As the millennium draws to a close, historian and mapmaker Eugene M. Scheel looks back at Loudoun County during those 1,000 years, in eight installments that begin in today's Loudoun Extra and will continue each Thursday and Sunday through Dec. 30. Scheel, who works in Waterford, has written nine books on the history of Loudoun and surrounding counties and has drawn more than four dozen detailed historical maps of the area.
1000: Loudoun is a hardwood forest with some grassland. Average temperatures are a few degrees colder than they are today. American Indians plant corn and beans, and live in villages until soils wear out. Then they move on. Other Indians hunt with spears and bow and arrow, the latter invented about 400 A.D. To attract large game to grassland, they burn the forest. Buffalo provide food, clothing and shelter.
1500: Migrating northern Indians tell of people from across the ocean coming to conquer. Local Indians begin to fear neighboring tribes. Villages shift and populations migrate. Native crafts decline in number and quality. Designs of previous cultures are lost in the shiftings and uprootings. The stability of prehistory has ended.
1608: John Smith's voyages to the falls of the Potomac River at Key Bridge and Rappahannock River at Falmouth verify, through meetings with Indians, that Sioux live in the Virginia Piedmont (west of Catoctin and Bull Run mountains) and that the area is largely grassland. To the east live Algonquin-speaking tribes. The Sioux hunt and are nomadic. The Algonkians farm and are semi-nomadic. Both fish, using V-shaped rock traps built across rivers and streams. More than 50 of the traps survive, mostly in the Potomac.
1662: To counter warlike actions of the Susquehannock Indians, who each fall migrate south from Pennsylvania and then return in the spring, the Virginia General Assembly prohibits "all Indians to the northward of Maryland from trucking, trading, bartering or dealing with any English or Indians to the southward of that place." Historian Fairfax Harrison remarked that "this legislation was about as effective as King Canut's decree against the advance of the tide."
By 1670: The predatory Susquehannock have driven the peaceful Sioux from western Loudoun. Two centuries later, Gen. George Armstrong Custer will test the Sioux's mettle far to the west, at Little Bighorn. The Susquehannock now have the bellicose Iroquois to grapple with. They vie for control of "plain paths" (trails) to the south. This route follows the east slope of Catoctin and Bull Run mountains; there the climate is mild, the springs flow and the rivers are fordable.
1675: Susquehannock depredations against settlers in Stafford County prompt Nathaniel Bacon's troops to massacre the tribe's main body on the Carolina border. The Susquehannock forces had been depleted by fighting with the Iroquois, who had usurped their north-south migration route.
1677: Ambassadors from Virginia and Maryland, hearing of Iroquois forays against colonists in central Virginia and along the lower Potomac, conclude a treaty of alliance at Albany, N.Y., near the Iroquois' Finger Lakes homeland. The Iroquois call their forays isolated acts by "irresponsible young men."
1684: A second Treaty of Albany stipulates that the Iroquois can continue to migrate east of the Blue Ridge, but they "must not come near the [navigable] Heads of Rivers, nor near Plantations, but keep at the Foot of the Mountains." The Iroquois establish additional plain paths through the "indian thoroughfares," later known as Ashby's and Williams' gaps--where Routes 50 and 7 now cross the Blue Ridge. Their paths are forerunners of the Harry Byrd Highway and Snickersville Turnpike.
By 1690: The main trading area among Indians of Loudoun, who now number perhaps 1,000, is along the Potomac near Point of Rocks, Md. White trappers and adventurers share in the barter. Potomac, in the Algonquin language, means "great trading place." A second major place of trade is at the juncture of the James Monroe Highway and Braddock Road. An old-timer told me it was "the crossroads of the Indian world."
1697: Piscataway Indians, an Algonquin-speaking tribe from southern Maryland, settle by Little River south of Middleburg. Marylanders visiting their fort describe it as "built between the two mountains [the Bull Run and Blue Ridge mountains] and corn planted on the West side." The paucity of area fish--hence the stream name, Hunger Run--prompt the Piscataway to move to Conoy Island, just east of Point of Rocks, in 1699. Vandercastel and Harrison describe the Piscataway settlement on Conoy Island: "The fforte is about ffifty or sixty yardes square and theire is eighteen Cabbins in the fforte and nine Cabbins without. As for Provitions they have Corne, they have Enuf and to spare."
By 1715: Decimated by traders' smallpox, the Piscataway, now allied with the Iroquois, move north to Pennsylvania. Disease also ravages the remaining Algonquins; most move south. Some intermarry with settlers and, later, slaves. Their descendants, who considered themselves Negroes, would readily be recognized through the 1930s. Today, one must visit such counties as Rappahannock, Madison, Culpeper and Orange to meet a local with Indian features.
1715: Tuscarora Indians of North Carolina, defeated by the English and accepting an Iroquois offer of asylum in New York, trek northward for seven years. Their plain paths follow traditional ones at the east edge of the Bull Run and Catoctin mountains. Several ceremonial mounds are their legacy.
