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Warren County named after the greatest martyr of the American Revolution



When Sondra and I moved to Warren County, I did not have a clue for whom the County was named. I asked dozens of folks if they could tell me; no one else knew either. So I did some research. It was named for, in my opinion, the greatest martyr of the American Revolution, Dr. Joseph Warren of Boston. So I began the job… maybe better, I went on a tare! I encouraged county leaders to elevate Joseph Warren’s memory to a place of honor in every citizens’ mind and heart.

Recently, a leaflet I wrote and produced that became a poster was placed in an exhibit in the Warren County Heritage Society Museum. The poster was my first PR piece which I put in front of leaders, boards… anybody who would listen. Things began to happen when folks learned who our county’s namesake was.

I am thrilled the County Supervisors approved that all County flags are lowered to half-mast on Dr. Warren’s birthday and remain lowered until his date of martyrdom, June 17. He died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Later this year, every county public school will have a specially designed historical plaque erected in it’s foyer. These have been funded by the Knight-Patty Fund through the encouragement of our local SAR chapter president. All civic buildings will erect plaques… the court house, hospital, library, and more.

There are 14 counties and cities throughout the United States named for this “Forgotten Founding Father.” Ours is one of these. Further, our Board of Education has directed that Joseph’s life story will be taught in history classes. I am so happy this young doctor and Major General, dead at age 34, is forgotten no more! Our thanks to you, Joseph, for your leadership and sacrifice to make US free. Abigail Adams said, “Our dear Joseph would have been our President!”

Pictured with me at the Museum is the chief archivist, Deborah Corey, wife of our SAR President, Dale Corey. She builds great educational exhibits and is instrumental in designing numbers of Revolutionary War exhibits at the museum, along with husband Dale! Thank you both, and thanks to the School Board and Board of Supervisors. Let us all cheer and give thanks for our Free America!

Larry Johnson
Front Royal, VA

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Historical Forgiveness



historically speaking

For me, Heaven will not be Heaven unless there is a history symposium at least once a week. For this week’s symposium they are going to have to set out extra chairs to handle the larger than normal crowds, for I am sure the special guest will be Dr. James I “Bud” Robertson. Dr. Robertson died November 2 at 89-years-old. Simply put, in my humble opinion, Dr. Robertson is the greatest Civil War scholar and teacher ever. Some of his teachings have fallen out of favor today, but I believe what he stood for and taught are as important today as they ever were. I did not plan on discussing the Civil War in this column, but with the passing of this giant in the historical world, I want to dedicate this week to him.

Dr. Robertson will be remembered in history for his academic accomplishments. He was a gifted and accomplished author who wrote more than 18 books. His greatest achievement is the biography of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, making him the leading authority on the general. He was asked by President John F. Kennedy to serve as executive director of the United States Civil War Centennial Commission. Dr. Robertson was in a difficult position of having to celebrate the War in the midst of the growing Civil Rights movement. He was at the forefront of the controversial position of having to bridge the gap between recognizing the positives in southern generals while understanding the controversy surrounding the Confederacy.

For me, and the thousands of students who were fortunate enough to take his classes, he will always be remembered as a gifted storyteller. It was my pleasure to serve as his graduate assistant for two years (2000-2002), where I learned from him every day. Part of my responsibilities was to attend all his classes. He had the ability of making history come alive. On more than one occasion I noticed students teary-eyed as they left the auditorium. Especially when he spoke of Jackson’s death, it was hard to find a dry eye in the room. Think about that, how many teachers can bring that kind of emotion. It was like he lost a friend. Students left inspired when he talked about patriotism and duty, grossed out when he talked about diseases and hospitals, and saddened when he spoke of sacrifice.

As a proud son of the South, he resented the current attitude of tearing down our history. He has been seen as a dying breed of historians that still believed Lee and Jackson deserved honor. As part of this column, I want to share his thoughts on the topic. Our last conversation was on this subject. I had been having internal struggles towards removing statues of southern generals. I do understand why some want them removed. The South did stand for slavery and oppression, but I cannot help also feel that it is wrong on some level. These were flawed men for sure, but having studied under men, like Bud Robertson, taught me there was also good. I want to share a part of his last email to me.

