On a recent trip to the Shenandoah Valley region in Virginia, we stopped in Woodstock. (No, not that Woodstock.) The town of Woodstock has been the county seat of Shenandoah County since 1772. On Main Street, you can find the Shenandoah County Historic Courthouse, which was built in 1795. A plaque on the front plaza states that it is the “oldest courthouse in continuous use west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” It was reportedly designed by Thomas Jefferson. According to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources “[t]he architecture of the limestone building reflects the dominance of the German settlers in the area of the town of Woodstock. Its most distinctive feature, the hexagonal, ogee-roofed cupola, recalls the belfries of German baroque parish churches.” The courthouse was built with native limestone. In 1871 and 1886, respectively, brick additions were added. In 1927, a portico and columns were constructed to give the building a “Greek Revival” style front. The building has been listed both on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register since 1973.
On the plaza in front of the courthouse, you can find two statues. One is a bust of John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, who, among other things, accepted a call to lead a congregation in Woodstock in 1771 and served in the House of Burgesses in 1774. He left Woodstock in 1776 and raised a regiment from the Shenandoah Valley. According to the website of the town of Woodstock, at the conclusion of his farewell sermon at his church, he “threw off his clerical robes to reveal an officer’s uniform beneath and shouted, “there is a time to pray and a time to fight…” With that declaration, he then called for volunteers to join the 8th Virginia Regiment under his command.“
The second statue depicts Muhlenburg throwing off his clerical robes to reveal his uniform.
Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.
UPDATE 6/5/2023: Post updated to include information provided by the Shenandoah County Historical Society on the second statue in front of the court building.