Burke Historical Society Speakers Bureau

Members of the BHS are available as guest speakers, free of charge!  Talks run about 30 to 45 minutes long and generally include a PowerPoint presentation.  We can provide a projector, if needed, but would ask the host to provide a screen or a suitable expanse of pale wall.

To request a speaker, please use our Contact page.  Because talks are subject to the speaker’s availability, you may wish to request at least two talks by different speakers as alternate options.

Note: Talks can often be tailored according to audience interests.

Speaker: Jon Vrana

Early Days of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad
Explains how the O&A was planned and built, including Silas Burke’s role in the company’s leadership.

The Christmas 1862 Raid on Burke’s Station
Reconstructs the December 28, 1862 raid by Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart on Burke’s Station.

The History of Early Agriculture in Northern Virginia
Describes how principle crops, farm management, and farming populations changed over time.

The Long Road Home
Presents a 1st-person drama of a soldier from Fairfax County, returning home at the end of the Civil War.

The Old Capitol Prison
Tells the story of the Civil-War Union prison in Washington, D.C., and some of its notable inmates.

Accotink—Mill, Village, Creek, and Camp
Gives a history of Accotink in southeastern Fairfax County, including Camp Humphreys’ role in WWI.

The Silas Burke House: If These Walls Could Talk
Presents the 19th-century history of the house, including its ownership by the Burke and Marshall families.

Irish Emigration, the Potato Famine, and Castle Garden
Portrays a 19th-century immigrant’s voyage from Ireland to New York, the Midwest, and the Great Plains.

Speaker: Cindy Bennett

Wicked Fairfax County
Shares stories from Cindy’s book of this name, e.g. the Bunnyman, Ebola Reston, Cold War spies, etc.

Burke’s Coldest Case: The Murder of Eva Roy
Recounts the 1918 murder of 14-year-old Eva Roy in Burke, its flawed investigation, and its fruitless trials.

Camp Alger and a Local Epidemic
Reviews the typhoid outbreak at Camp Alger in Falls Church and the disastrous relocation to Manassas.

Ghosts, Goons, and a Bunny Man
Gives a lighthearted look at the spooky legends and stories of the area, as well as their factual origins.

The Night of Terror—Suffragists in the Occoquan Workhouse
Chronicles the brutal treatment of suffragists at old Lorton prison and the path to women’s voting rights.

Burke’s Two Houses (suitable for adults and children)
Gives an overview of the 19th century homes, and intertwined lives, of the Burke and Coffer families.

Genealogy 101—Interpreting Census Records
Discusses information in the U.S. Census by decade and how to interpret (not how to find) these records.

Speaker: Brian Slawski

Gold in Local History
Reviews the science of gold, its role in American history, regional mining operations, and local legends.

Intellectual Property of Burke (up to three separate talks)
Presents interesting patents, trademarks, and copyrights from Burke with a bit of IP history and law.

Jazz in Northern Virginia and Washington (up to three separate talks)
Surveys local jazz musicians, venues, instruction, festivals, and radio from their origins to the present.

Burke: Summer of 1916
Gives an impression of daily life in Burke and Fairfax County some one hundred years ago.

The Carrington Event, Locally and Globally
Tells of the massive solar storm of 1859, its worldwide effects, and its implications for the present day.

Everything Burke
Sketches the past and present of Burke, Virginia, and of other Burkes across the country and abroad.

Speaker: Patrick O’Neill*

History of Belvoir Manor
Recounts the Belvoir area’s story, from the Fairfax family mansion, to the War of 1812, to Fort Belvoir.

Virginia’s Presidential Homes
Looks at the various residences of the eight Virginians who became Presidents of the United States.

Alexandria in the American Revolution; Alexandria in the War of 1812 (two separate talks)
Each talk discusses the role of the Port City in early America’s two major wars with Great Britain.

*Many other talks by Patrick are available upon request, covering archaeological sites in Virginia & D.C.

Speaker: Mary Lipsey

First Ladies
Covers notable First Ladies, especially Mmes. Washington, Hayes, Cleveland, and the 2nd Mrs. Wilson.

Almost Forgotten Women
Describes female trailblazers in many fields: sports, military, politics, etc.

Escaping Detection
Looks at women who participated actively but secretly in the Civil War, as spies and as soldiers.

Rescue of Mount Vernon
Chronicles the Washington family estate and its restoration by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

Cemetery Preservation
Describes the founding and efforts of the Fairfax County Cemetery Preservation Association.

Leading Ladies of the Civil War  (Choose one of the four separate presentations below.)

1. Mrs. Lincoln
Illuminates the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, a tragic and controversial figure.

2. Mrs. Lee
Describes Mary Anna Custis (Mrs. Robert E.) Lee, including her time at Ravensworth near Burke.

3. Mrs. Grant and Mrs. Davis
Tells of Julia Dent Grant & Varina Davis, First Ladies of the United States & Confederate States.

4. Clara Barton
Tells the story of Clara Barton, Civil War nurse and founder of the American National Red Cross.

Aviation Pioneer Dr. William Christmas
Introduces the inventor and pilot, whose 1908 flight in Fairfax Station made him the third American to fly.

This Old House
Introduces past and present historic homes of the 19th century across Springfield, Annandale, and Burke.

The Burke Airport
Tells of Burke’s selection for Washington’s international airport and the community’s fight for survival.

Anna Maria Fitzhugh of Ravensworth
Reflects on this remarkable 19th-century woman, owner of vast properties in Fairfax & Stafford Counties.

Honoring the Civil War Dead
Describes the founding of national and community cemeteries for those who served in the Civil War.

Women at War—The Hidden Army
Discusses how, during the First World War, women mobilized to take the jobs that the soldiers left behind.