Waynesboro Heritage Museum | 420 W. Main St., Waynesboro, Virginia 22980 | Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Phone: (540) 943-3943

The Patrick House: 337 Chestnut Ave.

patrick house

Image Credit: Katherine McNicholas

Today we are sharing (with permission) a blog post from 2016 by local realtor Katherine McNicholas.

In her post, Katherine dives into the history of The Patrick House, which is located in the Historic Tree Streets neighborhood in Waynesboro.

The Patricks are the subject of our latest temporary exhibition, Locust Isle: The Patrick Estate. Locust Isle is another Patrick family home located in Augusta County.

The Patricks were among the early settlers of the area and influenced how the area developed.

Please follow the link to read Katherine’s post.

New local history book

A big thank you to the Waynesboro Historical Commission for putting together the newest history booklet, “Nobility In The Valley, Archibald Stuart of Waynesboro, Virginia.”

Click here to download.

This booklet covers the Stuart family from Queen Mary Stuart through J.E.B. Stuart. You will learn about why Archibald Stuart traveled to America and how he settled in Augusta County. Archibald’s home Walnut Grove is located at the intersection of Rosser Avenue and Northgate Avenue in Waynesboro. Booklets are FREE and located at the Heritage Museum Gift Shop. Since the Museum is currently closed to the public because of the coronavirus, we have made it available online for you to read.


Update: Museum response to coronavirus

As a precautionary measure, the Waynesboro Heritage Museum and the Plumb House Museum will be closed for the next two weeks, March 14-27, 2020. We will re-evaluate after the two weeks.

For more information on the Coronavirus check the resources below:


Tea Party with Blue Ridge Children’s Museum

We are partnering with the Blue Ridge Children’s Museum for a Tea Party!

Come in your fancy attire for a 19th-century Tea Party! Families will learn about Waynesboro landmarks and 19th-century culture through stories and interactive lessons. Fancy tea and treats will be served. Families will have the opportunity to explore landmarks and win prizes with our landmark scavenger hunt! This is a FREE event! Donations are appreciated will go towards building the Blue Ridge Children’s Museum permanent location!

SIGN UP LINK:  https://blueridgechildrensmuseum.regfox.com/tea-party

Locust Isle: The Patrick Estate Opening Reception

Date: January 17, 2020
Reception is FREE to attend.
Light refreshments & wine will be served.

When Picasso’s art came to Waynesboro

artmobileWaynesboro locals are well acquainted with the Fall Foliage art show that happens every year, covering the streets of Main and Wayne in October. What you may not know is that in October 1966 the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ Artmobile III traveled to Waynesboro for the “Treasures from the Guggenheim Museum” art exhibition. Onboard the Artmobile III were 28 artworks by well-known contemporary artists such as Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Miro, Leger, Severini, Ernst, Kirchner, Archipenko, and Chagall, to name a few. The exhibition included drawings, paintings, prints, and sculptures.

In New York City, the Guggenheim Museum opened in October 1959.  It is well known for its striking architectural design and spiral walkways designed by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It took Wright over 16 years and approximately 700 sketches to create the new contemporary art museum (“Guggenheim Architecture Timeline,” 2019).


inviteThe Artmobile III came to Waynesboro and parked, first, at Kate Collins Junior High School for two days, and then moved to The Centre for Shopping until Friday. The local coordinators of the event were the Waynesboro Chapter of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and member Mrs. B.L. Copeland was the Chairman of the event. In a letter to members of the chapter, President Carmen Sherbeck wrote that the goal of the chapter was “enrichment of the cultural life of the community…” and that throughout the year the chapter had fulfilled its purpose. The chapter held many events in Waynesboro throughout the year including: art classes, Arts and Crafts Festival, a juried exhibit and Fifth Sunday Tea, The Children’s Carnival, several exhibits, a second visit by the Artmobile, art sale, a safari to the VMFA in Richmond, lectures, and several other events.

The Artmobile started in October of 1953 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia. It was a way to bring art and art education to the people in their communities. The program closed in 1994, but in 2015, the VMFA decided to bring back the popular Artmobile. A list of dates for 2019-2020 is available online at https://www.vmfa.museum/exhibitions/exhibitions/vmfa-on-the-road/.

Would you be interested in having the Artmobile return to Waynesboro?

