December 30, 2010

Harley Road Terminus, Mason Neck, VA

This road led to one of George Mason's mills, which was in existence from at least the early 1700s, on Kane's Creek.

The road only came to be called "Harley Road" in the mid-1800s, after the Harley family bought and settled on most of the surrounding property. Older maps only refer to it as "the Mill road."

It is most likely, one of the oldest roads in Fairfax County.

Maddy McCoy
Fairfax County, Virginia
Slavery Inventory Database

Meeting House Lot, Fairfax County, VA

In the early 1850s, a parcel of land designated for a meeting house was deeded by free person of color, George Williams (aka George Cash) to a group of free black men. After the Civil War, several of these men went on to become founding trustees of Shiloh Baptist Church.

At this present time, no specific name or denomination has been attributed to this meeting house.

Shiloh Baptist Church, which is curently located on the South side of Gunston Road across from the main entrance of Gunston Hall, was originally located on the North side of Gunston Road on the cemetery lot.

Meeting House Lot on Harley Road:

Maddy McCoy
Fairfax County, Virginia
Slavery Inventory Database

Mason-Bushrod Boundary Stone, Mason Neck, VA

....marking Bushrod's backline, off of Harley Rd.

Photos taken by Maddy McCoy in 2008.

Maddy McCoy
Fairfax County, Virginia
Slavery Inventory Database

December 28, 2010

After decades, atonement for neglecting graves

Ft. Ward in the news:

After decades, atonement for neglecting graves


By David Sachs

A harsh wind bit through Minister Raymond Jackson’s thin brown trench coat as he hovered over a newly unearthed grave at Fort Ward Park, praying for the unknown body lying beneath the hard winter soil.

“You know all their names, so we look to you, Jesus. We just give them to you and trust them in your hands,” said Jackson, surrounded by a small contingent of neighbors, archaeologists and city historians.

Jackson does not know for whom he prayed. But he or she was once a member of his congregation, Alexandria’s Oakland Baptist Church, and part of a cohesive black community of former slaves who settled the dismantled Fort Ward after the Civil War.

The burial site is one of two 19th-century cemeteries in the area that eroded both literally and in the collective mindset of the city — in a neglectful fashion, according to descendants. At least one gravesite doubled as a city maintenance yard for decades until about a year ago. City trucks came and went, and dumpsters, trashcans and building materials littered the area in plain view of the headstone of Clara Adams, co-founder of Oakland Baptist Church.

“The times were different then and city workers were probably very busy … but these are people’s brothers, sisters mothers and fathers, and the idea that we would just ignore the graves of people while working in the public interest … it just struck me that we’re a better city than that,” said Glenn Eugster, who lives adjacent to the site.

When the city decided to turn the historic fort into an attraction in the 1950s, it realigned the boundaries of the church cemetery and forced families off the desirable property nearby where others are buried, according to written and oral histories.

The purge resulted in several missing headstones and a mistreatment of final resting places, says Fran Terrell, a descendent of a Fort Ward family who was a young girl when the city grabbed the property. Along with Adams’ great-granddaughter Adrienne Washington and other neighbors, Terrell is on a mission to resuscitate the memory of her ancestors and revive respect for their resting place.

“I guess what were doing is to preserve the sanctity of the cemetery and the dignity of those buried there,” Terrell said. “These are our ancestors, and for people to perhaps be buried under equipment — I mean, these people are very special to us.”

In a letter from City Manager E.G. Heatwole to City Attorney Floyd Williams on October 7, 1960, a desire to clear the network of graves is obvious.

“Mr. P.B. Hall, Public Works Director, reports that there are several graves located within the Fort site,” Heatwole wrote. “It is not believed that they have any relationship with activities of the Fort Ward during 1861-1865. Also it is questioned as to whether there are bodies still buried there. If possible, we would like to have the area cleared.”

The letter seems to mark the beginning of the graveyards’ gradual erosion. For about five decades these graves survived almost exclusively in the oral histories of descendents who remain part of a close-knit community, now generations old, living around Woods Place.

“We still feel obligated to the people that were buried here,” Jackson said.

