Historical Society

Keepers of the Knowledge

The Stafford County Historical Society maintains a program of recognizing its members who have widely contributed to the development, identification and preservation of data, sites and events of strong historical significance.

The Keepers of the Knowledge Program recognizes individuals “whose dedication, special witness, and enduring contributions are a vital link in recording and understanding our local, regional and national history. As conceived by Stephen A. Gambaro and based on American Indian traditions, the program has honored community members who seek knowledge and preserve our common history by passing it on to successive generations. Keepers continue to serve as consultants and advisers to the Stafford County Historical Society and its education and preservation activities. Each Keeper is recognized with a photographic portrait. The photographs, presently on display in the Stafford Hospital Center’s education wing, will ultimately be donated to the Stafford Museum and Cultural Center’s collection.

Here is a listing of our past & present Keepers of the Knowledge:

Albert Z. Conner, Jr. (Deceased)

Author of A History of Our Own: Stafford County, Virginia, Al Conner was a life member and four-time past president of the historical society. Before and after retiring from federal service as a U.S. Army officer and intelligence official, he devoted much of his time to researching and publishing books and articles, and lecturing on a large range of military historical topics and donated all of the proceeds to historical organizations and causes. He was honored for his Stafford historical efforts by the Virginia Society of Sons of the American Revolution. He served on the historical commission and served on the Moncure Conway Foundation board.

Jane Mild Hollenbeck Conner

Retired educator Jane Conner was the citizen most responsible for saving Government Island and was one of the leaders in saving Ferry Farm, George Washington’s boyhood home. Author of Birthstone of the White House and Capitol, Lincoln in Stafford, and Sinners, Saints and Soldiers in Civil War Stafford, she has donated all proceeds to the historical society’s museum fund. A life member and five-time past president of the historical society, she also lectures extensively, serves on the historical commission and museum committee and foundation board, and heads an educator committee which integrates Stafford history into Virginia’s Standards of Learning. A recipient of the National Conservation Award of the Daughters of the American Revolution, her congressional testimony was vital to national recognition of Government Island and her scholarship and activism to its establishment as a park.

William Deyo

William Deyo, genealogist and historian, has written numerous publications about the Patawomecks and his work continues in libraries and research facilities today including family oral histories.

Retha Walden Gambaro (Deceased)

A Native American and nationally renowned sculptor whose artistic works were all inspired by her heritage, Retha Gambaro enriched all aspects of the pursuit of Stafford’s history. She was a life member of the historical society and, together with her husband Steve, was instrumental in the efforts to establish a national museum of the American Indian. Retha was featured in art shows and events at the White House and Corcoran Gallery. She graciously allowed some of her sculptural works to be used to raise money for the historical society’s museum fund. Retha was an honorary life member of the American Indian Society and Patawomeck tribe.

Steve A. Gambaro (Deceased)

A retired government executive of the District of Columbia, Steve Gambaro has been integral to historic study and preservation in a wide variety of subjects related to Stafford’s history. But he is especially knowledgeable on a wide range of topics related to American Indian history here and throughout the nation. He is a life member and past president of the historical society, and is one of the historical society’s representatives on the museum committee and museum and cultural center foundation. He and his wife, Retha, were instrumental in the initial efforts to establish a national museum of the American Indian.

George L. Gordon (Deceased)

A life-long Staffordian and Stafford’s Commissioner of the Revenue for 57 years, George L. Gordon provided perspective and institutional memory on every aspect of Stafford’s history. He was especially noted for his detailed knowledge of Stafford’s people, places, farms, roads, churches, schools, and government during the past three-quarters of a century. His lectures on Stafford history were collected for use by researchers and, throughout his long life, he was always a patient source for inquirers.

H. Stewart Jones, PhD (Deceased)

A retired educator, member of the county’s historical commission, and a contributor to historical activities, Dr. Jones authored her dissertation on Stafford’s public education system from 1865-1965. She was a leader in the preservation and historical recognition of Hartwood Presbyterian Church and Hartwood. She also headed the Historical and Archeological Committee of Citizens to Serve Stafford, which published Foundation Stones of Stafford County, a collection of historical vignettes on Stafford history. She was a life member and a charter officer of the historical society.

