Historic Prince William Co. freed slave community saved from development

A small historic community called Thoroughfare, established in Prince William County after the Civil War, will not be swept away by future development.

The Northern Virginia county has purchased a two-acre parcel of land along John Marshall Highway, near Haymarket, and has plans to convert it into a public interpretive park.

Freed slaves and mixed-raced families, including those of Native American descent from Fauquier, Culpeper, Rappahannock and Warren counties, lived in the farming village. Many of the original structures, including cemeteries and buildings like Oakrum Baptist Church, still stand today.

“This is an important step for the county to begin to preserve another piece of our past and celebrate the story of one of Virginia’s significant integrated communities,” Board of Supervisors chair Ann Wheeler said in a news release.

A grassroots community effort recently raised the public’s awareness of the community.

The Coalition to Save Historic Thoroughfare has been advocating for the preservation of privately-held properties since land disturbance activities began in the region last spring.

Frank Washington, organizer and spokesman for the coalition, was encouraged by the county’s recent efforts.

“We welcome these first steps by Prince William leadership to recognize, protect and honor the value of the diverse ancestral heritage and history of Thoroughfare, its historic lands, cemeteries and people,” Washington said.

The land purchase is part of a new historic communities program in Prince William County that aims to study, interpret and preserve culturally-significant local enclaves.

Kyle Cooper

Anchor and reporter Kyle Cooper, has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana, and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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