came to Quantico. At that time, the county was primarily agricultural, with the exception of fishing industries situated along the Potomac River. In World War II, the wide expansion of the Marine Corps base created new employment opportunities. A C.C.C. camp was located in Southern Stafford during this time.
With the completion of I-95 in the 1960’s and the recent addition of commuter rail, Stafford became one of Virginia’s fastest growing localities. While encouraging industry, the county maintains its wonderful rural atmosphere.