Fredericksburg Love Stories
Love stories reside everywhere. Maybe Fredericksburg is home to yours. You would definitely be in good company! These roads, buildings, and river have born witness to countless romances. Some might even be considered epic. In celebration of love and everyone it touches, here are a couple of those epic Fredericksburg love stories.
George Washington, Martha Washington, and Sally Cary Fairfax
General George Washington is a true American legend who spent part of his life in the Fredericksburg region. His life story is full of lore and heroism. Did you know his story also includes as softer tale of unrequited love?
Washington fell in love with Sally Cary Fairfax, a grande belle in Virginian society, while serving in the Forbes Campaign (French and Indian War). She, unfortunately, was the wife of his good friend George William Fairfax and mistress of Belvoir plantation. Adding to the complexity of this romance was the fact the Washington himself, 27, was betrothed to a widow named Martha Custis.
Washington was so taken with Sally that he wrote her a love letter (Sept. 12, 1758). A fairly risky move given their social status.
“Tis true, I profess myself a Votary to Love—I acknowledge that a Lady is in the Case—and further I confess, that this Lady is known to you.—Yes Madam, as well as she is to one, who is too sensible of her Charms to deny the Power, whose Influence he feels and must ever Submit to. I feel the force of her amiable beauties in the recollection of a thousand tender passages that I could wish to obliterate, till I am bid to revive them.”
George married Martha Custis within a year of sending the aforementioned letter. They went on to live full lives at Mount Vernon with Martha’s two young children, whom Washington raised as his own. Interestingly, Sally and her husband George William Fairfax were one of Mount Vernon's most frequent visitors. The two men had been good friends for many years. General Washington and Sally Cary Fairfax’s earlier flirtations must have simply been ignored. In 1773, Sally and her husband moved to England to attend family matters. Unfortunately for them, he was a loyalist. As you can imagine, they never returned to America following the Revolutionary War.
Washington’s love story does not end there, though. In time, George fell in love with Martha and she with him. Legend has it that she was so heartbroken by his death that she never slept in their bedroom again. Instead, she slept in a bedroom on the third floor of their home. In her grief, she destroyed all but three letters of correspondence from him. Some historians believe this act of passion was perhaps her way of trying to gain control of some aspect of her private life.
Two of the remaining letters were discovered beneath a desk drawer, after her death. In one of these letters, written during the Revolutionary War, June 23rd, 1775, General Washington says,
“I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time or distance can change, my best love to Jack & Nelly, & regard for the rest of the Family concludes me with the utmost truth & sincerity.
Though he did eventually fall in love with Martha, it seems George Washington loved Sally Cary Fairfax the rest of his life. A year before his death, Washington wrote her a letter in which he expressed his deepest feelings.
“None of which events, however, nor all of them together, have been able to eradicate from my mind the recollection of those happy moments, the happiest in my life, which I have enjoyed in your company.”
Gari and Corrine Melchers
Perhaps one of the most cherished and celebrated Fredericksburg love stories is that of Gari and Corinne Melchers. In 1902, they met on an ocean cruise in the middle of the Atlantic. They both happened to be traveling to Europe; Corinne accompanied by her mother and brother. Luckily for those of us who adore a good love story, Corinne kept a rather detailed diary. In it, she speaks of dancing the the Virginia Reel on the ship, and Gari showing up to be her partner, over and over again. She was thrilled by his attention and found him charming.
Corinne, an artist herself, knew of Gari’s work and had studied it in school. She particularly admired a painting of his called, The Skaters. During their voyage, he suggested that she and her mother take a class with a good friend of his, George Hitchcock, in North Holland. They agreed.
Naturally, Gari kept showing up to the class and seemed very interested in her work. In the fall, she settled in Paris on her own, to study. He followed her there and worked in his art studio. They were engaged by the end of year.
More than a hundred years later, the story of Gari and Corinne Melchers lives on in their home, Belmont. Be a part of this story. Come and explore this unique historic home, tour stunning studio and art galleries, visit the restored gardens, shop in our museum store, and explore our trails. Share it with someone you love!
The Renwick Bell
From 1792- 1828, Paul Revere’s bell-foundry cast out its Revere Bells. Currently, only 134 of them still exist. One sits nestled in the old Fredericksburg courthouse tower, overlooking the city. This 600 pound bell was given to Fredericksburg by Silas Wood, in 1828. It was his way of repaying the city for introducing him to the love of his life, a Fredericksburg native named Julie Ann Chew Brock. It is said that Silas felt compelled to gift the city with another “bell” since Julie Ann, a Southern belle, was leaving with him. It remains an epic symbol of their love hundreds of years later.
Written by, Brenda Sapanghila