Telling Franconia’s Story

Telling Franconia’s Story

16th Annual Franconia History Day held on Sunday, Nov. 5

Bits and pieces of old Franconia were on display, such as this roadside sign.

Bits and pieces of old Franconia were on display, such as this roadside sign. Photo by Mike Salmon.


Emergency drills were part of life years ago in Franconia.


One of William Edgar Schurtz’s fire hats.


Tom and Shelley Fink by the quilt that Shelley made after they found the old fire clothing in a long lost box in the attic of his uncle William Schurtz.

“Everyone has a story to tell…” is a saying over at the Franconia Museum, and the stories came out at the 16th Annual Franconia History Day, on Sunday, Nov. 5 in the fire station that was once the center of the community.

“Events like this tend to bring a lot of the old people together, everyone seems to know everyone,” said Tom Fink, who met his wife Shelley in Franconia. His uncle, William Edgar Schurtz was a founder of the fire station. “It’s very appropriate to have it here in the firehouse, it was the center of the community,” Fink said.

THE CELEBRATION was set up in the Franconia Fire Station on Beulah Street, with music by The Mount Calvary Singers from the Mount Calvary Church a few blocks away. The tables at the foot of the stage were full of locals, and in the back of the room were the artifacts that many saved through the years, including a quilt made of old fire jackets and uniforms.

When Schurtz died a few years ago, “we were cleaning out the house and found boxes of uniforms up in the attic, we came up with the idea to make a quilt out of them,” said Fink. Along with the quilt were old fire hats, medals and pictures from Schurtz memorabilia that he found.

On the other tables were items from the area, such as Civil War artifacts, signs, pictures and books that various people wrote to record what went on in the Franconia area in the1700s and 1800s.

Nathaniel Lee is a researcher at the Franconia Museum which is around the corner from the fire station in the county district building. He was recently awarded the Fairfax County Heritage Award Nan Heatherton Prize from the county historic commission for a book he wrote based on the stories he’s been told. “I try to get them on paper before they [story tellers] pass away,” he said.

One item he uncovered was about the railroad that was opened in 1872, and the old wood from the original Long Bridge across the Potomac River was used to keep the tracks from slipping around on the marine clay that makes up much of the soil in Franconia. Another story was from the Civil War, and had Mosby chasing Union troops into the City of Alexandria. “The family in Oak Grove hid in the basement,” Lee said to a group at his table.

SUPERVISOR Jeff McKay (D-Lee) and Del. Mark Sickles (D-43) were among the crowd, sharing stories and their knowledge of the local history. McKay was addressing a group of students a few days before, explaining “that if it weren’t for locals behind a museum like this, we could have lost a whole generation,” he said. On a bigger scale, “we need 100 of these museums to keep the history going, to make sure we know where we came from,” Sickles added.

Times are changing though, and that was apparent from the old items on display. One item from a table in the back was an original posting of the 1963-64 Franconia Dress Code from a nearby school. “The wearing of shorts is forbidden except for athletic participation or special activities,” one rule stated.

During one of the Mount Calvary Singers songs, a shout came out of the crowd. “Let’s hear it for Beulah Road,” someone said. The road used to be called Beulah Road and was renamed Beulah Street because of another road in the county that had the same name. Old timers still know it as Beulah Road though.