ZANN’S PLACE: Anticipation of interesting stories

Anticipation! The magic potion that gets us up in the morning; gets us past the humdrum of routine, and often over the hump of life’s less than desirable events. It helps if the anticipation is for the promise of good things: presents, sweet time with family and friends, a great meal, good bottle of wine or that first smell of rebirth when the sun finally warms the dirt beneath your feet.

But wait there is more! For those of us with a pioneering spirit, a love of adventure and the quest for new knowledge the possibilities are limitless. Every day, every meeting, every new person, or every time one walks out of the door there is that amazing opportunity for new discoveries.

And my point is you ask?

I am working on a couple of stories that are absolutely fascinating! I do not yet have enough facts to offer a full and well-documented report but thought you would enjoy a teaser. Just enough of the concept to whet your appetite and create a little of that delightful anticipation.

Credit where credit is due: I was alerted to the event by a reader from Washington, DC via Orange County.

In 1907 articles in the Washington DC papers reported on a “riot in Rapidan, VA,” a: race- riot no less. It appears that on September 2, 1907, a group of black men after boarding the train at the Rapidan station attempted to sit in the “Whites Only” section. When the conductor could not persuade them otherwise he removed them from the train. That was not the end of the story.

Once off the train they allegedly attacked the station master and began to throw “sticks and stones” at the trainmen. Apparently, word had spread rapidly as they were met by a large crowd of white men armed with baseball bats. According to a newspaper report, one of the rioters slipped off to a nearby house and returned with a gun. Instead of wounding one of the white men, this same man was shot in the leg, presumably not self-inflicted. The articles closed the report stating that a few of the men were arrested and taken to Culpeper to await a hearing.

I have searched the courthouse for records and so far, have come up empty-handed. There are more files to examine.

I met with the gentleman that put me on to the story and reported my findings. He not being from the South suggested that perhaps after some consideration the local authorities determined no harm, no foul and dropped the case. I was not convinced.

I continued the research and found several additional articles (under different headings). Those commentaries painted a different picture theorizing that the attempt to break the Jim Crow law by sitting in a “No Coloreds Allowed” section of the train was a ruse: the real intent was to murder the station master.

I now have a more detailed account of the event with names! Until I can give you the best of my research, ponder on the statement below written in one of the newly discovered publications two days after the event.

The article reported that two negroes named Jim and Frank – I have withheld the last names for now- were arrested. Jim was taken to Culpeper to await the next Grand Jury hearing and Frank was “fined and imprisoned at hard labor.”

With names in my pocket, I will return to the courthouse and attempt to speak with someone that may have heard the stories. You can bet there will be more to come!

This column appeared in the on May 3, 2018

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