“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Gordonsville in Orange County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Gordonsville's Legendary Chicken Vendors

Gordonsville's Ledgendary Chicken Vendors Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, January 12, 2008
1. Gordonsville's Ledgendary Chicken Vendors Marker
Inscription. "Fried Chicken Capital of the World"

January 1, 1840 celebrated the arrival of the Louisa Railroad to Gordonsville. The introduction of rail service contributed to the growth and vitality of the town as a prime rail junction. The two railroads that formed the junction were the Virginia Central, formerly the Louisa Railroad and now renamed the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and the Orange & Alexandria, now known as the Orange, Alexandria and Manassas.

With the introduction of rail service, enterprising African-American women commenced a tradition that was to symbolize Gordonsville forever as the "Fried Chicken Capital of the World".

Early passenger trains did not enjoy the luxury of dining cars and were greeted by "Waiter Carriers" who later became known as "Chicken Vendors". The women balanced platters of fried chicken on their heads and served hungry passengers through open windows.

The Gordonsville Exchange Hotel opened in 1860 and provided an elegant stopping place for passengers on the Virginia Central Railway until March 1862, when the Army of Northern Virginia transformed the Exchange Hotel into Gordonsville Receiving Hospital. During the Civil War, the "Chicken Vendors" served thousands of hungry soldiers on the trains.

Following the war, the women continued serving rail passengers succulent
Gordonsville's Ledgendary Chicken Vendors Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, January 12, 2008
2. Gordonsville's Ledgendary Chicken Vendors Marker
fried chicken and delicious fried pies made with Early Harvest, Yellow, or other "acid" apples. Chicken legs and breast cost fifteen cents; backs and wings; five and ten cents. By 1879, the Gordonsville Town Council required a "snack vendor's" license and payment of a license tax.

The modernization of rail service with the addition of dining cars, the replacement of wooden coaches with steel cars with closed vestibules and finally air-conditioned cars with sealed windows, ended a century of tradition.

This plaque is dedicated to all of the legendary "Chicken Vendors" for their memorable contribution to Gordonsville's economy and history. Pictured are Maria Wallace, Laura Swift, Lucy Washington, Francis Taylor, Adeline Daniel, and Mary Vest.

Isabella "Bella" Winston followed the tradition taught to her by her mother, Maria Wallace, who met the trains and served the passengers even before Gordonsville became an Incorporated town in 1870. Hattie Edwards was also a "Chicken Vendor" who later operated her own restaurant, Hattie's Inn.

Erected by Virginia Tourism.
Location. 38° 7.958′ N, 78° 11.162′ W. Marker is in Gordonsville, Virginia, in Orange County. Marker is on South Main Street, on the right when traveling north. Click for map
The Exchange Hotel image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, January 12, 2008
3. The Exchange Hotel
. Located at the Exchange Hotel, now a Civil War Museum, just to the east of the railroad crossing. Marker is at or near this postal address: 400 South Main Street, Gordonsville VA 22942, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. In Memory of the Soldiers, Both Confederate and Union (within shouting distance of this marker); Orange County / Louisa County (approx. 0.4 miles away); Gordon Inn (approx. 0.7 miles away); a different marker also named Orange County / Louisa County (approx. 1.1 miles away); Church of the Blind Preacher (approx. 1.1 miles away); The Maplewood Memorial Association (approx. 1.2 miles away); General Thomas Sumter (approx. 1.9 miles away); Montebello (approx. 3.7 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Gordonsville.
More about this marker. In the center of the marker is the photograph of the "Chicken Vendors" mentioned in the marker text.
Also see . . .
1. The Exchange Hotel. History of the Exchange Hotel. The hotel hosts a museum featuring exhibits interpreting Gordonsville's role in the Civil War. Medical service living history exhibitions are offered periodically. (Submitted on January 16, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
The Rail Junction image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, January 12, 2008
4. The Rail Junction
Here the "Chicken Vendors" worked serving an early version of fast food to travelers.

2. Gordonville, Virginia: Piedmont crossroads. A Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine article. (Submitted on January 16, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
Categories. Industry & CommerceRailroads & Streetcars
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 2,026 times since then and 92 times this year. Last updated on , by Linda Walcroft of Strasburg, Virginia. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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