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Missed opportunities

Other than a stone obelisk at the north end of town and the seal atop the municipal building, it’s tough to find much evidence of the old emblem here.

Town vehicles do have decals with the rattlesnake symbol affixed to their doors, and the Minute Man banner’s history is told at the town’s award-winning museum and on a historical marker in front of the government building.

But the town’s street signs and place markers feature several other emblems. The town figured that it was time for uniformity — and for a seal that could be read more easily.

Town Council member David B. Lochridge said part of the problem with the Minute Man emblem is that it has three slogans, each printed in small letters, making them all difficult to read.

“The current seal, if you look at it, if that’s the goal of whatever you’re putting it on, then you should have something you can at least read,” said Mr. Lochridge, who has a marketing background. He said the town needed to seize this chance to create an effective brand. “What people don’t seem to understand is there’s a window of opportunity to gain effectiveness.”

Mr. Lochridge, though, stressed that nobody on the council ever proposed getting rid of the original town emblem.

“It really got blown, in my opinion, way out of proportion,” he said.

But Mr. Schulin, the Sons of the American Revolution member, said the town shouldn’t be too eager to look past its history.

“A town and a nation that willfully forgets its heroes and its legacy will themselves soon be forgotten,” he wrote in a commentary in the Culpeper Times.

Renewed battles

Most historical battles in this part of Virginia were part of the Civil War. Richmond officials regularly make national headlines as they grapple with balancing their history as the capital of the Confederacy with a heavily black population.

But as the site of the first permanent settlement of the original 13 Colonies, Virginia has 400 years of history that allow for plenty of opportunities for controversy.

The Culpeper Minute Men were mustered in July 1775, and their flag with the rattlesnake emblem was created. The white banner features two mottoes — “Don’t Tread On Me” and “Liberty or Death,” a paraphrase of Patrick Henry’s famous Revolutionary War challenge to fellow Virginians, along with the rattlesnake that had become a symbol of American independence.

The timing of the Minute Men’s muster suggests that the flag even predates the introduction to the fledgling Continental Army of the far more famous “Gadsden flag,” named in honor of American Gen. Christopher Gadsden. That rattlesnake banner, set against a bright yellow background, has become popular among followers of the tea party and Mr. Paul’s ardent following in recent years.

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