Culpeper’s Early Settlers by Joseph J. O’Donnell

Joseph J. O'Donnell
Joseph J. O’Donnell


The earliest inhabitants known to the area were the Manaoac tribes. They lived along the Rappahannock River west of Fredericksburg and east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These native people were known as the Piedmont Tribes and were hunters and gatherers, and also practiced farming. Their success with this was due to the fertile soil made rich with by the run-off of minerals by streams and rivers from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their crops consisted of corn and squash.

They later merged with Monacan, Occaneechi, Saponi, and Tutelo Indians and disappeared from historical records after 1728, although a few still live in this area today. With European pressure from the French in the north, the Spanish from the south, and the English from the east, they moved westward to follow the buffalo herds over the mountains.

Culpeper, Virginia was named after Lord Thomas Culpeper who was the British colonial governor for Virginia from 1677 to 1683 but did not step onto its shores until 1679 after much prodding by the provisional government here. A small settlement was founded there which would later form Culpeper county and a town along the Rapidan River, settled by a German community would later be known as Germanna. After 1728 there was enough occupants in Culpeper that it was granted the right to form its own county. The then seventeen-year-old George Washington, a friend of Lord Fairfax, was commissioned to survey the town, and county, of Culpeper. Like the early native tribe colonists found the land to be fertile and had already begun to clear the land and establish farms. The county was formed from a larger part of Orange county, and it originally formed the territories that comprised parts of Culpeper, Madison, and Rappahannock counties as they are known as today.

Shortly thereafter the French and Indian Wars begun, and havoc was spread towards the south in North Carolina. Daniel Boone was also a resident of Culpeper for a short time but left to go south to help in the fighting there. Afterwards following the war Culpeper, dotted with small farms and vast farm holdings of well-to-do colonists, as with by merchants and tradesmen, became a land between the more cultured eastern part of the colony of Virginia and the western wilderness. It became the jumping off point for westward expansion of this nation.

There was a large part of this new county that was of English descent, but there was also a substantial population of German, Irish, and Scotts inhabiting the area, too. It was dependent on agriculture for its existence as it was rural, but the land was plentiful and rich. The diversity of its population added to its strength.

There is much to be learned about Culpeper that can be found in the local library, as well as at the Culpeper Museum, and from Wikipedia and the internet. I hope that our readers will follow this series of historical accounts in the Culpeper Times as we travel down this road of from our founding fathers to the present day. My next article will be based around the Revolutionary War in which Culpeper, and its residence, played an important role.


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