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December 2, 2019

“Derogatory” Fauquier stream gets new name

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Chris and Amanda Baity successfully petitioned a federal agency to change the name of the creek that runs through their 33 acres in Southern Fauquier.
The small creek, a tributary of Town Run, flows for about three miles in southeastern Fauquier, near Quantico Marine Base.
I didn’t want to develop a property that was going to be the headquarters for our nonprofit that had a derogatory name associated with it.
— Semper K9 Assistance Dogs Operations Director Amanda Baity
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Woodbridge couple liked everything about the 33-acre wooded parcel southeast of Catlett — except for the name of the stream that cuts through it.

“I didn’t want to develop a property that was going to be the headquarters for our nonprofit that had a derogatory name associated with it,” explained Amanda Baity, operations director of Semper K9 Assistance Dogs.

A long stretch of the approximately three-mile-long Negro Run — a tributary of Town Run — flows through their property, Mrs. Baity said.

Headed by her husband Chris, a Marine veteran, Semper K9 takes mostly rescue canines and trains them as service dogs for disabled military members at no cost to the veterans.

During his 8-1/2 years in the Marines, Mr. Baity served as a “military working dog handler.” As of last week, Semper K9 had about 18 dogs in training.

The Baitys bought the nonprofit’s training site along Brent Town Road in August 2017.

They acquired the undeveloped lot and committed to change Negro Run’s name as quickly as possible. That fall, the couple applied to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to do just that.

“It was one of the first things I did after we purchased the property,” Mrs. Baity said.

Two years later, the USBGN board approved the couple’s request to rename the stream Courage Creek.

“There were a lot of layers, a lot of back and forth,” Mrs. Baity said of the review process.

Picking a name that would pass muster with the board proved more involved than the Baitys had anticipated.

“It was one of the challenges I was having, because (the USBGN) prefers that you pick something that ties it to the original name,” Mrs. Baity said. “I told them that I didn’t know of anything that would make sense that would tie back to the original name, because the original (N-word) was even more offensive than the current name.”

Mrs. Baity had hoped her research would reveal some African-American connection with the stream that could be incorporated into a new name.

But, “I couldn’t really find anything definitive,” she said. “The Virginia State Library has said that they were able to find things. And, of course, they have access to much more records than I do.”

In the end, the Baitys came up with several potential names, including Courage Creek, which:

• Acknowledges “enslaved” blacks who might have lived near the stream.

• Includes one of the Marines Corps’ three key values — “honor, courage and commitment.”

• Refers to the disabled service men and women whom the nonprofit helps.

“If enslaved individuals had inhabited the area or were in the area, their courage to make it through such harsh conditions should be recognized,” Mrs. Baity said. “Our organization is about enhancing the quality of life.

“We work with veterans of all races and all special orientations — from such diverse backgrounds of culture, religions, races, sexual orientation — and we are not about offending anyone.”

The couple asked a Facebook group of about 150 Semper K9 volunteers to vote for one of several possible names.

Overwhelmingly, they chose Courage Creek, Mrs. Baity said.

During its Aug. 7 meeting, the USBGN board discussed the proposed change and Negro Run’s history.

The meeting’s minutes state that 1943 United States Geological Survey and 1944 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ maps label the stream with the “N”-word. In 1953, a USGS map showed it as Negro Run.

Although the stream’s name origin remains undetermined, the Virginia Board on Geographic Names believes “it is very possible that it was named by French Huguenot settlers,” according to the meeting’s minutes. “And it should be noted that there were planters, members of the middle class, free African-Americans and slaves living in the Negro Run vicinity in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

“(We) think a name more meaningful (than Courage Creek) to the locality and to Fauquier County’s history is needed.”

The VABGN asked the Fauquier board of supervisors “for its opinion but received no response,” the minutes state. The state board’s staff concluded that meant the county had “no objection” to the proposed change.

The staff also contacted the Fauquier County Historical Society, the Fauquier Heritage and Preservation Foundation Inc. and the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County about the proposed name change.

“The county historical society responded that although they understood that the name is offensive to many people, they do not support the proposed change, citing the name’s use for almost 300 years and the loss of proper context and knowledge of this historical name if the name were to be changed,” according to the meeting minutes.

At its Sept. 12 meeting, the USBGN voted, 15-1, to approve renaming the stream Courage Creek. One board member abstained.

The board member who opposed the change cited the VABGN recommendation and “concerns that a name that better reflected local African-American history could have been proposed.”

The VABGN “probably did” contact the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, President Karen Hughes White said.

“We often get things from different places wanting comment,” Ms. White said. “And we don’t routinely do a lot of that simply because we don’t have adequate staffing to meet the needs of different queries such as that.”

What does she think of the stream’s name change to Courage Creek?

“I think any time you can remove negative imagery, then that’s good thing.”

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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Shannonhill · December 5, 2019 at 6:05 am
The post is exciting. The content explores the Derogatory Fauquier stream gets a new name. It says that The Woodbridge couple loved everything about the 33-acre wooded parcel southeast of Catlett barring the name of the stream that cuts through it. The content also mentions that Chris and Amanda Baity successfully petitioned a federal agency to adjust the name of the stream that runs through their 33 acres in Southern Fauquier.

Thanks,

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Marcia Marsh · December 2, 2019 at 7:26 pm
Courage is a wonderful name
Mark House · December 2, 2019 at 1:35 pm
Good on them. Just because something has been a certain way for a long time doesn't make it right or to be continued when it portrays a negative image.
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