Do not apologize for your feelings. You are morally and historically correct.

One cannot look at the past through the lenses of the present. When war clouds gathered in 1860, the so-called United States was 70 years old—too young to have wisdom or experience. In 1860 the Lee family had been living in Virginia for 225 years. When Lee mentioned his “birthright” and “his country,” he was referring to Virginia. The so-called “political correctness” crowd does not have an understanding of this. Lee opposed slavery and considered secession to be revolution, yet he had a consuming sense of duty to come to his country’s defense.

Had Virginia remained in the Union, Lee would have fought just as hard for the Union as he did for Confederacy. One has only to read the story of Lee’s last five years, when he became the greatest spokesman for reconciliation America has ever had, to see the real greatness of the man.

History is the greatest teacher we will ever have, it is tragic that 75% of the American people cannot pass a basic history qualification exam. Winston Churchill’s words are so relevant: “When the present starts arguing with the past, we are going to lose the future.

My best to the family.

James Robertson”

In honor of Dr. Robertson, I want to make a suggestion. I propose we start a national dialogue of forgiveness. I am afraid that too many who speak on reconciliation are just trying to blame.  Figuring out who is to blame will never solve any of our issues with race or remembrance. Placing blame only fires up our passions, even if you know your side is in the wrong on some issues. Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is learning from our mistakes, remembering them, and changing for the better. With forgiveness, White Southerners can embrace the good parts of their heritage while they stand beside and ask forgiveness from Black Americans. If forgiveness is truly asked for and truly accepted, we can all learn from our past and be able to stand hand-in-hand in partnership towards the future.

We are becoming a divided nation, not quite to the level that caused the Civil War, but yet it is that very War that is causing us to remain divided. Maybe if we can find a way to stop attacking and start forgiving we can save this nation, fix what divides us, maybe fulfill the wish of the Civil War president who gave his life for the cause of unity: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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Mr. Manion is correct when it comes to the EDA and history in his Letter to the Editor



To the Editor:

If what Christopher Manion wrote in his Letter to the Editor regarding the importance of history in reference to the EDA is true, and I’ve no doubt that it is true, then he is spot-on when he writes that history is important.

As a published historian and historical researcher, I can’t over-emphasize the importance of knowing and understanding history when it comes to current events. If one disregards or fails to comprehend the events and the personalities of the past—provided these are seen through the context of the past rather than the context of the present day and time—people today will make the same or worse errors in the present or future, with either the same consequences or worse.

Case in point beyond the EDA debacle: in the 1800s in California, many law makers and those responsible for upholding and enforcing the laws failed to do so in ways designed to protect the citizens. The result was the inception of vigilantes, who took the laws into their own hands and meted out punishments and retribution for crimes both real and perceived. The result was an almost unbearable break-down of law and order which persisted for many years.

Fast-forward to Germany after 1933, when the new government there (under the Nazi party) not only broke laws but encouraged specific members of the German population to purposely violate the laws with no consequences; in fact, the laws were changed to sanction crimes which were understood to be serious crimes in other countries of the world, and also in Germany prior to 1933.

Fast-forward again to San Francisco; the city has just now put into office a district attorney who has not only never prosecuted a single case, but has also publicly proclaimed a laundry list of criminal offenses which will be allowed with no consequences or penalties as his method of reducing the prison populations. I suspect it will be only a matter of a short time before decent, law-abiding Californians either move out of San Francisco or begin to take the law into their own hands, much as they did in the 1800s, with the same results of a lawless and out-of-control society, because they know that the D.A. will not enforce the laws which govern the people as a whole.

Mr. Manion is correct when it comes to the EDA and history: those who don’t understand or forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them in the future. And to also quote Prof. Einstein on insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Well done, Mr. Manion. Well done.

Arthur Candenquist
Rappahannock County

21 years late, 21 million dollars short

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21 years late, 21 million dollars short



Does history matter? I think it does. And when it comes to the EDA, history can matter very much indeed.

