James W. (James William) Head.

History and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] online

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Online LibraryJames W. (James William) HeadHistory and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] → online text (page 5 of 15)
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of water from the surface, while the soil water passes readily
through the soil and subsoil. On the other hand, the texture
is sufficiently heavy to prevent undue leaching and drought.

lyittle of the land is in cultivation, on account of its stony
character, which makes cultivation difficult. Where unim-
proved it is covered with a heavy growth of chestnut, oak,
and pine. The land is locally called ''chestnut land." In a
few small areas the larger stones have been removed and the
land is cultivated, corn and wheat being the principal crops.
The yield of corn ranges from 20 to 35 bushels and of wheat
from 8 to 1 5 bushels per acre. Apples and small fruits and
vegetables do well.

Iredell Clay Loam.

The soil of the Iredell clay loam consists of from 6 to
18 inches of light loam, usually brown or gray, although
sometimes of a yellowish color, with an average depth of
about twelve inches. The subsoil consists of a heavy yellow
to yellowish-brown waxy clay. This clay is cold and sour,
almost impervious to moisture and air, and protects the
underlying rock from decay to a great extent. Often the
clay grades into the rotten rock at from 24 to 36 inches.
In 4;he poorly drained areas a few iron concretions occur
on the surface. Numerous rounded diabase bowlders, vary-
ing in size from a few inches to several feet in diameter,
are also scattered over the surface of the soiL Occasional
slopes of the type have had the soil covering entirely removed


by erosion, and here, where the clay appears on the surface,
the soil is very poor. In other places, where the soil cover-
ing is quite deep, as from 12 to 18 inches, the type is fairly
productive, and its productiveness is generally proportional
to the depth of the soil.

The local name for the Iredell clay loam is "wax land,"
from the waxy nature of the subsoil, or "black-oak land,"
from the timber growth. A few small, isolated areas of this
soil occur in the intermediate valley of the Catoctin Belt,
and here the texture is much the same as that described
above; but the soil usually consists of from 6 to 10 inches
of a drab or brown loam, underlain by a heavy mottled yellow
and drab silty clay. This phase has few stones on the surface
or in the soil. The local names for this phase are ' * cold,
sour land " and " white clay."

The greater part of the Iredell clay loam occurs in the
southern or southeastern corner of the County and occupies
one large, irregular-shaped but generally connected area,
extending from I^eesburg, in a southeasterly and southerly
direction along Goose Creek to the southern boundary of the
County, the most typical development of the soil being at
Waxpool. The phase already described occurs in small, dis-
connected areas, usually quite far apart, the general relative
direction of these areas being northeast and southwest. They
all lie in the intermediate valley of the Catoctin Belt, and
are usually near the foot of the Blue Ridge or Short Hills.
The most typical development of this phase occurs just south-
east of Bluemont.

Where rolling and sloping the surface drainage is good, the
water passing rapidly from the surface into the numerous
small streams flowing into Goose Creek, which is the main
drainage way of this type. In the low, flat lands the water
stands or flows very slowly from the surface. Owing to the
impervious nature of the clay subsoil, underdrainage is very
slow, and the land is often cold and sour.

Corn, wheat, and grass are the principal crops grown on



this soil type, the average yields per acre being as follows:
Corn, from 20 to 40 bushels; wheat, from 8 to 15 bushels;
and grass, from i}4 to 2}4 tons. Apples do fairly well.

The greater part of the type is tilled, while the uncultivated
areas are used for pasturage andjwood lots, the forest growth
being black oak. In dryjseasons, where the soil covering is
not deep, the land bakes and cracks, and in this condition it
can not be cultivated. In wet seasons the soil becomes too
wet and sticky to work.

Penn Loam.

The Penn loam consists of from 8 to 12 inches of a dark,
Indian-red loam, underlain by a heavier loam of the same
color. This peculiar red^color is distinctive of the formation
wherever found, and, consequently, the type is one easily rec-
ognized. The texture of the type is very uniform, with the
exception of a few small areas where the subsoil is a clay
loam. The soil is locally termed "red-rock land," on account
of the numerous small red sandstone fragments which occur
in the soil and subsoil in quantities varying from 5 to 20 per
cent of the soil mass. The soil is free from large stones or other
obstructions to cultivation.

