In April 1819 John Wood began his survey of Virginia counties in preparation for the publication of a state map. He had secured the job through the recommendation of Thomas Jefferson. Wood had been the mathematics instructor of Jefferson’s grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, at the Academy of Louis H. Girardin in Richmond from 1809 to 1810.
Wood worked with a team of assistant surveyors and completed the surveys of roughly 10 counties every six months. On August 14, 1821, in a letter to the Virginia Executive Council, he reported that 80 counties had been completed. Included were large counties beyond the Blue Ridge where he noted his expenses were double that of his work for counties on the eastern side.
By February of 1822, Wood had completed 96 of Virginia’s 102 counties and noted that, “There now only remains six counties to be returned, which I shall do by the 1st of June, and I flatter myself that the General Map will be completed by the 1st of August.” Unfortunately, Wood died at his home in Richmond sometime during the spring at the age of 47. He left no will, and the cause of his death was not known. An inventory of his belongings included the expected surveying tools, but also a large library containing books in Greek, Latin, and French.
The surveys were completed by Herman Boye, an engineer and cartographer from Denmark. The finished state map was published under Boye’s supervision in 1827. The Philadelphia firm of Henry S. Tanner took a year to engrave it using copper plates, and the Virginia legislature had to appropriate $6,000 to pay for the printing of 12,000 copies. The map was well received, praised by the press, and a source of pride for the Virginia Governor, William B. Giles, who ordered a copy sent to Lafayette in France.
Among the county surveys completed by John Wood in 1821 was the map for Culpeper County. The map was a crosshatch of roads and runs, the landscape dotted with numerous mills. Only two of the roads were named: Fox Mountain Road, and Poe’s Road (in the area of future Rappahannock County). The mills included Norman’s Mill, Slaughter’s Mill, Wither’s Mill, and Hashbarger’s Mill. Some of the taverns noted were Herring’s Tavern, Colvin’s Tavern, Smith’s Tavern, and Ralls Tavern.
Towns, or villages, located on the map included Fairfax, Amissville, Waterford, Jefferson, Springfield, Stevensburg, Georgetown, Sperryville, Woodville, and Washington.
The map showed the locations of some of Culpeper’s earliest Baptist Church buildings: Mt. Poney Meeting House, Cedar Run Meeting House, and Salem Meeting House. The earliest Methodist Church was indicated on Potato Run and known by the grand name of “The Tabernacle.” East of Stevensburg, the old “Fork Church” of the Church of England still stood. And below it was the most intriguing item on the map, a notation of “Old Rope Wks” near the present vicinity of Lignum.
Julie Bushong is the historian at the Culpeper County Library.