Pawlak, education specialist for the Mosby Heritage Area Association, said the organization focuses on instilling a call to action in others, forming stewardship of the area’s rich historic landscape through education of that landscape’s historic resources.
The Mosby Heritage Area Association, an education-based 501(C)3, presents historical programs to both adults and youth, hosting community events and in-school lectures. Since its establishment more than twenty years ago, discussions have focused on a variety of historic topics, including the Civil Rights Movement, the Revolutionary War, and of course the Civil War.
“Our main bread and butter, so to speak, is preservation through education,” Pawlak said. “We do a lot of education programs trying to get people thinking about, in this modern time, that they drive past historic sites every single day and that they drive through historic landscapes almost every single day, whether they know it or not.”
By highlighting these historic landmarks in local communities, the organization aims to tell their stories, instilling a deepened interest in their legacy and preservation.
“We try to make them aware of what they have around them so that, some day, whether it’s sooner or later, they become stewards of that landscape and want to continue to preserve it for more and more generations,” Pawlak said.
The organization’s community outreach includes both Conversations In History (scholarly, discussion-based talks) and Adventures In History (interactive, sensory programs ), which are held at various historic sites throughout Northern Virginia.
Occasionally, a lecture may be followed by a trip to the locations discussed, such as Sunny Bank in Middleburg, the home of Civil War diarist Catherine Broun, and Pelham, a post-Civil War home named in honor of Confederate Major John Pelham.
As for in-school programming, the organization’s staff and volunteers give 90-minute presentations focusing on a number of historic topics to students in their classrooms. Often, these presentations include the use of artifacts to help tell the stories of specific landmarks, landscapes, and man-made structures.
Outside of the classroom, the organization partners with NOVAParks, the regional parks authority in northern Virginia, to host student field trips through the Aldie Triangle Program. On these trips, students visit Aldie Mill, Mount Zion Old School Baptist Church, and Oak Hill, President James Monroe’s Loudoun County retreat during his presidency.
In an effort to further engage students, the organization also invites them to take part in a historic scavenger hunt. Once completed, participants receive a “Got Mosby?” T-shirt, mimicking the popular “Got Milk?” advertisements.
This past school year, the organization educated nearly 5,000 students across the heritage area, Pawlak said.
He also added that the organization’s name alludes to a historic narrative of its own.
“Eventually, he [John S. Mosby] became one of J.E.B. Stuarts most reliable scouts,” Pawlak said. “Earlier on in the war and in late December of 1862, Mosby approached Stuart about operating with an independent command in Northern Virginia to, really do a couple of things, but mostly just harass Union troops outside of Washington, D.C.”
Pawlak added that Mosby’s successful leadership catapulted him to the upper echelon of Confederate wartime commanders.
“Very quickly, Mosby’s name was put on the map,” he said. “He operated with an irregular partisan command throughout Northern Virginia . . . [and] he captured a Union general behind Union lines in his bed.”
“The Mosby Heritage Area is an 1,800-square-mile region in the northern Piedmont of Virginia that encompasses Loudoun, Clarke, Fauquier, Warren, and western Prince William counties,” according to mosbyheritagearea.org. The area covers roughly the area in which Mosby and his rangers operated during the later part of the Civil War. Today, it remains one of the most protected landscapes in the state, Pawlak said.
“The Mosby Heritage Area was named after him simply because the area’s really a very well preserved, 19-Century landscape,” he said, and one that Mosby and various other historic figures who passed through there might still recognize today.
As the organization aims to continue its work and share the history of the local area, they will hold their 19th Civil War Symposium this Oct. 7 to 9, focusing on July 3, 1863—the third day at Gettysburg.
The symposium will take place in Middleburg and will consist of a Friday night lecture series, followed by additional lectures and a dinner on Saturday. Sunday, the organization will host a tour of Gettysburg.
Whether attendees have already heard the tales shared by the association or not, Pawlak promises both entertainment and inspiration for call-to-action.