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History Remembered: New book recounts the varied past of Stephens City
By Linwood Outlaw III   - 09/27/2008

Northern Virginia Daily

STEPHENS CITY With a slew of snapshots ranging from the Stephens City Agricultural School completed in 1916 to a Ford sedan purchased by the town as its first police car in 1957, Linden A. Fravel and Byron C. Smith have summed up much of the town's 250-year history by using more pictures than words.

Fravel, a member of the Stephens City Town Council and Planning Commission, and Smith recently put the finishing touches on "Images of America: Stephens City," a book that tells the story of the town's history using archival photographs, including images dating back to the 1700s.

The book goes on sale Oct. 6.

"It was a labor of love, and we're both glad it's over," Fravel said jokingly. "It shows the town from its earliest date through the transitions of the various economic high points in history. ... A lot of the pictures that we chose were the earliest images of the [town's] structures. It's a good overview of the town as it existed in a much earlier date."

"We hope [by reading the book] that people will understand the rather long and impressive history of the town. This community has been through a lot over the years," said Smith, who is the director and curator of the Newtown
History Center in Stephens City.

The book is being distributed by Arcadia Publishing, the largest publisher of regional history books in North America. Arcadia began its "Images of America" series in 1993. The company, based in Dover, N.H., also publishes other series related to Campus History, Images of Sports and Postcard History.

The new book, which boasts more than 200 vintage photographs, illustrates Stephens City's reputation for industry, labor and vehicle traffic along the U.S. 11 corridor. Among other subjects the book reflects are such historic memories as the town's Scarlet Rebels community group, the Mudville Fire of 1936 and the Beer Truck Crash of 1949.

It also recognizes the Stephens City African American school's baseball team from the late 1930s, which was formed prior to the desegregation of public schools in the commonwealth.

"In addition to the texts that interpret the images and tell the story of the town, readers will find the majority of photographs in the book are rare and previously unpublished. I think they will be pleasantly surprised at how many early images [of the town] survive," Smith said.

Fravel and Smith began working on the project about a year ago. During the process, they organized a committee to help determine which photographs to include in the book. They also solicited additional pictures from residents in the community.

"We arranged the book kind of as a walking or driving tour," Fravel said, adding the book "shows a lot of buildings that no longer exist" in certain parts of the town.

Stephens City, originally called Stephensburgh, was born on Oct. 12, 1758, when Lt. Gov. Francis Fauquier of the royal colony of Virginia approved a set of wartime bills passed by the state House of Burgesses. Among those bills was an act for erecting a town on the land of Lewis Stephens in Frederick County.

The town's origins date back to the 1730s, when an immigrant named Peter Stephens built his homestead on land that would eventually become part of the far southern end of the town, an introduction to the new book reads.

Through the years, the town endured wars, modern changes in transportation, economic downturns, and even a forced name change.

Publication of the book coincides with the celebration of the town's 250th birthday, which was the goal all along, Smith said. Stephens City is the second-oldest town in the Shenandoah Valley.

Fravel, who grew up in Stephens City, said he hopes the book "will serve as a permanent record that lives on long after we are gone."

"We also want the current residents of Stephens City to come to a better understanding of their town's great cultural heritage. ... Ultimately, this book should help inspire those who read it to do what they can to save and preserve the things that tell the story of their community's history," he said.

"Images of America: Stephens City" will be available for $19.99 at area bookstores and through independent and online retailers. The book can also be ordered by calling Arcadia Publishing at (888) 313-2665 or visiting www.arcadiapublishing.com. A portion of the book's proceeds will support the ongoing preservation of the Stone House Foundation, the town's privately endowed historical society. The foundation was established in 1990 by the late Mildred Lee Grove, a Stephens City native.

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