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 9 of 15)
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southern portions of the County or most of the territory
extending from the Potomac River southward to Middleburg
and from the Catoctin and Bull Run mountains eastward to
the eastern border of the County. It is more to this noble and
chivalric strain than to any other that Loudoun owes her
present unrivalled social eminence.

*This stock was the first to introduce and foster slavery in the
County.— Goodhart's History of the Loudoun Rangers.


John Esten Cooke's faithful and eloquent delincsticn of
Virginia character is peculiarly applicable to this Cavalier
element of Loudoun society. Some conception of that au-
thor's grandiose style and intimate knowledge of his subject
may be gained from the following passage:

••The Virginian of the present time has ingrained in his character
the cordial instincts and spirit of courtesy and hospitality which marked
his ancestors. He has the English preference for the life of the country
to the life of the city; is more at home among green fields and rural
scenes than in streets; loves horses and dogs, breeds of cattle, the sport
of fox hunting, wood-fires, Christmas festivities, the society of old
neighbors, political discussions, traditions of this or that local celebrity,
and to entertain everybody to the extent of, and even beyond, his
limited means. Many of these proclivities have been laughed at, and
the people have been criticised as provincial and narrow-minded; but
after all it is good to love one's native soil, and to cherish the home
traditions which give character to a race. Of the Virginians it may be
said that they have objected in all times to being rubbed down to a
uniformity with all the rest of the world, and that they have generally
retained the traits which characterized their ancestors."

The northwestern part of the County, known as the "Ger-
man Settlement," a section of about 125 square miles, extend-
ing from Catoctin Mountain westward to the Short Hill
Mountains and from the Potomac River southward to near
Wheatland, was originally settled by a sturdy and vigorous
race of Germans,* principally from Pennsylvania, but a few
from New York, in which two colonies they had settled on
their arrival, only a few years before, from the Palatine states
of Germany. They came to Loudoun between the years 1730
and 1735,t about the time of the Cavalier settlements.

These German settlers were a patient, God-fearing people,
naturally rugged, and very tenacious in the preservation of
their language, religion, customs and habits. Every stage in
their development has been marked by a peaceable and orderly
deportment — a perfect submission to the restraints of civil

*The first sheep were brought to the County by these settlers. — His-
tory of the Loudoun Rangers.

tl732 was most likely the year in which the earliest of these German
settlers arrived in Loudoun.


The earliest of these German arrivals, with native foresight
and a proper appreciation of the dangers incident to border
settlement in that day of- bloody Indian atrocities, came to
Loudoun in an organized body, embracing sixty or ^lore

Many of the males were artisans of no mean ability, and plied
their respective trades as conscientiously and assiduously as
others, in the rude manner of the times, tilled their newly-
acquired acres.

In this way, a congenial, stable, and self-sustaining colony,
founded on considerations of common safety and economic
expediency, was established amongst these storied hills of
frontier Virginia.

Almost simultaneously with these settlements came other
emigrants from Pennsylvania and the then neighboring colon-
ies, among them many members of the Society of Friends or
Quakers.* Not a few of this faith came direct from England
and Ireland, attracted by the genial climate, fertile soils and
bountiful harvests, accounts of which had early gained wide-
spread circulation. They chose homes in the central portion
of the County, southwest of Waterford and west of Lessburg,
that section being generally known as the "Quaker Settle-

Each summer brought them new accessions of prosperity
and devout brethren to swell their numbers; and soon they
had caused the wilderness to blossom as the rose. Here they
found freedom of religious and moral thought, a temperate
climate, and the wholesome society of earnest compatriots.

Then, as now, a plain, serious people, they have left the
impress of their character — thrifty, industrious, and con-
spicuously honest — upon the whole of the surrounding dis-

No concerted violence, it is believed, was offered these

*The term Quaker, originally given in reproach, has been so often
used, by friend as well as foe, that it is no longer a term of derision, but
is the generally accepted designation of a member of the Society of
Friends. — Loudoun Rangers.


settlers by the Indians who seem to have accredited them
with the same qualities of honesty, virtue, and benevolence,
by the exercise of which William 'Penn, the founder of the
faith in Pennsylvania, had won their lasting confidence and

The Quaker is a type with which all the world is familiar
and needs no particular portrayal in this work. The Quakers
of l/oudoun have at all times remained faithful adherents of
the creed, their peculiar character, manners, and tenets differ-
ing to no considerable extent from those of other like colon-
ies, wherever implanted.

