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August 31, 2017

Remington house update uncovers historic artifacts

The Town of Remington was nothing but one giant Civil War camp, so we knew there had to be something in the yard,” Mr. Willingham said. “As we’re picking through layers from today all the way to 160 years, we’re finding all sorts of stuff.
— David Willingham
Remington Project
• Where: 108 W. Main St.

• What: 2,100 square foot house on 3 acres.

• Built: Circa 1850, according to National Register of Historic Places.

• Co-owners: Jim Cheatham of Bealeton and David Willingham of Remington.

• Renovation costs: Approximately $95,000.

• Anticipated sale price: Around $300,000.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Three local history buffs recently made fascinating discoveries — one of them rare — in Remington.

As they started renovating a historic house at 108 W. Main St., co-owners David Willingham and Jim Cheatham and contractor Rick Wolfrey kept finding Civil War-era artifacts — a shoe heel in the wall and a piece of brittle newspaper dated 1853.

When Mr. Cheatham, 69, and Mr. Willingham, 40, purchased the house in February, they quickly discovered it held a treasure trove of history.

One of the oldest buildings in Remington, its original portion dates to about 1850, according to the National Register of Historic Places.

But, Mr. Willingham believes part of the house could be 50 years older because of the style of nails he found in the wooden walls. Based on construction materials, all three men think the owners may have built two additions in the late 19th century.

When they started tearing away plaster, the team found hand-sawn lumber, layers of old wallpaper and, more recently, a bullet lodged in a wall near the stone fireplace.

They also discovered a closed attic space that might have served as a sleeping loft.

Mr. Willingham and Mr. Wolfrey, both metal detecting enthusiasts, found even more historic items buried outside — bullets, part of a boot pistol, a grape shot artillery shell and a 1941 Remington High School class ring.

“The Town of Remington was nothing but one giant Civil War camp, so we knew there had to be something in the yard,” Mr. Willingham said. “As we’re picking through layers from today all the way to 160 years, we’re finding all sorts of stuff.”

They also found what appear to be two chess pieces, a few clay marbles and a shoe buckle that might date to colonial times.

Mr. Wolfrey, 53, found the most exciting artifact in May while metal detecting.

Buried among soda can pull-tabs in the side yard, he dug up a Civil War dog tag engraved with two names and the year 1861.

“I though it was a big penny,” said Mr. Wolfrey, who found the brass piece in about 8 inches of dirt next to a shrub.

“They’re kind of rare to find, because dog tags, as we know them, didn’t exist in the Civil War,” he said. “They were private purchase. It was like buying a piece of jewelry.”

The dog tag includes the image of an eagle and the name of a regiment, the 76th New York State Volunteers.

Although Mr. Wolfrey doesn’t know how much the piece might be worth, he thinks it’s rare to find a Civil War dog tag with two names.

So far he has discovered that both the men survived the war. After more research about their relationship, he plans to write an article for the North South Trader’s Civil War magazine.

“I don’t do this for the money,” said Mr. Wolfrey, a Culpeper County resident who has been metal detecting for about 30 years. “It’s the rush of finding it and the research — trying to piece together what happened.”

Both experienced historic renovators, Mr. Willingham and Mr. Cheatham expect to complete the house this fall.

Mr. Willingham, of Remington, owns a general contracting business, Wilderness Homes.

Mr. Cheatham of Bealeton owns Remington Professional Buildings LLC and has renovated several other buildings in those communities.

“We’re trying to keep the history alive in the house as it was previously, but we are also going to make it a smart house with Nest thermostats and controllable lighting through your cell phones,” Mr. Cheatham said.

“To me, it’s about preserving where we came from. If it’s lost, then it’s gone,” Mr. Willingham said. “We try to save every little stitch we can. When you get into a house like this, it’s got so much character.”

After renovation, they hope to sell the three-bedroom, 2-1/2-bath house for about $300,000.

But, they’ll keep most of the historic artifacts.

“Some of them we will keep for our private collections,” Mr. Willingham said. “Some of the stuff, we’re going to put in a shadow box and whoever purchases the house will get it.”
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