The Thoroughfare community was established after the Civil War by African Americans and mixed-raced families, including Native American descent, from Fauquier, Culpeper, Rappahannock and Warren counties. The farming community here prospered through the 1940s. The community had its own school (North Fork School and church (Oakrum Baptist Church). Today, a historic marker is located near the center of the historic village.
This webpage serves to provide updates to residents and stakeholders regarding Prince William County’s efforts to preserve and protect the Thoroughfare Community in partnership with the Coalition To Save Historic Thoroughfare.
For those interested in participating in the scope of work discussions pertaining to the architectural and archeological survey work please contact [email protected].
August 31, 2021: Thoroughfare Community History Project Presentation
Approval of a resolution from budget and appropriate $765,000 for historical preservation and interpretation at the Thoroughfare and Settlement Communities and updates to the Prince William County cemetery database:
Initiate amendments to the zoning ordinance, including, but not limited to, a potential historic overlay district, and the Design and Construction Standards manual, in order to address the preservation and protection of historic and cultural resources and properties in the Thoroughfare area, including, but not limited to, African American and Native American cemeteries and burial grounds, and other African American and Native American cultural and historical sites; and initiate amendments to the comprehensive plan for the same purposes
Dovetail Cultural Resource Group update on the Thoroughfare History Recordation Project: Dovetail completed some chain-of-title research to go along with the oral history interviews as well as help inform the historic context for the area. We'll continue working on transcribing the interviews, and completing the associated genealogical and chain-of-title research for the next couple of weeks.
Land Purchase in Thoroughfare
On November 9, 2021, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors approved the purchase of a two-acre parcel along John Marshall Highway, west of Haymarket, as part of the new Historic Communities program that aims to study, interpret, and preserve culturally significant enclaves throughout the County. The parcel falls within the boundaries of the Thoroughfare Historical District, as recorded by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and contains the Potter’s Field/Peyton Thoroughfare Community Cemetery. This purchase protects the land from private development.
County leaders plan to convert the property into a public interpretive park and will engage with residents and stakeholders to develop a master plan. Funding for construction of the park will be considered in future budget years. “This is an important step for the County to begin to preserve another piece of our past and celebrate the story of one of Virginia’s significant integrated communities as well as our native American ancestry,” said Chair Ann Wheeler.
The parcel is currently land locked and the acquisition will not result in a new access from public right of way. However, state law allows access by certain parties to cemeteries through adjacent private lands, provided reasonable notice is given to the landowner and/or occupant; these provisions will still apply after the parcel changes ownership. The County will explore expanded access in the future to the best of its ability.
Scott Cemetery Archaeological Investigations
The first phase of archaeological investigation was completed, which was a remote sensing survey on the Scott Cemetery. Eleven (11) anomalies were identified that “may be human burials based on the arrangement and position of the features.” This remote sensing report was prepared by Thunderbird Archeology a Division of Wetlands Study and Solutions, Inc., in September 2021 and the report is posted below.
The County was notified on November 9th in writing that the brewery property owner has hired Commonwealth Heritage Group to archaeologically test the 11 anomalies identified during the remote sensing survey. This testing will consist of machine excavation and is planned to start on November 11, 2021, this Thursday. This type of excavation is performed by a backhoe with a smooth blade that slowly peels back thin layers of soil looking for evidence of burial features. This method is widely used throughout Virginia and is the most reliable way to locate burial features without disturbing the burials themselves. It is an accepted method by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and is legally permissible from a Zoning standpoint. No disturbance or removal of buried human remains is proposed or intended. The County has requested the results of the work and will share them with the public as more information becomes available.
While the excavation timeline for this next phase on the Scott Cemetery was not the process originally agreed to by the owner, he is within his rights as a property owner to move forward in this manner. The County will continue to reach out to, and coordinate with, all stakeholders as this matter proceeds.
More architectural survey fieldwork is scheduled for later this week. As a reminder, the consultants from Dovetail will be conducting their work from the public right-of-way save for knocking on doors to alert property owners of their presence. Please feel free to send any specific information about your property ahead of time such as important features that may not be visible from the public right-of-way and that should be included in their study.
Dovetail is continuing to make contact with the oral history interview candidates and schedule their interviews which will occur over the course of the next several weeks. Initial archival research has been started at the RELIC Room at the Central Library in the County as well as online at websites such as the Library of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and Ancestry.com. The remainder of the architectural survey fieldwork is also being scheduled for the next several weeks. As a reminder, they will be conducting their work from the public right-of-way save for knocking on doors to alert property owners of their presence. Please feel free to send any specific information about your property ahead of time such as important features that may not be visible from the public right-of-way and that should be included in their study.
Dovetail received eight names for oral history candidates and will be reaching out to them shortly to begin scheduling interviews. Meanwhile we are conducting a background review of the history of the area as well as developing a draft list of questions to be reviewed by county staff and the Coalition. Dovetail is also scheduled to meet with the Coalition representative and county staff next week for a tour and begin their architectural survey.
Dovetail and the County continues to seek out other oral history candidates from people that live or have long time connections to the Thoroughfare area. If you or someone you know is interested, please contact [email protected] .
The following reports were commissioned by private individuals and shared with the County for informational purposes.
True Limits Survey of 16151 John Marshall Highway, as reported in its entirety by Lyle E. Browning, RPA for Flint Rock Builders, LLC, the owner of the parcels surrounding the Fletcher-Allen Cemetery.
Thoroughfare Cemetery Report, as reported in its entirely by Matthew “Maasaw” Howard, for Shawnee Elderwoman Sheila Hansen.
