The playing fields at Wide Water Elementary School are a very small part of a much larger tract of land that belonged to the Brent family for generations. The earliest known owner of this property was George Brent (c.1640-c.1700) who came from England around 1673 and acquired extensive acreage along Aquia Creek. His cousins were Giles Brent (c.1600-c.1671) and his sisters, Margaret (c.1601-1671) and Mary Brent (died c.1658). Giles, Margaret, and Mary lived in Maryland for many years. While in Maryland, Margaret unsuccessfully petitioned that colony’s assembly for the right to vote. Due to Giles’ political problems in Maryland, around 1649 the siblings moved across the Potomac River to what was then Westmoreland County, Virginia, but in 1664 became Stafford County. Margaret and Giles acquired several thousand acres in this area and owned much of what is now the Wide Water peninsula. George Brent arrived here much later.
George Brent called his plantation Woodstock and by 1768 it consisted of some 2,300 acres. In addition to extensive waterfront lands on Aquia Creek, the tract also contained massive deposits of freestone that were later used in the construction of the U. S. Capitol, White House, U. S. Treasury Building, the U. S. Patent Office, and other buildings in Washington, DC. Not long after George settled here, a town and wharf were established on his property. Originally called Aquia, the village was later known as Woodstock. Business continued here until around 1850. The remains of this site were destroyed by the development of Aquia Harbour subdivision.
Woodstock passed through five generations of the Brent family, several of the owners being named George. It was George Brent (c.1752-1804) who in 1791 sold most of Brent’s Island to the U. S. Government. This is now commonly known as Government Island. Freestone had been quarried here since the late 1600s and continued through at least the 1820s.
Upon his death in 1804, George Brent’s land was divided between his heirs. His daughter, Mary (Brent) Tipton (c.1780-1822) inherited 911 acres of Woodstock. She died and the land was divided and sold to several different people.
Around 1850, Samuel H. Griffis (1814-c.1887) purchased 149 acres of Mary Tipton’s property. He was a merchant and ran a store in the vicinity of Den Rich and Telegraph Roads. This small farm remained in the Griffis family until 1924. At that point Michael Vayda (1913-1990) purchased it. His family was among a group of Slavic immigrants who settled in northern Stafford in the early years of the twentieth century. Eventually, the spelling of his name changed to “Vida.” For many years, Mr. Vida ran a hardware and grocery store at Boswell’s Corner. It was long a well-known landmark in Stafford County. Known as Vida’s Hardware Store, customers could buy everything from eggs and crackers to screwdrivers and fence wire. In 1986 Mr. Vida’s daughter and son-in-law sold 22.5 acres of their farm to Stafford County and it was on this parcel that Wide Water Elementary School and the playing fields were built.
Note how the name “Wide Water” is written in this article as two words rather than as one. Our Stafford County Historical Society contact informed us that the original spelling, which dates from the mid-1800s, was “Wide Water.” During the compilation and publication of the first travel guides (precursors to modern road atlases) in the early 1900s, someone used the spelling “Widewater” and this remained in every subsequent edition from then on. It was also during this time that the early spelling, “Chappawamsic,” was corrupted to “Chopowamsic” and it, too, remains as such on road atlases and signs.
Article submitted by Jerrilyn Eby