Guggenheim Architecture Timeline. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.guggenheim.org/history/architecture

Article by Kelly Sheely

Marvin Stoner Reception

The Waynesboro Heritage Foundation would like to thank everyone including Marvin’s family, friends, museum members, and visitors for attending the Marvin Stoner Reception on Friday, August 23, 2019. Guests watched a WWII oral history interview in which Marvin shares his memories about his time in the U.S. Army. Marvin helped free a concentration camp in Woebblin, Germany and helped to escort German prisoners that surrendered to the U.S. Army. The film is still available in the museum’s audio-visual room for anyone interested in viewing Marvin’s interview.

Guests also enjoyed a temporary mini-exhibit that highlights Marvin’s life and legacy. Many speakers spoke about how Marvin was a transplant to Waynesboro and how grateful they were that Marvin made a home in Waynesboro. He loved the city and Waynesboro’s history. He worked diligently to create a place where artifacts, manuscripts, documents, and oral history would be preserved for future generations.

The mini-exhibit is on display in the Heritage Museum.

Merger? Consolidation? Annexation? Confusion Waynesboro and Basic City

Approval of Consolidation

On August 7, 1923, the voters of both Waynesboro and Basic City approved the merger. Basic City at the time had a population of 2,700 while Waynesboro’s population was 1,750. In those days, only male landowners had the right to vote, and there were more registered voters in Waynesboro. The vote in Waynesboro was 259 for consolidation and 92 against it. For Basic City, the majority vote was 157 for and 93 against it. It was made clear that the two councils would work together as one unit (12 members) until September 1924 when a new council would be elected, three from each of the former towns.

Mayor Hudgins of Waynesboro said he had been a long-term mayor and with his duties at Fishburne Military School he could not serve the consolidated towns and handed in his resignation. Mayor Maxwell of Basic City also handed in his resignation but was persuaded to reconsider after the council said they would have him back.

In January 1924, a group headed by Mr. Jordan and Mr. Brannaman said that the name Waynesboro-Basic was too cumbersome and wanted to drop “Basic.” The appeared before the Legislative Committee of Counties, Cities, and Towns to plead their case. Another group headed by Mr. Baumgardner and Mr. Maxwell said that the name was voted on by the citizens and should stay as granted. The members of the Legislative Committee made the decision, took it to the Legislators who approved that the newly consolidated community was to be named Waynesboro.

What Happened Next?

As you can guess, the citizens of Basic City were incensed. Rev. J.B. John was unanimously chosen by the people of Basic to be their spokesperson as 85% of the population in Basic opposed dropping the Basic from the consolidation. He gathered 30 members to attend the Senate in Richmond, protesting the name change. Senator Layman did what he could for the people of Basic, but Senator East was against it. Only a subcommittee reviewed the issue instead of a full committee, and Basic lost its appeal. Rev. John made plans to take the issue to the Virginia Supreme Court, but it was useless.

Waynesboro again had control of Baker Spring with a loss of revenue for Basic. The Basic high school students were now required to attend Waynesboro’s high school, and to pay for the new Waynesboro high school which carried a $20,000.00 bond, they had to pay tuition. The former Basic High School is the current Wenonah Elementary School.

When it came down to realization about what the consolidation meant, Basic felt they had been hoodwinked. Their version of consolidation meant a merger or a union to strengthen and solidify. Their new feeling was that they were annexed instead. Annexation meant to add on or attach or to take or appropriate, especially without asking. And you will see why they felt that way with the letters to the editor of the Shenandoah Valley News.

One angry person said, “The Plunderer already has his hands on the loot he has had his eye on it for years. First, it was Baker Spring, then the high school, then the name of the town. The town of Basic is to be devasted, and it will be only a matter of time before the post office is gone and rural delivery will be given to the few settlements on this side of the river.”

Another expressed himself this way:

What Basic Had Before Consolidation

  1. A spring worth $100,000.
  2. $30,000 in taxes spent in her town.
  3. The best high school in the two towns.
  4. A firetruck.
  5. Six councilmen and a mayor whose united will could not be trampled on.

What Basic Has Now

  1. A Fire Truck.

The Basic Firemen declared they would not give their fire truck to the consolidated town. They issued this statement.

“They have given away our high school and taxed us for the support of theirs. They have appropriated our spring without paying a cent for it and now they have taken away our name and we understand that it will only be a few weeks before they will take away our fire truck. We wish to state, however, that before the gentlemen come after our fire truck they had better provide themselves with sheet iron uniforms and the latest model machine guns for they will not take our fire truck away except over our dead bodies.”

