Coincidence, Perfect Timing, or Premonition?

Coincidence, Perfect Timing, or Premonition

I was pleasantly surprised today when visiting Facebook to see a 1970 TV clipping–in full color–through my computer screen of a portion of a Bob Hope TV Special celebrating the 4th of July.  (Note that my computer screen is bigger than our first few black and white TV’s–which by the way, were first manufactured the year I was born!)   And, I just wonder whether its posting was a coincidence, perfect timing, or a premonition on my part.  I guess we’ll never really know. But, what makes this video so very special to me is that many of the movie and TV stars appearing in it were my favorites when I was a child.  In fact, two nights ago while lying in bed during one of my sleepless modes I happened to think about the great old western movies, television series, and even the many games of cowboys and indians that so many of us baby boomers enjoyed playing with our friends and cousins. Of course in our later years we learned that historians, educators, and the media skewed the real stories to always make native americans the villains.  (Personally, I always chose to be an indian vs. the cowboy.)

Our Young Years and Times Were Simpler

But truth is, in our youth, many of us for special occasions received toy six shooters, cowboy hats, boots, and chaps; and, we also got ritualistic indian head dresses, bows, and arrows–and I especially loved wearing indian moccasins.

If you lived on a farm or had one nearby like I did, you could pull a feather from a chicken or a turkey and tuck it under a leather belt wrapped around your head to be a more authentic native.  And even get into mama’s make up and apply some war paint.

Yes, our times were much simpler and we kids knew only of the fun we had playing those games outside.  Or how we loved watching television–even shows in black and white and displayed on small fuzzy screens (reception depended on how good our rooftop antenna was).  Some of my favorite shows were:  Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Rawhide, The Virginian, Little House on the Prairie, and the Big Valley–these are the ones I can remember today off the top of my head.

The Cowboys

John Wayne

The Man’s Man: John Wayne

gregory peck 1945 - by madison lacy

Gregory Peck

James Garner

James Garner

And, some of our best saturday evenings were spent at local drive-in movies watching big screen stars in full color through a speaker hanging from a window and receiving scratchy monophonic audio.  Let’s see, there was superstar-cowboy John Wayne; tall, elegant, and dignified Gregory Peck; the handsome James Garner;

Roy Rogers

Roy Rogers

James Arness

James Arness

Ward Bond

Ward Bond

Gene Autry

Gene Autry

singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autry; Marshal Matt Dillon, none other than James Arness; and I can’t forget rugged appearing Ward Bond, or funny sidekick cowboy and toothless old man, Gabby Hayes; or the rounded-belly, raspy-voiced Andy Devine.

Gabby Hayes

Gabby Hayes

Guy Madison and Andy Devine

Guy Madison and Andy Devine

The Indians

As the pictures depict below, some of my favorite indian characters were played by white men.  Further evidence that our society had not yet embraced multiculturalism and  television or movie producers hadn’t yet opened many of their doors to nonwhites.

Jeff Chandler as Cochise

Jeff Chandler as Cochise

Michael Ansara

Michael Ansara

John Todd as Tonto

John Todd as Tonto

The video brought back so many fond memories–yes, of simpler times.  Times when Americans were united and had a sense of pride about God and Country, regardless of their race or creed.  And, I just loved it when my role models and heroes were dressed in period clothing and gathered to sing God Bless America–which is another tradition dating back to our  forefathers that is “under the gun” to be discontinued in our courtrooms, in our pledges of allegiance, on our money, and in our classrooms. hope you enjoy.  (And yes, I recognized all their faces and recalled all but one’s name.)



The Family “Do You Know” Scale

Yesterday’s post Family Stories that Bind Us  included a few family questions from Emory University’s Do You Know Scale.  Below are all the questions asked within Emory’s study. I’m going to try them out on my family and see just how much we have communicated our stories among the generations–and their different spins on the information.  I urge you to try it with your family, too.

Please remember; mothers and grandmothers are the ones who generally passed along family stories.  And, they often told these stories to teach a lesson or to help their children get through physical or emotional hurts.   In reality, the accuracy of the stories is not critical–it’s the communication and celebration of the information–the secret sauce that binds families together.

Remember–disagreements among family members about what really happened may occur.   But, these disagreements then become part of your family narrative. Keep in mind that “it’s not just knowing your family’s information, but the process of sharing it that’s important,” says Fivush, one of the leaders of Emory University’s 2005 study.

And this is why I blog!

Do You Know Scale



Family Stories that Bind Us

Often when I have writer’s block, I take time out to read what others are writing about or I simply google a theme that I have in mind. And, today, I discovered  the “This Life” column that appears monthly in the Sunday Styles Section of the New York Times.  

The article “Family Stories that Bind Us,” got right to the point of my topic and my concerns about our family–that is, how are we doing individually, what has happened to all our former traditions, and why don’t we always see eye-to-eye when we get together–times that are becoming fewer and fewer as our daily lives seem to be getting in the way of the importance of good times with family.

I am reprinting the article as it was originally written by Bruce Feiler and published in the New York Times on March 15, 2013.  I added a few subheadings to paragraphs and a couple of pictures of my family from times past.

NYT-The Stories that Bind Us

An August Family Gathering

Sure enough, one night all the tensions boiled over. At dinner, I noticed my nephew texting under the table. I knew I shouldn’t say anything, but I couldn’t help myself and asked him to stop.

Ka-boom! My sister snapped at me to not discipline her child. My dad pointed out that my girls were the ones balancing spoons on their noses. My mom said none of the grandchildren had manners. Within minutes, everyone had fled to separate corners.

Is There a Secret Sauce that Holds a Family Together?

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Later, my dad called me to his bedside. There was a palpable sense of fear I couldn’t remember hearing before.

“Our family’s falling apart,” he said.

“No it’s not,” I said instinctively. “It’s stronger than ever.”

But lying in bed afterward, I began to wonder: Was he right? What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?

Some Timely Myth-Shattering Research

It turns out to be an astonishingly good time to ask that question. The last few years have seen stunning breakthroughs in knowledge about how to make families, along with other groups, work more effectively.

Myth-shattering research has reshaped our understanding of dinnertime, discipline and difficult conversations. Trendsetting programs from Silicon Valley and the military have introduced techniques for making teams function better.

The only problem: most of that knowledge remains ghettoized  [isolated] in these subcultures, hidden from the parents who need it most. I spent the last few years trying to uncover that information, meeting families, scholars and experts ranging from peace negotiators to online game designers to Warren Buffett’s bankers.