It is doubtful if any race has done more to stimulate and
direct real progress, and to develop the vast resources of
Loudoun, than that portion of our earlier population known
as the Scotch-Irish. Their remarkable energy, thrift, staid-
ness, and fixed religious views made their settlements the
centers of civilization and improvement in Colonial times;
that their descendants proved sturdy props of the great cause
that culminated in the independence of the United States is a
matter of history.



The earliest permanent settlements of Loudoun having
been separately noted in the foregoing paragraphs a
generalized description of the habits, customs, and dress of
these settlers, as well as their unorganized pioneer predeces-
sors and the steady promiscuous stream of homeseekers that
poured into the County until long after the Revolution, will
now be attempted.

The early settlers, with but one class exception, had no
costly tastes to gratify, no expensive habits to indulge, and
neither possessed nor cared for luxuries. Their subsistence,
such as they required, cost but little of either time or labor.
The corn from which they made their bread came forth from
the prolific soil almost at the touch of their rude plows. Their


cattle and hogs found abundant sustenance in the broad
pastures which, in the summer, yielded the richest grass, and
in the woods where, in the fall, the ground was strewn with
acorns and other like provender.

The pioneer lived roughly; the German from the Palatinate
kept house like the true peasant that he was; the planter
lived somewhat more sumptuously and luxuriously; but, in
nearly every case, the table was liberally supplied. Hominy,
milk, corn-bread, and smoked or jerked meats seem to have
been most popular with the humbler classes.

Ice was not stored for summer use, fruits were few and not
choice, and the vegetables limited; our ancestors, at that
time, having no acquaintance with the tomato, cauliflower,
egg-plant, red-pepper, okra, and certain other staple vege-
tables of today. The Indians had schooled them in the prep-
aration of succotash with the beans grown among the corn,
and they raised melons, squashes, and pumpkins in abundance.

Corn for bread was broken in a mortar and ground in a
grater or hand-mill. Mills, in the early days, were few and
far apart, some of the back-settlers being compelled to travel
many miles for their grist. This condition gave origin to the
adage "first come first served," and frequently carried the
late arrivals over night and, at times, prolonged the trip to
procure a few bushels of meal three or four days. * 'Band-
mills," run by horses, and small water mills, where the
situation permitted, came into use to supply the demand of
larger ones. The building of a good mill, it must be confesed,
was hailed with greater satisfaction than the erection of a

The more primitive of these peoples ate from wooden
trenchers and platters; sat upon three-legged stools or wooden
blocks; used bear's grease in lieu of lard and butter, and cut
their foods with the same sheath-knives used in disem-
bowelling and skinning the deer killed by their rifles. They
had no money and their scant furniture was essentially crude,
sometimes including a few pewter dishes and plates and
spoons, but usually nothing beyond wooden bowls, trenchers,


and noggins, with gourds and squashes daintily cut. The
horse trough served as a wash-basin, and water buckets were
seldom seen. The family owning an iron pot and a kitchen
table were esteemed rich and extravagant, and china and crock-
ery ware were at once practically unknown and uncraved.
Feather-beds and bedsteads were equally eschewed, these
hardy men who had conquered the wilderness not disdaining,
when night came, to sleep upon a dirt floor with a bear-skin
for covering.

