A lonesome train whistle blows, a train hustles by a vacant shop on Route 522 South. More than 100 years ago, that train would have come to a halt at the stop – picking up passengers at the depot, possibly having riders stop for purchases at the stop or send off mail from the post office.
Now, all those buildings sit quietly as a lone train speeds by – but while most may not remember the importance of the village of Winston, the Museum of Culpeper History remembers.
Winston – and the Women of Winston – two of the featured exhibits during 2017 at the Museum during the 40th anniversary of the organization.
Spurred by donations from the Winston family, the Museum is shining the light on a part of the community that was once thriving and is now mostly just a fond memory for the families who grew up there.
The History of Winston
Originated in 1878 when newly-wed Lucien D. Winston Sr. and his wife Elizabeth McNeil Boddie relocated to the area, Winston was the culmination of a dream for the couple.
Lucien Winston served in the Civil War and following it, became a traveling salesman. During his travels out West, he met his wife in Texas. Elizabeth was the granddaughter of a wealthy developer and the two quickly fell in love.
“She had the brains, she had the drive like he did and she had the money,” Museum of Culpeper History volunteer Pam Stewart said. “His dream was to build a community. They built a home, they built a shop, they put in lumber mills and he gave land for the railroad track, knowing the train would be essential.”
Believing rail service was essential for the economic growth and social life of Winston, Lucien donated land to the Orange & Alexandria Railroad for tracks with the stipulation that a train station would be built in his town. The Winston Depot was constructed in 1886 and for almost 50 years, trains carried goods, cattle and passengers.
The country store and a steam-powered lumber mill quickly followed and a United States Postal Office opened in 1887, a service that continued until 1956.
In 1907 Lucien donated land for Rising Zion Church and school; on their property, the couple built the Winston Memorial Chapel, dedicated in 1909 to the memory of their son, Malcolm Boddie Winston, who died in 1906.
The chapel and shop still stand today, silent with the outside of the chapel in need of repair.
Their granddaughter, Lucy Robb Winston Works and her daughter Betty Fuller, donated a majority of the items used in the exhibit. Lucy Robb lived until November of 2016, passing away at the age of 100 just prior to the opening of the exhibit on the village her family created.
“We’re telling the story of the community,” Stewart said. “There were these families who were living in Mitchells, Cedar Mountain and Winston and their descendants are all still here.”
The Women of Winston
One of those descendants, Culpeper County School Board representative Elizabeth Hutchins, is the granddaughter of Martha McNeil Winston Summerville. She was young when her grandmother passed away in 1962, but she remembers visits to her grandmother’s house and has fond memories of the village.
“My grandmother died when I was younger, but they were all strong women, they helped keep their family together,” Hutchins said. “They were strong in their faith and they were determined.”
That strength is the reason the Museum is also featuring the women. Displayed are dresses, pictures, letters and other memorabilia from the village.
“The women were all educated, they were all interested in the world around them,” Stewart said. “They were strong in faith. They were not the stereotype of a rural farmer’s wife. These were women who went to Europe, they went to New York, they went to D.C. to shop. They were fashionable, they were very much part of the world around them.”
The generations they focused on included Martha McNeil Winston Summerville, Mary Wallace Winston, Lucy Lewis Long Winston, Elizabeth “Betty” Boddie Winston and Lucy Robb Winston Works.
Lucy Robb was a fascinating woman, an artist who worked with her husband’s ministry to alcoholics and a librarian at a theological seminary.
“It’s such an interesting story that these women come from this little area and they did amazing things,” Stewart said.
Lucy Robb kept the history of her family’s village alive, organizing a centennial celebration in 1988 and keeping all the records, documents and archival material that is being used in the exhibit.
Now, Winston sits quiet. The shop hasn’t operated for a couple of years though it is still taken care of. The chapel is still beautiful inside, but the outside needs some tender loving care. For Hutchins, the quiet setting still has real meaning. She is pleased the Museum is featuring the village of Winson.
“I think it’s thrilling,” Hutchins said. “I’m very grateful Lucy Robb and Betty Fuller donated the materials. It’s humbling and pretty cool that our little village is featured. Most people aren’t even aware of it and I’m sure there’s plenty of other villages that have a similar situation. It’s important to know about the history of the community. We’re very fortunate to have artifacts to share.”
40th anniversary of Museum
The Museum’s 40th Anniversary is a momentous occasion, as many towns the size of Culpeper have seen their museums and historical societies dry up.
For Stewart, who was once a museum curator in Loudoun County, it’s a testament of Culpeper’s dedication to its history that the Museum of Culpeper History is not only alive, but thriving.
“The last 20 years have been pretty rough for them because of the economy,” Stewart said. “I think a lot of them got started in the 1970s because of the Bicentennial, and I think a lot of that enthusiasm has waned. But they are so important because the big story is made up of the smaller stories. If you lose this, you lose all the context.”
The Museum’s collection is extensive. For everything that is on display, there are hundreds of items in storage.
This year, the exhibits not only feature Winston and the Women of Winston, but also the 100th anniversary of the United States getting involved in World War I.
Another exhibit is dedicated to the Culpeper Female Institute, which started in 1868. A desk that was used at the institute is on display, along with other student items.
The institute was started by Nathan Penick, who came to Culpeper with his wife Jan after they started a female institute in Roanoke.
The institution was housed in what is now known as Eppa Rixey’s house on East Street.
“Many of them were the precursors to women’s colleges,” Stewart said.
The Culpeper institute stayed in business till 1889.
These exhibits, and more, can be seen Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 11:30 to 5 p.m. Sundays at the Museum of Culpeper History located at the Culpeper Train Depot, 113 South Commerce Street, 540-829-1749