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Historic Fence Along Rt. 301 At Courthouse Park
Hanover is most famous for its Civil War history and Patrick Henry, but it also has ties to George Washington and the Colonial victory over the British at Yorktown in 1781. A reminder of that history can be seen alongside the boundary of Courthouse Park on U.S. Rt. 301 just south of Hanover Courthouse.
This summer, the Central Virginia Historic Preservation Foundation gifted to Hanover a 1,000-foot Virginia ‘snake fence’. This type of self-supporting wooden fence was so common in Virginia in the 18th and 19th centuries that it was commonly known as a “Virginia fence.”
According to the Central Virginia Historic Preservation Foundation, fences of this type lined roads in this area between 1720 and 1940. Some lasted on the Skyline Drive until the 1960’s before being replaced by more modern fences
This area of road in Hanover used to be identified as the “Washington-Rochambeau Trail” after our first president and French general Rochambeau, who helped Washington defeat the British at Yorktown. They were thought to have passed along this road on their way to Yorktown.
Historians now believe that Washington did use the road, but after the victory, not before. On Nov. 5, 1781, Washington traveled from Williamsburg to Eltham Plantation in New Kent County, where his step-son lay gravely ill with camp fever. After his step-son’s death, Washington and his wife Martha and his daughter-in-law rode up River Road to Hanover Tavern, where all spent the night of Nov. 11.
The original River Road passed through what is now Courthouse Park. It was traveled by French infantry regiments, some of whom camped where the park now lies. The alignment of River Road was changed when the Virginia Department of Transportation built U.S. Rt. 301 in the 1940’s.
The “Virginia fence” cost about $12,600 and was paid for by the Foundation with a matching grant from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. It consists of about 900 hand-split locust rails each 11 feet long. They are held up by 302 supports that are tied together with copper wire. They were designed so farmers could move them to change the dimensions of a field without digging new holes for posts.
Also new to Courthouse Park this year is an exhibit underneath the gazebo in the field west of the concession stand. Interpretive signage in the gazebo tells of the area’s connection to the Revolutionary War history and the Father of Our Country.