James William Head.

History and Comprehensive Description of Loudoun County, Virginia online

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[Illustration: James W. Head]










_Copyright 1908


* * * * *



"Loudoun County exemplifies country life in about the purest and
pleasantest form that I have yet found in the United States. Not that
it is a rural Utopia by any means, but the chief ideals of the life
there are practically identical with those that have made country life
in the English counties world-famous. As a type, this is, in fact, the
real thing. No sham, no artificiality, no suspicion of mushroom
growth, no evidence of exotic forcing are to be found in Loudoun, but
the culmination of a century's development."

* * * * *

"So much, then, to show briefly that Loudoun County life is a little
out of the ordinary, here in America, and hence worth talking about.
There are other communities in Virginia and elsewhere that are worthy
of eulogy, but I know of none that surpasses Loudoun in the dignity,
sincerity, naturalness, completeness and genuine success of its
country life." - WALTER A. DYER, in _Country Life in America_.

Table of Contents.


Descriptive Department.










Loudoun Formation

Weverton Sandstone

Newark System

Newark Diabase

Catoctin Schist

Rocks of the Piedmont Plain

Lafayette Formation





Loudoun Sandy Loam
Penn Clay

Penn Stony Loam

Iredell Clay Loam

Penn Loam

Cecil Loam

Cecil Clay

Cecil Silt Loam

Cecil Mica Loam

De Kalb Stony Loam

Porters Clay








Round Hill







Smaller Towns

Statistical Department.







Animals Sold and Slaughtered

Neat cattle

Dairy Products


Horses, Mules, etc.

Sheep, Goats, and Swine

Domestic Wool

Poultry and Bees



Corn and Wheat

Oats, Rye, and Buckwheat

Hay and Forage Crops

Miscellaneous Crops, etc.

Orchard Fruits, etc.

Small Fruits, etc.

Flowers, Ornamental Plants, etc.







Historical Department.










Colonial Assemblies

State Conventions


Loudoun's Loyalty

Resolutions of Loudoun County

Revolutionary Committees


Quaker Non-Participation

Loudoun's Revolutionary Hero

Army Recommendations

Court Orders and Reimbursements

Close of the Struggle

WAR OF 1812

The Compelling Cause

State Archives at Leesburg






Loudoun County in the Secession Movement

Loudoun's Participation in the War

The Loudoun Rangers (Federal)

Mosby's Command in its Relationship to Loudoun County

Mosby at Hamilton (Poem)

Battle of Leesburg ("Ball's Bluff")

Munford's Fight at Leesburg

Battle at Aldie

Duffie at Middleburg

The Sacking of Loudoun

Home Life During the War

Pierpont's Pretentious Administration


Close of the War


After the Surrender

Conduct of the Freedmen



I know not when I first planned this work, so inextricably is the idea
interwoven with a fading recollection of my earliest aims and
ambitions. However, had I not been resolutely determined to conclude
it at any cost - mental, physical, or pecuniary - the difficulties that
I have experienced at every stage might have led to its early

The greatest difficulty lay in procuring material which could not be
supplied by individual research and investigation. For this and other
valid reasons that will follow it may safely be said that more than
one-half the contents of this volume are in the strictest sense
original, the remarks and detail, for the most part, being the
products of my own personal observation and reflection. Correspondence
with individuals and the State and National authorities, though varied
and extensive, elicited not a half dozen important facts. I would
charge no one with discourtesy in this particular, and mention the
circumstance only because it will serve to emphasize what I shall
presently say _anent_ the scarcity of available material.

Likewise, a painstaking perusal of more than two hundred volumes
yielded only meagre results, and in most of these illusory references
I found not a single fact worth recording. This comparatively
prodigious number included gazeteers, encyclopedias, geographies,
military histories, general histories, State and National reports,
journals of legislative proceedings, biographies, genealogies,
reminiscences, travels, romances - in short, any and all books that I
had thought calculated to shed even the faintest glimmer of light on
the County's history, topographical features, etc.

But, contrary to my expectations, in many there appeared no manner of
allusion to Loudoun County. By this it will be seen that much time
that might have been more advantageously employed was necessarily
given to this form of fruitless research.

That works of history and geography can be prepared in no other way,
no person at all acquainted with the nature of such writings need be
told. "As well might a traveler presume to claim the fee-simple of all
the country which he has surveyed, as a historian and geographer
expect to preclude those who come after him from making a proper use
of his labors. If the former writers have seen accurately and related
faithfully, the latter ought to have the resemblance of declaring the
same facts, with that variety only which nature has enstamped upon the
distinct elaborations of every individual mind.... As works of this
sort become multiplied, voluminous, and detailed, it becomes a duty to
literature to abstract, abridge, and give, in synoptical views, the
information that is spread through numerous volumes."

