Historical Timeline


September 18, 1649

King Charles II grants 5.2 million acres to seven English nobles, among them Lord John Culpeper. Within that land grant is an area which will later become Culpeper County, Virginia.

August 21, 1670

The first recorded exploration by Europeans into present day Culpeper is led by John Lederer, a German physician commissioned by Governor William Berkeley.


May, 1714

A band of German immigrants establish the first European settlement near Culpeper, not far from the confluence of the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers. Their community comes to be known as Germanna.

May 18, 1749

An act of the Virginia General Assembly establishes Culpeper County, cut from Orange County.

July 20, 1749

George Washington, 17 years old, arrives in Culpeper to survey the new county, under orders by Lord Thomas Fairfax through the College of William & Mary. Washington describes this place as a “high and pleasant situation” in his journal.

February 22, 1759

An act of the General Assembly establishes the county seat, officially known as the town of “Fairfax”. It is more commonly called Culpeper Court House, which helped alleviate the confusion with the “other” Fairfax.

April, 1759

Daniel Boone establishes a residence near present-day Stevensburg. He later explores Kentucky and many other points west.


Court records first mention the patrols which scours Culpeper to halt all traveling blacks to demand proof of freedman status or a travel pass.

October 21, 1765

At Culpeper Court House, 16 of Culpeper’s 20 Justices sign a petition resigning their commissions in protest over the infamous Stamp Act.

July 17, 1775

Culpeper Minute Men first take up arms in defiance of Governor Lord John Dunmore’s seizure of the public powder magazine at Williamsburg, the Capitol of the Colony.

January 1, 1795

Benjamin Shackelford becomes the county’s first U.S. postmaster, presiding over a post office known as “Culpeper C.H.” Mail is notoriously slow as many items are mistakenly directed to Fairfax County.




Stevensburg Academy, under the direction of headmaster John Ogilvie, opens as the first state-chartered school in Culpeper.

May 16, 1827

James Caldwell of Warrenton publishes the first county newspaper, The Culpeper Gazette.


Culpeper voters approve public education funds for indigent children. Fifteen school commissioners are elected. Richard J. Tutt becomes the county’s first superintendent of schools.

March 10, 1832

The General Assembly licenses the state’s first gold-mining company, launching a minor gold rush in Culpeper which peaks in about 1849.


The General Assembly is petitioned for aid in stopping the flow of escaped slaves, citing that there are persons in Culpeper furnishing free papers stamped with genuine seals.

January, 1853

The Orange & Alexandria Railroad, working from the north, extends railway service to the Town of Culpeper.


Culpeper Minute Men re-organize as a local militia.

April 17, 1861

Responding to Virginia’s vote to secede from the Union, two companies of infantry form in Culpeper, including Co. B., 13th Infantry. A company of cavalry, known as “The Little Fork Rangers” had already formed in the summer of 1860. Camp Henry is the town’s headquarters and main training center; today this is known as Yowell Meadow Park.

May 4, 1862

The Town of Culpeper is occupied by Union troops for the first time.

August 9, 1862

Confederate troops under General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson repel Union troops led by General John Pope in the Battle of Cedar Mountain. Thousands fall. Clara Barton administers to the wounded and sick for the first time on a battlefield. She cares for both Union and Confederate troops while in Culpeper.

March 17, 1863

“Gallant” John Pelham, an artillery officer for J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry, is killed in action at Kelly’s Ford.

June 9, 1863

Union and Confederate troops clash at the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest engagement of cavalry troops in North America.

Sept.13, 1863

The Battle of Culpeper Court House takes place on a Sunday morning. The Union army routes the Confederate hold on the train depot. General George Custer is a significant player in this battle.

Nov. 1863 – May 4. 1864

Winter occupation by the Union army now in Culpeper. This massive encampment is considered to be the largest occupation by either army of the entire war. Under Gen. Grant’s command, the Union army leaves Culpeper in May with 120,000 troops to begin the Overland Campaign.


April 1865

The war officially ends when General Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant near Appomattox, VA.

December 21, 1865

A request for a patrol to scour Culpeper and disarm newly-freed blacks is squelched by Federal authorities. The patrols are never heard of again.

