More than one in two Fairfax County residents were born someplace else. And half of the county's residents lived someplace else just seven years ago.

Then there's Irma Clifton.

She has spent her entire life close by the Occoquan at the county's southern edge. For all but three of those 60 years, she has been in the same farmhouse on Ox Road (Route 123 to newcomers).

In that time, she has watched change come to her doorstep -- literally. Fifty-seven years after her father gave the state a sliver of land to widen the two-lane road in front of their house, a highway crew is finally doing just that.

It's none too soon. When Clifton was a child, she'd wave from the porch when one of their few neighbors drove by. Now, 28,000 cars pass her house daily, even though Ox Road is no longer the only route leading north to the county courthouse and government center.

To someone who vividly remembers when residents had to drive to Alexandria to buy groceries, when Interstate 395 was called Shirley Highway and when Tysons Corner was just a wide spot in the road, change has brought a certain uneasiness.

"I wandered the woods as a kid," Clifton recalls. "People don't know there are stars in the sky now."

She greets news that Fairfax has topped a million residents with disbelief.

"I'm awed that there could be a million people surrounding me so closely," she says, then states emphatically: "I would like a million to be the end of it."

Clifton retired in 1993 from the Lorton Correctional Complex, the former D.C. prison site in Fairfax, where she was an administrator for 26 years. When she started, a job at Lorton was an honor. If you didn't farm or ride the train to a government office downtown 20 miles away, you worked at Lorton.

The 2,400-acre complex closed last summer and is being redeveloped by the county as open space and a residential community.

Clifton met her husband in 1956 in a grocery store near the Lorton Nike missile site, where he was stationed during the Cold War. They later divorced after having a daughter who attended Lorton Elementary, as did her mother.

Clifton treasures that continuity: "It's what the kids miss today."

A fixture in the community, she works for the local historical society, edits a newspaper and speaks on the area's history at the senior center. She is fiercely proud of her corner of the world and bridles when people call it Laurel Hill, the name a developer has given to the thousands of houses planned for the former prison site.

Nearly 9,000 new houses, apartments and townhouses are expected in the next decade, helping to make the Mount Vernon District the county's fast-growing region.

This is not news to Clifton. Developers are salivating to get their hands on her five acres.

Many of her neighbors have taken the money. But for now, she's staying, her attachment to Lorton too strong to consider leaving. Her Irish ancestors settled in Fairfax in the 1760s. Sometimes Clifton feels as if, like them, she is stubbornly fighting for survival.

-- Lisa Rein

A strip mall is going up across from Irma Clifton's farmhouse on Route 123 in Lorton. "I would like a million to be the end" of Fairfax's growth, she said.