The Great Rock of Aquia: The Freestone Industry of Stafford County, Virginia and Beyond [paper]

The Great Rock of Aquia:
The Freestone Industry of Stafford County, Virginia and Beyond
Jerrilynn Eby and Alaric R. MacGregor III

For those on sailing vessels plying Aquia Creek centuries ago, the “Great Rock” referred to the massive freestone outcropping that loomed above the northeast side of the creek. For them, it was a landmark in their travels. For seven or eight generations of Stafford residents, the great rock, freestone, put food on their tables. For the nation, the great rock built one of the most beautiful and powerful capital cities on earth.

The focus of this volume is on Aquia freestone, sometimes also called Aquia stone. Massive deposits of this material are found throughout eastern Stafford, especially in the hills framing Aquia Creek. The word “Aquia” is a corruption of an Indian name noted by John Smith during his early seventeenth century visit here. Exactly how the Native Americans pronounced the word isn’t known. Whatever the now obscure pronunciation and translation, for some three hundred years “Aquia” has been synonymous with fine quality building stone.

The goals of this volume are to: document the scope of the freestone industry in Stafford County; present evidence, both positive and negative, about the suitability of Aquia stone as a building material; dispel some of the erroneous information that has been published about Aquia stone; explore the technical aspects of quarrying freestone, including tools, cutting methods, moving, and shipping of the stone; examine the use of labor in the quarries; record the locations of known freestone quarries, both private and commercial; record the names of people associated with the freestone industry in Stafford; and, list buildings/sites where freestone has been used, both in Stafford and elsewhere.

Quarry operations to provide stone for the new federal city began in 1792, and there is little debate that the period between 1792 and 1844 witnessed the greatest, nearly continuous, activity in Stafford’s quarries. Documented use of this material long pre-dates the construction of Washington; by the time that project was in the conceptual phase, the stone had been used for over a century, long enough to have established its reputation regionally.

A wealth of photographs and illustrations, and an index to full-names, places and subjects add to the value of this work.

2021, 8½x11, paper, index, 610 pp.

ISBN: 9781556137204