Preserving the Stories of Fredericksburg’s Past
More than 100 recordings detailing the histories that make Fredericksburg unique.
In 1997, the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation established an oral history project with the goal of gathering information on the history of the Fredericksburg preservation movement. The early days for the fledgling group were almost as memorable as the buildings and the ambience the organization was founded to protect. Many had firsthand stories to tell of the uphill struggles marked by people such as Lillian Reed on a ladder in her hat repairing a house or Frances Hewetson in her reasoned manner arguing the case for zoning. From white gloves to iron fist—the organization had seen some of everything.
From this beginning, the oral historians came to a quick realization that there was more to capture than the preservationists’ struggles, and the Oral History Project broadened to gather the story of the town and area as it had been witnessed in wars, Depression, desegregation and change—change of all sorts.
To date, the Oral History Project has produced more than 100 oral histories although in several cases a volume may include the remembrances of both husband and wife or in two cases, the stories were told by two sisters. In some instances, interviews have been withheld at the request of the subjects. Several of the earlier oral histories were supplied by Ruth Coder Fitzgerald and were interviews for her book, A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania, Virginia. Mrs. Fitzgerald was one of the founders of the oral history project.
In the 2006 season, the project has, in part, focused on a fast disappearing story: rural life in Stafford County. There are six interviews about farms and several pages of pictures of rural Stafford including photographs of Sherwood Forest.
Transcribers: Jody Ballow, Betsy Glassie, Andi Grimsley, Suzanne Grubb, Jill Huber, Doris Webster Hickman, Karen Luisi, Mary Preston, Rebecca Purdy, Paula Raudenbush, Tomi Reneau, Ruth Ellen Richardson, Sandy Pearce, Ann Scott, Mike Vander Berg, and Sue Willis. In addition, many interviewers transcribe their own interviews. Photographers: Tomi Reneau, Barry Fitzgerald, Sue Connors, Beth Daly, and Sherry Rong. The Free Lance-Star has been generous in donating photographs.
Ruth Coder Fitzgerald indexed 3 years of the interviews and Betsy Glassie produced the 1998 exhibit for the library. Chairmen have included Marti Leicester, Candace Ransome, Leigh Ann Van Doren, Nancy Bruns, Mark Jenkins, Ruth Ellen Richardson, Tomi Reneau and Beth Daly. Tomi Reneau assisted in 2005-06 with graphics from her home in Tampa, FL.
Bound copies of the interviews are available at the Virginiana Room, Central Rappahannock Regional Library.
Additional oral histories can be found on the Friends of the Rappahannock website: https://www.riverfriends.org/oral-history/.