Dorothy Sylestine Hamn Jackson

Dorothy Sylestine Hamn was born January 21, 1932 near the railroad depot at Brooke Station. She attended Stafford County Schools during the period of segregation and graduated from Walker-Grant High School in Fredericksburg. As a child, she stood outside Brooke Station to witness the train carrying the cortege of President F. D. Roosevelt. While she and her husband, Samuel Jackson, were raising five children in their Brooke home, Dorothy commuted to Washington to her career with the Defense Intelligence Agency at Bolling Air Force Base, retiring in 1995 with 34 years of Civil Service. Dorothy took a keen interest in Stafford’s rural history and observed the county’s transformation into an urbanized suburb of Washington, D.C. Soon to approach 90 years of age, this animated lady has shared her knowledge with the community, sowing seeds of good will throughout her remarkable life.

Mary Cary Kendall (Deceased)

Descended from Stafford’s earliest settlers, Mary Cary Kendall of “Richland” was a retired educator and represented Widewater on the county’s historical commission. She was an expert on Widewater and Stafford history and served on a committee of retired teachers developing Stafford history materials to enhance Standards of Learning instruction. She was a life member of the historical society and assumed personal responsibility for preservation of one of Stafford’s most historic homes. Mary Cary was both an invaluable resource on a wide variety of Stafford historical subjects and a reminder of the best of the county’s genteel society.

Barbara S. Kirby (Deceased)

A long-serving member of the county’s planning commission and architectural review board, Barbara Kirby served on the county historical commission, and championed historical preservation. She was a “living resource” on historic county records and general history. She was one of three Stafford County Historical Society representatives on the county’s museum committee and foundation board. She was a life member of the historical society and also served on the Moncure Conway Foundation board.

Alaric R. MacGregor

A life member and two-time past president of the historical society, and a 34-year veteran of the Virginia transportation department, Rick MacGregor is a descendant of several early families here. He has devoted enormous time and energy to the meticulous reconstruction and preservation of “Concord,” one of Stafford’s earliest standing homes. He is also an indispensable resource on Aquia Creek, one of America’s earliest historical places and an integral part of all of Stafford’s history. He is the current society president.

Jerrilynn Eby MacGregor

Author of They Called Stafford Home and two other works featuring Stafford’s iron industry and the county’s elected officials, Jerrilynn Eby MacGregor is a relentless researcher on all aspects of Stafford’s rich history. Her career as an educational librarian has particularly suited her for discovering, gleaning, and sharing an enormous array of historical documents and facts. A life-long Staffordian, she is a secretary of the historical society, and a frequent lecturer on various historical topics to numerous regional historical organizations.

Homer D. Musselman (Deceased)

A life member of the historical society and a volunteer with the National Park Service, Homer D. Musselman authored Stafford County in the Civil War and two histories of Virginia Civil War units with Stafford ties. He also published the most complete accounting of Stafford military veterans and their burial places – vital resources to the historical society, county cemetery committee and genealogical researchers. He lectured on Stafford’s Civil War history at all of the regional venues.

D.P. Newton (Deceased)

D.P. Newton was a life-long resident of White Oak and, on his own initiative, established the White Oak Civil War Museum and Stafford Research Center. The museum and D. P. were recognized by the Virginia Historical Society (Lora Robins Award) for their unique focus and contributions to understanding the lives of the common soldiers of both armies during the Civil War. A co-founder and president of the Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites, he was an indispensable resource on all aspects of Civil War research and on Stafford’s role and participation in the war. He hosted numerous educational meetings of the historical society and Stafford schools as well as living history events at his facility.

Marion Brooks Robinson (Deceased)

A retired educator and, other than during her professional career, a lifetime county resident, Marion Brooks Robinson was an expert on the history of the Falmouth area, Stafford’s colonial history, Native Americans and Pocahontas. A prominent lecturer, she provided outstanding information and assistance to the Stafford County Historical Society on a large array of projects and served on a committee of retired teachers developing Stafford history materials to enhance Standards of Learning instruction. She was a member of the historical society.

Frank White, Jr.

With the exception of his U.S. Air Force career, Frank White Jr. has been a life-long resident of Stafford and White Oak. Inspired by his late father, Frank White Sr., he is an indispensable resource to this community on all aspects and the full duration of African-American history here. He also is member of the historical society and serves on the Moncure Conway Foundation board. He is one of two Staffordians to have reconnected the county with the Conway Colony, descendants of freed Stafford slaves in Ohio.

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