From Occoquan, a quiet village that to the Algonquins meant "at the end of the water," to the City of Manassas 22 miles away, Davis Ford Road winds through the past, the present and the future. Originally an Iroquois hunting trail, the road now carries 17,000 cars a day along its two lanes.

Life along Davis Ford Road mirrors more than 200 years of history, linking the era when the Port of Occoquan was a major center of commerce, to the times of slavery and emancipation and, finally to modern decades of suburban expansion. Benchmarks of that history are all along Davis Ford Road, as a traveler passes the doorsteps of rich and poor, black and white, old settlers and new suburban commuters.

Besides the road near Occoquan is the all-but-forgotten black community of Chinatown. Not far beyond is Dale City, with its vast expanse of modern homes. New and expensive townhouses sprout beside homesteads of families who lived on the land for 50 years or more.

During the past 20 years, the populations of Loudoun and Prince William counties have doubled, replacing once-rural areas with dozens of new neighborhoods.

The newcomers who have moved to Davis Ford Road have brought not only growth but change for older for older settlers. To some along the road, growth has brought hardship, to other, the promise of wealth from the lucrative land market.