This type occurs in several large, irregular areas on the
Newark formation of the Piedmont Plateau in the eastern
part of the County. The areas have a general northeast and
southwest trend. A few small areas occur in close proximity
to the larger ones. One of the larger areas is situated just
south of Ivcesburg, while another occurs east of Lucketts.

The topography consists of a gently rolling to nearly level
plain, and there are no steep slopes or rough areas. Drainage
in this type is excellent, the easy slopes allowing a gradual
flow of water from the surface without undue erosion, except
with very heavy rains on the steeper slopes. The loamy sub-
soil allows a ready but not too rapid percolation of surplus
soil moisture, and never gets soggy or in a cold, sour condi-
tion. Numerous small streams extend throughout the area
of this type, allowing a rapid removal of all surplus water
into the Potomac River, the chief drainageway of the County.


Along these streams, which in all cases have cut out beds
some 10 to 30 feet below the surrounding plain, the slopes are

The original growth on the Penn loam was a forest of oak,
hickory, and walnut, but at the present time nearly all of the
type is cleared and farmed. The soil is not naturally very
productive, but is prized on account of its great susceptibility
to improvement, its quick responsiveness to fertilization, and
its easy cultivation and management. The surface is smooth
and regular, and the absence of stones, together with the
loamy texture of the soil, makes it easy to maintain good
tilth. Any addition of fertilizers or lime is immediately
effective, and by judicious management the type may be kept
in a high state of productiveness. Many fine farms with
good buildings are to be seen on this type. The crops grown
are corn, wheat, grass, clover, apples, and small fruits. Graz-
ing, stock raising, and dairying are practiced to some extent.
The land yields from 40 to 60 bushels of corn, from 10 to 15
or more bushels of wheat, and from 1 to 2 tons of hay per

Cecil Loam,

The soil of the Cecil loam consists of from 8 to 12 inches
of a brown or yellow loam. The subsoil consists of a heavy
yellow or red loam, or occasionally clay loam. The soil and
subsoil are usually free from stones, but occasional areas
have from 5 to 30 per cent of angular quartz or schist frag-
ments on the surface. Often a mica-schist enters into the
composition of the subsoil, giving it a soft and greasy feel.

The greater part of the intermediate valley or base-level
plain of the Catoctin Belt consists of the Cecil loam, and it
occurs here as one large, connected area, inside of which are
small areas of Cecil clay, Loudoun sandy loam, and Iredell
clay loam. A considerable portion of the Catoctin Mountain
also consists of the Cecil loam. In extent this is the most
important soil type in Loudoun, covering about 33 per cent
of the total area.


The Cecil loam, owing to its rolling character, is well
drained throughout. Many small streams traverse it, afford-
ing ample outlets for surface water. The gently rolling areas
are not generally subject to excessive erosion, but the steeper
slopes wash badly, deep gullies and ditches being formed on
the hillsides. Especially subject to erosion are the areas in
which the subsoil contains a relatively large proportion of
mica fragments. The soil and subsoil, though quite loamy,
retain enough moisture in seasons of moderate rainfall to
supply all growing crops.

The Cecil loam is devoted entirely to general farming. The
crops grown are corn, wheat, grass, clover, vegetables,
apples, and pears. The agricultural interests are further
diversified by the practice of dairying and stock raising.
The land is one of the best corn soils of lyoudoun, being
loamy and easily cultivated throughout the growing season.
The average yield per acre ranges from 40 to 60 bushels.
Wheat does very well, producing from 12 to 20 bushels per
acre, and more in favorable seasons. Grass and clover yield
at the rate of from 1 to 2 tons of hay per acre and form good
grazing during a considerable part of the year. Apples and
pears are grown everywhere on the type, usually in small
orchards, and good yields of these fruits are obtained. Oats
were at one time grown, and can be produced at the rate of
from 35 to 50 bushels per acre, but the present acreage is
small, the farmers claiming that this crop rapidly reduces the
productiveness of the soil.

Nearly all of the type is in cultivated crops or pasture.
The original timber growth was oak, hickory, and walnut;
but little of this stands now, except on occasional woodlots.
The Cecil loam is a soil which with careful treatment makes
a fine farming land; but carelessly managed it very quickly

Cecil Clay.

