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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Erasing History

Orange Plank Road, 1954

For those of you who would prefer not to watch an old man cry virtual tears, now might be a good time to avert your eyes.

     In a piece I wrote last October  I broke with tradition and wrote about my own history instead of that of my ancestors. While acknowledging the inevitability of change, I allowed myself the indulgence of mourning the disappearance of the landscape of my boyhood, together with the history attached to it, and its replacement by the current reality in Spotsylvania. Forty years of relentless commercial development has annihilated that ancient landscape and the historical memory that informed it.
     Let the record show that I am not one who would chain himself to a tree or an old farm house in an effort to thwart the tide of progress. I am a firm believer in property rights and the free enterprise system.
     That said, what has happened to Spotsylvania during the course of my lifetieme is not altogether a cause for celebration and thanksgiving.
     For my readers who have never visited Spotsylvania, or have come there after these changes have taken place, the images I am presenting today will probably not mean much.
     To those of you who, like me, grew up there and whose families have lived there for generations these photographs will have special significance.
     These pictures were taken in the early 1950s as part of an effort to document the Fredericksburg & Wilderness Telephone Company's upgrading to dial service. All of today's images are courtesy of the Colvin Collection. Click on each photo to see the enlarged image.
     Once history is erased, can we ever get it back?

Brock Road with Goshen Church in the distance

Spotsylvania, 1950

Spotsylvania, 1950

Rt. 3 looking east, Jackson Monument in the distance

Brock Road near the intersection with Orange Plank Road

Rt. 3 at Five Mile Fork, looking east

Fredericksburg & Wilderness building at Five Mile Fork

Old Plank Road looking east toward McLaws Drive



  1. Hello Mr. Sullivan,

    It was wonderful to stumble across your blog while looking for a picture of Parker's store. My grandma recently passed away and she was like my mother. She would tell me all of her crazy stories about Brock Road and Graff Parker's store when she was young. Like you, our family has lived in the Spotsylvania/St. George's Parish area for 200 years. I'm trying my hardest to document all of her stories and put together my family tree with the information she told me over the years. It's wonderful to see someone who is just as passionate about Spotsylvania in the old days as I am. Thank you a wonderful blog!

    Dena Cooper

    1. Dena that was not Graff Parker's store but the one at

      srker va

  2. Mr. Sullivan: your blog is a wonderful spot to visit. I grew up in Fredericksburg after much had already started to change, but certainly before it looks as it does today. I am giving a presentation at a planning conference later this month regarding "lost communities": really forgotten communities to tell the story about how much certain places have changed permanently in a dramatic way in less than a generation's time. I was hoping to perhaps use some of your photographs to paint the picture if alright with you. Making smart planning decisions may be past Spotsylvania at this point, but there is still a great majority of the county (and Virginia) that can learn from its lessons.

    Drew Williams
    Bridgewater, Virginia

  3. Thank you for your kind words, Mr. Williams. For such a worthy effort as your planning conference, you have my blessing to use images from this blog that may be helpful. If you would, please cite Spotsylvania Memory as your source. If it is possible to keep another municipality from making Spotsylvania's mistakes, then that would be a very good thing.