Honest Abe never strolled the quaint streets with charming shops, visited the bi-annual craft fair, or ate at the great seafood restaurants that characterize present day Occoquan. No doubt he appreciated its good citizens though as the fifty-five votes from Prince William County cast for Abe Lincoln in 1860 all came from Occoquan. This small town on the Occoquan River lived up to its abolitionist reputation on July 4, 1860 by constructing a Liberty Pole waiving Abe’s campaign banner and planting it on the lawn of the Rockledge Mansion.
Some folks weren’t too pleased with the Liberty Pole. As reported by the New York Times, the Prince William Militia rode into town on July 27, 1860 and chopped it down. American justice took another sock in the eye when two town citizens were arrested for their anti-slavery views.
Rich in Civil War history, North and South tussled over Occoquan. Ultimately the North prevailed and by June of 1863 the 13th Vermont were assisting slaves crossing the Occoquan River to freedom. The 300′ pontoon bridge straddling the Occoquan enabled the North to move essential supplies supporting a conflict near a sleepy town in Pennsylvania. Gettysburg.
Today, beautiful new houses with private boat slips grace the river. Boat owners can dock and stroll over for crab cakes, happy hour, or shopping. River Shore Charters provide boating opportunities for the rest of us.
Visit the Old Mill Museum to learn about the town’s history since 1608 and how the water power of the Occoquan Falls built the town. A few famous folk have trod here too. Light Horse Harry Lee, aka Colonel Henry Lee, served with distinction during the Revolutionary War. He once owned the mill and was well known in his day. A generation later though, his son became a famous general and cemented the family name in history.
~ Tina Morris, blogger and photographer