Dawn C. Fones
Dawn C. Fones is a piano teacher who has been living in the Groveton area for twenty seven years. As a hobby, Mrs. Fones has done extensive research on the history of Kings Highway. She reveals little unknown facts on the early history of this historic road and its houses.
I became interested in King's Highway, when I found out that it was one of the oldest highways in this part of Virginia. I found out that before it was known as King's Highway, it was an Indian Path called Potomac Path. It had been in existence for many hundreds of years. Later, when England began to colonize this part of the country, it was called the King's Highway because all of the main highways that were in the British Colonies were called the King's highways.
During the Revolutionary War the colonies did not care so much for the king of England. They discontinued calling it the King's Highway, and called it the Post Road. It was over this road that the mail carriers carried the mail. Since it was a road that connected Alexandria with the little town of Colchester, it was called Colchester Road for a long time. After that, it was called the Gravel Road, and then back again to King's Highway.
I found out that to enter King's Highway, you needed to ford Cameron Run that was located down where the Holiday Inn is today on Telegraph Road.
Coming up the hill, (King's Highway), the first estate you would come to, in the 18th Century, was a beautiful place called Mount Pleasant. It belonged to a French Count. It was located just about where Toma Furniture Company was located. I think there is a Thrift Store there now. During the 19th Century when the Civil War was being fought and there was a fort built in Jefferson Manor called Fort Lyons, this home, Mount Pleasant, was used as the officers quarters., The next place that was of interest was across the highway from Mount Pleasant. Mount Eagle was built by Brian Fairfax, who was a half brother to George Fairfax, who lived at Belvoir. He had a half sister, Annie, who married George Washington's brother, Lawrence. Of course there was a close connection between families. Brian and George Washington were about the same age. They were contemporaries, and they were close friends.
Coming down the King's Highway you would cane to Springbank, where the K-Mart is located today. This home was still standing in 1952 when we moved to this area. During the first part of our time here, it was a trailer court.
This was the home of George Mason's grandson, whose name was also George Mason. It was described as being a very gracious and charming house. It had 25 rooms, which sounds roomy enough. The Alexandria Gazette on August the 19th, 1848, describes this home as one of the best and most extensive mansions in this part of Virginia. There were elegant gardens we are told, that were terraced down in the back to a stream. And of course their stream was fed by a spring, thereby the name Springbank.
During the Civil War, the 63rd Regiment from Pennsylvania camped on the grounds, and did a great deal of damage to both the home and the grounds.
Then coming on down King’s Highway, you would care to Mount Comfort. Now this was a lovely home that was built in the 1800 's. It had a commanding view of Alexandria and Washington, D.C. You could see for miles around. Then coming further south you came to Huntley which is located now on Harrison Lane. This house was built to be used as a hunting lodge by the Mason family. It was never lived in year around. Until, of course, the twentieth century. There were 1000 acres around Huntley. And there was a magnificent view of the Potomac River from the door of Huntley.
The house across the road from Huntley is just as old itself. This was the caretaker's home. He lived there year around, and took care of Huntley. The slave quarters and the necessary, and the spring house are still standing.
Then of course you know about Mount Erin. Mount Erin is where we find Virginia Hills today. In the 1800's Thomas Tracy came here from Ireland. He built Mount Erin on the highest point of land for miles around. He built it across from Stoneybrook.
Stoneybrook was built and owned by Commander Walter Brook who was in the Virginia Navy during the Revolutionary times. He was a t very close friend of George Washington. He lived there for quite some time. He had a little boy who died when he was six years old. He was buried there in the family graveyard at Stoneybrook. George Washington communicated with his friend Lafayette and ordered a marble tombstone to be put above the little boy's grave. His grave was there for one hundred years. Then it was moved to Charlestown, West Virginia.
And of course you know about the ghost that is supposed to be at Stoneybrook. Even today there are supposed to be queer noises in the mansion. Doors will open unexpectedly and close unexpectedly. And from time to time they have trouble keeping a caretaker because of the strange noises.
Bellville was another beautiful home on Telegraph Road. It's still standing. It was built in 1763. It belonged to George Johnson, who was George Washington's attorney. So, of course George Washington went there from time to time. George Johns was also a close friend of Patrick Henry. They were political friends, and they discussed the situation during the upheaval of our birth of a nation.
Bellville had its ghosts too. The ghost is supposed to be of George Washington sitting in the library, on a sofa reading a book.
Hayfield, of course, is no longer standing. But the community of Hayfield is there. This belonged to Lund Washington, who was a cousin of George Washington. The land there belonged to George Washington originally.
The house had a magnificent boxwood garden. Mrs. Wilson, the widow of the president, bought some of the boxwood, and had it transplanted to the Bishop's Garden in the Washington Cathedral. I've also read that sane of the boxwood had been transplanted to the Masonic Temple down in Alexandria.
Now since 1679, when King's Highway was called the Potomac Path, there had been a continuing parade of people and vehicles traveling on this road. First there were the Indians. then there were the statesmen on their way from Williamsburg to Philadelphia. Then there were the businessmen in a hurry. There were stagecoaches, circuit riders, and men who carried the mail. And Lafayette’s troops on their way to Yorktown. Tories on their way to prison in Williamsburg. And of course, George Washington, and Patrick Henry, and many people you read about in history.
As I use King's Highway, I remember those people and places. I would like to think that they know that they are not forgotten, that they play an important part in our memories as well as our history.