Touching the matter gleaned from other books, I claim the sole merit
of being a laborious and faithful compiler. In some instances, where
the thoughts could not be better or more briefly expressed, the words
of the original authors may have been used.

Where this has been done I have, whenever possible, made, in my
footnotes or text, frank and ample avowal of the sources from which I
have obtained the particular information presented. This has not
always been possible for the reason that I could not name, if
disposed, all the sources from which I have sought and obtained
information. Many of the references thus secured have undergone a
process of sifting and, if I may coin the couplet, confirmatory
handling which, at the last, rendered some unrecognizable and their
origin untraceable.

The only publication of a strictly local color unearthed during my
research was Taylor's _Memoir of Loudoun_, a small book, or more
properly a pamphlet, of only 29 pages, dealing principally with the
County's geology, geography, and climate. It was written to accompany
the map of Loudoun County, drawn by Yardley Taylor, surveyor; and was
published by Thomas Reynolds, of Leesburg, in 1853.

I wish to refer specially to the grateful acknowledgment that is due
Arthur Keith's _Geology of the Catoctin Belt_ and Carter's and Lyman's
_Soil Survey of the Leesburg Area_, two Government publications,
published respectively by the United States Geological Survey and
Department of Agriculture, and containing a fund of useful information
relating to the geology, soils, and geography of about two-thirds of
the area of Loudoun. Of course these works have been the sources to
which I have chiefly repaired for information relating to the two
first-named subjects. Without them the cost of this publication would
have been considerably augmented. As it is I have been spared the
expense and labor that would have attended an enforced personal
investigation of the County's soils and geology.

And now a tardy and, perhaps, needless word or two in revealment of
the purpose of this volume.

To rescue a valuable miscellany of facts and occurrences from an
impending oblivion; to gather and fix certain ephemeral incidents
before they had passed out of remembrance; to render some account of
the County's vast resources and capabilities; to trace its geography
and analyze its soils and geology; to follow the tortuous windings of
its numerous streams; to chronicle the multitudinous deeds of
sacrifice and daring performed by her citizens and soldiery - such has
been the purpose of this work, such its object and design.

But the idea as originally evolved contemplated only a chronology of
events from the establishment of the County to the present day. Not
until the work was well under way was the matter appearing under the
several descriptive heads supplemented.

From start to finish this self-appointed task has been prosecuted with
conscientious zeal and persistency of purpose, although with frequent
interruptions, and more often than not amid circumstances least
favorable to literary composition. At the same time my hands have been
filled with laborious avocations of another kind.

What the philosopher Johnson said of his great _Dictionary_ and
himself could as well be said of this humble volume and its author:

"In this work, when it shall be found that much is omitted, let it not
be forgotten that much likewise is performed; and though no book was
ever spared out of tenderness to the author, and the world is little
solicitous to know whence proceeded the faults of that which it
condemns; yet it may gratify curiosity to inform it, that the _English
Dictionary_ was written with little assistance of the learned, and
without any patronage of the great; not in the soft obscurities of
retirement, or under the shelter of academick bowers, but amidst
inconvenience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow."

If further digression be allowable I might say that in the preparation
of this work I have observed few of the restrictive rules of literary
sequence and have not infrequently gone beyond the prescribed limits
of conventional diction. To these transgressions I make willing
confession. I have striven to present these sketches in the most lucid
and concise form compatible with readableness; to compress the
greatest possible amount of useful information into the smallest
compass. Indeed, had I been competent, I doubt that I would have
attempted a more elaborate rendition, or drawn more freely upon the
language and the coloring of poetry and the imagination. I have
therefore to apprehend that the average reader will find them too
statistical and laconic, too much abbreviated and void of detail.

However, a disinterested historian I have not been, and should such a
charge be preferred I shall look for speedy exculpation from the
discerning mass of my readers.

In this connection and before proceeding further I desire to say that
my right to prosecute this work can not fairly be questioned; that a
familiar treatment of the subject I have regarded as my inalienable
prerogative. I was born in Loudoun County, of parents who in turn
could boast the same distinction, and, if not all, certainly the
happiest days of my life were passed within those sacred precincts. I
have viewed her housetops from every crowning eminence, her acres of
unmatched grain, her Arcadian pastures and browsing herds, her
sun-kissed hills and silvery, serpentine streams. I have known the
broad, ample playgrounds of her stately old Academy, and shared in the
wholesome, health-giving sports their breadth permitted. I have known
certain of her astute schoolmasters and felt the full rigor of their
discipline. Stern tutors they were, at times seemingly cruel, but what
retrospective mind will not now accord them unstinted praise and
gratitude? Something more than the mere awakening and development of
slumbering intellects was their province: raw, untamed spirits were
given into their hands for a brief spell - brief when measured in after
years - and were then sent forth to combat Life's problems with clean
hearts, healthy minds, robust bodies, and characters that might remain
unsullied though beset with every hellish device known to a sordid
world. God bless the dominies of our boyhood - the veteran
schoolmasters of old Loudoun!

