Deepening Understanding of Fauquier County History

The John K. Gott Library houses historical maps, artifacts, documents, and photos for the study of local history and genealogical research. 

Fauquier County’s premiere repository for genealogical and historical research, The Gott Library is a hidden gem for those seeking to learn more about county history or the stories of families of who have lived here.

The small, unpretentious building that houses the library, located in Marshall near the intersection of Routes 17 and 55, is easy to miss but a pleasant surprise to find. When built in 1771, the building was the meeting place for the Upper Carter Run Baptist church, and a visitor can still find some of the original structure inside. It is reportedly the oldest building standing in Marshall.

John K. Gott, a native of Marshall, was the founder of the Fauquier Heritage Society (now the Fauquier Heritage and Preservation Foundation). Having done extensive research on the Marshall area, he authored several books on the subject of local history and was the foremost recognized historian in Fauquier County during his lifetime.

Entering the library, I was welcomed by volunteers Ava Lee and Laura Kelsey, who were eager to show me how they strive to carry out their mission of “providing the public as much local historical and genealogical information as possible.” Ava also serves as vice president of the board of directors for the library’s parent organization, the Fauquier Heritage and Preservation Foundation, and Laura, also a board member and the current president of the board of the Fauquier Historical Society, is an experienced genealogical researcher. 

Sitting in the largest room filled with tables where researchers can spread out their books and documents to study, I found myself surrounded by numerous shelves holding some 5,000 items. Above the shelves were photos and prints of individuals, many quite renowned, who came from the Fauquier area or had an impact on its history. I also could see many of the maps that comprise the library’s extensive historical map collection. Looking closely at one of the maps, I was fascinated to discover what the area near my current rural home near Old Waterloo Road looked like in the 18th century. 

The library is named for John Gott, a Marshall native, former librarian, and during his lifetime, Fauquier County’s premiere historian. He stockpiled and organized books, public records, and private family history information that ultimately included some 3,500 items when the Fauquier Heritage and Preservation foundation took trusteeship in 2003. I was told that the library is organized today just as Gott had originally implemented it.

Visitors to the library generally come for two reasons — to research their family history, or to deepen their understanding of local history and the evolution of the county. The family files are stored together in their own special section of the library and offer visitors who believe they have family history in the area the opportunity to see what public information is available on their ancestors as well as private information provided by descendants and relatives. 

Residents of other states who have ancestors from Fauquier often call on the library as they trace their family trees. I also easily found a great deal of material on my wife’s extended family ancestors, the Beverlys, some of whom had moved from the Tidewater to this area in the 18th century.

As a local history buff, I was particularly excited to see a large section covering the Civil War period. This included many books on Col. John Mosby and his unit of partisan rangers, who operated in the county during the war. But whatever your interest in the history of the county, you are likely to find material that will give you greater insight.

Next door to the library you will find a house built in 1934, where a partner of the library, the Sinclair Education Center, is located. The Center provides a comfortable multi-room setting to small groups for study and research and sometimes hosts history lectures. The Foundation also sponsors presentations, called “History Happy Hour” at the Fauquier County Courthouse quarterly on a Sunday afternoon.

To enhance its capability to serve those with genealogical questions, the library is creating an online capability — its unique version of ancestory.com.

The library depends on volunteers and donations to continue its work. It is located at 4110 Winchester Road in Marshall. You can find additional information and hours on their website at www.fhpf.org. Special appointments are also available. 

Photos by Laura Kelsey

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About Gary Carroll 12 Articles
Gary Carroll is a Fauquier native and, except for seven years living abroad, has lived here throughout his life. He has a B.A and M.A. from University of Virginia where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He served in the U.S. Government for 25 years where he worked as an analyst, supervisor of analysts, and an instructor for analysts. After retiring, he has continued to work as an instructor for the military and several government agencies where he teaches a variety of communication skills including analytic writing, briefing and public speaking, and supervisor-employee communication. He is married and has two daughters.

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