Cultural Influences In Waterford's History

From the Department of the Interior Report, "Linking the Past to the Future, A Landscape Conservation Strategy for Waterford, Virginia", 1992 Read the report

When migrants with a common cultural background were the only inhabitants at a previously unoccupied locality, development of that locality was based primarily upon attitudes, knowledge, and skills acquired in their homeland. Similarly when peoples with diverse cultural backgrounds migrated to a previously uninhabited place they used their attitudes, knowledge, and skills to develop that place. In this case, however, no individual's actions were reinforced by the entire group because there were others in the group who did things differently. 
From Glass, The Pennsylvania Culture Region

The first settlers in the Waterford area were members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), and while Quakers may have set the early tone of the Waterford area, it by no means developed as an exclusively Quaker community. As Glass puts it, there were others soon introduced to the group who did things differently. If any one influence can be said to have put its stamp on the community, it would be the culture of Pennsylvania, itself a hybrid of various European cultures and religions, of which the Quakers were one part. Rejecting the use of slave labor dominant in other parts of Virginia, they carved out smaller farms which needed towns to supply goods and labor. This diversity is what created in Waterford a community of slave-holders and free blacks, merchants and farmers, Union and Confederate, Quakers, Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists.

Quaker History

More on the Quakers in Waterford »

The Quaker emphasis on education, their careful record keeping, and the resultant wide dissemination of their ideas exerted a strong influence on Waterford. As Charles Poland states in From Frontier to Suburbia, Loudoun Friends served as "the conscience of the county in education, abolition, prohibition and progressive farming".

At first the Friends were practically a commune of farmers, only gradually engaging in the businesses needed to keep a community going. Livestock, corn, wheat, and patches of oats, buckwheat, and flax were their staples The rest of the county later followed the Friends' farming practices, for from 1764 on unlike the citizens of most other Virginia counties, Loudouners could pay their taxes in money instead of tobacco (A.M. Janney, p. 28).

The administrative organization of the Society of Friends fostered the sharing of ideas between Yearly Meeting centers and their satellites. The Society of Friends did not have a professional clergy, but instead relied on "weighty Friends" who were "pressed by the light within to appear in the ministry" (A.M. Janney, p. 23). Volunteer traveling ministers, including women, undertook journeys lasting months or even years. Such journeys might cover the area from Rhode Island to South Carolina, and served to disseminate practical as well as spiritual information.

This interchange of ideas manifested itself in Waterford in several ways. Many of the Quakers settling in Loudoun county had roots in the same Pennsylvania communities. "These Friends saw to it that favored ones back home were informed of land-buying opportunities and were aided in taking advantage of them." (A.M. Janney, p. 6)

The Quakers were pragmatic, having no use for superstition or prejudice and were willing to try scientific methods. They used no slave labor, and avoided the over-planting of tobacco, which drained the fertility of the large estates. The Friends and fellow German settlers in Pennsylvania adopted the practice of liming, deep plowing, and five-year crop rotation. Publicized in 1803 by Loudouner John Binns, these methods became known as the "Loudoun System" which drew praise and national support from then President Thomas Jefferson.

By 1744 there were enough members of Fairfax Meeting for it to be "set off" from the Hopewell Monthly Meeting near Winchester meaning that this congregation could conduct its own business. Meetings were first held at the houses of Amos Janney and other Friends. Although the membership roles were large, it should be remembered that the area from which Fairfax Monthly Meeting drew covered most of Virginia as far west as the top of the Blue Ridge. In some cases families belonged to meetings hundreds of miles away, and data such as births, marriages, and deaths was collected for the meeting records by committees. Even travel over relatively short distances was difficult.

In 1755, trustees of the Fairfax Meeting purchased ten acres of land from Francis Hague for the establishment of a Meeting House. The structure built c.1770 still stands. In his journal from the years 1775-77, Nicholas Cresswell describes a visit to a Meeting House which is quite certainly that in Waterford:

Sunday, Feb. 11, 1776. Went with Mr. Cavan and Mr. Thos. Matthews to a Quaker meeting about 7 miles from town. This is one of the most comfortable places of Worship I was ever in, they had two large fires and a Dutch stove. After a long silence and many groans a Man got up and gave us a short Lecture with great deliberation. Dined at Mr. Joseph Janney's, one of the Friends. Got to Leesburg at night.


More on Slavery in Waterford »

In 1688, almost all Friends in the Southern Provinces and many in Pennsylvania, New York, and New England, were slave holders since it was difficult to carry on the cultivation of land without slave labor. However, before the end of the 17th century, the Quaker establishment was already beginning to take a stand against slavery.

The records of the Virginia Meeting for the years previous are lost, but in 1757 Quakers in Virginia could still hold slaves if they had inherited them. However, they were directed to "train them up in the principles of the Christian religion". Minutes of the Yearly meeting admonish the members: "Friends ought not by any means to be concerned in hiring any of these, who are held as slaves where the wages are to be received by those who claim a right to hold them as such......” (Thomas, p. 69). By 1850 members of the Meeting could be, and were, disciplined for owning or even employing a slave (Hinshaw, p. 511). Although there are instances on record of Friends in Maryland and Virginia releasing their slaves, the change required in lifestyle meant that many chose to leave the Society.

