Surry trail to highlight Black, indigenous Revolutionary War stories

Published 5:21 pm Monday, February 20, 2023

A committee of Surry County residents and employees tasked with commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Revolutionary War has proposed creating a cultural trail that would connect historic sites and highlight the stories of African American and indigenous county residents.

April 19, 2025, will mark the “semiquincentennial,” or 250th, anniversary of the war, which began on that date in 1775 with an exchange of gunfire between American colonists and British troops at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. A year later, the Second Continental Congress voted on July 2, 1776, to declare the 13 then-colonies free from British rule, though the written Declaration of Independence is dated July 4 and Independence Day is celebrated on the latter date. The war would culminate in Virginia with the surrender of British Gen. Charles Cornwallis after a 21-day siege of Yorktown in 1781, the last major land battle of the Revolution, and officially end Sept. 3, 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

The Surry Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in November establishing the local Virginia 250 committee. In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly established a state-level body known as the Virginia American Revolution 250 Commission.

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Pat Bernshausen, Surry County’s tourism coordinator, has been designated as the local committee’s liaison to the state-level commission.

According to the commission’s website,, its primary goal is to convene a statewide celebration inclusive of hundreds of representatives of the wide array of histories, sites, stories and communities that define Virginia.

“Virginia’s history is America’s story: complex, diverse, and promising,” the website states. “It’s a multicultural story that in the Revolutionary era was Native American, European, African and American, both Patriot and Loyalist. Focusing on Revolutionary events in 1775 and 1776, the Virginia Semiquincentennial will embrace this inclusive history that marked the origins of a revolutionary new nation.”

For example, on Surry’s page, it is noted that in the town of Claremont, there is a monument to the Quiyoughcohonack tribe, commemorating their meeting with English colonists before construction of the Jamestown fort was begun the following week.

Surry County held an open-house meeting Feb. 8 at the county’s rescue squad building on Colonial Trail. Bernshausen said the trail is still in the early stages of development and no decisions have been made yet as to which sites will be featured.

According to County Administrator Melissa Rollins, the trail is anticipated to launch in early 2024.