September 20, 1866

James R. Nichols receives permission to open the first school for blacks in Culpeper County.

December 15, 1870

A new charter finally gives the county seat a single, undisputed name: Culpeper.  The town is also permitted to elect a mayor and council.

Autumn, 1871

Virginia establishes modern public education. 1,245 Culpeper children attend 29 one-room schoolhouses and one “graded school”. First year’s budget amounts to $3,927.  At this time about one-third of the county is illiterate.

March 8, 1888

A fire in downtown Culpeper destroys three wood frame buildings. Shortly thereafter, the town organizes a 34-man fire department, headed by Dr. L.L. Lankford.

April 17, 1888

Town Council enacts a building code for Main and Davis Streets, requiring brick or stone exterior walls, metal or slate roofs, and fire-resistant chimneys – in response to the fire in March.


The first private telephone line is strung 12 miles: from Jackson L. Fray’s downtown store in Culpeper to Larkin Willis’ store in Locust Dale, Madison County.

August 19, 1896

The first public utility, a water system, operates in the Town of Culpeper.



The first public sewer system is installed in town, but the $500 hookup fee limits initial customers. The first telephone switchboard is installed this year.

March, 1902

A new state poll tax, and segregation of black passengers in railroad cars, brings the Jim Crow era to Culpeper.


The Culpeper Light and Ice Company begins operation. Downtown streets are lit by electricity. The “iceman” starts delivering to homes.

Autumn 1905

Culpeper Graded School adds four more grades and becomes the county’s first public high school. Enrollment is 283.

July 1913

The town’s first full-time theater, R. Tredway’s Eclipse, opens below his billiard and bowling alley on Davis Street. It feature stage plays as well as silent movies accompanied by a piano.

Summer, 1916

The re-formed Culpeper Minute Men, now a National Guard infantry company, are called to the Mexican border to help track Pancho Villa. They never catch up to the famed Mexican leader, and return home from Brownsville, TX via train.


The Culpeper Minute Men are absorbed into the 116th Infantry of the 29th Division  (Army) and are sent to France as part of the American forces during WWI.


The first public library opens in Culpeper.


The first public high school for black students opens.


The Rochester Corporation, one of the oldest corporations still operating in Culpeper, begins manufacturing wire rope here.


A consolidated high school opens for white county students. George Washington Carver High School opens for blacks.


The Virginia Baptist Home is established in Culpeper.


Culpeper installs the first fluorescent lights south of the Mason-Dixon line.


Culpeper Memorial Hospital opens.


Culpeper County Library opens on the corner of Main and Mason Streets. Years later (1998) the library moves to larger quarters and the Museum of Culpeper History takes over this building after a major restoration and state of the art exhibits are installed.


The first modern shopping center opens at the town’s north end.

January 1, 1968

The Town of Culpeper annexes about 6 square miles, increasing its population from 2,400 to 5,700. Later in the year, the county airport opens.


U.S. Route 29 bypass allows through motorists to skip Downtown Culpeper to the detriment of many small businesses.


The Culpeper Cavalry Museum is incorporated and opens on W. Davis Street.


Culpeper resident Phillip Ward is one of 66 hostages released by Iran. Upon his return, he is honored with a parade.


 The opening of the industrial park at the county airport leads to a boom in the recruitment of businesses.


Bill Clinton attends church in Culpeper on his way to his inauguration in Washington.


The Culpeper County Library moves to an expanded facility at Southgate Shopping Center, adding computers and internet access.

May 17, 1999

Culpeper residents celebrate the county’s 250th anniversary.

21st Century


The Museum opens at its new location on Main Street after renovating the c1960s library. It now trades as “The Museum of Culpeper History” because its mission has become inclusive of themes other than the Civil War.


The Town of Culpeper celebrates its 250th anniversary.


Culpeper is among the hundreds of Virginia communities to honor its involvement in the American Civil War. The Sesquicentennial Commission is created to plan commemorative activities across the Commonwealth.


The Museum of Culpeper History opens in the historic train depot as its forth location since 1977: larger and more inclusive with a wide variety of themes.

Share This