Signed, Basic City Fire Department.

Another expression:

What “Waynesboro” Stands for











The change of the name was probably the last blow to what was supposed to be a friendly consolidation. Now, it appears to them as if the “powers that be” were waiting for the spoils and Waynesboro had never wanted consolidation with Basic but annexation.

Is Separation the Answer?

Then came the call for separation from the consolidation and to become independent again. Basic City began boycotting merchants in Waynesboro. The newspaper in Basic began losing ads from Waynesboro merchants but the editor, Hugh Russell Frazer, plunged on with his campaign to “Buy Basic” and “Boost Basic.” Newspaper in Richmond, Staunton, Roanoke, Baltimore, and Lynchburg carried the news of the “raw deal” Basic was getting. The Richmond News Leader on March 1, 1924, urged arbitration between the two towns. In April 1924, the Basic Board of Trade formed to “unite for action from ever interest in the town.” One citizen in Waynesboro declared, “If Basic isn’t satisfied with conditions as they are, she ought to be allowed to withdraw.” Another said that if she wants to withdraw, nothing should be put in her way. In one of his editorials, Frazer stated: “If we are so utterly ignorant and poor as they say, why don’t they let us separate from them if they don’t like us?”

On the brighter side, a few merchants in Harrisonburg began placing ads in Basic’s Shenandoah Valley News. Some residents in Waynesboro were sympathetic with the plight of Basic and in the spots where there used to be Waynesboro ads they placed personal insights and concerns. The newspaper ceased publishing in 1925.

Things settle down after a while, but the hurt lasted a long time. It has been over 100 years since the first talks of consolidation began, and the differences between the two towns are still evident.

Images from a scrapbook (2019.0007.0001) containing news clippings and other information connected to the 1923-1924 consolidation of Waynesboro and Basic City. This scrapbook was compiled by Benjamin J. Craig.

Written by Judy Walden

Merger? Consolidation? Annexation? Confusion Waynesboro and Basic City

Cooperation and Then Contention

2019Early on, there was cooperation and goodwill between the two towns with each supplying goods and services to the other. But after the losses suffered by Basic City in 1893-1897, Basic City and Waynesboro began to quarrel. Basic City wanted a post office, and Waynesboro thought a sub-station was sufficient enough. Waynesboro didn’t sell liquor, and Basic did. Many a time a Basic police officer had to escort a Waynesboro man back to his home when the jail was full. Cows were allowed to roam freely in Basic, but in Waynesboro, they needed to be fenced in. By 1915 a citizen of Basic City sends an opinion to Waynesboro’s Valley Virginian newspaper that in the 25 years of her existence, Basic City has accumulated three-quarters as much wealth as Waynesboro has done in 125 years. And there were issues of the pumping of water from Baker Spring to Waynesboro. Before the establishment of Basic, Waynesboro pumped its water and didn’t have to pay a monthly fee to Basic. Another contention was politics: Waynesboro was mainly Democratic, and Basic City was Republican. Businessmen controlled Waynesboro and Basic was controlled by working men.

A citizen of Basic wrote to the Valley Virginian in 1915 that Waynesboro had invited the manager of the N&W Railway to meet with individual businessmen to get the N&W to change the mainline some distance south of Basic City and run the rail line to the River, crossing it near the dam. They offered a sum of $75,000 for this work to be completed. The manager said that as long as there were two towns, this idea was not possible as they were obliged to maintain a station in Basic City. There was a lot of jealousy and distrust between the two cities.

Consolidation Considerations

appealOn December 7, 1917, several Waynesboro citizens appeared before the Waynesboro council asking that they take up the matter of consolidation of their town with Basic City. It took another eight years before the issue was seriously addressed. In June 1923 committees from both towns were appointed to discuss and settle terms.

  1. Cows: Waynesboro prohibits cows from running at large while Basic City permits it. Basic said that changes would place undue hardships on the poor people in Basic City. It was resolved that the Council shall not pass any ordinances within six years to contain the cows.
  2. Name: 300 voters were asked to fill out cards to get the sentiment of the name for the consolidated town. The result was varied and somewhat entertaining. Names put forward were: Baseboro, Waynona, Waynapolis, Waynesbee, Waynoka, Wayneton, Wayne City, Wanye-Basic, but the most popular was Waynesboro-Basic. It gives identity to both towns for businesses, railroads, history, and sentimental purposes. The charter of the town of Waynesboro and the seal will be adopted except the seal shall ultimately correspond with the name of the consolidated community.
  3. Consolidation inducements are:
  4. Economy in municipal government by the elimination of duplicity.
  5. Create attractiveness for an investment of capital.
  6. Eliminate the payment of taxes for the district and county by becoming a city.
  7. namingEnlarge the opportunity to secure better schools.
  8. Present as a unit to corporations doing business in the towns.