How Much Do You Know About Your Family?

Dickinson-BolingChildrenAfter a while, a surprising theme emerged. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

I first heard this idea from Marshall Duke, a colorful psychologist at Emory University. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Duke was asked to help explore myth and ritual in American families.

“There was a lot of research at the time into the dissipation of the family,” he told me at his home in suburban Atlanta. “But we were more interested in what families could do to counteract those forces.”

Around that time, Dr. Duke’s wife, Sara, a psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, noticed something about her students.

“The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges,” she said.

Her husband was intrigued, and along with a colleague, Robyn Fivush, set out to test her hypothesis. They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.

Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

“Do You Know” Test Results

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.

And then something unexpected happened. Two months later was Sept. 11. As citizens, Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush were horrified like everyone else, but as psychologists, they knew they had been given a rare opportunity: though the families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, all the children had experienced the same national trauma at the same time. The researchers went back and reassessed the children.

“Once again,” Dr. Duke said, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.

Every Family has a Unifying Narrative

Psychologists have found that every family has a unifying narrative, he explained, and those narratives take one of three shapes.

First, the ascending family narrative: “Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you. …”

Second is the descending narrative: “Sweetheart, we used to have it all. Then we lost everything.”

“The most healthful narrative,” Dr. Duke continued, “is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

Create Family Sense-Making Narratives

Leaders in other fields have found similar results. Many groups use what sociologists call sense-making, the building of a narrative that explains what the group is about.

Jim Collins, a management expert and author of “Good to Great,” told me that successful human enterprises of any kind, from companies to countries, go out of their way to capture their core identity. In Mr. Collins’s terms, they “preserve core, while stimulating progress.” The same applies to families, he said.

Mr. Collins recommended that families create a mission statement similar to the ones companies and other organizations use to identify their core values.

The military has also found that teaching recruits about the history of their service increases their camaraderie and ability to bond more closely with their unit.

Cmdr. David G. Smith is the chairman of the department of leadership, ethics and law at the Naval Academy and an expert in unit cohesion, the Pentagon’s term for group morale. Until recently, the military taught unit cohesion by “dehumanizing” individuals, Commander Smith said. Think of the bullying drill sergeants in “Full Metal Jacket” or “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

But these days the military spends more time building up identity through communal activities. At the Naval Academy, Commander Smith advises graduating seniors to take incoming freshmen (or plebes) on history-building exercises, like going to the cemetery to pay tribute to the first naval aviator or visiting the original B-1 aircraft on display on campus.

Dr. Duke recommended that parents pursue similar activities with their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. He mentioned his family’s custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to “hunt for their supper,” like the Pilgrims.

“These traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.

Most Happy Families Communicate Effectively, Beyond “Talking Through Problems”

Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.

This article is adapted from Bruce Feiler’s recently published book, “The Secrets of Happy Families: How to Improve Your Morning, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smart, Go Out and Play, and Much More.”

A version of this article appeared in print on March 17, 2013, on page ST1 of the New
York edition with the headline: The Stories That Bind Us.


The First Ever Global Family Reunion: Saturday, June 6 2015!

One World. One Family. One Extraordinary Event.


To Benefit Alzheimer’s

I’d like to say that this was my great idea and that I could pull off such a spectacular event (given my former events management life), but I can’t take credit for it.  A.J. Jacobs, better known just as “AJ” is the one making this happen.  And, what’s more, this event is to benefit Alzheimer’s–a major disease that is affecting world health.  In fact, 1 in 9 Americans have Alzheimer’s.  Millions of Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will grow each year as the size and proportion of the U.S. population age 65 and older continue to increase. This number will escalate rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation ages.  I’d say helping researchers to find treatments and cures for this horrific disease is just one of the great reasons to join the family on June 6, 2015 on the site of the legendary 1964 New York World’s Fair. The grounds are now home to the New York Hall of Science, which is one of the top science-themed museums in the world.

About the Creator of the Biggest, most Extraordinary and most Inclusive Family Reunion in History

A. J. Jacobs is  a journalist, lecturer, human guinea pig and  author of four New York Times bestsellers:

  1. His first book is called The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World (Simon & Schuster, 2004).
  2. After trying to improve his mind, he turned to his spirit. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (2007)
  3. In 2012, Jacobs completed his mind-spirit-body self-improvement trinity with Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection.
  4. He also published a collection of essays called My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself (2010)

AJ is also editor at large at Esquire magazine, a commentator on NPR and a columnist for Mental Floss magazine, and a very funny guy.

So, please join me in watching AJ, himself, talk about the World’s Biggest Family Reunion from this June’s TED event:

The History and Demise of Cursive Writing

Cursive, the Secret Language of Adults 

Cursive letter

Cursive Handwriting – A Centuries-Old Art1


“For centuries, cursive handwriting has been an art. To a growing number of young people, it is a mystery. The sinuous letters of the cursive alphabet, swirled on countless love letters, credit card slips and banners above elementary school chalk boards are going the way of the quill and inkwell. With computer keyboards and smartphones increasingly occupying young fingers, the gradual death of the fancier ABC’s is revealing some unforeseen challenges.”


Sandy Schefkind, a pediatric occupational therapist in Bethesda, Md., and pediatric coordinator for the American Occupational Therapy Association, said that learning cursive helped students hone their fine motor skills.

“It’s the dexterity, the fluidity, the right amount of pressure to put with pen and pencil on paper,” Ms. Schefkind said, adding that for some students cursive is easier to learn than printing.”


Cursive writing has been taught for over 300 years in U.S. schools and was once the principle way of communicating.  The teaching of handwriting in America may be divided into five periods based on the dominant influence or interest. These are:

  • Colonial Period, 1600-1800Closeup of blue inkwell and glasses on table filled with old mes
    • Writing skills were so highly esteemed that it was common to have schools devoted solely to the purpose of teaching this art.  The quill pen required so much of the school master’s time to make and keep them in order. The necessity for setting individual copies also took timethatmighthave been spent in teaching the children to write. Birch bark was often used for copy books because of the cost of paper, andwherepaperwas used it was rough and dark. In many cases children ruled their own paper with a lead plummet, the forerunner of the lead pencil.

      Nutgalls, produced from excrements by various parasites, from fungi and bacteria, to insects, mites and wasps, are rich in resins and tannic acid and have been used in the manufacture of permanent inks (such as iron gall ink) and astringent ointments, in dyeing, and in tanning. A high-quality ink has long been made from the Aleppo gall, found on oaks in the Middle East; it is one of a number of galls resembling nuts and called “gallnuts” or “nutgalls”.

