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 began in the Dec. 5 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.
1865: After the Civil War, one of the Freedmen's Bureau's main tasks is to establish public schools for black children and adults, and in 1865 there are two such schools, one at Middleburg and the other near Hillsboro. "[I] see the colored people going about with their school books. Yanks teaching them," diarist Catherine Broun writes. The next year, there are three more schools, two in Leesburg and one in Lincoln.
1866: Trustees buy land for a school for "the Colored people of Waterford and vicinity"--the first public property in Loudoun owned by the black community. The next year, money from the Freedmen's Bureau builds the school, which remains open for 90 years, the longest for any African American school in the county. By 1869, seven schools educate blacks: One of the two in Leesburg has closed, but two more have been built--in Willisville and Brownsville, a community between Leesburg and Hamilton; three of them still stand. White Loudoun residents and schoolmistresses from the North are the teachers. The Rev. William Robey becomes the county's first known black educator in 1969, at the African School in Leesburg. By the 1880s, most teachers at the schools will be African Americans. There are no public schools for white children.
1866: Catherine Broun writes of "Dabney's Dudes," Loudoun's first baseball club: "The children are interested very much in a Base Ball team they have in Middleburg"--students at Virginius Dabney's private Loudoun School for white children. Within a decade, rivalries among town teams become common, and leagues form. Negro baseball teams organize in the 1890s, and with fewer clubs, they often compete against Negro teams in Washington, Winchester and Charlottesville.
1867: The first postwar churches for blacks organize: Mount Zion Methodist at Leesburg, under Robey; Shiloh Baptist at Middleburg, founded by the Rev. Leland Warring; Asbury Methodist near Hillsboro, with the Rev. Nathaniel Carroll as its first pastor; and Trinity Methodist at Rock Hill, which still stands near Lincoln. The next year, the first black church in the lower county, Woodson Chapel at Oak Grove, is founded by the Rev. Robert Woodson. Negroes continue to worship at Middleburg's Asbury Methodist, which had seen its pro-slavery congregants depart to form another church.
1870: Virginia joins the Union, and its counties elect boards of supervisors to replace the Gentleman Justices of the Court, who had been elected since 1783. One supervisor represents each district, which until 1972 number six: Broad Run, named for the stream and comprising the vast unpopulous east; Leesburg, the middle; Lovettsville, the northwest; Jefferson, the west, named for the adjoining county in West Virginia; Mercer, for Loudoun statesman and longtime congressman, Charles Fenton Mercer, the southwest; and between Jefferson and Mercer, Mount Gilead, for the village, itself named for the Biblical antiseptic balm. Supervisors are mainly occupied with getting roads and bridges repaired, and in fixing up the poorhouse near Unison. The first county budget totals $14,000, and the highest-paid county employee is the Overseer of the Poor, who receives $400 plus room and board at the poorhouse.
1870: Wheat, the money crop, increases its yield from 396,300 bushels in 1860 to 537,000 bushels. Cultivated land in Loudoun's 330,880 acres decreases from 220,266 acres to 201,888 because of neglected wartime fields, nearly half the men having served in the armies. The South's prewar "old field-new field" system of agriculture--alternating productive fields so fallow ground can renew nutrients--is no more. Hundreds of Negro farmers lease these former old fields, which gradually will regain their productivity.
1870s: White farmers form numerous organizations to promote their needs, compare methods and markets and buy and sell cooperatively. Waterford's Catoctin Farmers' Club organizes in 1868, the Aldie Farmers' Club by 1871 and the western county's Ponoma Grange in 1876, with its office in Hamilton. The Catoctin Farmers' Club still meets at various farms in the Loudoun Valley.
1870-1871: As mandated by 1869 Virginia law, public schools open for white children. In Loudoun there are 55 schools--46 for whites, nine for blacks, who make up 27 percent of the county's 21,000 residents. John Wildman, the first school superintendent, notes in 1872 that "the educated and refined portion" of Loudoun views public education as an attempt "to promote the interests and elevate the condition of the negroes and lower classes of whites at the expense of the property holders." In 1885, however, School Superintendent William Giddings writes that public schools "met with almost unanimous welcome upon their introduction in Loudoun county."
