As readers have noted over the years, I enjoy trivia. What follows in this “item,” the term used by the late Gillam Lewis, who worked at the Rappahannock Record for over 60 years, in speaking of a column, is a compendium of some of the unusual pieces of information that abound about the Northern Neck. I offer them in no particular order.
The mouth of the Potomac River, from Smith Point, Va., to Point Lookout, Md., is the widest river estuary in the world. Some rivers such as the Nile and the Amazon are wider in emptying into the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, but their termini are deltas, and not estuaries, whereas the Potomac is unobstructed in emptying into Chesapeake Bay.
U.S. Route 360 which goes from Reedville to Danville is the only U.S. highway in the 48 contiguous states that does not cross a state line. The entire course of its 223 miles is in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Some maps designate it as an offshoot of U.S. 60, but it is a complete road in itself. From Heathsville to Burgess and Lilian to Reedville are the only remaining two-lane sections of the highway.
Tocky Lane, State Route 727, which connects Remo Road and Mila Road at Remo in Northumberland County, is the shortest numbered state road in the Commonwealth. I was serving on the Northumberland board of supervisors when the county adopted the road names. The board chose the name “Tocky Lane” in memory of Herman “Tocky” Smith, a local farmer who was beloved throughout the community. He lived on Mila Road, a stone’s throw away, but maintained a large vegetable garden along the lane and was generous in sharing the bounty of his production with the neighborhood.
On October 12, 1648, the Grand Assembly meeting in Jamestown declared all of the land between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, from the Chesapeake Bay up to a line drawn between the rivers’ headwaters to be Northumberland County. As the land constituted the northernmost part of Tidewater, it was named for Northumberland in England, the last shire before passing into Scotland. The totality of the Northumberland land mass soon was reduced by the establishment of Lancaster County in 1651 and Westmoreland County in1653. The only other Northumberland County in America is in Pennsylvania. Northumberland is the longest name of any American County, a distinction we share with the Keystone State.
For decades Reedville was the second largest port of registry on the Eastern United States coast, surpassed only by New York City, all due to the extensive Chesapeake fishing industry headquartered there. The population of Northumberland in the 1920 census was the highest it would be for another 70 years, and plans were in the works to build a railroad through the Northern Neck to terminate in Reedville.
In St. John’s Churchyard in Warsaw rests the tomb of Congressman William Atkinson Jones who represented the Northern Neck in the House of Representative from 1891 until his death in 1917. He was the great champion of independence for the Philippines, and the author of the Philippine Autonomy Act the year prior to his death. The Philippine people raised the funds to erect the elaborate monument atop his grave.
As a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1896, the young Congressman heard the ‘Cross of Gold” speech by William Jennings Bryan. His grandson, William Atkinson Jones III, an officer in the U.S. Air Force, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism during the Vietnam War. He died in 1969 and is buried near his grandfather in Warsaw.
Facts are fun, although some folks consider them to be tedious. Needless to say, I do not.