An apocalyptic disappointment in Spotsylvania–1889

From John Hennessy (we’ll be doing a real post tomorrow, but in the meantime, here’s something touching on a current theme):

Yesterday was not the first time the Apocalypse failed to arrive on time in the Fredericksburg region.  In October 1889, word went out over the national wires that an Adventist sect in near Screamersville, Spotsylvania County (a stop on the railroad linking Orange and Fredericksburg) had predicted that the world would come to an end on October 23, 1889, and if not “tonight, then certainly before the end of the month.” The Hartford Courant reported that the prediction had created “considerable excitement,” and that “a number of farmers have left their homes, turned their stock out on the commons and are living at the Adventist camp.  Others refuse to work and only go home at night.  Many farmers have not sowed their fall wheat on this account and say they will not put a single grain of seed in the ground, as the Lord will certainly come this year.”  The paper reported that about fifty Spotsylvanians were at the Adventist Camp, “waiting patiently and confidently for the end of the world.”

4 thoughts on “An apocalyptic disappointment in Spotsylvania–1889

  1. John–Do you happen to know how Screamersville got its name? I certainly cannot verify this, but I have been told that back in the day some of the local children would run on the tracks in front of the train as it slowly rolled by. This would so enrage the fireman that he would throw lumps of coal at them, screaming at them to get off the tracks. Turns out their parents encouraged this dangerous behavior. After the train passed by they would pick up the coal for their personal use.

    • Pat, I have heard several explanations for the name–including the rather standard story that the place had its origins from the train whistles screaming as they went through–but your explanation is way more interesting than that. Maybe one of our readers can enlighten us al. John H.

    • My name is Michael Newton. I live just down the road from where the old Chancellor Post Office was. My father, Sidney Newton, was a youngster when the rail-road track was still there. The story from him is that when the steam locomotive pasted thru, the noise from the train scared the kids and babies and they in turn, would scream and cry. That’s when the name came about, as the Screamersville Post Office. The store was still there when I was a kid. It was run by Lina McGhee and her huaband. I don’t remamber when the store closed and was torn down. The concrete block that was the floor of the back pourch is still there as well as the metal pole that held a sign. Charlie McGhee, Lina’s son, lives in the house that sits on the property where the store use to be. Right there on Chancellor Road.

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