In August 1923 Basic City Mayor John Maxwell said, “Basic has a large amount of unimproved territory with excellent opportunities for industrial improvements but have not the people nor the means to take advantage of the opportunity. Waynesboro is compactly built with but little room for expansion or development of industries. To my mind, these two vital needs of each town can be met only by getting together and working for one greater town.”

Images from a scrapbook (2019.0007.0001) containing news clippings and other information connected to the 1923-1924 consolidation of Waynesboro and Basic City. This scrapbook was compiled by Benjamin J. Craig.

Written by Judy Walden

Merger? Consolidation? Annexation? Confusion Waynesboro and Basic City


In 1739, the land was plentiful, the forests virgin and full, the springs supplied clear water. The South River, while not suitable for shipping was great for damming and milling, the soil fertile for farming and the clay ideal for making bricks. Enterprising adventurers and speculators came to the area, some staying, others moving on. The raising of cattle and other livestock was profitable; wheat, corn, oats, and rye kept the many grist mills running; cutting of timber provided for log buildings, churches, and homes. The area was generally free of Native American battles, the weather pleasant in all seasons and the families worked together to form a small village. The core of the town was comprised of lots laid out in 1798 and in a short period, merchants were occupying the buildings and homes. There was an east-west road from Charlottesville to Staunton and a north-south road from New Hope to Greenville.

The town stayed small with about 250 residents during the 1850s and 1870s. The railroads were making headway from the east and north. By 1884, the Chesapeake and Ohio crossed over the Shenandoah Valley Railroad (later called the Norfolk and Western) at a place called Waynesboro Junction or the Iron Cross. The C&O crossed the South River and continued to Staunton and westward to Covington. Freight and passenger depots were busy. The town had banks, dentists, pharmacies, grocery stores, attorneys, physicians, schools, hotels, churches, newspapers, telegraph services, makers of stoves, buggies, carriages, and water rams. Millers and farmers rounded out the rest of the population.

basic cityBasic City

Just as the early developers of Waynesboro found the area to be a wonderful place to establish a town, the Basic City Mining, Manufacturing and Land Company found the area to be ideal for its industrial dreams. What a bonus to have two railroads going north and south as well as east and west with depots and telegraph services. The city was already functioning with all the needs one could ask for, and it had many essentials such as clothing, banking, medical professionals, a hospital, and hotels. Last but not least, a friendly population to cater to them as they waited for their facilities to be built. The BCMMLC purchased 2, 200 acres that were laid out for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. The company swallowed up Lithia Spring, Baker Spring, the Moraine Hill, enclosed around the railroads and the depots and a good stretch of the South River.

They built hotels near the train stations, banks, schools, set up a newspaper, made great plans for all manner of manufacturing and building. Some were functioning early on: a furniture store, makers of matches cigars, hardware; millworks and lumber companies, and four brickworks. However, the primary purpose of setting up this endeavor was to build a 100-ton blast furnace, and it did not happen. A lengthy lawsuit between Jacob Reese, who said he was the inventor of the Basic process of making steel, and the Bessemer Steel Company in Pennsylvania over the steel processing patent prevented the complex from being built.

Then came the Panic of 1893 to add to their woes. One of the hardest-hit industries was the railroads, and Basic had built a large building to construct railcars. Three large railways failed: Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. Five hundred banks were closed, and 15,000 businesses were lost. The gold standard was still in effect, and when the economy slowed, there was a run on the banks as paper money was not deemed as valuable as gold. The gold reserves got so low in the United States that President Cleveland had to borrow $65 million in gold from J.P. Morgan and Rothschild family banks in England. Basic’s railcar factory had planned on turning out five freight cars a day for the C & O and the contract for those diminished. Using the building for other manufacturing and milling purposes lasted only a short time, and it had to be auctioned off in 1907. Thus, the great dreams of the big industrial enterprise never to fruition. With apologies to Charles Dickens, we have a “tale of two cities.”