Back in 1998, a local Warren County paper carried my letter criticizing new “secrecy provisions” that the county’s Economic Development Authority had recently adopted. “The EDA’s bunker mentality flies in the face of every tenet of open, honest, and responsible government,” I wrote. “It champions the image of wheeling-and-dealing, behind closed doors, using the public purse and authority to pursue unwritten and often private goals rife with unintended consequences. What are they trying to hide?”

A few days later I received a typewritten, unsigned letter: “Why don’t you mind your own business?” it read – period.

Then our driveway and mailbox were vandalized.

The sheriff’s deputy asked, “Do you have any enemies?”

“How much time do you have,” I laughed (I’ve been in politics for a long time).

Stephen Heavener, the EDA director at the time, sent me a four-page handwritten tirade. “I recommend that you educate yourself on the reality of competitive economic development,” he wrote. Well, I had taught graduate-level courses on the subject, but I was always willing to learn.

So I asked more questions.

What was Mr. Heavener’s bottom line? “Secrecy.” Where was the public oversight the taxpayers were demanding? “We welcome scrutiny,” he wrote. (Really? One provision of the EDA’s new policy went so far as to prohibit the disclosure of “any information not required to be disclosed by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.” Some “scrutiny”!)

Well, he had private meetings with individual supervisors, he told me.

But secrecy limits scrutiny, so I asked Mr. Heavener about the EDA’s understanding of ethics, as articulated perhaps in its employee handbook. “I have no idea about what you mention concerning ‘the ethical dimensions of the development process,’” he wrote. But he did mention ethics when I suggested that the EDA recruit businesses that might find northern Virginia to be too expensive and lacking in Warren County’s amenities. No way. Our EDA Director considered it “unethical” to recruit from a “nearby community.”

He called that “competitive.”

Fast forward twenty-one years. Mr. Heavener had “no idea” about ethics. Did Jennifer McDonald do any better? And if these two were clueless about the subject, where were our elected officials with fiduciary responsibility over the EDA for 21 years? Did they have “private meetings” with EDA’s directors? Did they ever inquire, publicly or privately, about the “ethical dimensions” of the EDA’s “secret” conduct of its business?

The question is timely. Consider the comments of Board of Supervisors Chairman Daniel Murray regarding the public outrage over the scandal that has made Warren County a national laughing-stock. According to a report by a local NBC affiliate, Murray criticized “the disgraceful behavior of the people in Warren County — false accusations, things that they don’t understand.”

“False accusations”? Well, Mr. Chairman, what accusations are true? And if we don’t “understand things,” do you – and your fellow board members – understand them?

Next: if the Board did “understand things,” why didn’t you take appropriate action instead of, yes, “stonewalling” citizens who demanded you do so?

And if the Board didn’t “understand things,” why didn’t you resign?

Chairman Murray and his colleagues can’t have it both ways. They can’t plead ignorance and still insist that they are competent and should stay in office.

Our Supervisors have proven their incompetence beyond a reasonable doubt. Not only that, the entire Board and its senior staff have signaled truly stunning arrogance in demanding that the taxpayers pay their legal bills, raising future taxes even higher.

What to do now? Clearly the secrecy precedent set by Mr. Heavener and continued by McDonald and the EDA board was accepted as policy by the current and former Supervisors. That policy has allowed what one new EDA board member now calls a “catastrophic failure.”

It’s time for a change. The EDA should be closed down. And whatever entity – if any – takes its place, our elected officials must make sure that it isn’t too secret, too complicated, too sophisticated, or too cumbersome to prevent our elected officials from “understanding things.”

And the Board of Supervisors?

The people of Warren County deserve a government they can trust. And today more than ever, we need one.

We don’t trust this one.

Christopher Manion
Warren County, Virginia

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Pending Front Royal Town Council vote on Crooked Run: Do words matter?



Timing is everything – it is the same with Tuesday night’s (Nov. 12) anticipated Front Royal Town Council vote on the proposed Crooked Run West development proposal.

