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250 Years…and counting: Stephens City preparing for historic milestone
By Val Van Meter   - 09/25/2008

The Winchester Star

More Info on This Book: Stephens City

Stephens City — How do you commemorate 250 years of history?
Stephens City’s answer is a history weekend and a book.

Town Councilor Linden A. Fravel and Bryon C. Smith, manager and curator of the Stone House Foundation, have collaborated on the 125-page publication that contains 205 images pertaining to the town and the people associated with its history.

The new book, printed by Arcadia Publishing as part of its “Images of America” series, will arrive Oct. 6.
That’s in time for the town’s two-day celebration of its founding — Oct. 11-12.

“There’s a lot going on,” said Fravel.

The Founders’ Day event includes unveiling of a new painting of “Stephensburgh,” a view of the town as it was when first chartered in 1758.

The town’s name was Stephensburg, but for many years it was more familiarly known as “Newtown” because of its position between Winchester and Strasburg.

In the 1870s, federal postal authorities tried to change the name to Pantops, but the citizens balked. They proposed a compromise — Stephens City.

A walking tour of the town’s historic buildings will be held Oct. 11, beginning at the Newtown History Center at 2 p.m. Entertainment by the Richmond band Flashback is scheduled at Newtown Commons from 2 to 5 p.m.

The Stephens City Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company is planning a barbecue from 2 to 5 p.m. and the town’s museums will be open from noon until 5 p.m.

On the second day of the celebration, the Newtown History Center will offer a puppet show for children from 1:30 to 2 p.m. Oct. 12 and a tour of historic homes and churches from noon to 4 p.m, co-sponsored by the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society.

One of the houses on the tour — Tavern Hill on the north end of the town — will be open for the first time, Fravel said.

The tour will also stop at Springdale to see the ruins of the home of the area’s first settler, Joist Hite.
Tickets at $10 per person are available at the Newtown History Center.

Muster Day, a re-enactment of a colonial era militia muster from the days of the French and Indian War, will take place behind the center beginning at noon Oct. 12, with bluegrass music from 1 to 4 p.m. by the Speak Easy Boys.

Fravel and Smith will sign copies of the town’s new biography from 1 to 5 p.m. at the center.

The biggest problem the authors found in creating the book was an abundance of “evocative” images.

Word of mouth brought out a lot of pictures no one had seen before, Fravel said — some from people who had moved away from the area but heard about the book from relatives.

Many had no captions and no dates, so a lot of research was needed, he said.

Stephens City may be unusual, Fravel added, because it still has so many buildings dating back to its founding.

“It’s remarkable how little the town has changed in 250 years,” he said. It has 40 original log structures covered with vinyl, brick, or other materials, as well as several stone houses and shops.

The authors used many early pictures of the town’s homes and stores, adding a brief history of each.

Some construction dates can be inferred from old records, Fravel said.

James Moore bought a lot for 10 pounds in 1760, the “standard price for most lots,” he said.

In 1769, Moore sold the lot for 100 pounds, which hints at a “major improvement” on the land, Fravel said.

Included is a photo of an original map of the town. In the 1800s, the map, authenticated by the National Archives, was used in a court case that went to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Fravel, who grew up 11/2 miles east of the town (across from the entrance to Sherando Park), said the book was set up so anyone can begin at the north end of Stephens City and take a self-guided tour of its historic homes.

Also, the town has its own museum, credited to the foresight of resident Mildred Lee Grove, who set up and funded the Stone House Foundation to preserve the town’s history.

Buy It Now: Stephens City $19.99

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