Virginia’s historical highway marker program was launched in 1927 with the creation of a handful of highway markers placed along U.S. 1 between Mt. Vernon and Richmond. After the program’s responsibility was passed around for several decades following its launch, the Virginia Landmarks Commission, formerly the Department of Historic Resources, took on the honor of maintaining and installing Virginia’s historical markers.
Today, Virginia’s historical highway marker program consists of over 2,200 markers that honor people and events of historical significance throughout the state of Virginia. Earlier this year, Enola Labs devoted several months to build the Virginia Historical Landmark’s iPhone app to further push the Virginia Landmark Commission’s efforts to keep VA history at the forefront of anyone interested in the state’s rich history.
Below, we highlight a few notable markers from the program. To browse more from your tablet or mobile device, try out the Virginia Historical Landmark’s iPhone App.
On September 27, 1903, in Danville Virginia, occurred one of the worst train wrecks in Virginia history. The southbound mail express train left the tracks and went plunging into the ravine below. This infamous wreck, known as the “Wreck of the Old 97”, left nine people killed, and several more injured. In fact this wreck was so bad it was the inspiration for the popular song, “The Wreck of the Old 97”.
During the summer of 1608 Stingray Point, located in Middlesex Virginia, got its name after Captain John Smith was stung by a stingray and lived to tell the tale. Captain Smith was leading a voyage in Chesapeake Bay, when his boat ran aground at the mouth of the Rappahannock River. While he and his men waited for high tide to sail their ship, they hunted for dinner by impaling fish with their swords. Captain Smith was lucky enough to spear a cow-nose sting ray, how ever the stingray struck back by sticking its tale spine into the Captains wrist. The toxin quickly spread through his body, requiring immediate medical attention. The surgeon on board, Walter Russell, applied soothing oil, leaving Captain Smith well enough to eat supper that night. That night Captain John Smith had the last laugh, and ate the same sting ray for supper. He named the place Stingray point.
Pocahontas, “playful one”, was born around 1595. She befriended Captain John Smith at a young age and later went to visit the English colonists. In 1613, her life would change when Samuel Argall kidnapped her, to use her as a negotiating tool between the English and her tribe the Algonquian Indians. Tradition states that Argall took her to the town of Henrico. During her year year in captivity, she learned the way of the English, she was baptized, renamed to Rebecca, and was married to a widower named John Rolfe. The marriage created a time of peace between the two groups. Pocahontas, now Rebecca, died while on a visit to England on March 1617 in Gravesend. Her death also ended the short era of peace between the indians and the colonist’s.
Mosby’s Rock is a large border, located in Fairfax County, served as an important landmark during the Civil War. Colonel John S Mosby’s Partisan Rangers would meet there to raid Union territory. This large boulder also served as a mailbox for the Colonel. It is said that a lady named Laura RatCliffe lived near by and would spy for him, she would conceal her findings as well as money under the rock. Colonel Mosby claims that this system saved him from capture by Federal cavalry.
In Bath Country, stands Fort Dickinson. This was one of the series of forts ordered built by the Virginia legislature as a French and Indian war defense in 1756. These forts were built under Colonel George Washington, who inspected all the units from Hampshire County, now West Virginia, to Patrick County which stands on the North Carolina border. This particular unit was attacked by Indians in 1756, and attacked again the following year.
The Virginia Historical Landmarks app is available now in the app store!