This battle has been front page news for several months with no clear resolution by the Council. Indeed, every meeting seems to end up in “let’s push it to next meeting”. That pushing appears to have ended with the November 4th council work session majority consensus being achieved that we “are not interested” in providing water to a primarily residential development outside the town limits.

However, despite no legal or procedural necessity that a vote be taken, a consensus to proceed to a vote for the public record was agreed upon.

The comment to many of his council colleagues made by Mayor-elect Gene Tewalt that “you have not considered the Town water policy” on out of town North Corridor central utility extension; “or the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Warren County on utilities and annexation issues that must be addressed”; let alone the water-sewer utility study that Council has sanctioned that will produce a report in January 2020; or the fact the County hasn’t yet approved the rezoning to facilitate the residential development was well taken.

As one citizen recently said to council on these issues, “Why wait for real information when you can vote based on ignorance of any real facts?”

Front Royal’s then Interim Mayor, now Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick appeared to provide the initial impetus for approval of the Crooked Run West request with his “past Town anti-growth” comments and a concurrent effort to dramatically reduce water and sewer Tap Fees to developers. And the interim mayor appeared to have an initial three to four-person portion of council (Meza, Holloway, Gillespie and …) in agreement.

If we are to believe what a four to five-member portion of council said during last week’s working session, Tuesday night’s vote will be “NO”. At last week’s work session, initially Mr. Tederick, based on comments from members of the Council, pushed for the Town Manager to send Crooked Run West developers Tom Mercuro and Ed Murphy a notice that the Council was not interested in pursuing this effort – a direct reversal from his previous pushes for the effort.

Instead, the decision was suddenly reversed to “Let’s put this on the agenda for our next Town Council meeting for a vote.”

It will be interesting to see what takes place in front of the people of Front Royal who have consistently said NO to this build during meetings. Will the Town Council indeed vote per the words they spoke last week? This goes well with the comments made by Mr. Meza.

At a recent Town Council meeting Councilman Meza decried foul at the amount of criticism that the Council was receiving from the people of Front Royal. He is quoted as saying the “lack of trust and the disrespect is not earned.”

Well Mr. Meza, if this vote keeps in line with the Council’s words from last week’s work session then you and the council will have helped build the respect you demand.

Remember trust is earned. Note Mr. Meza, it was your comment at last week’s work session when you stated “do words really matter” in front of the citizens of Front Royal, which were very surprising in lieu of your recent comments on “we are not crooks.”

Well, that is easily answered with a resounding “YES, words do matter!

Note that Mr. Tederick will not have a vote as he is now the Interim Town Manager.

It is indeed interesting that Mr. Tederick will not have a vote on this issue as his knowledge of commercial and residential development appears to be above others on the council. Although his knowledge was somewhat lacking in truly understanding what needed to be done by the Council to move this proposal forward. If you visit the following website,, Mr. Tederick’s bio is rather amazing and shows him as President of a firm called 1839 Capital.

I will skip the front part of his bio as it is the same as in the Front Royal official website. Later in the description of Mr. Tederick, it states:

“After military service he owned a multi-office investment advisory firm which he sold after 20 years in operation. Utilizing his governmental, real estate, and investment knowledge, Mr. Tederick developed a thriving business solving complex problems for national residential and commercial construction entitles in several states. In many cases, Mr. Tederick led the entitlement team consisting of attorneys, engineers, and architects in order to accomplish client objectives. Mr. Tederick spearheaded over 35 projects ranging from single parcel to 1,500 acres, mixed use (residential, commercial, industrial, institutional) developments.”

It should also be noted the 1839 Capital (out of Alexandria, VA) did not file for their United States SEC filing until August 9th of 2019 right in the middle of Mr. Tederick’s service as Interim Mayor – somewhat strange timing. You should also note if you look at the complete request in the website (Section 4), the firm’s areas of expertise is in real estate development.

Like I said at the start, it’s all about timing!

