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The Fairfax Stone

The Fairfax Stone is the boundary stone of the Northern Neck Proprietary in Virginia, marking the lands of Thomas Fairfax, sixth Baron Fairfax of Cameron. His mother’s family left him the land; one-sixth of his land was left to him by his grandmother, and five-sixths by his mother, Lady Katherine Culpeper Fairfax, who was the sole inheritor of the estates of her father, Thomas Culpeper.

                          Lord Fairfax’s Boundary Stone, 39.195, -79.487 [photo by Rebecca Raupach]

Thomas Fairfax was born at Leeds Castle in Kent on October 22, 1693, raised in England, and attended Oriel College. He might have lived the rest of his life in England, but he inherited his grandmother’s portion of the Northern Neck while he was at college and that changed his course. Accounts vary as to the reasons he kept the property: either his mother urged him to sell it to cover his father’s debts but he declined, or his fiancée broke off their engagement to marry a duke and he never recovered. In any case, Lord Fairfax traveled to Virginia in 1735 to tour his lands. He apparently was smitten with the beauty of the Blue Ridge and built a house called Greenway Court in what is now Clarke County, Virginia. He returned to England to secure the boundaries of his land via a grant from the Privy Council, which it gave him on April 6, 1745. Taking the time to get the Privy Council’s approval was worth the wait; the council granted him title to five million acres instead of the 1.5 million acres that the colony of Virginia previously stipulated was his.

                    Lord Fairfax’s Boundary Stone marker [photo by Rebecca Raupach, March 19, 2022]

When Lord Fairfax returned to Virginia, he settled into Greenway Court, and focused on land management and stewardship. He hired Peter Jefferson and George Washington to survey his lands at various times and as a result, formed a friendship with Washington that lasted throughout Fairfax’s life. He never returned to England, and was the only titled resident of Virginia. He was probably able to remain in Virginia during the revolution due to Washington’s protection, and Fairfax’s willingness to stay out of politics. He died at home at Greenway Court on December 9, 1781.

Sources

F232.N86 F35 1990 The Fairfax line: a historic landmark.

Warren R. Hofstra,”Thomas Fairfax, sixth baron Fairfax of Cameron (1693–1781),” Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ). Published 2016. http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Fairfax_Thomas_baron_Fairfax_of_Cameron Accessed March 31, 2022.

Curtis F. Morgan, “Lord Fairfax,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon. https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/lord-fairfax/ Accessed March 31, 2022.

A survey of the northern neck of Virginia, being the lands belonging to the Rt. Honourable Thomas Lord Fairfax Baron Cameron, bounded by & within the Bay of Chesapoyocke and between the rivers Rappahannock and Potowmack: With the courses of the rivers Rappahannock and Potowmack, in Virginia, as surveyed according to order in the years 1736 & 1737. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3880.ct000362.

One Comment

  1. lentigogirl
    April 1, 2022 at 2:08 pm

    In various places at the boundaries between what is now Arlington County and Fairfax County are the old boundary stones for the District of Columbia before DC gave its Virginia portion back because it thought it would never need to grow that big.

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