As Others See Us

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The following article was found in the Anne Silver Collection at the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

By proclamation on February 10, 1941 Governor James Price declared Fredericksburg a first class city. This article later appeared.


Crandell Macay, who edits the weekly Chronicle at Arlington, recently took the occasion of Fredericksburg’s elevation to the status of a First Class city as a opportunity to delve deeply into the fact and fancies of the old town’s past.

While all that Mr. Macay says of Fredericksburg, city of historic homes, and of cultured and delightful people, has by virtue of a finding of the Census Bureau become a city of the first class. Cities in Virginia with a population of then thousand or more are cities of the first class. Around Fredericksburg were fought some of the greatest battles of the Civil War, and the city suffered some terrible bombardments from the northern army.

Fredericksburg is sixty-two years older than Richmond. The people in Fredericksburg have practiced the art of hospitality from colonial days. They have suffered from too much  welcome and their own code of courtesy to strangers. Old families of Fredericksburg have had their fortunes broken through their own hospitality. Her people have acted conspicuous roles from the earliest times of the development of this nation.

The then old town of Fredericksburg was incorporated in 1727, and was name after Prince of Wales Frederick, son of King George II, and its size was limited to fifty acres. Wooden chimneys were so much in use in Fredericksburg that in 1742 they were forbidden by law.

In 1749 Augustine Washington and his wife Mary Ball Washington with their six children moved to a farm on the edge of Fredericksburg. Their oldest boy, George, was then but eight years old. He got the farm on which they lived by the will of his father who died in 1743, and George sold it and moved to Mount Vernon.

In 1751 George Washington removed his clothes to wash in the river one summer day, and Mary MacDonald of Fredericksburg was convicted of stealing his clothes, and having confessed and pleaded for the mercy of the court, it was ordered that the sheriff carry her to the whipping post and inflict fifteen lashes on her bare back. All of which is recorded in the court. It does not appear the immortal George protested against such brutality.

In 1749 a young man named Fielding Lewis married Elizabeth, a sister of George Washington, and built the brick mansion known as Kenmore for her. Mary Washington, mother of George, moved from the farm on which she had been living into a small frame house in Fredericksburg were she died on 1789.

Washington was President from March 4, 1789. He was killed by the ignorance of doctors in 1799. They bled him with leeches, taking four pints of blood, and blistered him all over until his body was raw, and they dosed him with emetics until, though of a strong constitution, he died vomiting.

George Washington was a constant visitor at Fredericksburg, and was frequently the guest of William Fitzhugh, who build the spacious house with splendid halls across the river from Fredericksburg and called it Chattam. To him Washington wrote: ¬†“I have put my legs ofterer under your mahogany at Chattam than anywhere else in the world, and have enjoyed your good dinners, good wine, and good company, more than any other.”

It was at Fredericksburg that Washington recorded in his diary that he had been on a jamboree for a week and spent fifty-two pounds on that one drunk. “Bless God, men were men in those days”, as the colored woman said when the preacher told her that Solomon had three hundred wives.

The late Judge Goolrick of Fredericksburg, a most lovable, and companionable and scholarly gentleman, told the writer that in those days a Virginia gentleman, when he arose in the morning, poured about three fingers of liquor in a glass and called it an eye-opener. Shortly after that he took another drink which he called an awakener. He then dressed and drank a rejuvenator, and just before breakfast took another drink which he called an appetizer. There was nothing like starting the day right.

John Paul Jones left Fredericksburg to become the greatest of our naval heroes. When news of the battle of Lexington reached Fredericksburg, six hundred volunteers from Fredericksburg, fully armed, offered their services to George Washington. In that town a hundred stands of arms a month were manufactured as well as other arms and ammunition for Washington’s army, and ramrods and bayonets were manufactured in great quantities.

James Monroe had his law office in a one-story building in Fredericksburg, and represented Fredericksburg in the General Assembly, and was twice elected President. A list of the great families of Fredericksburg would show more distinguished men and women from that neighborhood than any neighborhood in the United States.

The census of 1920 aroused the proud people of Fredericksburg when it showed that its population had increased by but seven persons in ten years. The census was dammed and denounced, and a delegation sent to Washington to correct the outrage, but facts are stubborn things and Fredericksburg had to take its own census to still the murmur of another secession from the Union. A wag explained that almost every time a child was born in Fredericksburg, some man left town.

Many thanks to Rob Eckstrom, assistant city attorney, he discovered when Fredericksburg became a first class city.