      Ink was made of nutgalls bruised in water with rusty nails.  The invention of lithography affected the teaching of handwriting favorably by providing a medium for the presentation of examples of good penmanship. From this time on copy-slips or copy-books of some kind took the place to a large extent of the “copy-setting” by the school master.


  • Transition Period, 1800-1850
    • Traditional-Cursive-ImageEarly colonists brought with them the hands and teaching methods of their native lands. A variety of hands were taught to be used in various occupations (e.g. law, accounting), or by different groups of people (e.g. university students, women, gentlemen, clerks). Instruction in reading came first; for many who came to the New World, the ability to read the Bible was necessary for all. The ability to write was required only of professionals, the well-born and their secretaries, and merchants and their clerks.There are two traceable teaching influences during this period–First, four or five guiding lines resembling the staff in music were used to measure exactly the height of the letters, and spacing was regulated by vertical cross lines. The elementary strokes as slants, curves, loops, and turns were taught first and identified by number. Second, muscular-movement writing. The manner of writing was of first importance and used in training for the proper movement. B. F. Foster introduced “muscular movement,” derived from Joseph Carstairs in England.  He said the system was “based on the unerring laws of nature as developed in the anatomy of the arms, hands, and fingers.” The fundamental theory is that an easy, flowing hand is only possible by ease in the motion of the member of the body executing the movement.
  • Period of Independent Elaboration of American Systems, 1850-1890
    • The demand for more efficient writing led to the establishment of specialized writing classes in commercial schools. From these schools there came a number of  cursive writing courses for use in public schools. One criticism about  these courses was that their authors lacked childhood development awareness and so the courses failed to adapt the work to them.
  • Vertical-Writing Movement, 1890-19003
    • From France and Germany first, came the agitation for vertical writing; i.e., the front position and vertical writing  were inefficient in correcting faults with posture or eyestrain, and hindered writing speed and legibility. A slanted paper
      position was accepted as more desirable.
  • Combination of Commercial and Scientific Influences, 1900-19163
    • The Palmer Method was the dominant system of the twentieth century. A. N. Palmer introduced his system in the 1880s; by 1928, three-quarters of all school children in the United States were being taught by the Palmer method. The simple, unshaded letterforms were built for speed, taught by drill to establish “kinesthetic memory,” and written with a new technique based on arm movement.
    • Marjorie Wise, an English educator, brought manuscript writing to the United States in 1922, where it was first adopted by progressive schools, and rapidly increased in popularity to the extent that manuscript writing was included in the Palmer company materials. A major advantage of the system was that children could start learning to write at a younger age, with less developed motor skills. With manuscript writing, reading and writing were taught in parallel for the first time. Also, the introduction of manuscript writing was associated with the idea that children want to learn to write to communicate, although creative writing would not be standard until the 1950s.

People with Dysgraphia Encouraged to Use Cursive Writing Instead of Printing 4

Dysgraphia was first diagnosed in people in the 1940’s.  Typically, a dysgraphic person has a combination of fine-motor difficulty, inability to visualize letters, and an inability to remember the motor patterns of the letter forms.  For many children with dysgraphia, cursive writing had several advantages. It eliminated the necessity of picking up a pencil and deciding where to replace it after each stroke. Each letter started on the line, thus eliminating another potentially confusing decision for the writer. Cursive also has very few reversible letters, a typical source of trouble for people with dysgraphia. It eliminates word-spacing problems and gives words a flow and rhythm that enhances learning. For children who find it difficult to remember the motor patterns of letter forms, starting with cursive eliminates the traumatic transition from manuscript to cursive writing. Writers in cursive also have more opportunity to distinguish b, d, p, and q because the cursive letter formations for writing each of these letters is so different.

Art of Penmanship Increasingly Devalued in 19th and 20th Centuries

First typewriter

Christoper Latham Sholes, Inventor

After the first invention of the typewriter in 1867 by Christopher Latham Sholes of Milwaukee, typewriters quickly became indispensable tools for practically all writing other than personal correspondence. By the end of the 1980s, word processors and personal computers had largely displaced typewriters in the Western world.

Thus, penmanship became increasingly devalued, or even ignored and its importance in the elementary school curriculum has diminished.  The declining emphasis on cursive writing has been attributed to the increasing use of technology, the growing proportion of class time spent preparing for standardized tests, and the perception that the time students spend learning to write in cursive could be better spent on more meaningful educational content. Those advocating cursive handwriting in the elementary school curriculum maintain that tests completed in cursive writing receive higher scores than those completed in block lettering and that learning cursive handwriting helps develop students’ reading, communication, and fine motor skills. They also note that without instruction in cursive writing, students won’t be able to read documents such as the Declaration of Independence, thereby compromising the accuracy of future historical research. And still, studies have shown that bad handwriting has led to lower grades in school; it may cause writers physical pain and mental distress; and an inappropriate grip on the writing instrument can lead to cramps and an inability to write with speed. The inability to keep up with one’s thoughts leads to frustration, which, in turn, can inhibit a child’s learning to compose. Illegible handwriting is a failed attempt at communication.

New Learning and Communications Tools of the 21st Century

With the twenty-first century came many technological opportunities for teachers and children. In decades past, educators and students were often restricted to standard materials such as paper, pencil, pen, school issued text books, a chalkboard, then photocopiers, transparencies and overhead projectors. Today’s classrooms, however, often have a host of new items.  For example, interactive white boards or smart boards surpass all of those former tools and open up new educational horizons. Using accompanying Notebook software, teachers create interactive quizzes, games and demonstrations that allow students to actively participate in the learning processes. The Internet makes everything available now within a finger’s reach!

Those wanting cursive writing gone from the elementary school curriculum contend that it is irrelevant and obsolete and that transitioning from manuscript to cursive writing interferes with the development of students’ handwriting skills. Research findings on the potentially harmful effects of transitioning from print to cursive have led some researchers to question the current system of learning two forms of writing and advocate instruction in only one handwriting style. Most experts agree that students’ skill and fluency in handwriting is more important than the style of handwriting taught.

Surveys conducted to find instructional practices in handwriting in elementary schools across the U.S. have discovered that most schools teach cursive handwriting in the latter part of second grade or in third grade. Most teachers reported spending 12-15 minutes per day teaching cursive handwriting.  However, across school districts, there were significant variances in the amount of handwriting instruction they provided to students.

