Maybe this has happened to you.
You're stuck in traffic on Davis Ford Road and the exhaust fumes of the cars and dump trucks stretched endlessly in front of you are starting to fog your brain along with your windshield. Your mind begins to wander: Just who was Davis? And where was his ford?
The answer is as circuitous as a trip down the road itself. One of only two east-west thoroughfares in Prince William County, Davis Ford Road meanders 20 miles from Manassas at one end to Occoquan at the other, changing its route number five times in the process.
The road had its origin in a simpler time, when horses and oxen plied the routes from Occoquan to Brentsville and Manassas.
Roads were named for their destinations or prominent features of terrain along the way. Such was the case with Davis Ford, which took its name from a ford across the Occoquan River near where the road now crosses on a concrete bridge.
A family named Davis owned substantial acreage on both sides of the Occoquan and south of Bull Run. County historians speculate that the ford was named for the family, and the road for the ford.
Not much more than that is known, but a look at county historical records shows that various members of the Davis family played an active part in county life. And, like other notables in the county's early history -- the Brent, Tacquet, Yates, Spriggs and Bristow families come to mind -- the Davises left their mark on the local geography.
William and Thomas Davis are the first to show up in the records. Sometime after 1720, they either received land grants or bought land along the Occoquan and Bull Run from Robert (King) Carter, the first land speculator in what was to become Prince William County. As head of the Northern Neck land agency, Carter controlled more than 90,000 acres in the 18th century backwoods along the Rappahannock River and north into what is now Fairfax County. About 70,000 acres were in Prince William County.
William Davis owned land north and south of Bull Run. In 1735, he gave 100 acres to his daughter Elizabeth's new in-laws, probably as part of her dowry.
The Davis name is sprinkled throughout the vestry records of Dettingen Parish in eastern Prince William (the parish was called Dettingen in honor of the place in Bavaria where Prince William Augustus, a son of George II -- and for whom Prince William County is named -- was wounded during the War of Austrian Succession).
In those days, parishes took on the responsibilities of recording indenturements, and from 1751 to 1779, Joseph Davis, Charles Davis and Simon Davis all took on indentured servants. Two were orphans, aged 15 and 9; the former was to be inducted into the "art and mystery of a cordwinder," according to the parish records. Charles Davis' servant, John Bell, was to be "taught the trade and art of saddle making." Indentured servants were usually bound to their masters until age 21.
Although county tax records for 1783 list 16 Davises, it is unlikely that all of them were prosperous. In 1776, a fellow named James Davis was in so much financial trouble that the Dettingen vestry was directed to "inquire into his circumstances and assist him if necessary."
Revolutionary War records for the county are missing, but it is known that the war pensioners included Hugh Davis and William Davis, and some historians have speculated that Davis Ford Road was named for Hugh, who is believed to have owned a house near the ford.
The road is clearly marked on an 1820 map of the county, although it is in several segments, one of which is called Occoquan Road. Civil War maps also show the road, as does a map from 1901 when Davis Ford comprised nine segments.
In that sense, things have not changed much. During the 1970s, the county tried to straighten the road some, but it still carries five highway numbers in random order as it winds its 20 miles, leaving Occoquan as Rte. 641 and arriving as Rte. 663 in Manassas, where it peters out in a tangle of railroad tracks and one-way streets.
At the moment, the county is engaged in a $3.3 million project to widen Davis Ford between Horner and Minnieville roads, and between Old Bridge and Hoadly.
Longtime county residents remember Davis Ford Road when it was unpaved. Harry J. Parrish, a former mayor of Manassas and now a GOP member of the General Assembly, says he remembers taking the road during the 1930s to football games at Occoquan High School.
"They were our main sports rivals, so I traveled the old road pretty often," said Parrish, who attended Manassas High School. "It was hardly wide enough for two cars, so if two met, one would have to get off the road."
A one-lane bridge spanned the Occoquan, Parrish remembers.
Jerry McDonald, a retired military officer who lives in Woodbridge, remembers when the road was paved in the late 1940s.
Two decades earlier, his parents cut railroad ties from trees on their property and took them, via the road, down to the Town of Occoquan.
"Occasionally, when the weather was bad, they'd get stranded and have to spend the night at a farmhouse on the way," McDonald said.
Today's commuters don't face the prospect of spending the night on the road, but if the volume of traffic along Davis Ford Road continues to grow at what has been about a 10 percent annual rate over the last decade, who knows?