1871: Having resumed service to Leesburg in 1866 and pushed west to Clarke's Gap in 1869, the railroad, now called the Washington & Ohio, enters the Loudoun Valley's main market town, Hamilton. Tracks will reach Purcellville in 1874, Round Hill in 1875. Boarding houses near the railroad vie for summer guests eager to escape Washington's heat and humidity.
1871: The Board of Supervisors sanctions "chain gangs" to work the roads and purchases the balls, shackles and chains. There are black gangs and white gangs, and they are a common sight on Loudoun byways through the 1930s. Purcellville's Basham Simms, a retired builder and the first black elected to the Purcellville Town Council, recalls his father pointing to one black convict and saying: "That man got 30 years for stealing a loaf of bread so he could feed his family."
1873: J. Cook Nickens, a town barber, is the first elected Negro official in Loudoun, as Leesburg District constable, a law enforcement officer. In 1887-1888, William Ash, born a slave in Loudoun, is elected to Virginia's House of Delegates, representing Amelia and Nottoway counties. Ash, a teacher of agriculture, returns to Loudoun in the 1890s and teaches at the Leesburg School for blacks.
1873: All the wood bridges were burned during the Civil War, and the first to reappear is the Leesburg Turnpike (now Route 7) span across Goose Creek, built for $3,000--cheap even for that time. Little wonder that the 1889 flood will wash it away. New Potomac River toll bridges at Point of Rocks and Brunswick (previously Berlin) in Maryland are not rebuilt until 1892 and 1893. Ferries again ply the river.
1875: The county's main north-south toll road, called the Point of Rocks Turnpike north of Leesburg and the Aldie Turnpike south of Leesburg, is built mainly by convict labor. The road unites an agriculturally rich stretch of limestone soils, today known as the Route 15 corridor, There are now four toll houses at Leesburg, one at each entry road. Except for the Berlin and Harpers Ferry turnpikes, which lack their Potomac River bridges, all the prewar toll roads survive.
1875: Eager for self-government despite extra taxes, Hamilton incorporates and Waterford reincorporates, fearing that the 1836 incorporation is no longer valid. Lovettsville incorporates in 1876, Hillsboro in 1880, Round Hill in 1900 and Purcellville in 1908. Except for Waterford and Lovettsville, each town draws its boundaries to exclude enclaves of black families, many of whom work for town residents.
1870s-1890s: Most blacks live on small leased farms. By the 1880s, several have saved enough to buy their modest acreages. By 1900 there are 27 distinct African American villages, most of which survive, including the largest communities: Oak Grove in the east; Bowmantown, Scattersville and Watson in the county's center; Guinea Bridge (Rock Hill), Howardsville, St. Louis and Willisville in the west. None of these villages will have a post office, even though many are larger than nearby white villages with post offices.
1876: The month of August, between the summer and fall harvests, is the time for visiting and relaxation, and few galas in Virginia can match the Bush Meeting. First held under a brush arbor in the woods near Lincoln, it moves to Purcellville the next year. But the name sticks. One ad states: "ten days in the midst of nature's choicest environments with an intellectual feast of music, art, and literature and a moral and spiritual atmosphere." The Bush Meeting outlasts several similar Loudoun celebrations, surviving until 1931. Its "tabernacle," built in 1904, remains Loudoun's largest building until the Dulles airport terminal arises in 1962. The tabernacle is now Purcellville's skating rink.
1878: The open range soon is no more, for Virginia law states that "every freeholder in the county of Loudoun [shall] be required to keep a lawful fence along the public highways, and that all partition fences shall be kept in thorough repair." Several farmers protest, one quipping: "The prodigal waste of timber a worm fence requires, must soon reckon that light and airy structure among the has been." And with no slaves to build stone fences, he added, "the craft is known only to the initiate few."