The soil of the Cecil clay consists of a heavy loam, red or
brown in color, and having an average depth of 8 inches.
The subsoil generally consists of a red clay, although it is


sometimes a heavy clay loam. The surface is generally free
from stones, though occasional small areas have a few quartz
and granite or schist fragments. In the Piedmont areas small
rounded diabase fragments occur on the surface. Occasion-
ally on steep slopes or high knobs the soil covering has been
washed away, leaving the heavy red clay exposed on the sur-
face. These areas, however, are small.

The type occurs principally in the intermediate valley of
the Catoctin Belt, between the Blue Ridge and the Catoctin
Mountain, and on the west slopes of the Catoctin Mountain.
In the valley it occupies several small, disconnected areas
scattered throughout this region, while on the west slope of
the mountain it is found in one of two long, broad areas, ex-
tending in a northeast and southwest direction. Three small
areas occur near the southeastern corner of the County, and
the type is here closely related to the Iredell clay loam.

The most typical areas of this soil occur in the Piedmont
Plateau and on the gentle slopes at the foot of the Blue Ridge
in the vicinity of Bluemont.

This soil type has excellent surface drainage and is well
watered and drained throughout by small streams. Few of
the slopes are so steep as to wash badly. The heavy clay
subsoil retains ample moisture for plant growth and the
soil is rarely so wet as to necessitate tile draining, although
this would undoubtedly be very beneficial in the case of the
heavier phases.

The whole of this soil is under cultivation and it is highly
esteemed wherever found, being naturally a strong soil and
susceptible of improvement. The original forest growth con-
sisted of oak, hickory, and walnut. The land is easily im-
proved, retentive of moisture and manure, and with careful
management makes an excellent soil for general farming.
Owing to its tendency to bake, crops are liable to suffer during

The land produces wheat, corn, grass, clover, apples, and
pears. It is a strong wheat soil, and yields from 15 to 25
bushels per acre and occasionally more. Grass and clover


hay yield at the rate of \% to 2^ tons per acre, while from
40 to 60 bushels of corn per acre are usually produced in good

All things considered, the Cecil clay is best adapted to the
production of wheat and grass. The more loamy phases are
adapted to corn, but the type as a whole is a much "better
wheat land than corn land. The soil is also well adapted to
apples and pears. Bluegrass grows well and makes fine pas-
turage, and stock raising and dairy farming are other indus-
tries to which the Cecil clay is well suited. Care has to be
used in the cultivation of this soil, for if worked when too
wet it dries in large, hard clods that give trouble throughout
the season and interfere with cultivation for a long time after-

Cecil Silt Loam.

The surface soil of the Cecil silt loam consists of 12
inches of a light gray or white silt loam. This material is
underlain by a subsoil of yellow silt loam slightly heavier
than the soil. The type is locally termed ' 'white land , ' ' and
is closely related to the Penn loam and the Iredell clay loam,
these types surrounding and grading gradually into it. In
some areas the soil is quite free from stones, while in others
from 10 to 30 per cent of the soil mass is composed of small
rock fragments.

The type occupies several small areas in the Piedmont
region, in the southeastern part of the County. The largest
of these areas lies about 2 miles east of Leesburg, and a
considerable part of the type is adjacant to the Potomac River.
It occupies high, rolling, ridgy, or hilly lands, and has some
rather steep slopes, though in general the surface is only
gently sloping.

The drainage is good, but wherever the slopes are steep
erosion proceeds rapidly, making gullies and washed-out places
that hinder or entirely prevent cultivation. The type is well
watered by small streams which flow the year round.

Probably one-half of this type is cultivated. The remainder


is covered with a growth of scrub oak, pine, and some cedar.
The soil is thin and only fairly productive, and consequently
is not greatly desired for agriculture. It is very easy to work,
but has to be cultivated carefully to avoid washing. The
crops raised are corn,'* wheat, grass, and some apples. Corn
yields from 25 to"35^bushels, wheat from 12 to 15 bushels,
and clover and timothy hay from 1 to 2 tons per acre. Small
fruits and vegetables do well.

Although naturally a thin soil, the Cecil silt loam is fairly
well adapted to thej production of the crops just named. Of the
small fruits, peaches, plums, and berries do best. On the whole
the type is considered much better adapted to wheat than to
corn. It is limed and fertilized to a considerable extent, and
responds well to such applications.

Cecil Mica Loam.

The Cecil mica loam consists of 12 inches of a friable, mica-
ceous yellow or yellowish red loam, underlain by a yellow or
yellowish-red loam, whose mica content increases with the
depth until at 24 to 30 inches the subsoil is little more than a
mass of small mica flakes which gives it a loose texture. Occa-
sionally the subsoil is a clay loam for several inches before
grading into the unweathered mica particles.