And, of course, in addition to the jump to the Internet and new mobile learning technologies within 21st century classrooms, the 2010 Common Core Curriculum Standards (which is yet a whole other topic for discussion) do not mandate the teaching of cursive writing. And, a side note from a Huffington Post post of June 25, 2013:  “The United States routinely trails its rival countries in performances on international exams despite being among the heaviest spenders on education.” But, the article goes on to say that the U.S. also” was among only five nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), study that cut education funding”.  Add up all of these factors and constraints, and I guess we can see why cursive writing is going by the wayside–Unfortunately for us, just like so many other longstanding societal traditions.


1Katie Zezima, The New York Times, Published: April 27, 2011 “The Case for Cursive.”

2The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Dec., 1917), pp. 280-286; Published by: The University of Chicago Press. “History of the Teaching of Handwriting in America,” Author(s): Mary L. Dougherty
Stable URL:


4Author: Ruthmary Deuel, M.D., Betty Sheffield, and Diana Hanbury King. Learning Disabilities of Ontario; “Dysgraphia: The Handwriting Learning Disability

5Gale Encyclopedia of Education:  Teaching of Handwriting


FORESTVILLE–1700′s to 1900′s

Frederick S DeMarr LibraryTucked away in the basement of the Greenbelt Public Library in the old town of Greenbelt on 11 Crescent Avenue, is a single room packed to the brim with historical information within the collections of the Frederick S. DeMarr Library of County History.
Historical Society Librarian

Susan Pearl, Historian, Prince George’s County Historical Society

It was here, among the many shelves of old documents, books, maps, newspapers, and local community pamphlets that I went looking for and found a good portion of Forestville, Prince George’s County, Maryland’s early beginnings.
As I read the pamphlet from cover to cover (all  5 pages) and saw the names and history associated with streets, subdivisions, schools, and properties I knew (yes, the Entwistle’s and the Randall’s and Forestville Volunteer Fire Department…), that I must share the history of this census designated place where I spent many of my earlier years.  And, what would my genealogical documentation be without the history of the community where I grew up?
So below, is the nearly 40-year-old digitized pamphlet that unfortunately includes no preparers’ names other than the Forestville Citizen’s Association.  I hope you find it as enjoyable as I did.  FYI, where I could find them, I added drawings, maps, and pictures, as appropriate.  I also added some further descriptors in brackets “[ ]”.

FORESTVILLE…A Bicentennial Look At Its Past–Presented by The Forestville Citizens Association, A Bicentennial Community:  MARCH 1976 [Digitized by:  Joanne Boling Dickinson, July 18, 2014]

early colonist fightersAt the beginning of this Bicentennial Year [1976], the Forestville Citizens Association applied for and obtained from the Bicentennial Commission recognition as a Bicentennial Community. We celebrated that event with a Bicentennial flag raising ceremony at the home of Post Number 482 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Ritchie Road in March 1976. As the second and last days of our celebration we are issuing this pamphlet telling what we have learned of the history of Forestville and what the town was like before it was overtaken by the great migration to the suburbs in the early 1940s which is continuing. The biggest changes in the area were brought about first, by the establishment of Andrews Field [opening on May 2, 1943]:

“On 26 August 1942,  President Roosevelt directed Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson to purchase 3,200 acres in the Camp Springs area, which would become an Army Air Field. The acquisition included a few hamlets in the Maryland countryside—Centreville, Meadows, Woodyard—and many farms. More than 100 families left their homes on 269 tracts, which ranged from small plots of bottomland to great estates with hundreds of productive acres.”

Secondly, [in 1959 and 1960], Pennsylvania Avenue was extended east out of D.C. to Meadows as a controlled access four-lane divided highway and designated MD 4. Marlboro Pike was assigned MD 4 Business, a designation that was gone by 1970.  

Hills Bridge Platt 1955By 1970, the MD 4 freeway between Meadows and Hills Bridge in Waysons Corner was complete. Third and last, the building of the Capital Beltway [1957-1964]. The extension of Pennsylvania Avenue brought a tremendous increase in resident population and the Beltway brought a tremendous increase in commercial development ending, perhaps forever, the small-town atmosphere of Forestville.
Alms House

Prince George’s County Alms House, 1771-1965.  Picture Circa 1958

Little is known to us of the time when Forestville was first recognized as a community. We do know of the history of one important early institution–namely, the Prince George’s County Alms House. In 1768, the MD General Assembly passed the “Act for the Relief of the Poor” authorizing the construction of Alms Houses in several counties.   Most Alms House residents were people deemed insane, disabled due to loss of limb or sight or people just considered to be “outcasts of society” during this period in history. John F. Beall, acting as “Trustee of the Poor,” purchased 30 acres from Nathaniel Magruder for the Alms House. This land was part of the original 1761 land grant known as “Black Oak Thicket.” The original building was constructed in 1771 on D’Arcy Road, formerly known as Alms House Rd.  It fell into ruin by 1860, and a second building was constructed on the same site and finished in 1870 (pictured).   Alms Houses became obsolete over time, mostly from government programs such as Roosevelt’s “New Deal” and Johnson’s “Great Society.” The PG County Alms House closed in 1965, and was torn down in the 1970’s. It was located on the current location of the PG County Department of Public Works on D’Arcy Rd.

Prior to and for some time beyond the Revolutionary War (1764-1789) , activities of greater significance occurred in the communities that grew close to the principal means of transportation which was by boat on the many navigable tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. However, for a short span of several days, this area was the scene of much activity and excitement because of the invading British troops who encamped in the vicinity and marched up Marlboro Pike on their way to burn the Capitol of the United States during the War of 1812.
We have no record of the emotional reaction of the residents of the area to those events but it takes little imagination to visualize what those emotions were. We were at war with a much superior enemy and his well-trained and battle seasoned troops were passing through our community. Undoubtedly, the residents of the area figured the worst in the form of alleging  burning of homes, arrests, and other abuses.
R Lee Van HornAbsence of any historical notes on the score of those things happening but it is safe to assume that the residents left little during that period. We will tell you in the words of our late [Prince George’s County native and] historian, Mr. R. Lee Van Horn, [Judge Van Horn – 1861-1972], of the events that took place at that time. “Although little of significant history took place here in so far as County, State, or National impact is concerned, people did live here.  They raised families here, built churches here, commenced businesses here and experienced the successes, failures, heartaches, and glories that people everywhere in this great land experienced, and these experiences were just as important in their lives as those experiences of greater historical impact were on the lives of our great historical figures.”
Edna and Eugene Entwistle, Upper Marlboro Mailman James Coale

Edna and Eugene Entwistle, Upper Marlboro Mailman James Coale

Recollections of the persons and their activities that help create or assume are digested from stories told to us by respected senior citizens, Mrs. Norman Collins and Mrs. Edna Entwistle. Their stories augment the story of Forestville as told by Mr. Willard Entwistle in his line picture story at our March flag raising.