Simon Mays
Front Royal, Virginia

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Public Virtue



historically speaking

The men who gathered in that blistering humid room in Philadelphia in 1787 to create our governing document did not represent a cross section of the American population. Unlike most Americans, they were wealthy lawyers and planters and most were extremely well-educated. Though they may not have all attended universities, they were well read in history and political philosophy. We know the major influences of men like Locke and Montesquieu upon our governing documents, but we know little today of James Harrington.

All of the founders were familiar with Harrington.  His writing was the inspiration for the original South Carolina government and in many ways also on the Constitution. If we want to try to understand the thinking behind the Constitution, and make better historical arguments, it is helpful to know what inspired the men who wrote it.

Writing during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, Harrington described the fictional utopian nation of Oceana. The Commonwealth of Oceana, like all utopian novels, was meant to shed light on the author’s own government and its shortcomings. Harrington criticized Cromwell, thinly veiled as Olphaus Megaletor in the tract, and served time in the Tower for his criticism. Harrington believed that all political power should be shared by men of property and that property should be distributed amongst the middle class, a concept shared later by Thomas Jefferson. Harrington believed that these property holders should vote for senators who serve limited terms so all could take turns in governing. Like most political philosophers of the time, Harrington saw these men as those who had a stake in society and so should hold the power. Power should also be held in a bicameral legislature, with a lesser and greater house making the laws.

The key to freedom for Harrington was that the property holding citizens had an obligation to serve in the militia. Under the Cromwell rule, the army had become a tool for tyranny. Not being property holders themselves, Cromwell’s solders did not have a stake in society and cared little for the rights of the people. They had become professional soldiers, whose only loyalty was to Cromwell.

If the property holding citizens were the militia, he believed, they would not drain the purse. More importantly, they would be the ones who ruled. If they attacked the system, they would only be attacking the system that placed them in power. In other words, a standing army can lead to tyranny, whereas an armed citizenry of stakeholders leads to democracy.

Another author every founder knew was Thomas Gordon who wrote under the name “Cato.” The original Cato was a Roman Senator who stood against Caesar and was a popular pen name for anyone representing republicanism. In his 1722 Cato Letter #65, Gordon wrote, “In attacks upon a free state, every man will fight to defend it, because every man has something to defend in it. He is in love with his condition, his ease, and property, and will venture his life rather than lose them; because with them he loses all the blessings of life. When these blessings are gone, it is madness to think that any man will spill his blood for him who took them away, and is doubtless his enemy, though he may call himself his prince. It is much more natural to wish his destruction, and help to procure it.”

Harrington understood there would always be those who tried to take advantage of the stakeholders, like Cromwell, who wanted to take power. The answer was for stakeholders to practice public virtue, the ability to look beyond themselves for the good of the state. As we see from Cato, virtuous citizens must be willing to lose their lives for the good of the state.

You can see the influence of Harrington and Gordon in the creation of the Bill of Rights. They both saw a standing army as a potential for tyranny, hence, the Second Amendment. I am not trying to make an argument for or against gun control here, only to show the influences on the founders and their points of view.

What can be drawn from understanding men like Harrington is the concept of virtue. There have been so many arguments as to why we are so divided today and why there are so many issues such as random violence. I have heard blame placed on a loss of God, a growth in white supremacy, the NRA, and violent video games. Maybe what we have really lost is public virtue. Maybe what we have lost is the willingness to give our lives for what we believe in and to put public virtue before ourselves. Historically speaking, Oceana may be a fictional nation, but maybe Harrington understood something. If we could ever bring back the notion of public virtue, maybe we could attack the causes of our divide instead of always having to fix the consequences.

Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.

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Sayre responds to previous ‘Letter to the Editor’ about his running for Supervisor



Letter to the Editor:

Hammack and Lundberg sound like Lee Berlik, Jennifer McDonald’s attorney, taunting me in court about my “tough questions”.  Then later Berlik and McDonald sued me for $600,000 for going around “town” wherein “Sayre proclaimed to anyone who would listen” spreading McDonald’s crimes. If that case had gone to trial, I sure wish Hammack and Lundberg were on the jury, because they don’t think that I have done a thing even when presented with evidence.

Respectfully yours,

Thomas Sayre
Candidate for Warren County Supervisor, Shenandoah District

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