With muscles of iron and hearts of oak, they united a
tenderness for the weak and a capability for self-sacrifice
worthy of an ideal knight of chivalry; and their indomitable
will, which recognized no obstacle as insuperable, was equalled
only by their rugged integrity which regarded dishonesty as
an offense as contemptible as cowardice. For many years
they dwelt beyond the pale of governmental restraint, nor
did they need the presence of either courts or constables.
Crimes against person, property, or public order were of so
infrequent occurrence as to be practically unheard of. In
moral endowments— even if uot in mental attainments — these
sturdy pioneers of Loudoun were, it must be admitted, vastly
superior to many of those who followed them when better
facilities for transportation rendered the County more access-

Society before and for many years after the Revolution was
easy, agreeable, and somewhat refined. Traveling was slow,
difficult, and expensive. For society, the inhabitants were
mainly dependent upon themselves; the ties of social life were
closely drawn. Books, newspapers, and magazines were rare;
men and women read less, but talked more, and wrote longer
and more elaborate letters than now. ''Cheap postage has
spoiled letter writing." Much time was spent in social visits;
tea parties, and supper parties were common. The gentlemen
had their clubs and exclusive social gatherings, sometimes too
convivial in their character, and occasionally a youth of
promise fell a victim to the temptations of a mistaken hospi-
tality. "Gaming was more common among respectable people
than at the present day."



Of leisure, all classes at all times had a superabund-
ance, and it was cheerfully devoted to mutual assistance
without thought of recompense, except in kind. If anyone
fell behind through sickness or other misfortune, his neigh-
bors would cheerfully proffer their services, often making of
the occasion a frolic and mingling labor with amusement.

On days set apart for the pulling of flax and wheat-cutting,
the neighbors and their children assembled in happy mood
and as cheerfully applied themselves to their gratuitous tasks.
While the men were pulling the flax or reaping and shocking
the wheat, the women at the house were preparing the
harvest-noon feast. The rough table, for which the side and
bottom boards of a wagon were frequently used, was placed
when practicable under the shade of a spreading tree in the
yard. The visitors contributed from their meagre store such
additional dishes, knives, forks, and spoons as were needed.
Around the table, seated on benches, stools, or splint-bottom
chairs, with such appetites as could only be gained from
honest toil in the open field, the company partook of the
bounties set before them. These consisted, in addition to the
never-failing corn-bread and bacon, of bear and deer meat,
turkey, or other game in season, and an abundance of vege-
tables which they called ''roughness." The bread, styled
" jonny-cake," was baked on journey or " jonny" boards,
about two feet long and eight inches wide. The dough was
spread over the boards which were then placed before the fire;
after one side was browned, the cake was reversed and the
unbaked side turned toward the flames.

However strictly it might be abstained from at other times,
a harvest without whisky was like a dance without a fiddle.
It was partaken of by all — each one, male and female, drink-
ing from the bottle and passing it to his or her nearest
neighbor. Drinking vessels were dispensed with as mere idle

Dinner over, the company scattered, the elders withdrawing
in a body and seating or stretching themselves upon the


After the filling and lighting of the inevitable pipe, conver-
sation would become general. The news of the day — not
always, as may be imagined, very recent — was commented
upon, and then, as now, political questions were sagely and
earnestly discussed. Stories, mainly of adventure, were told;
hairbreadth escapes from Indian massacre recounted and the
battles of late wars fought again beneatli the spreading
branches of the trees. Meanwhile, the boys and girls wan-
dered off in separate and smaller groups, singing and playing
and making love much in the manner of today.

Another amusement of those days, and one that did not
fall into disfavor for many years thereafter, was what was
known as "shucking bees." To these gatherings were in-
vited both old and young. Stacks of corn in the husk were
piled upon the ground near the crib where the golden ears
were finally to be stored. Upon the assemblage of the guests,
those with proud records as corn-huskers were appointed
leaders, they in turn filling the ranks of their respective par-
ties by selection from the company present, the choice going
to each in rotation. The corn was divided into approximately
equal piles, one of which was assigned to each party. The
contest was then begun with much gusto and the party first
shucking its allotment declared the winner. The lucky
finder of a red ear was entitled to a kiss from the girls.

Supper always followed this exciting contest and after sup-
per came the dance. Stripped of dishes, the tables were
quickly drawn aside and the room swept by eager hands.
Then came the struggle for partners and the strife to be "first
on the floor. ' ' Usually the violin furnished the only music
and the figures most in favor were the reel and the jig, in
which all participated with a zest and abandon unknown to
the modern ballroom. "They danced all night till broad day-
light and went home with the girls in the morning," some on
foot and some on horseback, practically the only means of
getting there.