“The Alms House Story”

Time 1700’s

Have you ever noticed a large red brick building on D’Arcy Road, amid the public works buildings? It is the remaining part of what was the Alms House Project.  It is more than 200 years old.

Black Oak Thickett SurveyThis project was founded on December 23, 1771 when the trustees of the poor for Prince George’s County purchased the land as follows:  157 pounds 10 shillings current money paid in hand for 90 acres of land called the Black Oak Thickett and 50 pounds current money paid in hand for 10 acres of land called the second addition to OFFUTS Adventure.

The two deeds were recorded on February 22, 1772. This 100 acres of land was formerly owned by a gentleman named Nathaniel Magruder who was given the land by Lord Baltimore as a patent on January 7, 1761. On the law books of Prince George’s County, there were 14 articles which cover the running of this project and apparently it was used for various purposes besides being a home for the poor. One such use was a place to house vagrants where they were to be kept at hard labor. Possibly their hard labor was to work the acreage as there were tobacco barns, cornfields, a large orchard, and other farm operations. The story is told that the money from fruit sales (especially pears) was used later to put in the electricity and water system without any cost to the county. Forestville Map 1878 Of the various stories that have been told, one was that British troops killed in the attack on Washington were buried there. It is known that persons that died in the Alms House and others who had no burial ground were interred in the cemetery that used to be there.  But, no evidence has been found that British soldiers are buried there.

Up until about 1951, a single lane dirt road called Almshouse Road went through the woods and over a little white bridge up the hill to the property.  There was no other entrance.

In later years the place became solely a rest home for the indigent poor and the name was changed to “County Rest Home”. There were many old folks who spent their declining years there in peace and security. It was a pleasant place to live. The old folks would sit outside in good weather and watched the turkeys, chickens, ducks, cats, dogs, and even the pigs and cows, or look over their neatly kept vegetable garden.

The complex could care for 35 persons and it was for all races, colors and creeds. Citizen organizations, churches, and school children went there to entertain the inhabitants. The history of the Alms House has been compiled into two volumes that are available at the Courthouse in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

2014 Insert: Cemetery notes and/or description from

Also known as The Alms House of Prince George’s County, Maryland. This was a County Financed Program. The caring for the County’s destitute dated back to 1768. The original Alms House was constructed in 1772, and its successor built approximately 100 years later on the same site. Both structures have long since faded into obscurity, leaving no current landmark(s) to reflect the exact site of the County’s Program. The physical location of the Alms House [8401 D’Arcy Road] was noted to be in front of the cemetery, (notes describe the cemetery as being located in an open field directly to the rear of the Alms House).

Alms House CemeteryOf the 143 interments, only one single grave marker remains at the site of The Alms House, where those listed were buried. Petitioners were voted and acted upon by the Executive Committee, comprising of the Trustees of The Alms House.

Residents consisted of indigents, paupers, the disabled and any other citizens of Prince George’s County with no visible means of financial income or support. Paupers (with previous ties to Prince George’s County), who died in neighboring jurisdictions were also buried here.

Time 1800’s

WAR OF 1812 . . . From an article by:  Judge Robert Lee Van Horn

Major George Peter wrote to Colonel J. S. Williams, May 24, 1854, who was then writing his book on the invasion and capture of Washington, as follows: “I was ordered back to join the concentration of the army at Long Old Fields (Forestville).

During the nights of August 22 and August 23, there was the constant alarm of guns being fired by sentinels, always the result of an army comprised of raw militia. On my arrival at Long Old Fields, I found Smith’s brigade and the flotilla men under Commodore Barney with a battery of two 18 pounders and the Marines under Colonel Miller. General Ross (British) occupied Centerville having arrived there at 2 PM August 23.

He (General Ross) sent back to Marlboro and dragged up with his sailors, two or three pieces of light artillery the only guns he had with him at Bladensburg.

There was a conference between President Madison, his cabinet and General Winder (Commander, US forces) in the general’s headquarters in Long Old Fields. General Winder ordered a forced march from Old Long Fields to Washington. On August 23 and 24, General Ross and army bivouacked in the woods and at 4:00 AM on the 24th  passed through Long Old Fields on his way to Bladensburg where he arrived at noon on August 24th, and in 1814 the Battle of Bladensburg was then fought.”


Before the Civil War, a large part of what is now Forestville, was owned by David and Lowenia Sommers and was known first as Magruder’s Plains, later as Long Old Field and then as Ole Long Fields, changed to Forestville in the 1870s.

The Marlboro Turnpike or Old Stage Road ran through it from Washington to Upper Marlboro, with two toll gates at the main entrance to District Heights and at Marlboro Pike and Forestville Road.

Before the Battle of Bladensburg, troops marching overland from Hills Bridge and Benedict and camped at Ole Longfields. In or about 1869, a Mr. Nye, from Pennsylvania bought a large piece of Mr. Magruder’s Plains and built a large home and a store for groceries, dry goods, and general merchandise. A part of the store became the First Post Office in or about 1874. This was the only post office between Washington DC and Marlboro. Each morning the mail carrier met the Popes Creek train line at Marlboro and took off the bag of mail for delivery. This post office was on the north corner of Forestville Road and Marlboro Pike where the Sunoco station is now [the Sunoco station still remains there in operation].

Next to the post office on Marlboro Pike was Dr. Brent who had his office, and up the road on the opposite side, was a Mr. Rielly’s store which served for many years as a polling place.

Across Marlboro Pike from the post office were two stores and a residence (where Mitchell’s gas station is now).

The ground for the First Methodist Church was bought in 1820, 4/5’s of an acre from Mr. Marshall – price $50. This is the fourth church on this site with additional land being bought over the years.

The Episcopal Church cornerstone was laid in 1865. Its educational building/rectory etc. were added later. Noah Smith, a local preacher from England, bought a plot of ground after the Civil War from the Sommers tract and built what is now Phelps Addition to Forestville.