But to return to my theme. I have a distinct foresight of the views
which some will entertain and express in reference to this work,
though my least fears of criticism are from those whose experience and
ability best qualify them to judge.

However, to the end that criticism may be disarmed even before
pronouncement, the reader, before condemning any statements made in
these sketches that do not agree with his preconceived opinions, is
requested to examine all the facts in connection therewith. In so
doing it is thought he will find these statements correct in the main.

In such a variety of subjects there must of course be many omissions,
but I shall be greatly disappointed if actual errors are discovered.

In substantiation of its accuracy and thoroughness I need only say
that the compilation of this work cost me three years of nocturnal
application - the three most ambitious and disquieting years of the
average life. During this period the entire book has been at least
three times rewritten.

In the best form of which I am capable the fruits of these protracted
labors are now committed to the candid and, it is hoped, kindly
judgment of the people of Loudoun County.

BARCROFT, VA., _Feb. 1, 1909_.



Loudoun County lies at the northern extremity of "Piedmont
Virginia,"[1] forming the apex of one of the most picturesquely
diversified regions on the American continent. Broad plains, numerous
groups and ranges of hills and forest-clad mountains, deep river
gorges, and valleys of practically every conceivable form are strewn
to the point of prodigality over this vast undulatory area.

[Footnote 1: "Piedmont" means "foot of the mountain." "Piedmont
Virginia," with a length of 250 miles and an average width of about 25
miles, and varying in altitude from 300 to 1,200 feet, lies just east
of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and comprises the counties of _Loudoun_,
Fauquier, Culpeper, Rappahannock, Madison, Greene, Orange, Albemarle,
Nelson, Amherst, Bedford, Franklin, Henry, and Patrick. It is a
portion of the belt that begins in New England and stretches thence
southward to Georgia and Alabama.]

The particular geographic location of Loudoun has been most accurately
reckoned by Yardley Taylor, who in 1853 made a governmental survey of
the county. He placed it "between the latitudes of 38° 52-1/2" and 39°
21" north latitude, making 28-1/2" of latitude, or 33 statute miles,
and between 20" and 53-1/2" of longitude west from Washington, being
33-1/2" of longitude, or very near 35 statute miles."

Loudoun was originally a part of the six million acres which, in 1661,
were granted by Charles II, King of England, to Lord Hopton, Earl of
St. Albans, Lord Culpeper, Lord Berkeley, Sir William Morton, Sir
Dudley Wyatt, and Thomas Culpeper. All the territory lying between the
Rappahannock and Potomac rivers to their sources was included in this
grant, afterwards known as the "Fairfax Patent," and still later as
the "Northern Neck of Virginia."

"The only conditions attached to the conveyance of this domain, the
equivalent of a principality, were that one-fifth of all the gold and
one-tenth of all the silver discovered within its limits should be
reserved for the royal use, and that a nominal rent of a few pounds
sterling should be paid into the treasury at Jamestown each year. In
1669 the letters patent were surrendered by the existing holders and
in their stead new ones were issued.... The terms of these letters
required that the whole area included in this magnificent gift should
be planted and inhabited by the end of twenty-one years, but in 1688
this provision was revoked by the King as imposing an impracticable

[Footnote 2: Bruce's _Economic History of Virginia_.]

The patentees, some years afterward, sold the grant to the second Lord
Culpeper, to whom it was confirmed by letters patent of King James II,
in 1688. From Culpeper the rights and privileges conferred by the
original grant descended through his daughter, Catherine, to her son,
Lord Thomas Fairfax, Baron of Cameron - a princely heritage for a young
man of 20 years.


The original boundaries of Loudoun County were changed by the
following act of the General Assembly, passed January 3, 1798, and
entitled "An Act for adding part of the county of Loudoun to the
county of Fairfax, and altering the place of holding courts in Fairfax

1. _Be it enacted by the General Assembly_, That all that
part of the county of Loudoun lying between the lower
boundary thereof, and a line to be drawn from the mouth of
Sugar Land run, to Carter's mill, on Bull run, shall be, and
is hereby added to and made part of the county of Fairfax:
Provided always, That it shall be lawful for the sheriff of
the said county of Loudoun to collect and make distress for
any public dues or officers fees, which shall remain unpaid
by the inhabitants of that part of the said county hereby
added to the county of Fairfax, and shall be accountable for
the same in like manner as if this act had not been made.

