Stevensburg may seem insignificant now, but once a flourishing crossroads of young America she had a promising future. Still today, the village possesses a sparkling history and remains near and dear to many.
The village, well established by the mid-1700s at the busy intersection of Kirtley and Carolina roads, was known by the name of York and for a time was the largest community in Culpeper County.
Included among the early settlers of York was the Zimmerman family, of Spotswood’s Germania (Germanna) settlement.
But the German colonists were not the only ones to recognize the potential for commercial and agricultural productivity. It was the new frontier, a significant westward route, a hub for travel and excellent farmland. The possibilities for growth and economic gain attracted wealthy land speculators as well.
In 1782, on 50 acres owned by William Bradley, a town was established by the Virginia Legislature and named for Revolutionary War hero and Culpeper citizen, Gen. Edward Stevens.
The town was laid out in half-acre lots with a “convenient” system of streets. Most early towns consisted of a primary street commonly referred to as “Front” or the name of the founder as in Culpeper’s “Coleman,” a secondary street often called simply “Back” street and one or two connecting side streets.
In Stevensburg, the original primary street is functional and known today as York Road or Route 600. Back Street is not passable and barely recognizable. However, Spring Street, one of the original connecting side streets, exists near the site of Wale’s Tavern. Who knows what a stroll along these ancient paths might reveal?
Purchasers of these original lots were required to build a 16-foot square dwelling “fit for habitation within three years.” It is not clear how many of the lots were sold, but within 18 years, 21 investors had purchased one or more lots. The application of some simple math would suggest that within 25 years there were as many as 21 houses in the town of Stevensburg.
The North/South age-old Carolina Road was well traveled, and where it intersected with the East West Kirtley Trail would become a vibrant crossroad. Those seeking a respite from their travels could find accommodations at Zimmerman’s Tavern, believed to have been popular with Thomas Jefferson; Miss Betty Wale’s Tavern or perhaps, the good folks at Salubria might have offered a spare bed.
Within walking distance of the traffic congested intersection were two taverns, two stores, a post office, blacksmith shop, tannery and Masonic Hall.
Nearby were the sources for municipal water at Bradley’s and Yowell’s spring, the latter being the suspected location of the notorious area known as Wicked Bottom.
The banks of Mountain Run, less than a mile north of the town would support the commercial operations of a mill and a munitions factory.
The rapidly growing population and the evidence of an increasing number of wealthy families gave rise to the establishment of the Stevensburg Academy where the wealthy were educated and where Dr. John Wharton established a medical school.
Stevensburg was certainly not without religious influence. The Quakers established the Southland Meeting with a house of worship and a cemetery as early as 1788 and would remain in Stevensburg until the 1820s.
The Baptists would have the greatest influence in Stevensburg, beginning with the Mt. Pony Church in 1774, the founding of the Stevensburg Baptist Church in 1833 and the establishment of St. Stevens Baptist Church shortly after the end of the Civil War.
Surrounding the town of Stevensburg were large plantations, many of whose owners would be recorded as the founding fathers of Culpeper County. Supporting these farming and commercial operations was a large population of enslaved people, many of whom chose to remain in the area after Emancipation and establishing vibrant communities.
There is certainly more than meets the eye!
Until next, be well.
Note: All properties mentioned are privately owned, please be respectful.