Rappahannock News

Flashback: Rappahanno­ck’s first business

- Jan Clatterbuc­k jan@rappnews.com; 675-3338

The rst “business” as such in this county was that of the Indian Trading Post at Washington. Of course it must be borne in mind, however, that as settlers moved westward, they needed to have supporting businesses such as stores, grist mills, tanneries, wool cleaning, spinning and weaving facilities, blacksmith­s, wheelwrigh­ts and millwright­s, saw mills, stave mills, distilleri­es, etc. These all served communitie­s that were to a large degree self-supporting. Then, to enable the settlers to purchase storebough­t goods, there had to be some export of products such as tobacco, grain, and livestock. This was usually oriented toward Fredericks­burg, since that was the nearest water shipping point. A er the settlers were establishe­d and a few villages began to appear, it was natural that businesses would be concentrat­ed in these areas, and those that lled the most urgent needs were the rst to appear. Almost every cross-roads had a store. Later, corporatio­ns were formed to develop the resources of the county.

A er extensive research, Charles K. Estes has obtained informatio­n about a gun factory along the Rush River in the at between the ford going toward the Fodderstac­k and the ford going toward Gaines Cross Roads, o the present Route 211. According to his report, several months prior to December, 1800, the state of Virginia contracted with George Wheeler of the Town of Washington for at least 1,000 muskets. Wheeler is said to have employed 16 men but, because of slow delivery of the gun barrels which he was getting from John Brant of Maryland, the whole delivery was not completed until October 14, 1803. Another report is that George Wheeler and Caleb Morrison, on October 21, 1801, made a contract to run for 5 years in which they agreed to furnish 2,500 guns. By December, 1812, they had 2,375 of them ready.

Another early industry was the fulling mill, also the Rush River, where cloth was processed and impregnate­d with a clay-like substance to give it body and sti ness. This, and the other various kinds of mills, which were scattered through the county on the streams, are mentioned in the chapter on “Mills and Streams” and will not be mentioned this week but in another week in the Washington column.

This informatio­n was excerpted from “Rappahanno­ck County, Virginia. A History” by Elisabeth B. and C.E. Johnson, Jr.


Join Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington for a Sunday a ernoon, on May 15, at 4 p.m. for Celtic Music. Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton Celtic harp, lute, and guitars. Reception to follow in Parish Hall. No admittance fee, donations welcome. Everyone is welcome.


With cloudy skies and cool weather on Sunday, I hoped that all the mothers still had a wonderful Mother’s Day and hopefully did not have to do any cooking. I really enjoyed the day o from cooking.

Have a wonderful week.

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