The Journey Through Hallowed Ground

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Culpeper Historic District

In 1859, African American members of Mount Pony Baptist Church established their own “African” church. Although common in cities such as Richmond, their action was unusual in a rural county before the Civil War. In 1867, after general emancipation and Virginia legislature repealed laws that required white ministers, the congregation reorganized as Antioch Baptist Church and called Harrison Blair to be its first pastor. Jack and Maria Madden with Lea Cole, a white woman, and Thomas Faulconer, a former Confederate lieutenant, in concert with the Freedmen’s Bureau, soon established a school. Church and school met in the vacated Confederate barracks until the congregation bought land on Locust Street in 1870 and built a sanctuary. In 1886, they built a new church at 202 West Street that still serves its congregation.

Fairview Cemetery, on Sperryville Pike one-half mile west of Main Street, has significant African American history. The Town Council passed segregation laws in 1903 that banned black people from burial there. The following year Antioch Baptist Church, Sunny Fountain Lodge of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, and Summers Tabernacle of the Grand United Order of Galilean Fisherman established their own cemetery on adjacent land. A fence separated the black cemetery from the white one. They merged in 1970.


Dangerfield Newby (1820-1859)

Dangerfield Newby was the eldest of eleven children who grew up in racially complex world. His father Henry Newby was white and his mother Elsey technically belonged to her husband’s friend in Fauquier County, but the couple lived together as husband and wife in Culpeper. She and some of their children became free when most of the family moved to Ohio in 1858. Dangerfield, then age thirty-eight, had married an enslaved woman named Harriet and with her had seven children. He desperately wanted them to join him in freedom. Dangerfield accompanied his parents to Bridgeport, Ohio, where he earned and raised money to purchase his wife. Harriet then lived at Brentsville in Prince William County, Virginia, in the household of her owner, Dr. Louis Jennings. He refused to sell to Newby. Harriet expressed her love and anguish in her letters to her husband.

Dangerfield Newby returned east and joined John Brown in the raid on Harpers Ferry. He was the first of the raiders to die. Three of Harriet Newby’s letters to her husband were found and published. Compatriot John Copeland wrote: “And in this commencement of the strugle for the freedom of the negro slave the first blood spilt was that of a Negro (one who had come to free his wife from the cruel hands of her master) Dangerfield Newby.” Harriet Newby, along with their children, were sold and taken to Louisiana.


  • Sherrie Carter. “Who We Are: A Story of Strong and Lasting Roots of Black Fauquier County Families.” Manuscript in possession of the author, 2004.
  • Phillip J. Schwarz. Migrants Against Slavery: Virginians and the Nation . Carter G. Woodson Institute Series in Black Studies. University of Virginia Press, 2001.

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