Written by Judy Walden

Waynesboro’s Great Fire

By Judy Walden

2019Perhaps you have heard of these great fires: London in 1666 which started in a bakery and ended four days later destroying 85% of the town; Chicago’s “Mrs. O’ Leary’s Cow” fire in 1871 in which hundreds were killed and 3.3 square miles of earth devastated; the earthquake and fire in San Francisco in 1906, leaving 3,000 dead and 80% of the town gone. Waynesboro’s Gardner Mill fire was not that destructive, but for our town, it was bad.

Even with 1953 technology, modern equipment and extensive plans in place for the eventual event, it required the services of 11 towns with 18 pieces of equipment to quell the two-day fire. Mutual aid from fire fighters came from as far away as Charlottesville, Lexington, and Harrisonburg. The mill located between Main and Mulberry (now Broad) and facing east to the South River (where the parking lot is), had been abandoned years earlier and was declared a hazard. Starting on the first floor of the five-story structure, it was quickly engulfed. Wind, intense heat and flying embers hampered the effort to keep it contained. When it was over, the mill, grain elevator and four other businesses were destroyed. Seven other buildings were damaged in varying degrees.

This landmark mill was built in the early 1750s by Joseph Bell. Many old maps of Waynesboro show the water wheel driven mill with a front race that supplies water to the wheel and a back race that returns the water to the river after flowing over the wheel. Many owners and several fires are known. Enlarging and modernizing took place through the years. The oldest of Waynesboro’s seven gristmills, it is best known as the Bell/Patterson/Gardner Mill and was in continuous use for almost 200 years. The town of Waynesboro grew around it.

Mills, usually built of wood, were highly susceptible to fires. In the milling process of converting wheat to flour and corn to meal, dust forms inside the building and was of great concern to the miller. A spark from an errant pebble caught between the upper and lower grinding stones or a misalignment of the two stones could ignite the dust and the wooden mill was soon in flames. The miller was constantly examining the stones, and this is where we get the expression, “keep your nose to the grindstone.”

The grinding of grain began 30,000 years ago and was done by hand with two stones. It was a slow and tedious process. About 10,000 years ago the Egyptians and the Greeks learned how to harness water to turn gears and larger stones. Thus, this could possibly be one of the most important inventions for human survival. The hunger-gatherer was now able to stay in place with his crops, his mill, and be part of setting up small villages. The mill concept opened opportunity to do more than just grind grains. It could make felt from wool, cut wood for building and eventually provide power for blacksmithing and to furnaces for smelting.

After the great Waynesboro fire, Mill Street, which ran behind the mill and separated it from the grain elevator, was eliminated. Arch Street was straightened to Broad; a new and bigger fire house was built on the corner of Arch and Broad; an off-street parking lot was built, and the Broad Street bridge was opened in 1956.

Where is Anthony Wayne buried?

By Judy Walden

anthony wayneExcept for one recorded incident in Ohio in 1794 when a tree fell on his tent rendering Wayne temporarily unconscious, the General seemed to have endured the many battles unscathed. There were many battles for him: the Revolutionary War and the Indian Wars in the Midwest. Wayne died while serving in the military at an outpost on the Great Lakes called Presqu’Isle. Today, it is part of Erie, PA. It was in 1796 and he was only 51. However, it was not from a battle or anything to do with a military event.

Born on January 1, 1754 in Chester County, PA, an area west of Philadelphia, he loved nothing more as a boy than playing soldiers and Indians instead of farm work, much to his father’s dismay. Father Isaac owned many acres and had a successful farm and the largest tannery in Pennsylvania. School was not Anthony’s thing until his father threatened him with unending and odious chores on his estate called Waynesborough. The threat worked and Anthony, under his uncle Gilbert’s guidance found he had a talent for mathematics. After Uncle Gilbert taught him as much as he could, Anthony was enrolled at the Philadelphia Academy where he studied mathematics and business and soon was a surveyor. So successful was he that Benjamin Franklin hired him to survey many parts of Nova Scotia. He spent 10 months finding mineral deposits, navigable rivers sites for mills and ferries, springs and meadowland for cultivation. When he returned to Philadelphia, Franklin found that his investors had no intention of moving to the Canadian territory. Wayne continued his career as a surveyor and had a good life.