Dovetail is currently conducting some background review on the area and planning their architectural survey fieldwork. Pending staff and Coalition representative availability, they are aiming to conduct fieldwork the last week of September and/or the first week of October. As a reminder, they will be conducting their work from the public right-of-way save for knocking on doors to alert property owners of their presence. Please feel free to send any specific information about your property ahead of time such as important features that may not be visible from the public right-of-way and that should be included in their study.
Concurrently, Dovetail staff is also beginning work on the oral histories by creating a general list of questions. Once a list of candidates is complete, Dovetail staff will reach out to individuals directly to schedule as well as begin genealogical research to help further tailor questions to each interviewee.
Staff and Dovetail Cultural Resource Group (consultant archeology firm) held a public input meeting on Tuesday, August 31st at the Haymarket-Gainesville library.
At the end the presentation, participants made comments and asked questions, which are categorized into the following themes:
Property rights and access – Some participants stressed their opinion that getting access to certain private properties for analysis would be difficult. Staff emphasized that private property access was not necessary to complete the scope of work.
Oral Histories – Some participants do not want to cap the number of oral histories collected. There is currently an allowance for up to 15 oral history interviews in the contracted scope of work. Staff expressed an openness to expanding the amount of oral histories, depending on how many names we get from the community. Staff encouraged participants to contact staff if they know of someone who would be willing to be part of the oral history portion of the project.
Study Area – Some participants asked staff to expand the study area, citing their belief that the Thoroughfare community extended into Bull Run Mountain and Leopold’s Preserve. Some participants questioned how the boundary of the study area was created and if staff would be open to expanding it should the historical data support doing so. Staff explained that the BOCS expanded the original VDOT boundary to include Chapman’s Mill. Staff explained the current boundary is a starting point and the data collected will drive further discussion on expansion.
Native-American History – Some participants stressed their opinion that the Native-American history of Thoroughfare should be given equal attention as African-Americans and that both histories are intertwined. Some participants asked Dovetail if they were qualified in Native American/pre-historic archeology to which Dovetail responded affirmatively.
Nominations – Some participants questioned the process for nominations for the Virginia and Federal register for historic places. Staff explained if any aspect of the study area qualifies the BOCS will ultimately decide whether to make an application. Staff explained a listing on the National and State Register of Historic Places is mostly honorary; it does not restrict land use or provide any protections.
The Brewery at Broad Run owner, Mr. Dewitt, has authorized his contract archeologist to proceed with excavations at the Scott Cemetery site to determine if and where graves exist. The excavation work was included in the Phase II scope of work presented to staff and will begin this week.
County staff held a kick off meeting with Dovetail Cultural Resource Group about the Thoroughfare Community History Project on August 10, 2021. The mailing of the communication cards to property owners in Thoroughfare was completed and plans are moving forward for the public meeting at the Haymarket-Gainesville Library on August 31st. This meeting will focus on the Thoroughfare Community History Project, the goals and timeline for the project.
Staff has received a draft Scope of Work (SOW) from Dovetail Cultural Resources Group, the consultant who will be conducting the architectural and archeological assessment for the Thoroughfare community. Dovetail has experience with Native American cultural resource projects and it will be noted as such in their proposal. Staff is currently working on revisions to the SOW and plan to execute a Task Order within the next two weeks. Staff will hold a public meeting at the Haymarket/Gainesville Library in August to share the SOW with the general public and answer any questions. The consultant will attend. Staff will extend invitations to all impacted property owners, whose participation in the survey process will be voluntary. Staff will also advertise the meeting on all County media channels and provide direct invitations to those who registered for updates on the www.princewilliamthoroughfare.com site. The date for the public meeting will be set soon and staff will notify the BOCS to save the date.
In addition, staff completed the performance profile for the new full-time Historic Preservation Coordinator position approved by the BOCS and will begin the recruitment as soon as possible. This position will manage the Dovetail contract.
Other updates on Cultural Resource Initiatives
The intern to update the cemetery database/shapefile starts on July 19, 2021, and she will be located in the Planning Office. Her name is Julianna Berry. The Scott Cemetery remote sensing “report” is still under preparation.
For the Scott Cemetery, the geophysicist completed remote sensing last Thursday, July 1. Soil anomalies, possible burials, were temporarily marked with spray paint and pin flags until the surveyors completed their mapping. The surveyors completed recording (mapping) the location of the anomalies on Friday, July 2. The pin flags may be removed in the near future.
The geophysicist is conducting analysis of all of the data collected in the field. This analysis typically takes 1 - 2 weeks, sometimes more. A draft report is expected in 3-4 weeks. The results will be presented in the near future.
The first phase of archaeological investigation will begin on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. This effort will consist of installation of stakes in the ground to mark lines of transects on Tuesday. On Wednesday, a geophysicist will be push or pull remote sensing equipment along each transect. The remote sensing will be completed on Thursday, July 1, 2021. This is a remote sensing investigation and there will be no excavations. The only action visible will be the geophysicist pushing or pulling equipment across the area. The results of this phase of work will be published in the near future.
The Scope of Work for the Thoroughfare Architectural Survey was sent to Dovetail Cultural Resource Group by Rob Orrison and Bill Backus.
On June 18, Rob Orrison spoke with Frank Washington (representing the Coalition to Save Historic Thoroughfare) about the Scope of Work for the Architectural Survey. The Coalition has identified 12 oral history candidates that will be part of the survey. Rob will be taking that information and including it into the Scope of Work for the Architectural Survey. Once the Scope of Work is finalized, Rob will share with Mr. Washington for any last comments or input. The goal is to have the Scope of Work to the contractor for cost estimates and then a Task Order created in early July. After that, a meeting will be set with Rob, Mr. Washington and the contractor to go over the project, the timeline and provide a tour of Thoroughfare to the contractor.