Growing up in Connecticut, I joined a junior fife and drum corps when I was 13, which was my first experience with “living history.” My love of history and sense of adventure that comes with learning about new places only grew in the next few years, and continues to this day. As a young teenager, it was always so exciting to be part of something that had a vast and varied history, and although fifing and drumming was prevalent particularly in New England, occasionally we were able to travel beyond our immediate locale to some great historical sites. My first taste of Virginia history was on one of these trips. We traveled to Loudoun County for a muster, and on the way home, we stopped at the Manassas Battlefield. It was my first direct experience with Civil War history, and the scale of it was awe-inspiring.
After graduate school I moved to Virginia, and I was excited to live in an area that had so much accessible history. While Connecticut had its share of historic locations, it cannot match the breadth and volume of what is available in Virginia. While I had the opportunity to visit famous places like Mount Vernon and Monticello, I found that even just a hike through a local park could reveal some hidden piece of history, like an old homestead, fort, or cemetery.
When I moved to Haymarket and began working at our new community library, I was not surprised to discover that we live at the heart of a designated national heritage area known as a The Journey Through Hallowed Ground. This area, which stretches along the Route 15/29 corridor from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania all the way to Charlottesville, encompasses an unparalleled amount of historical, cultural, and natural attractions. Within a few hours’ drive in any direction, you can visit presidential homes, battlefields, historic courthouses and schoolhouses, national and state parks, forts, museums, hiking trails, and more. A visit to the website can help you create your own itinerary for a variety of different destinations and interests. If you are a local history buff, you can even take their Certified Tourism Ambassador course, which introduces you to the Journey and how you can share your knowledge and expertise with others.
We are fortunate in Prince William County to have access to a range of history-related services, including RELIC at Bull Run Regional Library, where the staff are experts in researching local history and genealogy. You can also pick up a map for The Journey Through Hallowed Ground at the Haymarket Gainesville Community Library. Prince William County is additionally unique for its Historic Preservation Division, which helps to protect, preserve, and interpret our county’s history through a variety of historic properties. You can visit one in your own backyard in the 200-year-old Bushy Park House at the Haymarket Gainesville Community Library, which is a fantastic example of late-18th century construction. While the house is not yet ready for tours, the Historic Preservation Division continues its efforts to create an historically accurate space for interpretation of early farmhouse life in our area.
To locate even more points of interest, try these books in the library’s collection: Virginia Curiosities by Sharon Cavileer, Backroads & Byways of Virginia: Drives, Day Trips, and Weekend Excursions by Bill Lohmann, Honoring Their Paths: African American Contributions along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, by Deborah A. Lee, and A Guidebook to Virginia’s Historical Markers, by Scott David Arnold.
About the Author:
Beth Walker is a Librarian and Adult Program Coordinator at the Haymarket Gainesville Community Library. She currently lives in Haymarket with her husband, a local attorney. Together they enjoy hiking, watching detective tv series, and playing tabletop games.