With his father’s death in 1774, Anthony at age 29 inherited Waynesborogh. He lived the life of a country gentleman and had pledged to care for his widowed mother. Soon it was obvious that he was a neglectful son and later a neglectful husband and father. It wasn’t until later in his life that he recognized that he could have done a better job.

A call for arms for the Revolutionary War was ordered and Wayne was ready. He was commissioned the title of Colonel at age 31. He fought and lost battles and fought and won battles. Always at the front attacking the enemy rather than avoiding them, he was considered a great tactician. His victory at Stony Point is widely recognized as the most brilliant action of the War. The low point was the loss of many men during a nighttime raid by Grey at Paoli. A favorite of George Washington, he rose quickly and retired as Brevet-major General. His retirement didn’t last long as Washington asked him to help with the Northwest Indian wars. Again he had wins and losses, but his battle at Fallen Timbers brought a treaty that gained all the lands from the Ohio River to the Mississippi for the U.S.

So, what about his death and burial? Wayne suffered a serious gout attack. It was a fairly common disease at the time and the general consensus was that the culprit was rich food and wine. Today we know it as kidney failure. When he became ill in Presqu’ Isle there were no doctors at the fort and a call for physicians went out to Pittsburgh and to Army hospitals. Unfortunately, the doctors arrived on the day of his death. He was buried on a plain coffin with his initials and date of death driven in to the wood using round-headed brass tacks. He was laid to rest at the foot of the blockhouse’s flagpole. Twelve years later, the urging of his dying sister’s request to have their father buried at St. David’s church in Radnor, PA, son Isaac set out in a two-wheeled sulky carriage. Isaac had been advised that his father’s remains would be nothing but bones. Dr. John Wallace, who had been called to attend the General prior to his death, met Isaac at the fort. When the doctor opened Wayne’s coffin, he was shocked that the corpse was almost perfectly preserved.

anthony wayneAnthony Wayne was a tall and large man and the sulky carriage was way too small for the coffin. So, Dr. Wallace used an American Indian custom to dismember the body, boil it in a large kettle down to just bones. The bones were then packed in bones and loaded on to Isaac’s carriage. The task was so distasteful to the doctor that he threw the remains of the flesh and his instruments back in the coffin and re-closed the grave.

Isaac Wayne set out with his father’s bones for the 380 miles of unpaved roads. Isaac was unaware that some of the bones were shaken out of the boxes and he didn’t discover the loss until he reached Radnor. Isaac was very upset that his father’s remains had been disturbed and wished he had never complied with his sister’s wishes. On July 4, 1809, the General was once again interred, this time at St. David’s church following funeral rites. So, General Anthony Wayne is buried in two different places nearly 400 miles apart. And possibly other places…

It seems as though a ghostly story has found its way into lore. The saying is that along the way from the fort near Erie to Radnor, PA, over the rough terrain, bones fell from the boxes. On each New Year’s Day, Anthony’s birthday, the tale is that his ghost rises up from the grave and rides through the countryside looking for his parts.

In 1858, the blockhouse in Presqu’Isle burned and the land was leveled unknowingly covering up General Wayne’s first gravesite. Twenty-five years later it was located, the coffin lid with the brass tacks, remnants of Wayne’s clothing and Dr. Wallace’s instruments were uncovered and they are on display at the Erie County Historical Society. The rest was reburied at the Wayne Blockhouse Monument on the property of the Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home.

In addition to Waynesboro, VA, Fort Wayne, IN, and Wayne State University in Detroit are also named after him. 9 cities, 15 counties, 5 parks, 10 towns, 27 schools and colleges and many streets and roads have been named in his honor.

William Henry Sheppard: Missionary, adventurer, activist

Born less than a week after the American Civil War Battle of Waynesboro in March 1865, William Henry Sheppard is the most notable native of Waynesboro. Both erudite and religious he had a sense of adventure that led him as a missionary to Africa where he laid witness to the barbarity of colonialism.

The son of an African American barber and a “dark mulatto” mother who found work as a bath maid in Warm Springs, William Sheppard it is said grew up as close to middle class as could be for the Waynesboro of that time. His upbringing had religious tones to it as his father led family prayers and his mother would pray out loud with him as she put him to bed. His father was a sexton at the First Presbyterian Church in Waynesboro.