1878: The bishop of Richmond dedicates Leesburg's Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, the culmination of more than 80 years of evangelizing by itinerant Catholic priests. The faith grows slowly because of prejudice against the Irish, builders of the railroads and canals in prewar decades. The church takes its present name, St. John the Apostle, in 1927.
1880: Anti-liquor forces had been active in Virginia since the 1820s, and the state now decides to have each magisterial district and town determine whether it should be "wet" or "dry." The western Loudoun districts of Jefferson, Lovettsville and Mount Gilead become dry; the eastern districts of Broad Run and Leesburg, joined by Mercer, become wet. One can buy alcohol in Leesburg and Middleburg but not in the other towns. The districts and towns will vote the question every two years.
1884: President Grover Cleveland makes good his promise to have no one walk or ride more than two miles to a post office. Hundreds spring up, including Elvan, Irene, Mahala and Ryan. To help poor spellers, short names are the rule. The post offices, usually located at stores, strengthen the villages.
1884: The Board of Supervisors offers premiums for killing predators, and through the 1940s many Loudouners earn sizable extra incomes from this "cottage industry." Initially, the rewards in this $1-a-day wage era are; $10 for wolf scalps, $1.50 for wildcat and red fox scalps, 75 cents for a gray fox, and 50 cents for a chicken hawk or owl--screech owls excepted. Although owls perform a service to humans by eating rodents, they are accused of killing poultry. Superstition holds that a screech owl's cry warns of an impending calamity.
1885: Loudoun and Fauquier's first telephone line links Middleburg with The Plains. The next year, the line is extended from Middleburg to Leesburg. Also in 1886, there is telephone service from Lincoln and Purcellville, via Lovettsville, to Brunswick. In mid-year service extends to Philomont and Unison. The telephone's primary purpose was to let farmers find out if their goods had reached the the railroad hubs. It also gives rise to newspaper "gossip" columns.
1889: Loudoun's first lynching of record occurs. A black man has been accused of raping a white woman. A mob breaks into the county jail and hangs him in Leesburg's pauper's graveyard.
1894: Loudoun men rejoice because they no longer have to "grub up" and maintain the roads one or two days a year, the custom since Colonial times. But local road commissioners urge them to work the roads voluntarily, for the pay is $1 a day--$2 or $3 if one can contribute a wagon or team of horses. Steam-powered rock crushers and horse-drawn scrapers improve dirt roads so much that tolls, which have been used to pay for maintenance, are lifted on the Little River Turnpike (Route 50) and Leesburg Turnpike (Route 7 east of town) in 1896, and on the Snickersville Turnpike in 1898.
1894: The Loudoun County Emancipation Association organizes in 1894 "to establish a bond of union among persons of the Negro race, to provide for the celebration of the the 22nd day of September as Emancipation day, or the day of Freedom, to cultivate good fellowship, to work for the betterment of the race, educationally, morally, and materially." Its members gather at various farms in the Hamilton and Purcellville area, and in 1910 move to a permanent Emancipation Grounds in Purcellville, where they meet through 1970.
1895: A new county courthouse is built to replace the 1811 courthouse, and St. James Episcopal Church is completed. The Norris Brothers, builders, erect both edifices and nearly every building of note in and about Leesburg in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Architect Lemuel Norris sets the classical style still emulated by county architects.
1899: Subscription libraries of short duration have been around since the 1820s, but now Purcellville opens the first public (for whites only) library, which becomes the county's first integrated public library in 1957. There are 407 books, 18 by Charles Dickens, eight by William Thackeray. Membership is 50 cents a year or 5 cents a book. Leesburg's public library opens in 1907.
CAPTION: An 1896 photo taken outside Shiloh Baptist Church at Middleburg, one of the first post-Civil War black churches.
CAPTION: The Waterford Second Street School was built in 1867 to educate blacks. It stayed open for 90 years.
CAPTION: Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was established in 1878, five years before this photo was taken. A half-century later, it took its present name, St. John the Apostle.
CAPTION: Steam-powered rock crushers were used to improve local roads.
CAPTION: This Leesburg bridge near Route 9 and the fairgrounds dates to the late 19th century.