2. _And be it further enacted_, That it shall be lawful for
a majority of the acting justices of the peace for the said
county of Fairfax, together with the justices of the county
of Loudoun included within the part thus added to the said
county of Fairfax, and they are hereby required at a court
to be held in the month of April or May next, to fix on a
place for holding courts therein at or as near the center
thereof (having regard to that part of the county of Loudoun
hereby added to the said county of Fairfax) as the situation
and convenience will admit of; and thenceforth proceed to
erect the necessary public buildings at such place, and
until such buildings be completed, to appoint any place for
holding courts as they shall think proper.

3. This act shall commence and be in force from and after
the passing thereof.

As at present bounded, the old channel at the mouth of Sugar Land run,
at Lowe's Island,[3] is "the commencement of the line that separates
Loudoun from Fairfax County and runs directly across the country to a
point on the Bull Run branch of Occoquan River, about three eighths of
a mile above Sudley Springs, in Prince William County." The Bull Run
then forms the boundary between Loudoun and Prince William to its
highest spring head in the Bull Run mountain, just below the Cool
Spring Gap. The line then extends to the summit of the mountain, where
the counties of Fauquier and Prince William corner. From the summit of
this mountain, a direct line to a point[4] on the Blue Ridge, at
Ashby's Gap, marks the boundary between Loudoun and Fauquier counties.
A devious line, which follows in part the crests of the Blue Ridge
until reaching the Potomac below Harpers Ferry, separates Loudoun from
Clarke County, Virginia, and Jefferson County, West Virginia, on her
western border. The Potomac then becomes the dividing line between
Loudoun County, and Frederick and Montgomery counties, Maryland; "and
that State, claiming the whole of the river, exercises jurisdiction
over the islands as well as the river."

[Footnote 3: "What is called Lowe's Island, at the mouth of Sugarland
Run, was formerly an island, and made so by that run separating and
part of it passing into the river by the present channel, while a part
of it entered the river by what is now called the old channel. This
old channel is now partially filled up, and only receives the waters
of Sugarland Run in times of freshets. Occasionally when there is high
water in the river the waters pass up the present channel of the run
to the old channel, and then follow that to the river again. This old
channel enters the river immediately west of the primordial range of
rocks, that impinge so closely upon the river from here to Georgetown,
forming as they do that series of falls known as Seneca Falls, the
Great, and the Little Falls, making altogether a fall of 188 feet in
less than 20 miles." - _Memoir of Loudoun_.]

[Footnote 4: Designated in an old record as a "double-bodied poplar
tree standing in or near the middle of the thoroughfare of Ashby's Gap
on the top of the Blue Ridge." It succumbed to the ravages of time and
fire while this work was in course of preparation.]

This completes an outline of 109 miles, viz: 19 miles in company with
Fairfax, 10 with Prince William, 17 with Fauquier, 26 with Clarke and
Jefferson, and 37 miles along the Potomac.


Loudoun County is preeminently a diversified region; its surface
bearing many marked peculiarities, many grand distinctive features.
The broken ranges of hills and mountains, abounding in Piedmont
Virginia, here present themselves in softly rounded outline, gradually
sinking down into the plains, giving great diversity and
picturesqueness to the landscape. They are remarkable for their
parallelism, regularity, rectilineal direction and evenness of
outline, and constitute what is by far the most conspicuous feature in
the topography of Loudoun. Neither snow-capped nor barren, they are
clothed with vegetation from base to summit and afford fine range and
pasturage for sheep and cattle.

The main valleys are longitudinal and those running transversely few
and comparatively unimportant.

The far-famed Loudoun valley, reposing peacefully between the Blue
Ridge and Catoctin mountains, presents all the many varied topographic
aspects peculiar to a territory abounding in foothills.

The Blue Ridge, the southeasternmost range of the Alleghanies or
Appalachian System presents here that uniformity and general
appearance which characterizes it throughout the State, having gaps
or depressions every eight or ten miles, through which the public
roads pass. The most important of these are the Potomac Gap at 500
feet and Snickers and Ashby's Gap, both at 1,100 feet. The altitude of
this range in Loudoun varies from 1,000 to 1,600 feet above
tide-water, and from 300 to 900 feet above the adjacent country. It
falls from 1,100 to 1,000 feet in 4 miles south of the river, and
then, rising sharply to 1,600 feet, continues at the higher series of
elevations. The Blue Ridge borders the county on the west, its course
being about south southwest, or nearly parallel with the Atlantic
Coast-line, and divides Loudoun from Clarke County, Virginia, and
Jefferson County, West Virginia, the line running along the summit.

Of nearly equal height and similar features are the Short Hills,
another range commencing at the Potomac River about four miles below
Harpers Ferry and extending parallel to the Blue Ridge, at a distance

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Online LibraryJames William HeadHistory and Comprehensive Description of Loudoun County, Virginia → online text (page 1 of 15)