J.W. Randall's Home located adjacent to the Forestville Volunteer Fire Department

J.W. Randall’s Home located adjacent to the Forestville Volunteer Fire Department

J. W. Randall and wife from New York bought from the Sommers tract a parcel known as Grey Eagle and built his home just down Marlboro Turnpike from where one of his sons Charles and his wife built their home and a large lumber or saw and grist mill in 1854, which served the Forestville and surrounding country for many years. This is the site of the Forestville Fire Department [still an active Volunteer Fire Company].

The Forestville School situated between the Methodist and Episcopal churches was opened by Alonzo D’Arcy who taught there, 1866 to 1883–10 months a year to about 50 pupils– cost of each approximately $18 per year.  The school building is now occupied by a surveyor [W. L. Meekins].

Since 1900 we have seen four elementary and junior high schools in Forestville. In the early 1800s Phillip Spaulding, a large landowner in Old Long Field, kept a tavern and stagecoach inn on the present site of the Regency Nursing Home [7420 Marlboro Pike]. This was later used as a polling place and when our election district was formed, Spaulding District, was the first. Our junior high in Forest Manor bears his name.

wheelwright shopAt Marlboro Pike and Westphalia Road, W. L. Moore operated a blacksmith and wheelwright shop on what was known as Kalverton Edge Tract.

On the north east side of Westphalia Road extending toward the post office was land owned by the Armstrong’s who gave the ground for the present Methodist Parsonage in 1882.

On the south side of Marlboro Pike extending from the gates down Marlboro Pike to Westphalia Road was land owned by John Brady, great, great, grandparent of the Beans who operated Old Longfield’s Dairy on the south side of Marlboro Pike. Mr. Brady donated the ground for the first Odd Fellows Hall built in 1894. Ryon House-Covert Farm2-1984This was located where the overpass of the Beltway crosses Pennsylvania Avenue. In the back of this land with outlet on Marlboro Pike and running through Forestville Road was Covert Farm [3700 Forestville Road], bought by Thomas Ryon in 1849.  [Edna Ryon Entwistle inherited this property through her father, W. Ward Ryon,  who inherited it from his father,Thomas Ryon.]

Freddies Liquors Forestville MapJohn Henry Bayne (born on my birthdate January 5, in 1840) was the wheelwright and blacksmith at the intersection of Marlboro Pike and Ritchie Road (7700 Marlboro Pike)– owned and occupied  for decades now by Freddie’s Liquors.    Wheelwrights like John were very important tradesman in small rural towns like Forestville. They made wheels for wagons, carriages, and riding chairs.  Because the roads were rocky and rugged, wheels had to be made to handle these rough conditions. He also built or repaired carts, wheelbarrows and wagons so local farmers could transport stock or take their crops or milk to market.  In April, 1868, John Bayne married Amelia Louise Moore from Westphalia Road.  Amelia died as young mother at age 27  leaving John a widower with four children. He next married Mary Ellen Rebecca Darcy and they had nine children together.   John died on December 23, 1921, at the age of 81.  Forestville’s native, John Bayne, never left Forestville.  In fact, he and his two wives are buried at Epiphany Episcopal Church Cemetery, 3111 Ritchie Road–the same church I attended as a child and where I was married in 1965. 

Later on there was another blacksmith, Mr. Proctor, who had a home and shop on land owned by Dr. John Sansbury who had his home and office just west of the present location of the Regency Nursing Home. This same Dr. Sansbury had a racetrack in 1908 on what is now Sansbury Subdivision. That track was the first in Prince George’s County, a trotting track, one half mile long.

Dr. Sansbury’s residence and office later and was owned by J. H. Boyd, M. D.

In the 1880s, part of the Pike, across from where Penn Mar is now [2950 Donnell Drive], was a shoe repair shop (Keiler’s). In those days, and up to about 20 years ago [1956], the site of the Penn Mar shopping center was a part of O’Donnell’s farm and the present Donnell Drive was a dirt road that went back to the farmhouse. The house was somewhat to the north of the present Pennsylvania Avenue Extended. Pennsylvania Avenue Extended did not exist then.

In the 1880s farther up the Pike toward District Heights was Jackson Memorial Methodist Church, public school, and cemetery.

Next up was the first Catholic Church in Forestville, a frame church painted white built in 1912. It was replaced by the present Mount Calvary church, school, and convent. McNamara high school for boys was built later [converted to a coed school in 1992 when neighboring La Reine Catholic High School for girls closed its doors in Suitland].

Across the Pike, in what is now Berkshire, they drilled for oil in the 1900s with no luck. They also drilled on the Matthews tract which is now Andrews Air Force Base.

“Wells have been dug near Lonaconing in Western Maryland; in the Triassic soil of Frederick County; in Prince George’s County; near Leonardtown, and on the Isle of Wight near Ocean City,” reported The Sunday Sun Magazine in the 1940s.

“Most of the digging resulted in nothing but disappointment,” it said.”

“In 1919, the only real “strike” came in Prince George’s County, when an operating well produced a bucketful of oil every 24 hours.

Newspaper accounts at the time said it was so pure that it could be “put right into the gasoline tank of an automobile and run off with it.”

Abundance wasn’t in the cards, and shortly afterward, the well and its so-called pure oil went dry.  However, the talk of Maryland oil wouldn’t go away, as speculators continued to whip up interest.

“The kind of science the big companies employ is not to be believed. … Hardly a single geologic condition is favorable for the accumulation of oil near Washington. The usual requisites for an oil pool are lacking, and no reputable geologist would advise the expenditure of money under these conditions,” said a 1920 report from the U.S. Geological Survey published in The Sun at the time.

Flashbacks of the Great Y2K Scare

The Great Y2K Scare

The great Y2K scare was spread by scaremongers who thought that the world’s computer systems would cease to function on December 31, 1999.  The Y2K problem, aka, “the Millennium bug,” “the Y2K bug,” or simply “The Year 2000 problem” was both a  digital (computer-related) and non-digital documentation and storage issue.  The quick and easy fix was to convert all stored year data from a 2-digit format to a 4-digit format. So in 1997, the British Standard Institute (BSI) issued a standard known as “DISC PD2000-1” that replaced the practice of a 2-digit year format with a 4-digit year format that would not be affected by the passing of time or the turn of the centuries.  Companies and organizations worldwide checked, fixed, and upgraded their computer systems and the clocks rolled over into the new millennium without a hitch to any stored data or programs–well maybe not all of them…

According to today’s Associated Press article that follows, it seems as though the Pennsylvania and the Department of Defense’s Selective Service System paid to mail out 14,250 draft notices at the end of last month (June 2014) to men who were born between 1893 and 1897–the youngest of who, if alive today, would be 117 years young!