Decline of Quaker Influence

Progressive with respect to scientific farming and civil rights for women and blacks, the Friends were terribly conservative and uncompromising on moral matters. This stance, as well as the stress created by the slavery question, contributed to their decline in membership and resultant decline in the influence in the community.

The minutes of the Fairfax Monthly Meeting are full of reports of members who were either disciplined or disowned for incidents as innocuous as "singing, dancing, and frolicking" or "keeping light company." Thomas explains further that "...a large proportion were Friends rather by tradition than conviction and many were careless and some unbelieving.” Since many Friends lacked true conviction according to society history, the burdens that such stringent behavior forced on them was enough to cause them to leave the organization.

Census and Quaker records, show that many residents of the Waterford area had ties to Quakers who had “married out of unity” (married those who were not members of the Society of Friends), and were subsequently disowned by the congregation. For example, of the 14 children born to Samuel and Sarah Gover in the first quarter of the 19th century, four died before reaching adolescence and six married out of unity (Hinshaw, p. 495).

Since the Quakers would not accept military service, the Revolutionary War caused a further decline of those unwilling to accept the penalties. According to Thomas' The Story of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting, by the middle of the eighteenth century, many young Friends particularly in the southern states were converted by the preaching of "Whitfield and the Wesleys".

Other factors during this same time further diluted the Quaker core of the community. Hard times and expanding families in the first quarter of the nineteenth century led to the emigration of many Friends and the resulting disintegration of meetings in Virginia. By 1855-56 "a number of families of Friends" from Hopewell, Fairfax, and Goose Creek Meetings had formed the Prairie Grove settlement in Wayne Township, Henry County, Iowa, and when a new Yearly Meeting was formed in Illinois in 1873, most of these settlers had roots in Virginia (Hinshaw, p. 465). In 1845 the Virginia Yearly Meeting was "laid down" or discontinued and the remaining Meetings attached to the Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Ultimately, the Fairfax Meeting itself was “laid down” in 1929 for lack of membership.

Pennsylvania Culture

When the first town lots were subdivided and sold by Joseph Janney in 1792, only half of the buyers were members of the Fairfax Meeting. The Census of 1810 (the first available for Loudoun County) lists 43 families in the village, twelve of whom were Quakers. Like the Quakers, however, many of the remaining residents had direct ties southeastern Pennsylvania.

Rural southeastern Pennsylvania represented a fusion of diverse cultural elements: English, Scotch, French, Dutch and Swedes joined Germans, Scotch-Irish, Welsh, and Swiss who had migrated to Pennsylvania in search of religious and political freedom. Within several generations these settlers pragmatically adopted the best techniques of their neighbors, and when in turn they were transplanted to other areas, carried with them a hybridized Pennsylvania culture distinct from that of the English Tidewater. Since the agrarian system of the Southern Colonies was based on slave labor, it is easy to see what non-conformists the Quakers, and for that matter, most of the Pennsylvania settlers, must have been. As Glass puts it in his definitive work on the Pennsylvania Cultural Region, "The influence of these early Pennsylvanians was not limited to their own acceptance of dispersed family farms and multi-purpose barns as universal practices among themselves. They also modified and improved agricultural methods as they raised livestock, manured fields, rotated crops and improved livestock breeds" (Glass, p. 4).

The physical evidence of Pennsylvania culture remains in a unique built environment. The most distinctive of these structures is the gable-roofed Pennsylvania, or forebay, barn which evolved to meet the requirements of the mixed farming most suitable to Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia.


Waterford's African-American Experience »

According to the Census of 1860, of the 900 residents of the area served by the Waterford Post Office, 155 were free blacks. Janney refers often to Negroes, especially when discussing social life, but rarely does he differentiate between slave and freedman. He hints at relationships between slave and free blacks as he relates that the neighbor on the next farm owned a slave who was the "wife" of the old black man who made brooms in the vicinity G.J. Janney, p. 56). As the man had a craft he was probably a free man of color. When Janney describes a cornhusking it includes "all the neighbors within two or three miles" where "White and black, slaves included, worked side by side" (J.J. Janney, p. 87). The Loudoun County tax roles of the antebellum years indicate there were a number of free blacks living or working in Quaker households. Yet, though the Quakers were notoriously liberal about such things, no blacks were actually members of the Meeting according to a comparison of the Census data with Hinshaw's Quaker Encyclopedia. One black, Daniel Boyd, is buried in the Quaker cemetery, but Hinshaw lists him as a non-member (p. 473).

Quakers who had "colored boys" living with them did send them to school. "They were taught and treated just as the other children were by both teacher and pupils" (J.J. Janney, p. 56). Although white girls also attended the school, Janney never mentions "colored girls" among his classmates. The Quaker tradition of educating blacks as well as whites continued at least through the end of the century, and may also be a factor in the relatively large proportion of free blacks who chose to live in Waterford. By 1869 when a colored school was established in Waterford, 12 of the 38 pupils had been free before the war (Scheel, p. 4). The literacy rate among blacks in Waterford at that time was given at 53%, a remarkable figure for the time demonstrating an emphasis on the responsibility of educating all children despite the decline in the Quaker population. By the Census of 1910, blacks owned half a dozen farms in Waterford.