" Dreadful prodigality" does not too extravagantly describe
the drinking habits of the people of Virginia in the latter half


of the eighteenth century. They consumed an enormous
quantity of liquors in proportion to their numbers, and drank
indiscriminately, at all hours of the day and night. West
India rum was the favorite drink of the people, because -the
cheapest, and was bought by the puncheon. Most every
cellar, especially in the Cavalier settlements, had its barrel of
cider, Bordeaux and sherry and Madeira wines, French bran-
dies, delicate Holland gins, cordials, syrups, and every sort of
ale and beer. Drunkenness was so common as to excite no
comment, and drinking after dinner and at parties was always
hard, prolonged, and desperate, so that none but the most
seasoned old topers — the judges, squires, and parsons of six-
bottle capacity — ever escaped with their sea-legs in an insur-
able condition.

While a large proportion of the home-seekers that had
settled in the County immediately after the Revolution had
received a rudimentary education, and had lived among com-
munities which may be said to have been comparatively cul-
tured, most of them were hardy, rough, uncultivated back-
woodsmen, accustomed only to the ways of the frontier and
camp. Many of them had served in the war of the Revolution
and all of them in the border wars with the Indians. Though
brave, hospitable and generous, they were more at ease be-
neath the forest bivouac than in the "living-room" of the
log-cabin, and to swing a woodman's axe among the lofty
trees of the primeval forest was a pursuit far more congenial
to their rough nature and active temperament than to mingle
with society in settled communities. Their habits and man-
ners were plain, simple, and unostentatious. Their clothing
was generally made of the dressed skins of the deer, wolf,
or fox, while those of the buffalo and elk supplied them with
covering for their feet and heads. Their log-cabins were
destitute of glass, nails, hinges, or locks.

Education during the early settlements received but little
attention in I^oudoun, and school-houses, always of logs, were
scarcely to be seen. Schools were sometimes opened at private
houses or at the residence of the teacher; but "book larnin"
was considered too impracticable to be of much value.


While the standard of morality, commercial as well as social,
was of a high order, few of these settlers were members of any
church. Many of them, however, had been reared in religious
communities by Christian parents; had been taught to regard
the Sabbath as a day of worship, and had been early im-
pressed with a sense of the necessity of religious faith and
practice. Some of the prominent citizens encouraged these
views by occasionally holding meetings in their cabins, at
which the scriptures and sometimes sermons were read and
hymns sung, but no prayers were offered. The restraining
and molding influence of these early Christian efforts upon
the habits and morals of the people was in every respect whole-
some and beneficial. The attention of the people was arrested
and turned to the study and investigation of moral and relig-
ious questions, and direction was given to the contemplation
of higher thoughts and the pursuit of a better life.

In the meantime, other elements were introduced which
effected a radical change in the habits of the people for both
good and evil. The first settlers lived in the country, in the
woods and wilds, whose "clearings" were far apart. Not
one in ten of them had dwelt in any town, or even visited one
having as many as a thousand inhabitants. And now there
came the merchant, the lawyer, the doctor, and the mechanic,
who resided in the towns which began to grow and to take
on new life. Most of these had enjoyed superior advantages,
so far as related to education and that worldly wisdom which
comes from experience in older communities. Some of them
had come from across the ocean and others from the large
American cities, bringing with them manners, customs, fur-
niture, and wares, of which the like had never been seen by
the oldest inhabitant.

And thus were gradually introduced the methods and appli-
ances of a more advanced civilization. The pioneer and his
wife, hearing of these things, would occasionally ' 'go to town' '
to "see the sights," and would there discover that there were
many useful and convenient articles for the farm and kitchen
which might be procured in exchange for their corn, bacon,
eggs, honey, and hides; and although the shrewd merchant


was careful to exact his cent per cent, the prices asked were
little heeded by the purchaser who was as ignorant of the
value of the commodities offered as he was delighted with their
novelty and apparent usefulness.