On the surface there is from 5 to 40 per cent of angular
quartz fragments, ranging from 1 to 6 inches in diameter,
some being much larger.

The Cecil mica loam occurs as one long, narrow strip,
occupying the lower, gentle eastern slopes of the Catoctin
Mountain. The southern end of the stip begins a short distance
north of Leesburg, and extends in a northeasterly direction
to the Potomac River, opposite Point of Rocks, Md.

The topographic features of the Cecil mica loam consist of
gentle and occasionally steep rolling slopes. The surface is
well drained and on the steeper slopes the soil washes badly
and deep gullies are formed. In a season of moderate rainfall
the soil and subsoil retain considerable moisture, but in dry
weather crops suffer from drought.


No farms are found entirely on the Cecil mica loam, but
those farms of the Piedmont, extending up the mountain
slopes, generally include some of this soil. Such areas are often
farmed, but more generally used as woodlots. Where culti-
vated the yields are scant, except where the soil is heavily
fertilized. Corn yields from 10 to 30 bushels per acre and
sometimes more, and wheat from 6 to 12 bushels per acre. The
type is best adapted to forestry, chestnut orcharding, and
grape growing.

De Kalb Stony Loam,

The soil of the De Kalb stony loam consists of a yellow or
gray sandy loam of coarse texture, having an average depth
of 12 inches. The subsoil consists of a heavy yellow
sandy loam to a depth of 24 inches or more, where
it rests upon a mass of sandstone fragments. These sand-
stone fragments and bowlders occur in varying quantities
throughout the soil and subsoil. Where the fewer stones are
found the soil is not so sandy, but a light loam, yellow or brown
in color, underlain by a deep yellow loam subsoil.

The De Kalb stony loam is a mountain soil, occurring in
long, parallel bands of varying width, extending in a general
northeast and southwest direction, and mainly occupies the
crests and slopes of the Blue Ridge and Short Hill mountains.
It also occurs in smaller areas on the crest and east slope of
Catoctin Mountain.

On the Blue Ridge and Short Hills the De Kalb stony loam
covers the whole of the mountains, and here the physiog-
raphy consists of long, sharp, rock-crested ridges, with steep,
rugged slopes and occasional cliffs and huge ledges. There
are occasional benches on the mountain sides, and here there
is an accumulation of two or three inches of a black mold,
resting on the broken sandstone fragments, and covered with a
growth of locust, oak, and berry vines.

Owing to the steep and rugged surface of this soil, together
with its stony character, superficial drainage is rapid and
thorough, the water rushing in torrents from the mountain


slopes, while as a result of the loose texture and the large
number of stone fragments in the soil the water passes rapidly
through it, and there is never an excess of moisture in the
soil or subsoil.

On account of the steep and stony nature of the De Kalb
stony loam little of the type can possibly be cultivated. The
soil is naturally a very thin one, and is not capable of pro-
ducing fair yields except in its less stony phases.

The principal growth on the type is chestnut, oak, and
some pine. Probably 95 per cent of the type is uncultivated,
and is valuable only for the timber growth it supports.
Where cultivated the average yields per acre are as follows:
Corn, from 10 to 20 bushels; wheat, from 6 to 10
bushels. Apples and especially peaches do fairly well on the
mountain phase where not too stony.

The greater part of the De Kalb stony loam is not adapted
to agricultural purposes at all, and it is not likely that the
land will ever be valuable except for forestry. It is locally
termed "mountain land," and is the poorest agricultural soil
of the County.

Porters Clay.

The Porters clay consists of from 6 to 12 inches of a brown
or reddish-brown loam, underlain by a heavy red loam or clay
loam. The type consists of fairly rough mountain land, and
is very stony, having from 15 to 60 percent of small and large
schist ^fragments on the surface, some of which are several
feet in diameter. The soil is light and easy to work wherever
it is not so stony as to interfere with cultivation.

This soil is a strictly mountain type and not of great extent.
It follows the crest and part of the east slope of the Blue
Ridge Mountains for several miles, extending in a north-
easterly direction and ending at the areas of sandstone

The type is well drained throughout, while the texture of
the subsoil is sufficiently heavy to retain considerable moisture
through quite extended dry spells. The steeper slopes are
uncultivated, and hence are not subject to erosion.


