Image above: Wayside fronting the Visitor Center at the Germanna Foundation Museum and Visitor Center, 2023. Courtesy America's Best History.
Spotlight on Lesser Known History
Germanna Ford, Virginia
America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Germanna Ford, Virginia
One unique museum, visitor center, walking trails, and the Germanna Ford sits almost hidden from the highway, but its history is aplenty from prior to the American Revolution to a crossing for Civil War troops during the battles from Fredericksburg to Culpeper. The Germanna Foundation runs the historic site, which includes the story of Spotswood Fort, the Germanna settlement with two colonization periods, 1714 and 1717. There are also walking trails to the Germanna Ford, not yet well marked, as well as through the Siegen Forest.
Photo above: Museum and Visitor Center of the Germanna Foundation historic site. Courtesy americasbesthistory.com..
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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Germanna Ford and Spotswood/Germanna Fort, Virginia
As we stated above, difficult to see from the highway due to trees, both positive and negative for the visitor experience and attendance, the Germanna Ford Visitor Center includes exhibits in a circular rotunda with winding staircase rising in its center. From there you can see the view of the countryside to points which the ground and history save stood. Walking trails down to the Germanna Ford itself sit to the right of the building. A circular patio, to its left, honors with statues, plaques, and bricks, the men and women who made up the population of the Spotswood settlement from ... It was a settlement in Indian territory built around metallurgy, and the grounds, across Highway three, includes another property where the ... mansion resides.
Image above: Drawing of the Germanna Fort in 1714. Courtesy Germanna Foundation. Below: Visitor Plaque near parking lot about the Civil War use of the Ford by Union troops. Courtesy America's Best History. Below: Visitor Plaque near parking lot about the Civil War use of the Ford by Union troops. Courtesy America's Best History.
Where Is It
The Germanna Foundation Museum and Visitor Center is located at 2062 Germanna Highway (Route 3), Locust Grove, VA 22508, beside the Germanna Community College campus. It is about midway between Fredericksburg and Culpeper. Turn into the Community College and the entrance to the museum is on the right hand side a short drive off Route 3. The center is hard to see from the road. The Salubria home is located at 19173 Salubria Lane in Stevensburg, VA.
Minute Walk in History
Walk through the museum of the Germanna Ford Foundation Visitor Center with us, as well as outside on the grounds of Germanna itself where the colony began. Take a gander at the Germanna ford itself. Imagine yourself, either as a settler in a 1714 or 1717 community from Germany, or as a soldier crossing the river to a battle you did not know the outcome of. A little known gem, but well worth the visit.
What is There Now
A visitor center with museum, research library, and staircase observatory, the foundation remnants of the bridge that used to cross Germanna Ford and the location of the ford itself where Union troops crossed toward battle. Waysides near the parking lot. One hundred and seventy acres where you can hike the Siegen Forest Trail. Circular memorial patio which lists many of the settlers who made part of the early Spotswood Fort. Good amount of parking.
When Open and How Much
The museum and visitor center is open Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. It is also open Saturdays from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Closed Sunday. The trail system is open from dawn to dusk every day.
Fees and hours are subject to change.
Germanna Foundation Museum and Ford
There is so much to see around the Route 3 corridor from Fredericksburg to Culpeper, it's hard to name them all. From historic homes such as Monticello, Montpelier, and James Monroe's Highland (plus nearby Michie Tavern) to the Civil War battlefields of Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Brandy Station, Cedar Mountain, and Kelly's Ford.
Photos, History, and More Spotlights
Virginia Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood advertised in Germany for immigrants, preferably miners, to move to his area and begin mining in the colony. He had been granted 86,000 acres. There were two waves; 1714 with forty-two settlers, and 1717 with twenty additional families. The 1714 Colony at Germanna/Spotswood emigrated from the Siegerland, settled at Fort Germanna, and later moved to Germantown in Fauquier County. Three years later, the 1717 Colony began with settlers from Kraichgau of Baden, WÃ¼rttemberg, and Rhineland Pfalz. They settled across the Rapidan River from Fort Germanna, and later moved to the Madison County. Their arrival was also used to provide defense for the area, as Fort Germanna was built. After the settlers had gone, Spotswood would use slave labor to work the mining operation.
During the American Revolution, a company of men from the area was formed on July 17, 1775. Known as the Culpeper Minute Men, they would fight in the Battle of Great Bridge.
What remains now of Spotswood. The 1714/1717 Fort Germanna Archaeology Site and the "Enchanted Castle" archaeological home site of Virginia Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood. Witness trees and two stone chimneys from homes of the Urquhart family, circa 1760. The 1757 Georgian-style Salubria Manor on the east side of Route 3, built as an 18th century manor house by Reverend John Thompson, it actually traces its roots to the time of the Germanna settlement. the open is not open on a regular basis, but there are rare house tours. Ask at the Visitor Center if there is one coming up. There's also a romantic love story associated with it as well as the story of Daniel Boone working there as a teamster hauling tobacco to market.
Photo above: Memorial patio, statue, and tablets about the settlers of the Spotswood community. Courtesy America's Best History.
During the year of his Overland Campaign in 1864, General U.S. Grant and General Gordon Meade used the Germanna Ford to cross the Rapidan River with the Army of the Potomac. It was on May 4, 1864, just prior to the Battle of the Wilderness, the first battle in which Grant would face his nemesis, Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The ford had also been used by both sides prior to the Battle of Chancellorsville and Mine Run. Confederate companies had been earthworks across the Rapidan on their side of the river, but abandoned them when facing the entire Union Army of the Potomac.
What remains now of that period. The circa 1800 Peter Hitt Farm, which was built by a descendent of the 1714 immigrants. The farm is located on the Rappahannock River and is now owned by the foundation. The bridge abutments for the old bridge crossing near the ford. The Rapidan River crossing itself.
Photo above: Rapidan river near the spot of the Germanna Ford where Union troops crossed to participate in the battles of the area, 2023. Courtesy America's Best History.
Drawing above: Union troops led by General George Gordon Meade after crossing the Germanna Ford and sighting earthworks created by the Confederate pickets, November 26, 1863, Alfred R. Waud. Courtesy Library of Congress.
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