There are three solid anchors in the tiny village of Lincoln, Va.--the school, the Quaker Meeting House and 91-year-old Asa Moore Janney. Each quietly addresses the inevitable changes that are coming, while maintaining a reverence for the past.
Less than one mile out of Purcellville, south on Route 722, lies what looks like fast-changing Loudoun County's version of Brigadoon, the fictional Scottish town that appeared from the mist just one day every 100 years. Drive slowly past Lincoln Elementary School, past white colonial farmhouses, past the tiny porch-front post office, past a 1765 stone house--there's no need for a sign telling you to slow down, for you do so automatically.
The community, once known as Goose Creek, adopted its current name in 1860 when it wanted its own post office. The heavily abolitionist area was one of only two precincts in Loudoun carried by Abraham Lincoln, so flaunting its support of the new president seemed the thing to do.
There are no restaurants or stores in Lincoln, population 300. The combination general store and post office, run by the Janney family since 1928, shut its doors in 1994. The storefront now bears faded signs--"A.M. Janney Quaker Genealogy," "Local History Books" and "Yardley Taylor Maps."
Janney himself--called Asa Moore by everyone, to distinguish him from the long line of Janneys who preceded him--keeps an office there where he holds court daily. Whatever tidbit of information about the 250-year-old hamlet is not on the tip of his tongue is probably in the disheveled piles of primary sources enveloping his window-side desk--and he knows just where to look.
There is the mill ledger kept by great uncle Israel Janney, showing how he carried over debts owed throughout the Revolutionary War, never charging interest to those fighting for independence. There are small stacks of booklets written by Asa Moore Janney and his brother Werner, detailing the history of Lincoln's founders, Quakers from Bucks County, Pa., who came in search of better farmland. There are enlarged copies of an 1853 Yardley Taylor map showing the contrast between the Quaker properties--each small enough to be tended by its owner--and the immense neighboring properties that were tended by slaves.
Long before public schools, the Quakers sought to educate all of the community's children. The one-room 1815 Oakdale Schoolhouse still stands, now used as First Day School for Quaker children. Down narrow Cooksville Road sits a stone and frame house that once was the Lincoln Colored School, established by the Quakers in June 1865 as one of the first schools in Virginia for the children of freed slaves. The school, built on a slab of rock, closed in 1940 and is now a private residence.
Today, the 130-pupil Lincoln Elementary School is described by parents as the kind of school where children have respect for each other and the teachers, and where there is often a waiting list to chaperon on field trips. Principal Linda Robinson said: "No matter what the school asks, the community gives."
Another old stone house, the former home of the Goose Creek Religious Society of Friends--the formal name for Quakers--now serves as the home for the caretaker of the "new" meeting house, built in 1817. Whittled from two stories to one after a 1943 windstorm, that building is the only Friends Meeting in Loudoun County.
The caretaker, Bill Cochran, whose family traces back to 1737 in Lincoln, thinks of the home he has lived in for the past 35 years as just that--home. He is reminded of its historical significance only when the occasional tourist traipses across his lawn on the way to the stone-walled cemetery. He chuckles as he remembers one day when the front door opened, and in walked a visitor, oblivious to the presence of others. She wandered around the front room, gazing at furnishings, lost in her self-guided tour, before realizing this was the Cochran family's home and she had interrupted their breakfast.
Documented history overflows in Lincoln, and so do the occasional undocumented rumors. Legend has it that an active link to the underground railroad operated out of the current Springdale Inn bed and breakfast, built in 1839 by Samuel Janney as a Quaker boarding school for girls. A small sealed door at the left of a fireplace continues to fuel the story, although Asa Moore Janney pooh-poohs the idea.
Some young people are moving into the historic town, primarily for the schools and the open space. They are being welcomed with open arms by old-timers, say both new and longtime residents.
"Got young people with fervor coming to this town," drawls Janney, a 1929 graduate of Washington & Lee. "Sometimes you think they are grasping at straws, but they keep the town going with their energy."
But unlike the rest of Loudoun County, new people don't mean growth in Lincoln proper. No new houses are being built within the village, which is part of the Goose Creek Historic District.
Phil Daley, former president of the Lincoln Community League, says that the Loudoun County growth plan's aim is not to disturb local villages, but Lincoln finds itself caught between the burgeoning growth of Purcellville and Hamilton. How to best establish a buffer zone around the rural village is still under debate.
Mike Alto, one of the newcomers, moved his family to Lincoln four years ago thinking that if it didn't work out he could always move back to Arlington.
"There, we didn't know any of our neighbors because everyone was always on the go," Alto said. "Here, there's not much to do without traveling a bit, so neighbors really get to know each other."
Alto and other young parents said the frequent interaction between generations is a particular plus. Grandparent types are always nearby, and always have time to listen. "I'll never go back," Alto said.
Alto is president of the Lincoln Community League, the closest thing Lincoln has to a government. With no political power, the league serves as the communication and social arm of the community, keeping residents informed of county actions and organizing traditional holiday events.
There's even more local communication at the contract post office that occupies an enclosed porch-front at 18187 Lincoln Rd. One hundred and forty mailboxes share the pint-size lobby with a used-book nook--hardbacks $1, paperbacks 50 cents--a community bulletin board and a rocking chair. At times, half a dozen people will crowd in, swapping yarns or debating the latest county action.
Said resident Maria Mudd Ruth, "Our post office, humble as it is, represents our community's passion for keeping our small town alive and on the map--especially as our county grows and absorbs or plows over its old towns and crossroads."
Sarah Huntington, who operates a photography business out of her 1888 farmhouse, sees the country atmosphere as a draw for her clients. She said, "People want a reminder of what made Loudoun County special, before it was a bedroom community."
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BOUNDARIES: Route 722 just north of Lincoln Elementary to the north and just past the Springdale Inn bed and breakfast to the south, Route 709 about half a mile toward Hamilton to the east and the intersection of routes 709, 725 and 611 to the west.
PROPERTY SALES: According to Becky Skinner of Weichert Realty and Bill Taylor of Long and Foster, two houses sold in the past two months, for $149,500 and $525,000. There are three houses now on the market, ranging in price from $174,000 to $1.2 million.
SCHOOLS: Lincoln Elementary, Blue Ridge Middle and Loudoun Valley High schools.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Entire village
WITHIN 10-15 MINUTES BY CAR: Purcellville, Hamilton, Fireman's Field (where the Babe Ruth World Series was held two years ago), Loudoun County Golf and Country Club
WITHIN 25-35 MINUTES BY CAR: Harpers Ferry, Leesburg, Dulles International Airport