A Baffling Name Change
Thea Marshall wonders why a town, established in the Northern Neck way back in 1692 as Richmond Courthouse, would change its name to Warsaw.
From Accident, Maryland, to Zikes, Louisiana, there are thousands of American towns with names that strike us as odd or funny, bizarre or obviously historic, and some, just plain fitting.
Here in the Northern Neck, we have many of each: Kilmarnock, named after a favorite town by a merchant from Scotland; Irvington for a sea captain; Reedville for Captain Elijah Reed, the captain of the first fish factory ship on the Neck, and then's there's Warsaw, a town whose name conjures up what?
Why would a town established all the way back in 1692, whose original name was Richmond Courthouse, a town that calls itself the "Heart of the Northern Neck," why would it change its name to Warsaw?
Well, there is a new book about this old town, "Images of America, Warsaw." It was put together by the recently retired Director of the Richmond County museum, Francine Barbour, and her colleagues, David Jett and Brenda Harhigh. They've gone through hundreds of donated photos for a museum exhibit, "A Town Called Warsaw."
Well, the book is a wonderful companion piece to the exhibit, and you can look at the photos, turn of the century through today, take as long as you like to read and re-read the well-written captions, and go back again and again, sitting in your armchair.
Now about the name change. It was in response to the 1831 November uprising in Poland against Russian rule, a kind of a mini-version of our American Revolution. Sadly, the Polish revolutionaries were defeated. In response to the Polish spirit of independence, the citizens of Richmond Courthouse petitioned the General Assembly to have the town's name changed to Warsaw.
Well, something else occurred in Warsaw, Virginia, that I think is even more impressive than a name change, and it had to do with that spirit of independence and a man with independence on his mind, independence for the Phillipines. The man was Congressman William Atkinson Jones; he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1891 to 1918, and he's credited with the passage of the Phillipine Independence Bill of 1916.
Ten years later, a memorial statue of Jones, a gift from the Phillipine people to the people of Virginia, was unveiled in Warsaw, Jones' home town, and yes, there's a photo of it in this charming book about Warsaw. What makes the statue particularly unique is that, well, elegant statues of the heroes, the heroes of our Northern Neck-born patriots, do not abound here. There are a few in one town or another but, well, we have no stately avenue of monuments like that impressive stretch of street in Richmond.
But in the Northern Neck, known as the "Pathway of Patriots," you'll have to do a bit of statue-sleuthing.
This is Thea Marshall.