Along Broad Run, the sounds of tom-toms rhythmically pulsing mingled with the white noise from Interstate 66, just a couple of hundred yards from Oakrum Baptist Church.
The simple stucco church was the cultural hub of the post-Civil War community known as Thoroughfare and is one of its last reminders.
Earlier this month, Victoria Price, with her long silver hair pulled back under a floppy hat, joined more than 75 other activists and Prince William County representatives to march from the church to another reminder, a nearby potter’s field where former Thoroughfare residents are buried.
Price was among many Thoroughfare descendants who were appalled that this simple plot of land that her family created was about to be bulldozed before the county bought it this month to prevent further desecration.
“Frank Fletcher was a local carpenter and family friend, and he built almost all the houses in Thoroughfare,” Price said, as the group readied for the 1-mile walk to the cemetery. “My mother’s grandfather, John Edward Peyton donated the potter’s field for anyone who cannot afford to be buried. So, I have ancestors in these plots: Native American; blended people; some who were freed slaves; some who were always free people.”
Victoria Price, whose great-grandfather built many of the homes in Thoroughfare, was among supporters who participated in the march.
On Dec. 7, the Board of County Supervisors approved a $300,000 agreement to buy 2 acres along John Marshall Highway, at the urging of The Coalition to Save Historic Thoroughfare. The group’s activism has also spurred a county initiative to conduct archeological surveys of the area and tell the story of historic Black settlements.
“A lot has been left out of the history books – an awful lot,” Price said. “So I’m here to honor the ancestors and thankful to the county Board of Supervisors who purchased back the land that would have been utterly destroyed.”
Andrea Bailey, Prince William County Potomac District supervisor, said it’s more than just county history for her: It’s about reclamation.
“My great-grandfather was a sharecropper. So I understand the importance of preserving the history. To see this come to fruition for the community that loves to live here is more than important. All of us need to understand this community,” Bailey said. “You never know where you’re going if you don’t preserve your history.”
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