Fredericksburg, Va. (AP) — When Stafford County Supervisor Paul Milde sat down at the dais for his first board more than a decade ago, there was a bound report in front of his chair describing numerous historic Civil War assets in the county. One of the people behind that report was D.P. Newton, founder and curator of the White Oak Civil War Museum.

One of those assets eventually became the Stafford Civil War Park, where visitors can examine the preserved, original earthworks created by Union soldiers to protect their supply lines. That park will soon feature a plaque dedicated to the two men most responsible for securing that piece of the county's history: Glenn Trimmer and Newton.

"He's been kind of an amazing fixture in my political career and in Stafford County's cultural history," Milde said of Newton.

A respected expert on local Civil War history, Newton is battling cancer. A group of his friends — led by Milde, Charlie Jett and Gloria Chittum — organized an oyster roast benefit to honor the soft-spoken Stafford native on Saturday. Proceeds were set to go to the museum.

Newton and his museum have been key players in telling the story of Stafford's pivotal role in the Civil War. The battles south of the Rappahannock River have long consumed the attention of history buffs, with a particular emphasis on the Confederate side. Stafford saw no major land battles, although it was an important encampment for the Union army — a fact that has brought increasing interest to Newton's extensive trove of knowledge and artifacts.

"For him to take it to the level he has is above and beyond. It's about more than the Civil War," said Charlie Jett, the former Stafford sheriff. "He's our local historian."

Newton's love of local history started when he and his father hunted for relics in their home county in the 1950s. While most relic hunters focused on the battlefields in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County, Newton became an expert on the Union camps in Stafford, where some 130,000 soldiers lived for more than six months from 1862 to 1863. Much of what he and his father found is lovingly cared for and displayed by Newton at his museum, which he opened in 1998.

That museum always has been a draw for tourists and Civil War historians, but Newton's health has brought new attention to the man who built the remarkable collection housed there.

"When you see someone who is seriously ill, it's a stark reminder of what he's contributed to Stafford County," Milde said.

He hopes the oyster roast will give people a chance to meet Newton and spend time with their neighbors. He also hopes people visit the museum to see what Newton has accomplished with his passion for local history.

"He and the museum are White Oak treasures," Milde said.

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Information from: The Free Lance-Star, http://www.fredericksburg.com/