A Cradle of American Values: The Lower (northern) Shenandoah Valley in 18th Century

June 13, 2011 1914 words


Presented in November, 2002, at the National Conservation Training Center, Shepherdstown, WV. by Jim Surkamp. (NOTE: This is a mirthful, but historically supported overview of the nascent days and lives in this area in the 18th century.)

National Geographic Magazine

“It was an Eden.
Oh Shenandoah Pt. 1 – TRT – 5:42

Oh Shenandoah Pt. 2 – TRT – 4:43

“We attracted and served and were populated with the first four original ethnic groups that made up the American Spirit, the first four ethnic groups that became America, came only to Jefferson County and lived in equal numbers together, like a laboratory.”

(NOTE: Jefferson County then was a northern portion of Frederick County, VA. Robert Mitchell in studied appraisements in the earliest land records in this region and concluded all the counties in the Shenandoah Valley each had some basic ethnic break-down of Scot-Irish and German, except for our area which was added to by Tidewater English and enslaved Africans, because of the presence of Lord Thomas Fairfax and the unusually fertile farmland and other resources.)

Howard Pyle

“We were growing natural born Americans. A laboratory in Eden. And so, they come by ship. Who were the four?

“If you’re a Mandingo from West Africa or you’re a Yoruba, you don’t know where you’re being taken, and you’re not being taken to the Promised Land. You are being stolen from the Promised Land. And the hope you that cast forward in your mind is: ‘I hope to preserve my life ways, food ways, folk ways in this new unknown I am going to.’

“Second group. You’re a German. You live in the Palatinate. It’s 1720. And a French Catholic king is burning your barns saying: ‘This is what you gotta do.’ basically saying: ‘You gotta be Catholic. You gotta be Catholic. And I’m just being a little bit assertive about it.’ And you say: ‘Well, I’ll be assertive, too.’ You get behind your pastor who is a Lutheran. You gather your family belongings and you head up the Rhine

“and take a ship from Bremerhaven to Philadelphia.

“And every single one of these groups has an attitude. The German’s attitude is: ‘I’m gonna worship as I please.

And I’m gonna farm and stay there, no matter what.’

“Now the third one is my favorite. My background is English and German. Please don’t take offense. I love so many things that are called

Promised Land Bound Pt. 1 TRT: 7:12

Promised Land Bound Pt. 2 TRT: 2:06

” ‘Scotch-Irish’” (This should be “Scot-Irish’-ED), “because they are so mild and retiring. You know what I’m talking about . . . Chuck Yeager, Dolly Parton, NASCAR, Ronnie Reagan, Bill Clinton. You got it. We’re part of the Congressional Medal of Honor belt. You know. Sergeant York, a little further south. Y’know? Every morning we see trucks going over the mountain from Berkeley Springs. We have friends who do it. Guy wears flannel. He stops at Sheetz and eats all the basic food groups – y’know? “Moon Pies,” “Mountain Dew.” But he’s a cowboy carpenter. And, you know, this cowboy carpenter . . . I know this Mark (Madison of NCTC), you had cowboy carpenters building this place (NCTC-ED). They were master carpenters. But as soon as they got bored, $20 an hour don’t mean nothin’. And they skipped.

“Anyway, they’d go over the mountain every day and do wondrous things with wood in Washington, D.C.,

“because their great-great-grand-daddies did it with cabins long ago.

“It gets colorful. And they hunt with bow. ‘I don’t hunt with gun. I hunt with bow.’ They’re fascinating. “Now, you’re Scot-Irish. You live in the ‘backcountry’

“You’re used to warfare. You have a clan elder, who’s like Andy Jackson. But you’re trying to make the land of an English nobleman fertile. And you work on it for thirty years – 1710 to 740. And he (the nobleman-ED) says: ‘I like what you’re doin’. But I’m tripling your rent this year.’ And I go: ‘I like that too, an’ I’m leaving.’ Scot Voyage

“So all the Scot-Irish, in a mass of migration to the new world, forget everything. They had an attitude – well they always had an attitude – but Scot-Irish: ‘I’m gonna own my own land.’ And you come to Eden. You’re number three.

“That’s a pretty good – three out of four. A lot of of places have three out of four. But d’you know what the spice in the broth is? We all had a high school teacher that made us not like history. Let’s admit it. Maybe one or two. But d’you know what? How many of you have this vague, tenacious part of your brain that can never forget the name

“Lord Thomas Fairfax? Right? Lord Thomas Fairfax. It’s like the ‘Doublemint’ gum jingle. Can’t get rid of it. The whole point is group number four. Now we get the Washingtons. Group number four that made us special is what they called the Tidewater English: Anglican Church is your religion, you have a plantation and – I never use the word ‘slave’ – they have enslaved persons working for them. And, you’re in Williamsburg – well, that’s the crowd.

“Lord Thomas Fairfax made us special. Here he is in his huge castle in England – and I’m gonna say something you’re gonna gasp at –

“he owned five million acres. And a million of it was in the Shenandoah Valley – you’ll never get off your John Deere tractor. ‘I can’t even get in and watch the ‘Skins game.’ He owned five million acres and the story was, around 1730, he was broken-hearted in love. Even money doesn’t do it. And it’s just like the old soap operas: ‘Change your name and move to another town, Lord.’