Amazingly enough, at least one of those notices was received by a relative of the addressee who had died at age 98 in 1992.  The only thought that quite honestly comes to my mind now–it was originally a problem dealing with the millennial.  And the irony–I bet if we checked, we would find the computer programmer who merged the data with only the 2-digit year format  to the addresses probably is a member of what is known as  the “millennial generation,” born between 1980 and 2000–a very confident multi-tasker who probably stepped out for a walk while the data merged! ( I mean this tongue-in-cheek because I realize that it is coming from a baby-boomer who’s group insisted on being heard by the world.)

Selective Service sends 14K draft notices to families of men born in 1800s

The letters warned the men, likely all dead, that they risked jail if they did not respond to the notice. The bizarre notices was a glitch that began with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The government organization has apologized for the mistake.

Thursday, July 10, 2014, 6:29 PM
In this photo taken on Tuesday, July 8, 2014, Harold Weaver sits behind his wife, Martha, in their Nickleville, Pa, home. Martha holds a letter from the Selective Service for her late father, Fred Minnick, requiring him to register for the nation's military draft. The letter arrived too late for Minnick, who was born in 1894 and died on April 20, 1992.JERRY SOWDEN/APIn this photo taken on Tuesday, July 8, 2014, Harold Weaver sits behind his wife, Martha, in their Nickleville, Pa, home. Martha holds a letter from the Selective Service for her late father, Fred Minnick, requiring him to register for the nation’s military draft. The letter arrived too late for Minnick, who was born in 1894 and died on April 20, 1992.

No, the United States isn’t trying to build a military force of centenarians.

It just seems that way after the Selective Service System mistakenly sent notices to more than 14,000 Pennsylvania men born between 1893 and 1897, ordering them to register for the nation’s military draft and warning that failure to do so is “punishable by a fine and imprisonment.”

The agency realized the error when it began receiving calls from bewildered relatives last week.

Chuck Huey, 73, of Kingston, said he got a notice addressed to his late grandfather Bert Huey, a World War I veteran who was born in 1894 and died in 1995 at age 100.

“I said, ‘Geez, what the hell is this about?’ It said he was subject to heavy fines and imprisonment if he didn’t sign up for the draft board,” he said. “We were just totally dumbfounded.”

Huey said he tried calling the Selective Service but couldn’t get a live person on the line. That frustrated him even more because he wanted to make sure the agency knew there had been a mistake.

“You just never know. You don’t want to mess around with the federal government,” he said.

The glitch, it turns out, originated with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation during a transfer of nearly 400,000 records to the Selective Service. A clerk working with the state’s database failed to select the century, producing records for males born between 1993 and 1997 — and for those born a century earlier, PennDOT spokeswoman Jan McKnight said Thursday.

“We made a mistake, a quite serious selection error,” McNight said.

The Selective Service didn’t initially catch it because the state used a two-digit code to indicate year of birth, spokesman Pat Schuback said. The federal agency identified 27,218 records of men born in the 1800s, began mailing notices to them on June 30, and began receiving calls from family members on July 3. By that time, it had sent 14,250 notices in error.

“It’s never happened before,” Schuback said.

The men are almost certainly all dead, given that the youngest would be turning 117 this year. Families of those men who received the notices can simply ignore them, he said. Their files will be deactivated and they shouldn’t receive additional communications from the Selective Service. The agency also posted a notice and an apology on its website Thursday.

The state Transportation Department, meanwhile, said it had taken steps to ensure its mistake won’t be repeated.

“We’re really sorry,” McNight said. “We apologize.”

Firefighting in Colonial America


As some of my blog readers may know, my husband, Bob, has been a firefighter for nearly 25 years and his dedication to community goes back as long as I can remember.  Today, he serves as Chief of a local county volunteer fire department.  With so much of his time devoted in and around the  fire department, many of our social times together naturally evolve around community and volunteer activities.  With genealogy, history, and my blog writing ever present in my life, I thought it was about time to dedicate a post to Bob, the firefighter, and share with you the history of firefighting in America.

The post you are about to read comes directly from which is a historical repository for the fire services of the United States.

There also is a museum of firefighting equipment in North Charleston, SC, where I hope Bob and I will soon visit.  Meanwhile, on our agenda for tomorrow is to revisit our local historical society library to capture more historical information and pictures about his department’s nearly 84 years in existence in a town that went for dairy farms and tobacco lands to one of the most highly populated areas in the suburbs just outside Washington, DC.

Firefighting in Colonial America

Benjamin Franklin

The history of firefighting in America can be traced all the way back to Jamestown, VA, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Founded in 1607 by colonists from the London Company, Jamestown was under the command of Captain James Smith. It did not take long for fire to begin taking its toll on the new settlers.

In January 1608, a devastating fire destroyed most of the colonists’ provisions and lodgings. Smith made a concise assessment of the situation: “I begin to think that it is safer for me to dwell in the wild Indian country than in this stockade, where fools accidentally discharge their muskets and others burn down their homes at night.”

Three hundred ninety years later, Smith’s read on America’s safety issues is not that much different than today’s. Our headlines still feature the same two elements – fire and guns.

The population of the New World continued to rise as shiploads of immigrants stepped ashore looking for a fresh start in a new land. Cities began to take shape, and the problems Smith found in the small stockade multiplied as more and more structures were added. The fire load in these cities increased as forests were cleared and wooden homes and buildings were constructed.

The communities that sprang up around three of the best harbors – Boston, New York and Philadelphia – soon faced a number of social problems involving housing, sanitation, water supply and the danger of fire. These three cities, and the firefighters who eventually stepped forward to protect them, set the course early on as to the direction and shape the American Fire Service would take.

In 1648, New Amsterdam (later New York) Governor Peter Stuyvesant stood firmly on his peg leg and appointed four men to act as fire wardens. They were empowered to inspect all chimneys and to fine any violators of the rules. The city burghers later appointed eight prominent citizens to the “Rattle Watch” – these men volunteered to patrol the streets at night carrying large wooden rattles. If a fire was seen, the men spun the rattles, then directed the responding citizens to form bucket brigades. This is generally recognized as the first step in organized firefighting in America.

Even earlier, Boston’s city fathers took the first steps in fire prevention when Governor John Winthrop outlawed wooden chimneys and thatched roofs in 1631. Forty years later, Boston suffered a series of arson fires and finally a conflagration in 1676. The small “ingine” built by local ironmaker Joseph Jynks, probably a syringe-type pump, had little effect on the swelling wall of flames. Shortly after the fire, Bostonians sent for the “state of the art fire engine” then being made in England. The three-foot-long, 18-inch-wide wooden box arrived with carrying handles and a direct-force pump that fed a small hose. The tub-like section of the engine was kept filled with water by a bucket brigade.

