Jewish is not how most would describe the cultural landscape of the Middle Peninsula. However, in the late nineteenth century, “Jewish” would have been an appropriate characterization of Middlesex County. Located in what is now the community of Water View, Inglewood was purchased by Joseph Friedenwald—a member of a prominent Jewish family in Baltimore—to become a Jewish agricultural colony. Formerly the home of Robert Latane Montague and his son Andrew Jackson Montague (the 4th Lieutenant Governor and the 44th Governor of Virginia respectively), Inglewood was situated along the Rappahannock River between what is now State Route 640 (Waterview Road), and Weeks Road.1 Ten to twelve families of recent Russian immigrants began living there in October of 1882.
For the next thirteen months, members of the Waterview Colony farmed between five and eight hundred acres belonging to Mr. Friedenwald, and the newspaper The Baltimore Sun published regular updates on their status. P.T. Woodward, Dr. William Kemp Gatewood, Rev. J.W. Ryland, Rev. W.A. Street, Robert H. McCann, and A.B. Evans are documented as assisting the colonists, and it is likely that other Middlesex locals did as well.2 While it is still unclear why the Waterview Colony was unsuccessful at cultivating the land, the colonization of Middlesex County was deemed a failure by the Baltimore Jews providing funding, and the colony was officially abandoned by the end of 1883.3 Most of the individuals who lived in the Waterview Colony returned to Baltimore, but it is unknown if they stayed there.
I am researching this endeavor by the Baltimore Jewish community to create an agricultural community of Russian Jews in Water View, Virginia as part of my undergraduate thesis. I believe it was a response to the increased number of Jews emigrating from Russia in 1882. I want to find out who the colonists were and learn why the colony failed, as well as discover how the landscape of Water View has changed since then, so that I can help others understand something about Jewish immigration to the United States prior to the Immigration Act of 1924 (which restricted immigration based on nationality through quotas)4 and highlight an unexpected piece of Middlesex County history.
Naomi Alberts is a Junior in the Double-Degree program between Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary and is spending the summer of 2022 working with the Fairfield Foundation and the Middlesex County Museum.
Notes and Select Bibliography:
1. Middlesex County, Virginia, Deed Book 30:185.
2. “Refugees in Virginia.” The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore, MD. April 9, 1883.
3. Larry Chowning, Signatures in Time: A Living History of Middlesex County, Virginia. Middlesex County, Virginia, 2012.
4. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “United States Immigration and Refugee Law, 1921-1980.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/united-states-immigration-and-refugee-law-1921-1980. Accessed on July 08, 2022.
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