Monday, June 14, 2010

A Walk About Winchester

We have been fascinated by the history associated with Winchester.  It has been so long since we have visited an area that was established in the early days of colonial America that we don’t often think about life in American during the 1700s.  Our vacation to Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg a decade ago may be the last time we were immersed in early American history.  So Winchester has been a delight for us and we have been so surprised.  We had no idea any of this stuff was here.

All that's left of Fort Loudoun

Today, we did a portion of the 6 mile volksmarch through Historic Winchester.  Several of the places along the route we had visited with Tony and Diana--Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters, the small cabin that served as George Washington’s headquarters while Fort Loudoun was being built, and the Old Court House and other buildings along the pedestrian mall.  Also along the route is Abram’s Delight.  We walked by these places, but didn’t take the time to revisit.

The whole region which is now Winchester was part of a 5 million acre tract of land granted by King Charles II to the ancestors of Thomas Lord Fairfax.  Lord Fairfax is buried in the heart of historic downtown.  He died here in 1781 at the age of 89.

It was George William Fairfax who brought George Washington to the area to survey the lands granted to Lord Fairfax.    In the 1750s, Washington was in command of the Virginia militia and charged with protecting the “western frontier”.  It was during this time that he supervised the construction of Fort Loudoun, as well as other forts along the Shenandoah Valley.  Our walk took us past the site of Fort Loudoun.  Private homes occupy the site today.

As you know, I have this thing about cemeteries, so high on my list to see were the National and Confederate Cemeteries.  The National Cemetery contains the graves of over 4,000 Union soldiers, half of whom are unknown.  The Stonewall Confederate Cemetery, which is part of the Mt Hebron Cemetery, contains the graves of 3,000 Confederate soldiers, over 800 of whom are unknown.  Two of General George Patton’s ancestors are buried here.

Lord Fairfax donated the land which the Mt Hebron Cemetery occupies to the Lutheran Church.  A small remnant of that church still stands in the cemetery today along with the original church cemetery.  Revolutionary War General Daniel Morgan is buried here.

Tomb of Lord Fairfax

Winchester and Frederick County boast of being the “apple capitol” of Virginia.  As lots of land were granted to the first settlers, the leases required that 100 apple trees be planted.  George Washington had two such lots and I suppose it can be assumed that he, along with others, planted these orchards which led to this being Virginia’s apple capitol.  Whether or not George ever planted an apple tree, this is still the apple capitol and Winchester residents are proud of that fact.  Like the guitars of Nashville, the salmon of Anchorage, and the numerous other objects decorated and on display around the country, Winchester has large apples scattered about town.

We did over half of the 6-mile volksmarch and afterwards I felt fine.  I think it’s time to hit the trail again.  Tomorrow we plan to start where we left off last week and continue our hike toward the Mason-Dixon line.

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