The subject of dress is approached w4th reluctance
and its description diffidently essayed. But the task has
seemed mandatory as the manners of a people can not other-
wise be fully understood. The stately, ceremonious inter-
course of the sexes, the stiff and elaborate walk of Loudoun
men and women of Colonial and post-Revolutionary times is
traceable almost solely to the costuming of that period. How
could ladies dance anything but the stately minuet, when
their heads were veritable pyramids of pasted hair surmounted
by turbans, when their jeweled stomachers and tight- laced
stays held their bodies as tightly as would a vise, when their
high-heeled shoes were as unyielding as if made of wood, and
their trails of taffeta, often as much as fifteen yards long, and
great feathered head-dresses compelled them to turn round as
slowly as strutting peacocks? How could the men, with their
buckram-stiffened coat-shirts, execute any other dance, when
their elaborate powdered wigs compelled them to carry their
hats under their arms, and their swords concurrently re-
quired dexterous management for the avoidance of tripping
and mortifying falls?

Children were laced in stays and made to wear chin sup-
ports, gaps, and pads so as to give them the graceful carriage
necessary to the wearing of all this weight of stiff and ela-
borate costume, which was all of a piece with the character
of the assemblies and other evening entertainments, the
games of cards — basset, loo, piquet, and whist — with the
dancing, the ceremonious public life of nearly every class of
society, with even the elaborate funeral ceremonies, and the
sedulousness with which * 'persons of quality" thought it
incumbent upon themselves to maintain the distinctions of
rank as symbolized in costume.

The tie-wig, bob-wig, bag-wig, night-cap-wig, and riding-


wig were worn by the gentleman of quality as occasion
required. At times he wore, also, a small three-cornered
cocked hat, felt or beaver, elaborately laced with gold or sil-
ver galloon. If he walked, as to church or court, he carried,
in addition to his sword, a gold or ivory-headed cane, at least
five feet long, and wore square-toed, " low-quartered " shoes
with paste or silver buckles. His stockings, no matter what
the material, were tightly stretched over his calves and care-
fully gartered at the knee. If he rode, he wore boots instead
of shoes and carried a stout riding whip. About his neck
was a white cravat of great amplitude, with abundant hanging
ends of lace. His waist-coat was made with great flaps ex-
tending nearly down to the knee and bound with gold or
silver lace. His coat, of cloth or velvet, might be of any
color, but was sure to be elaborately made, with flap-pockets,
and great hanging cuffs, from beneath which appeared the
gentleman's indispensable lace ruffles. His knee-breeches
were of black satin, red plush, or blue cloth, according to his
fancy. They were plainly made and fitted tightly, buckling
at the knee. At home, a black velvet skull-cap sometimes
usurped the place of the wig and a damask dressing-gown
lined with silk supplanted the coat, the feet being made easy
in fancy morocco slippers. Judges on the bench often wore
robes of scarlet faced with black velvet in winter, and black
silk gowns in summer.

The substantial planter and burgher dressed well but were not
so particular about their wigs, of which they probably owned no
more than one, kept for visiting and for Sabbath use. They
usually yielded to the customof shaving their heads, however,
and wore white linen caps under their hats. During the
Revoluntary War wigs were scare and costly, linen was
almost unobtainable and the practice of shaving heads accord-
ingly fell rapidly into desuetude. Sometimes the burgher's
hat was of wool or felt, with a low crown and broad brim,
turned up and cocked. About his neck he wore a white linen
stock, fastening with a buckle at the back. His coat was of
cloth, broad-backed, with flap-pockets, and his waist-coat,



of the same stuff, extended to his knees. He wore short
breeches with brass or silver knee-buckles, red or blue gar-
ters, and rather stout, coarse leather shoes, strapped over the
quarter. He wore no sword, but often carried a staff, and
knew how to use it to advantage.

Mechanics, laborers and servants wore leather-breeches and
aprons, sagathy coats, osnaburg shirts and hair-shag jackets,
coarse shoes, and worsted or jean stockings, knit at home.

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Online LibraryJames W. (James William) HeadHistory and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] → online text (page 9 of 15)