Fairfax’s Northern Proprietary Neck of Virginia Map loc.gov

“How ’bout

Winchester? ‘Get out! Two hundred cabins in the middle of the boonies with the threat of native American attack?!!’ ‘Yeh.’ He moved from his castle to Winchester.

“Improbable? Well, there’s three reasons – the first three groups I mentioned to you were squatting on his land and making it their own. You have to go monitor the situation.

“So, the older half-brother of George Washington was

Lawrence Washington by unknown artist – 1743 mountvernon.org

Lawrence. He was something like a father figure for George.

George Washington in the 1750s re-imagined by painter Charles Willson Peale mountvernon.org

“(That’s a picture of George around 1755). They got to know the Fairfaxes by marriage, and young George, who was a lifelong learner but not formerly schooled very much.”

Battles & Leaders Vol. II

CORRECTED Washington Diary – 1 TRT: 4:22

Washington’s Diary – 2 TRT: 6:26

“So he got the job of surveying parts of this vast tract, and he came up through here, comes over the mountain.

wvgeohistory.org, wvgeo-explorer & justjefferson.com

The whole point is Fairfax came here, and with him pulled a whole flock of these Anglican Tidewater plantation folks: the Carters, the Manns, the Throckmortons – did you know the Throckmortons lived in Summit Point and that was the only family that ever came from England that was truly knighted. So they come up here, and they make it, shall we say, interesting – General Gates, General Lee, and the Washingtons.


Fischer, David Hackett. (1989). “Albion’s seed: four British folkways in America.” New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Print.

Hofstra, Warren R. (Ed.). (2004). “The Planting of New Virginia: settlement and landscape in the Shenandoah Valley.” Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Print.

Isaac, Rhys. (c1982). “The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790.”
Chapel Hill, NC. : Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Va., by University of North Carolina Press. Print.

Warren R. Hofstra (Ed.). (1998). “George Washington and the Virginia backcountry.” Madison, WI: Madison House. Print.

Kenneth E. Koons and Warren R. Hofstra. (Eds.) (c2000). “After the backcountry: rural life in the Great Valley of Virginia, 1800-1900.” Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press. Print.

Mitchell, Robert D.. (1977). “Commercialism and frontier: perspectives on the early Shenandoah Valley.” Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia. Print.

“Northern Neck Proprietary.” Wikipedia English. Latest update 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 2 May 2011.

“George Washington: Surveyor and Mapmaker.” United States. The Library of Congress: American Memory. Latest update 27 Oct. 2009 Web 10 Sept. 2010.

“Winchester, Virginia.“ Wikipedia English. Latest update 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 2 May 2011.


Surkamp, Jim. “Oh Shenandoah Pt. 1.” (Video) Retrieved 7 May 2011 from:

Surkamp, Jim. “Oh Shenandoah Pt. 2.” (Video). Retrieved 7 May 2011 from:

Surkamp. Jim. “Washington’s Diary Pt. 1.” (Video). Retrieved 7 May 2011 from:

Surkamp. Jim. “Washington’s Diary Pt. 2.” (Video). Retrieved 7 May 2011 from:

Surkamp. Jim. “Promised Land Bound Pt. 1.” (Video). Retrieved 7 May 2011 from:

Surkamp. Jim. “Promised Land Bound Pt. 2.” (Video). Retrieved 7 May 2011 from:
Flickr Sets:

Cho, Albert and Deborah Kim. “Africa in the 18th Century.” Wikispace. 27 July 2008 Web. 6 May 2011.

Surkamp. Jim. “Promised Land Bound Pt. 1.” YouTube. 2 Jan. 2009 Web. 7 May 2011.

Surkamp. Jim. “Promised Land Bound Pt. 1.” YouTube. 2 Jan. 2009 Web. 7 May 2011.

Strother, David H., “Personal Recollections of the Civil War.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, New York, NY: Harper and Bros.Print.

Surkamp. Jim. “Washington’s Diary Pt. 1.” YouTube. 2 Jan. 2009 Web. 7 May 2011

g.wash.survey.rte.jpg From Jim Surkamp Collection

NPN.Map.jpg., Shipdraw.1751.jpg.
United States. The Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.
“A survey of the northern neck of Virginia, being the lands belonging to the Rt. Honourable Thomas Lord Fairfax Baron Cameron, bounded by & within the Bay of Chesapoyocke and between the rivers Rappahannock and Potowmack: With the courses of the rivers Rappahannock and Potowmack, in Virginia, as surveyed according to order in the years 1736 & 1737.” United States. The Library of Congress: American Memory. “Maps Collection.” 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 10 Sept. 2010.

gwash1755 .jpg
“Colonel George Washington, Fox Hunter – engraver unknown, 1857.” Mount Vernon: George Washington Portraits. Start date unavailable. Web. 6 May 2011.

Wikipedia English. Latest update 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 2 May 2011.

“A map of the most inhabited part of Virginia containing the whole province of Maryland with part of Pensilvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. Drawn by Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson in 1751.” United States. The Library of Congress: American Memory. “Maps Collection.” 27 Oct. 2009 Web 10 Sept. 2010.

“File:ThomasFairfax6th.jpg.” Wikipedia English. Latest update 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 2 May 2011.

“File:Bunker Hill by Pyle.jpg” Wikipedia English. Latest update 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 2 May 2011.