The Office of Historic Alexandria procured a grant to locate the sites through ground-penetrating radar, an archaeological technique unlikely to disturb the graves. Archaeologists have worked for about a year toward righting what descendents and neighbors see as disrespectful neglect.

But Jim Spengler, head of the city’s parks and recreation department, which operates portions of Fort Ward, says the idea that city workers removed gravestones in the 60s and 70s is just a rumor no one has proved. And archaeologist have found nothing but tree roots near Adams’ grave so far.

“That’s been a good rumor, there’s no one on staff who worked during that time frame,” Spengler said. “The city had a maintenance operation in there since Fort Ward was purchased by the city, and the gravestones are fairly distinct. One of the controversies historically … is written histories that said there are more people buried there, and there is another history that says the graves were exhumed and moved.”

Spengler refers to a claim by Wesley Pippenger, author of “Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: “… in the 1960's, some graves were moved to accommodate a maintenance facility and the boundaries of [Oakland Baptist] cemetery were extended eastward through trees and underbrush to form the configuration that is visible today.”

The passage refers to the removal of “graves,” not headstones, which could mean bodies were exhumed. Regardless, descendents of the post-Civil War community — and their supporters — are relieved that wrongs are being righted.

“It has been a truly long time but I’m delighted that it is finally getting done, and that our ancestors will rest in peace,” Terrell said.

There was even talk of pressuring current city officials to apologize for the mistakes of their predecessors. But an advisory board of stakeholders decided against it.

“There’s a consensus not to have an apology but for the city to commit to a process that doesn’t let this happen again,” said board member and neighbor Tom Fulton. “But it was neglect.”

Playing a blame game leaves no real winners, Eugster said.

“In some ways all of us are kind of responsible for what happened,” he said. “A lot of times we turn our head and we say, ‘That’s not my issue to get involved’ in and I don’t want to step into something that sensitive.’ But see what happens if you do.”

Maddy McCoy
Fairfax County, Virginia
Slavery Inventory Database

Mount Olive Baptist Church, Agnewville, VA

There are several chain-fenced delineated areas within the cemetery. (I'm not sure if they are there to show family plots.)

Many more marked burials lie to the south in the wooded area.

Their history page is really good:

Maddy McCoy
Fairfax County, Virginia
Slavery Inventory Database

December 27, 2010

Long-Forgotten Alexandria Graves Discovered

Very nice Ft. Ward!

Long-Forgotten Alexandria Graves Discovered

Michael Pope
December 27, 2010 -

Fort Ward Park in Alexandria is known as the best-preserved part of a system of defenses used to protect Washington from Confederate invasion during the Civil War. But lately it's become known for something else: a series of unmarked African-American graves being discovered throughout the park.
Fran Bromberg, a preservation archeologist, has been working on the project for the past year.
"Well, we're very excited about this project. We think that it really brings back the history of this area that has been forgotten for some time," she says.
That history dates back to the end of the Civil War, when the area became an African-American community for generations until the 1960s, when the city of Alexandria acquired the property and turned it into a park. Over time, many people forgot about the unmarked graves -- until now.
"What we're on the brink of now is being able to expand the interpretation of the site to also include the post-Civil War African-American history of the site because the two stories are really connected in many ways," says Fort Ward Park Director Susan Cumbey.
So far, 11 previously unknown graves have been identified.
The first phase of archeological investigation will conclude in January, but many other potential graves sites throughout the park have yet to be investigated.
Michael Pope also reports for Northern Virginia's Connection Newspapers.

Maddy McCoy
Fairfax County, Virginia
Slavery Inventory Database

December 2, 2010

Coming Together for Historic Preservation

Sixth Annual Fairfax History Conference a success.

By Lynne Garvey-Hodge
Wednesday, December 01, 2010

With more than 100 attendees, the Sixth Annual Fairfax County History Conference, Preserving Our Paths in History, Nov. 6 was a tremendous success this year.

Dedicated to the memories of local historians Nan and Ross Netherton, event was sponsored by the Fairfax County History Commission, the Fairfax County Park Authority, the Fairfax Museum & Visitors Center and Preservation Virginia.