A considerable proportion of this soil type is under cultiva-
tion, especially on the broad mountain top. Those areas not
cultivated are covered with a heavy growth of oak, hickory,
locust, and walnut. Corn and wheat can be grown on the
type with fair yields, but little of the latter is grown on
account of the stony nature of the land. Corn yields from
20 to 35 bushels, wheat from 8 to 15 bushels, and grass
and clover from 1 to 2 tons per acre. Irish and sweet
potatoes give good yields, and fine apples and peaches are
produced. Peaches are liable to winterkill, and the crop is
uncertain for this reason. This type is peculiarly adapted to
fruit growing, and especially to the production of apples.


The Meadow of Loudoun is usually a brown silty or sandy
loam, with a depth of several feet. The type occurs in nar-
row bands along the larger streams, forming a bottom or low
terrace a few feet above the mean water level. The nature of
the soil depends greatly on the surrounding soils, as it is
formed from sediment of the wash from these types and par-
takes of their textural characteristics to some extent.

The type, while low and flat, is generally well enough
drained for cultivation, although this is somewhat hindered by
overflows; consequently the land is chiefly used for grazing.
The soil is alluvial in origin, being built up by successive over-
flows of the streams. Little of the type is forested. Where
cultivated it is generally used for corn, which yields from 50
to 75 bushels an acre. Little wheat is grown, although the
soil is capable of producing fair yields of this crop. It also
produces from 2 to 3 tons of hay per acre, and affords excel-
lent pasturage. The crops are somewhat uncertain, however,
on account of overflows which sometimes occur after the
planting season, though in the case of the River the danger
from flood is usually past before the time for corn planting.
Where the areas are in grass the floods usually do little dam-
age. Productiveness is in a great measure maintained by the
addition of the sediments left by the overflow waters.



Flora. — Records of the days of early settlement point to a
scarcity and an inferiority of large timber in Loudoun (then
Prince William) and contiguous counties. The responsibility
for this condition has been traced to the hunters who frequented
this region prior to its settlement and wantonly set fire to the
forests in order to destroy underbrush, the better to secure
their quarries. A comparatively dense and vigorous new
growth followed the discontinuance of this pernicious practice.

At the present time, after the encroachment of field and
pasture for nearly two centuries, a large portion of the county's
area is still under forest cover. The stand, in the main, is
somewhat above average size and quality.

The total value of forest products cut or produced on farms
in 1899 was $51,351. This includes only the wood, lumber,
railroad ties, etc., which the farmers cut in connection with
their ordinary farming operations. The reports of persons
making lumbering or wood cutting their principal business
are not included.

The trees common to Loudoun are four varieties of the
white oak, i. e. , common, swamp, box, and chestnut-leaved,
the latter, however, appearing only along the margin of the
Potomac River; black, Spanish, and red oak, chestnut oak,
peach or willow oak, pin oak; and in the eastern parts of the
county, black jack, or barren oak, and dwarf oak, hickory,
black and white walnut, white and yellow poplar, chestnut,
locust, ash, sycamore, wild cherry, red flowering maple, gum,
sassafras, persimmon, dogwood, red and slippery elm, black
and white mulberry, aspin (rare), beech, birch, linn, honey-
locust, sugar maple, sugar nut, yellow and white pine, hem-
lock, and red cedar.

Among the smaller trees and shrubs are the white thorn,
maple-leaved or Virginia thorn (suitable for hedging), haw-
thorn, wild May cherry, or service berry, water beech, fringe
tree, red bud, black alder, common alder, sumach, elder,
laurel, witch-hazel, hazel-nut, papaw, chinkapin, burnish


bush, nine bark, button-bush, honeysuckle, several varieties
of the whortleberry or huckleberry, and wild gooseberry.

A few of the brambles met with are the greenbrier, high
blackberry, dewberry, or low blackberry, and raspberry.

A list of the vines and creepers would comprise the fox
grape, three varieties; pigeon, or raccoon grape, chicken
grape, a wild bitter grape, sarsaparilla, yellow parilla, poison-
vine, or poison-oak, clematis, trumpet-flower, and wild potato

The medicinal herbs found in lyoudoun are the rattlesnake
root, Seneca snakeroot (also called Virginia snakeroot) , many

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Online LibraryJames W. (James William) HeadHistory and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] → online text (page 5 of 15)