The museum’s first exhibit, “Antebellum Resort to Civil War Town: Ashland Virginia from 1836 to 1865” takes visitors from Ashland’s beginnings as Slash Cottage railroad resort to its Civil War experience.  The exhibit includes a display of the Dawson family and the Civil War bullet they found in a fireplace while renovating an antebellum home on Railroad Avenue!

There are period maps showing Civil War railroads in Central Virginia, including the RF&P railroad that runs through Ashland.  There are wonderful written descriptions from Civil War cavalry soldiers who trained at Camp Ashland at the beginning of the war. There are also diary entries of a refugee who describes everyday life of civilians suffering through the turmoil. There is a detailed description of the Battle of Ashland and other Civil War skirmishes within the town limits.

In addition to Civil War history, the exhibit tells the story of a fledgling railroad company, the Richmond Fredericksburg and Potomac, that laid it’s first tracks to what is now Ashland in 1836. Later the company created a mineral water resort and a famous racecourse at the location.  There are photos of the resort and the train schedules for that time.  There are also contemporary descriptions of the town from an English traveller.

Betsy Hodges of Hodges Graphic Design, designer for this exhibit, also happens to be the great-granddaughter of Captain Charles Blakey, the long-time Ashland Accommodation Train conductor.  She grew up with stories about Dada and his train.  With Betsy’s design know-how and sensitivity to Ashland’s special history, and information from two local historians, Rosanne Shalf and Woody Tucker, this first exhibit has arrived at the Ashland Museum.