Sheep was the second most productive livestock after swine in Stafford County in 1860 (Stafford County in the Civil War by Homer D. Musselman, Lynchburg, VA: H.E. Howard Inc., 1995). Why don’t farmers still raise sheep in Stafford County or Hartwood?
John: Oh, yeah–well, during the time of the Civil War, the Yankees were camped near-well, all down around Falmouth and they would make raids out in surrounding country, stealing anything they could get their bands on. One time, they came here and rounded all the sheep up by the graveyard and knocked them on the head and each soldier carried a dead sheep away on his horse.Stafford County Oral History Project, Interview of JOHN FITZHUGH, by Eillen Chartters. April 12, 1986. https://www.librarypoint.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/60/2018/06/John_Fitzhugh.pdf
Eillen: Here–at this farm?
John: At this farm
Eillen: Well, I heard you mention earlier that at the time of the Civil War having sheep, but were there many people raising sheep?
John: Oh, yeah–everybody was raising them.
Eillen: Okay… now.
John: But don’t many people around here fool with sheep now, but there used to be a lot of sheep in the neighborhood, but dogs got to killing them so bad–
Eillen: Stray dogs?
John: And it’s even worse now with all these subdivisions and dogs running loose.
Agricultural Census Records on Sheep and Livestock in Stafford County
In 1850 there were 57,799 acres of improved farmland in Stafford County, mainly in wheat, rye, corn, oats, peas, beans, potatoes, barley, buckwheat, hay, and other crops. In 1850 1,136 horses, 1,600 cows, 629 oxen, and 2,526 other cattle were listed in the agricultural census. Following the Civil War, the amount of improved farmland decreased to 46,090 acres in 1870 and 45,963 in 1880. The amount of livestock listed in the 1870 Census also decreased to only 42 horses, 153 mules, 402 oxen, 1,408 cows and other livestock in Stafford County. A significant sum of money ($255,864) was spent on farm “productions, betterments and additions to livestock”, reportedly necessary to help farmers recover from the destruction of land and theft of livestock during the county’s Yankee occupation. The 1880 agricultural census records listed 1,586 horses, 198 mules and asses, 409 oxen, 1,799 cows and 2,191 cattle, 2,804 sheep, and 5,404 swine in Stafford County (See Historic Resources Survey, Stafford County, Virginia, Final Report by Traceries with Assistance From P Consulting Services and Preservation Technologies for Stafford County Planning Department and Virginia Department of Historic Resources, June 1992. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/pdf_files/SpecialCollections/ST-036_Historic_Resoiurces_Survey_Stafford_1992_TRACERIES_report.pdf),