When Sheppard was 10 he moved in with his aunt and worked as a stable boy for the Henkel family in Staunton. He would remember the family fondly and maintained written correspondence for years, even through his adventures in Africa. In 1880 he enrolled at Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute (Hampton University) and worked his way through school as a waiter. He attended night classes and notably had classes taught by Booker T. Washington. After he graduated he moved on to Tuscaloosa Theological Institute (now known as Stillman College) in Alabama. In 1888 he became an ordained Presbyterian pastor in Atlanta, but his attention was elsewhere.

Sheppard had a fascination for native cultures, and for two years he petitioned the Presbyterian Foreign Missionary Board in Baltimore for permission to start a mission in Africa. Frustrated by the constant rejection letters, he ventured to Baltimore to visit the board in person only to be told he could not, as a black man, be sent without the supervision of a white person. But as fate would have it, there just so happened to be such a volunteer by the name of Samuel Lapsley. The two became close friends and in February 1890, they set sail for the Congo.

Into the Heart of Darkness

Upon arrival in the Congo Sheppard and Lapsley set to work spreading the Gospel. Sheppard learned the local language of the natives which allowed him to explore parts of the Congo no Westerner had visited before. At one point he even found himself sentenced to death in a village where his presence was unwelcome. But his ability to speak the local language convinced the king not to kill him. Ostensibly, by tricking the king into believing he was one of his dead relatives.

Disease was a factor of life. Sheppard himself had contracted malaria 22 times during his first years on the continent. In 1892 Samuel Lapsley died of fever. By the time of Lapsley’s death, Sheppard had grown more independent and was no longer under direct supervision. By then, Sheppard had started to make a name for himself. In 1893 he traveled to London and met Queen Victoria. He was also inducted into the Royal Geographic Society.

But it was upon his return to Congo before the close of the century that events took a turn in a way that William Sheppard could no longer ignore. Congo at the time was a colony of King Leopold II’s Belgium and the king was exploiting the region’s natural resources. Beatings, mutilations, enslavement, and mass killings were common place in the name of commerce. It is estimated that anywhere from 2 to 15 million people died during Belgium’s colonization of Congo. It was a situation that William Sheppard felt the world could not turn a blind eye.

The Presbyterian Church had an interest in bringing the atrocities to light. They sent a team to Congo to report incidents of abuse. Sheppard found himself as the investigator to confirm the reports. What he observed was truly horrific. Evidence of cannibalism, mutilations, enslavement, and killings were all observed by Sheppard. In one event, he witnessed 80 human right hands being prepared to be shipped off to state officers as proof of enforcement on and conquest of villages.

In January of 1900, the New York Times published an article describing the burning of 14 Congolese villages and the murder of more than 90 villagers by warriors sent to collect taxes on behalf of Leopold II. The article was based on reports from Presbyterian missionaries that Sheppard himself confirmed the atrocities for. Later, Mark Twain wrote and published a pamphlet titled King Leopold’s Soliloquy condemning the atrocities in which he mentioned William Sheppard by name and his account of the massacre.


William Henry Sheppard spent the last decades of his life in Louisville, Kentucky where he served as pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church. He died in November, 1927. His legacy lives on not only as a missionary, but also in the context of the evolution of human rights and international humanitarian organizations. He was part of the creation of the Congo Reform Association which was one of the world’s first humanitarian organizations.

Locally, the story of William Henry Sheppard is finally coming to light. Though, it should be said, he deserves more recognition than he has received. It is through the efforts of the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation his story is now being locally shared.

Billy Graham’s daughter will be keeper of the flame

Wednesday was a day of reflection for Ruth Graham (far right in photo) as she thought about the death of her father, the world’s most famous evangelist, Rev. Billy Graham.

Ruth Graham, a Waynesboro resident since 2000 and Shenandoah Valley resident since 1985, spent the day answering the phone and remembering the full life of her 99-year-old father.

“The phone has blown up. It’s a happy day. I know where daddy is. I am happy he is where he needs to be and wanted to be,” she said.

She knew her father’s death on Wednesday was coming. He had suffered with Parkinson’s Disease and other chronic ailments for years, and was looked after at his Montreat, N.C. home “by wonderful caregivers.” But Ruth Graham and her four siblings have never known a world without their father.

“God must have something for him,” she said. Ruth Graham has her own ministry and travels the world. She remembers a father who embraced his place as a global spiritual leader and preached in nearly 200 countries.

In 1957, he held 16 consecutive weeks of crusades in New York City. He preached six days a week at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium and in Times Square. He didn’t seek fame, but handled his work with grace.