Conference Committee members were Rob Orisson (Preservation Virginia), Dr. Elizabeth Crowell, Fairfax County Park Authority; Fairfax County History Commissioners Naomi Zeavin, Esther McCullough, Sallie Lyons, Barbara Naef, Anne Barnes, Carole Herrick, Mary Lipsey and Mike Irwin; and Susan Gray, Fairfax Museum & Visitor Center.

Nine authors and nine exhibitors participated as well and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At-large) kicked off the conference reminiscing about the importance of historic preservation, by sharing the story of Ilda, an early 20th century interracial community enclave near the site of the Jewish Community Center on Route 236. The community had been long forgotten and then rediscovered when the Virginia Department of Transportation began to expand the roads at that intersection.

Bulova also presented history awards to outstanding citizens which included Lifetime Achievement Awards to Ed Wenzel, for his 22 year work preserving and protecting Ox Hill Battlefield; John McAnaw, for more than 25 years of dedicated service as a Civil War historian and protector of land in the Kings Park area; and Michael Rierson, for more than 33 years of dedicated service with the Fairfax County Park Authority in preserving and protecting numerous county sites from Sully Plantation to Frying Pan Park.

John Browne was presented with the Beth Mitchell award for his work researching the Ravensworth estate, dating back to 1796, the original home of William Fitzhugh and land that once covered nearly an eighth of the county.

Susan Hellman received the Nan Netherton award for her outstanding research and documentation on the property called “Kenmore.”

Cora Foley was not present, but she received the first Cultural Heritage Engagement Award, Maddy McCoy, also not present, received a Distinguished Service award for her assistance on the “Kenmore” paper as well as for her work creating the African-American Slave index of Fairfax County.

Rick Castelli received the Edith Moore Sprouse award for his extensive research on Fenwick Park.

The Hunter Mill Defense League History Committee received the most prestigious award that the Fairfax County History Commission bestows, the Ross Netherton Award, for their work in creating the DVD “Danger Between the Lines,” a documentary relating the story of the people living amid the turmoil along Hunter Mill Road during the Civil War. Tom Evans, Jim Lewis, Charlie Balch, Bob Eldridge and Steve Hull accepted the award.

The Awards committee included Commissioners Naomi Zeavin, Bob Beach, Jack L. Hiller and Lynne Garvey-Hodge, chairwoman.

“We have never received so many awards nominations as we have this year, and we are delighted with the quality of the work done in preserving the county’s history”, said Hiller.

Thomas Jefferson High School students, under the leadership of history teacher Larry Helm, also submitted historic papers.

The keynote speaker was Elizabeth Kostelny, who spoke on the importance of historic preservation, even during economically difficult times. As executive director of Preservation Virginia, she spoke on “Growing Virginia’s Movement – Historic Preservation in the 21st Century” and encouraged Fairfax County to continue doing good work in preserving the rich historic resources of the county and affirmed the conference as evidence of this good work.

Michael C. Rierson gave a lively, animated talk on his time with the Park Authority, “It Docent Matter — The Beginnings of a Museum & Historic Preservation Program.”

Andrea Loewenwarter from the Fairfax Museum & Visitors Center shared the history of preserving the newly renovated and preserved Blenheim Mansion, “Preserving Historic Blenheim” and the county Archaeology staff was on hand to discuss their work in their offices located at the conference site, the James Lee Community Center.

Local railroad historian Ron Beavers spoke with tremendous energy and exuberance on “Fairfax County Railroads — Pre-Civil War & What is Left Today” and the final presentations of the conference reflected preservation of a number of local sites. Chuck Mauro spoke on the preservation and history of Laura Ratcliffe’s home, “Merrybrook,” David Goetz on John Singleton Mosby’s home in Warrenton, “Brentmoor” and Mary Lipsey spoke on the good work of the Fairfax County Cemetery Preservation Association.

The Annandale High School culinary department under the leadership of Christine Gloninger provided attendees with a delicious continental breakfast and colorful, nutritious lunch. With plenty of prizes provided from the Fairfax Museum & Visitor Center for Trivia Question winners, a sunny day, ample parking, good food and excellent presentations, the crowd left well satisfied and anxious for the Seventh Annual Fairfax County History Conference already in the planning for 2011.

Maddy McCoy
Fairfax County, Virginia
Slavery Inventory Database