1722: Continued isolated attacks by Iroquois "young men" against settlers prompt Virginia Gov. Alexander Spotswood to initiate a third Treaty of Albany. The Iroquois, receiving "liberal presents," agree not to migrate southward east of the Blue Ridge. They do not break their word. The Indian presence in Loudoun has ended.
1000: Norwegians settle Greenland about 985. When arable land grows scarce, Leif Ericson sails south, looking for farmland. He lands on the east coast of North America about 1000 and spends the winter there. Viking settlement remains have been found in Newfoundland, but some historians believe Ericson reached Maine or Cape Cod, Mass.--which he named Vinland (Wineland) for New England's plentiful berries. After a score of years, Indians drive the Norsemen away.
1400s: French and Spanish fishermen sail off the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts. John Cabot, sailing from England, reaches the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, in 1497. The next year, he explores the coasts of Nova Scotia, Maine and Massachusetts.
1524: Giovanni da Verrazano explores the Hudson River and the New England coast, and may have touched the North Carolina shore. In 1540, Hernando De Soto explores the Appalachian Mountain regions of South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. Other explorers and adventurers probe the upper New England coasts.
1631: Englishmen settle on Kent Island, Md. , and a year later, Henry Fleet trades with the Iroquois at the Falls of the Potomac. Samuel de Champlain's 1632 map of New France, showing the correct topography of the Shenandoah Valley, indicates French Jesuits had accompanied Iroquois hunting parties in the valley. In 1634, the English establish St. Mary's City in southern Maryland.
1649: King Charles II, in exile near Paris, grants seven supporters 5.28 million acres "lying in America"--an inducement to help him regain the English throne, which he does in 1660. The acreage, known as the Northern Neck Proprietary, includes all land between the Potomac River to the north and the Rappahannock, Rapidan, and Conway rivers to the south. A straight line between the Conway's head spring (in Madison County) and the south branch of the Potomac's head spring (near Davis, W.Va.) marks the western boundary.
1670: John Lederer, a German physician, Col. John Catlett and "nine English horses and five Indians on foot" explore the Virginia Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley for several months. They encounter no Indians--a sure sign that the Sioux have left. On the first of Cadwallader Jones's several trips (1682-1686) into this interior, 60 miles south of Loudoun, he finds "an Indian yt made a periauger," the first mention of a canoe in Virginia.
1681: Thomas Lord Culpeper, governor of Virginia, garners six of seven shares in the 5.28-million-acre Northern Neck Proprietary, granted by King Charles in 1649. Lord Culpeper dies at the home of his mistress in 1689 and leaves his six shares to his wife and daughter, Catherine. The next year, Catherine marries Thomas fifth Lord Fairfax.
1692: Trappers, traders and adventurers had roamed through Loudoun for 20 years or more, but David Strahane's Potomac Rangers are the first to note a specific location. His journal of Sept. 22 notes that "we came to a great Runn that made into the suggar land, & we marcht down it about 6 miles." The rangers, one of several patrols combing the frontier to monitor Indian activity, "observed an inspissate Juice, like Molasses, distilling from the Tree. They found it sweet and by this Process of Nature learn'd to improve it into Sugar."
1699: Giles Vandercastel and Burr Harrison, sent by the governor to visit the Piscataway on Conoy Island, further record the Potomac side's geography: "About seven or eight miles above the sugar land we came to a broad Branch [today's Broad Run] of about fifty or sixty yards wide: a still or small streeme; itt took oure horses up to the Belleys, very good going in and out." They also note that special area rock formation, later called Potomac Marble: "Grubby and greate stones standing Above the ground like heavy [hay] cocks."
1709: Daniel McCarty, general assemblyman from Westmoreland County, receives the first grant of land, 2,993 acres along the Potomac, including "the Sugarland Islands" (today's Lowes Island] in the northeast corner of Loudoun. Until 1711, the grants would be issued by the Culpeper family's real estate agent, Robert Carter, already described as "one of the greatest freeholders in that proprietary."
1710: Catherine, Lady Fairfax, now a widow, inherits the seventh share of the Northern Neck Proprietary. Wondering why so large a domain is yielding such little income, next year she appoints Thomas Lee as her agent. But Loudoun is an unchartered wilderness, and there will be no further grants for eight years.
1719: Upon Lady Fairfax's death, her son, Thomas sixth Lord Fairfax, inherits the Northern Neck. He reappoints Robert Carter as his agent, but before doing so, Thomas Lee grants himself 800 acres between Broad Run and "Lee's Creek." He would continue to apply his name to what is now Goose Creek--a transliteration from the Algonquin word Cokongoloto, meaning river of geese, their feathers prized by Indians for ceremonial use. Lee would later amass more than 15,000 acres between the two streams.