“He felt a huge responsibility to honor the lord,” Ruth Graham said. “He prayed every day saying ‘Lord don’t let me fail you.’ ”

She said her father wanted to help other evangelists. “He preached to them, talked to them and wanted to encourage them. He told them, ‘You will replace me.’ He had no desire to be irreplaceable.”

Money was not a priority either. “I’m surprised he has anything left,” she said. “He did not want to die a wealthy man. Bless his heart, he made a lot of money with books but he gave it away.”

What Ruth Graham will remember is a man she describes as “a quintessential Southern gentleman.” She said her father had a grace, a kindness and a humility.

He would always stand up for people when greeting them until he could no longer stand because of his illnesses. He would stop in restaurants and talk to people, often praying with them.

“He was a gentle loving man,” she said. Ruth Graham recalls she and her siblings making fun of the Devil and being told not to by her father. “He wouldn’t let us criticize people,” she said.

Billy Graham prayed with America’s presidents dating back to Dwight Eisenhower. His favorite was Texan Lyndon Johnson, she said. “[Johnson] was a farm boy from Texas. They would just laugh it up,” she recalled.

Ruth Graham said it was her father “who led me to Jesus.” At age 50, she returned to college graduating from Mary Baldwin University’s adult degree program in 2000. Her father attended the ceremony.

As the leader of Ruth Graham Ministries she wants to help people who suffer while sitting in church but don’t open up about their disappointments and addictions.

“People are afraid to talk about what is going on in their lives,” she said. She said people refuse to open up about addictions to pornography or children in trouble. She wants to encourage those people and listen. Ruth Graham has written two books, “In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart” and “Step into the Bible.” She is working on another book.

Her father’s funeral in Charlotte March 2 will be a celebration of life fully lived and realized. And Ruth Graham believes the legacy of Billy Graham will live on for generations. “We will celebrate and rejoice,” she said.

“There are a lot of Grahams,’ she said. There are five siblings, 19 grandchildren and more than 40 great grandchildren. Ruth Graham is the mother of 3 children and grandmother of 9.

Among Ruth Graham’s siblings is evangelist Franklin Graham, known for his work with the international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse.

She will always remember a man who devoutly followed his faith. “He believed in the Bible from cover to cover,” she said.

Article originally appeared in the News Virginian on February 22, 2018.  Article by Bob Stuart.

Vince McMahon at Fishburne Military School

Ask any professional wrestling fan who Vince McMahon is, they all will surely know.  But not many people know that Vince McMahon, the professional wrestling promoter and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment who was once listed in Forbes being personally worth more than $1 billion spent part of his life in Waynesboro.  Before WrestleMania, before Pay-Per-View, before Triple H, the Rock, or even Hulk Hogan ever found their way to the professional wrestling ring, Vince McMahon was a cadet at Fishburne Military School.

After growing up as a troubled youth in 1950’s North Carolina and getting caught stealing cars, McMahon was given a choice, either reform school or military school.  He chose the latter.  For him, it was a chance to start over from what he calls his “unruly” past until that time.  “No one really knew me at Fishburne,” he once said.  “I had no badass reputation to uphold.”

His past of being raised in a broken family and growing up selling moonshine, getting into fights, and stealing cars was hard to shake.  At Fishburne he still exhibited his fondness of stealing cars.  Even though he was never caught, he claims he stole the commandant’s Buick for which the commandant was known to leave his keys in.  Once he even gave the commandant’s beloved dog a laxative.  “I love animals, but one day I couldn’t resist giving that dog a laxative,” McMahon has said of the infamous incident.  “I put the laxative in some hamburger and he did his business all over the commandant’s apartment, which thrilled me greatly.”

School sports were McMahon’s outlet at Fishburne.  He credits wrestling and playing football for keeping him mostly out of trouble.  However, he was insubordinate, and eventually became the first cadet in Fishburne history, since its founding in 1879, to be court-martialed (according to him).   Charges were eventually dropped and Vince McMahon graduated Fishburne Military School in 1964.

To some Vince McMahon’s behavior at Fishburne comes as no surprise.  In his very successful professional career he is both loved and hated and his public personality carries a hard edge.  To those who have met him he is a very smart and thoughtful individual.  But it was at Fishburne McMahon feels his life started to change for the better.  Even though change was slow in coming for him, it was a period he says, “I at least started to change.”

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