New Baltimore, as rural as it got back then, offered soldiers scant diversions. No restaurants, no dance halls, no movie theaters.
To break away from the dulling, daily routine at the 695-acre Army base on Route 215, a GI had to make his way to Warrenton, often on foot, for entertainment.
Or to Weston, an 18th-century home and working farm near Casanova, where two spinster sisters, Charlotte and Constance Nourse, welcomed a steady stream of Vint Hill military men, feeding, housing and putting them to work.
"Many a time I walked from Vint Hill over to here," said Dunne, an 84-year-old retired federal government worker who lives near Casanova. "They [the Nourse sisters] took me in and took care of me."
Taking back roads, the distance from Vint Hill to Weston measures about seven miles.
"It wasn't any big thing to walk around like that, because I didn't have anything better to do," said Dunne, smiling.
Dunne, Betsy Anderson, Melvin Cephas, Betty Gookin and Mildred Riddell recount their experiences at Weston in a new book called "Weston: A Place Apart."
They met recently at Weston to talk about the two-story, pale-green clapboard house, its history and the book, which Anderson edited and largely wrote.
"I'd never seen anything like [Weston] before," said Dunne, a self-described "city boy" from Brooklyn, N.Y. "It was a farm, with cows and horses, a garden."
The soldiers had chores, rode horses and consumed big, well-prepared meals of chicken and pork and vegetables raised at Weston, said Dunne, who wired the house for electricity in the late 1940s.
"It was home to the soldiers," said Gookin, Anderson's mother and a long-time member of the Warrenton Antiquarian Society, which owns and maintains the 10-acre property. "They just found this to be the most beautiful place in the world."
Back then, Weston's cook, Eliza Redd, served more than 11,000 meals to 1,000-plus troops, according to the book, which can be purchased for $15 at the Town Duck, 100 Main St., Warrenton.
In 1796, Giles Fitzgerald began construction of what would be called Weston on 483 acres of farmland and forest. Fitzhugh, who never married, died in 1853 and gave the property to his niece, Harriet Fitzhugh Ward.
Five years later, Ward sold the farm to Charles J. Nourse. The Nourse family would live at Weston for 100 years, until 1959, when Charles's daughters, Charlotte and Constance died.
Charlotte left the house and 10 acres to the Antiquarian Society and the remaining 271 acres to the state for a wildlife refuge.
Riddell, who grew up near Casanova and still lives just outside the tiny southern Fauquier village, remembers the sisters well.
When she was 8 or 9 years old, Riddell and her younger brother, John Gulick, would ride their ponies to Weston for an afternoon snack.
"We didn't have a watch in those days, or a cell phone," said Riddell, 86. "But we sort of knew the time of day, and we knew [the Nourse sisters] always had tea at 4 or 4:30."
She and her brother would tie up the ponies to the front gate and knock on the door.
The sisters would treat their visits as if they were a rare and "great surprise," Riddell said.
"They were always so gracious and charming, and not saying 'You little urchins! What are you here for?" she remembered with a chuckle.
And the sister always had a plate of home-baked cookies on the side.
Cephas, 68, grew up on Weston, which his family and he farmed for decades until the mid-1980s.
"As a kid, I enjoyed following daddy around, going in the field with him," said Cephas, who is black. "We always had chores."
Before school, he fed chickens, hauled fire wood, milked cows and fed hogs and horses.
Hard work, indeed. But, Cephas said, "It was good times."
And despite the color of their skin, his family was treated respectfully by the Nourses, he said.
"This little community depended on each other to live," said Gookin, who grew up on a farm next the Nourses. "And the black people were just as important as white people."
"Very true," Cephas agreed, nodding his head.
Anderson's favorite Weston story involves a wren that the Nourse sisters had domesticated and named Sgt. A. Twitter.
A female Vassar College professor had been visiting the farm. When she turned in for the night, she put her partial denture in a glass of water on the nightstand.
The next day she woke to discover her denture missing.
"Everybody knew that Sgt. Twitter had stolen it," said Anderson, whose family lived at Weston from 1986 to 2007.
After an extensive search, the denture showed up in the yard.
Sgt. Twitter died in mid-flight after colliding with a hallway door that had just been closed.
Listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, Weston, which contains many original furnishings and paintings by the Nourse sisters, remains a busy home.
The Antiquarian Society meets there and conducts tours for schools and other groups. It also hosts weddings, art shows and parties.
Times-Democrat Staff Writer
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