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Brief: History Conference Focuses on Conflict and Courage

Local historians honored.

The eighth Annual Fairfax County History Conference was held on Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Stacy C. Sherwood Community Center in the City of Fairfax. A record 120 participants were in attendance to enjoy the theme of “Conflict & Courage: The Civil War in Fairfax County.” Over 20 authors and exhibitors also attended and the day was filled with living history, including the re-enactment of the “Secession Vote in Fairfax County” by the Jon Vrana players.

The passion of both sides was clearly portrayed, including the reminder of the silence women endured in not being able to share a voice in local or national elections. Other living history presentation included the premiere of Chuck Mauro’s play, “Chantilly: After the Storm” depicting three survivors from the Battle of Ox Hill/Chantilly on Sept. 1, 1862. Award-winning author and speaker Greg Clemmer spoke on “Why the Civil War Still Lives” and captivated the audience by numerous references to how present the Civil War is in our daily lexicon—including the comparison of all presidential speeches to the Gettysburg address and the presence of Civil War music still used in Hollywood today—with “Dixie” being the most commonly used song in movies. Kevin Knapp captured the audience’s attention with his period dress and stories of Thaddeus Lowe—the Reconnaissance Balloonist who landed a balloon in our own Vienna, and literally launched the First American Air Force. Letters written by Clara Barton were read by Susan Rosenvold, an educator at the Clara Barton Medical Museum.

The Fairfax County Park Authority sent three of its premier historians, Mike Henry, John Rutherford and Jim Daniels to speak on, “Echoes Still – This Land = Our Land”—a review of the many sites and stories that are the backdrop to Fairfax County’s parks today. The “Seeds of Independence” historic preservation group from Gunston Hall shared their video which had been released earlier this year, “The Story of Free Blacks Living on Mason’s Neck During the Civil War”—a fascinating look at a prosperous and now forgotten part of Fairfax County—where numerous “free” blacks lived, owned homes, property and business establishments—yet who unfortunately got caught up in the horror of the war as it took place around them. The conference ended with a passionate “Appeal” from President Abraham Lincoln—masterfully re-enacted by Fairfax County School Board member Dan Storck.

GUESTS INCLUDED retired news correspondent Roger Mudd and Del. Ken Plum (D-36). U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) joined with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova to present awards to local historians who had contributed to document and preserve the rich history of Fairfax County this past year. It is the custom of the Fairfax County History Commission to present Annual Awards to citizens who have given of their time and talents to create a document or media presentation that serves to preserve and protect the history of the vast historic resources of Fairfax County. The Fairfax County History Commission this year presented the following Awards:

Heritage Awareness Awards:

  • C. Denise Barrett—The Nan Netherton Award for her work in researching and writing a narrative about Lakewood Estates in the neighborhood off Wolf Shoals in SW Fairfax County. She included information on the prehistory of the county—early land acquisitions, the American Revolution and the Civil War and on into 20th century life. This is all documented with 304 endnotes and a bibliography of 26 sources. She will also receive a $500 prize for her efforts.
  • Lisa Friedrich Becker—The CJS Durhan Award for her nomination to the National Register of the Sydenstricker School—which she has also been extensively involved in renovating and “resurrecting” as a well-received community project. She will also receive a $250 prize.
  • David G. Farmer—The Beth Mitchell Award for his Automation/Indexing of the collection of Flint Hill Cemetery Records—reflecting its use back to 1875. His summary Excel spread sheet consisted of 3,500-plus lines of data and a collection of information from more than 2,100 tombstones. He will also receive a $500 prize for his research and documentation efforts.

Recognition Awards:

  • Distinguished Service Award—for the casting, performing and presenting three times as well as producing a video of same of a play called “Captain John Smith: a HiStory of McLean & Great Falls Virginia.” It honored the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown and subsequent events that occurred in the McLean area. Copies were distributed at local McLean schools and libraries. Evelyn Fox was the coordinator (and attended the conference with her husband, Shawn, as a special trip from Texas—where she now resides). Assistants for the production are Wanda Hill, Joan Morton, Virginia Norton & Gail T. Nields.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award—Suzanne Levy. For her 30-plus years of service in the Virginia Room of the Fairfax City Library and her efforts to promote history, genealogy and historic preservation in the region. (Information is also available on the Fairfax County History Commission web site: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/histcomm/awardsprogram.htm).

Committee members who coordinated efforts for the conference included, Barbara Naef, Dr. Liz Crowell, Susan Gray, Esther McCullough, Naomi Zeavin, Sallie Lyons, Carole Herrick, Mary Lipsey, Mike Irwin and Rob Orrison. The Awards Committee includes Jack Hiller, Elise R. Murray, Robert Beach and Naomi Zeavin. Fairfax County History Commissioner Lynne Garvey-Hodge chairs both the Conference Planning Committee and the Awards Committee. The Ninth Annual Fairfax County History Conference is scheduled for Nov. 9, 2013 and will also be at the Stacy C. Sherwood Community Center in The City of Fairfax.