The need to coordinate these efforts brought about the establishment of the first engine company in colonial America. Twelve men and a captain were “hired” by the General Court to care for and manage the engine and to be paid for their work. On Jan. 27, 1678, this company went into service. Its captain (foreman), Thomas Atkins, was actually the first firefighting officer in the country.

Two Newsham engines arrived in New York in December 1732. Jacob Turck was appointed to take charge of the engines and to keep them in repair at his own cost after a 10-pound salary was advanced him. Turck also worked on a pump of his own design, perhaps the first mechanical fire pumper built in America.

Most notable among the famous Americans who helped shape the country and the fire service was Benjamin Franklin, a writer, printer, philosopher, scientist, statesman of the American Revolution – and a fireman. Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence, served as a diplomat, and invented items that ranged from lightning rods to bifocal eyeglasses. In 1736, Franklin founded the Union Fire Company in Philadelphia, which became the standard for volunteer fire company organization.

Two important “tools” utilized by early American firemen were the bed key and salvage bags. With firefighting apparatus able to supply only a small stream of water, a fire that began to gain any headway was soon out of control. Arriving firemen quite often opted for immediate salvage efforts in the fire building and surrounding exposures. The bed key was a small metal tool that allowed the men to quickly disassemble the wooden frame of a bed, quite often the most valuable item owned by a family, and remove it to safety. Other household goods of any value were snatched up, placed in salvage bags and carried to safety.

The first attempt at fire insurance went bust after a devastating fire in Charlestown, MA, in 1736. Ben Franklin then organized the “Philadelphia Contributorship” to insure houses from loss by fire in 1740, a venture that was a success. The company adopted “fire marks” to be affixed to the front of the insured’s property for easy identification.

With rules to provide for buckets, hooks, ladders and the formation of volunteer companies, firefighting started to become formalized. The chain of command fell in place as officers of various ranks were established. Firemen devised new and better ways to accomplish their mission; everything from helmets to hoses were invented or improved. Firemen in Philadelphia, New York, Boston and other cities made major advances in the technology and theory of firefighting.

The legacy of colonial firefighters can still be seen in fire department operations and organization across the country to this day. The wooden hydrants are gone but the iron willed determination of American firefighters is as strong as ever.


Fredericksburg Fireworks: Your Guide to July Fourth

In Remembrance of My Paternal Family’s Early Virginia Beginnings:
July 3rd, 2014, 8:52 am

The Fourth of July is right around the corner, with plenty of food and fireworks to go around.

Here are some events to consider:


Chief Two Eagles Green

Crafts, Displays, Living History

In its 42nd year, the Heritage Festival will fill Fredericksburg with events from sunup to sundown.

There will be a 5-mile race at 7:45 a.m. sponsored by the Fredericksburg Host Lions Club, with registration beginning at 6:30 a.m. at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center.

Children can participate in the day by walking in a parade at 9:30 a.m. sponsored for the first time by the newly opened Richmond/Fredericksburg Children’s Museum, said Heritage Festival coordinator Roberta Gold.

After the parade, the Festival of the Streets will close Sophia Street and connecting streets to welcome more than 100 crafters, food vendors and children’s activities.

There will also be a classic and antique car show, and the annual Rappahannock River Raft Race beginning at Falmouth’s Waterfront Park and ending at Fredericksburg’s City Dock.

Stafford’s Pratt Park will shoot off fireworks at 9:15, with entertainment from the Quantico Marine Corps Rock and Roll Band and the Quantico Marine Corps Band with the Riverside Dinner Theater cast of “West Side Story.”

The park opens at 4:30, and early arrival to the busy area is encouraged.



George Washington’s boyhood home will be open from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and is accessible by trolley from the downtown Fredericksburg events.

Ferry Farm will welcome home the county’s own national bluegrass artist, Mark Newton, with his musical partner Steve Thomas, onstage at 3:30–5 p.m. The performance follows their theme, “Home Sweet Home,” in partnership with Stafford County in its 350th anniversary year.

Visitors will also see archaeology displays, educational programs, Colonial and Civil War re-enactors, crafts and exhibitors and hands-on games and activities.



Culpeper will celebrate the national holiday in a hometown style on the Fourth, with a 5K race, car show, parade and fireworks.

The Freedom 5K race will begin the day at 8 a.m. at the Town Municipal Building and loop around town.

Culpeper Renaissance will put on an all-day car and bike show at 10 a.m., and the Museum of Culpeper History will open at its new location from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Commerce Street.

The annual Main Street parade will kick off at 4 p.m. featuring the local color guard, veterans, bands, school clubs and creative floats.

Fireworks will begin at 9:15 p.m. at Yowell Meadow Park, where food, music and children’s activities will precede the show.



Fireworks will go off along the Potomac on July Fourth at 9:15 p.m. in Colonial Beach.

The fireworks will shoot off from the Town Pier and visitors can line the beachfront, where food and glow sticks will be sold, for a prime viewing point.

For all-day parking at the beach, visitors pay $10 to park in public lots. Once the lots are filled, attendants will assist visitors with parking options starting on Town Hill and moving into surrounding areas.


Historic readings  at port royal

The town of Port Royal will host the 15th annual Independence Day celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July Fourth.

The day will include a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a performance from Saint Andrew’s Legion Pipes and Drums, an 18th-century dancing demonstration by the Rappahannock Colonial Heritage Society, a patriotic organ recital at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, a living history encampment with Civil War re-enactors, a guest speaker from the National Park Service, period musicians Evergreen Shade, surrey rides, demonstrations of early medical practices, blacksmithing, spinning and weaving, childrens’ games, and food and beverages. Admission is free.


Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County will also host events for the Fourth.

The Lees and Independence Family Fun Festival will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free admission.

The event is family oriented with arts-and-crafts activities, a scavenger hunt and dressing up in Colonial fashions. The gristmill will also be running, and tours of the Great House are available for free.

Admission for the event is $1 and parking is available at the Fraternal Order of Eagles on Cool Spring Road with shuttle service to the farm.


Regina Weiss 540/374-5444

Bet You Didn’t Know…Independence Day

How does your family celebrate Independence Day?

I’d love to hear from you.  Meanwhile, here’s another great video clip from my idols at The History Channel:


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