Mrs. Shelia Gibbin is a housewife who has lived in the Groveton Community for ten years. She knows a lot about the George Mason Estate, Huntley, its history, and its surroundings.
This is an historic house and it is part of George Mason's estate. The Historic Society accepted that as a trust about five years ago and it must maintain its country look forever. I understand I there was supposed to be a ghost here but we have never seen it if there was one or heard it or have any evidence of a ghost.
This property belonged to George Mason and he gave it to his grandson on the occasion of his marriage. His grandson was a notorious gambler and he kept it for awhile and then he gambled it awayto a local doctor. The doctor had it for seven years and he sold his section of Harrison Lane to another gentleman. There have only been four owners of this house and only three of Huntley since 1779. It has been pretty stable.
This was one tract. This was the overseers house. Huntley was the manor house. When it was originally constructed the Potomac came much closer then it does now. You could see the Potomac from the front porch. It was run like a plantation. This was all fields from here to Route 1 and down to Gun Springs to old #236about a mile down Route 1. This was plantation land from here to the river.
The next big thing they are going to do is to start tours at Huntley next year. They (the county) are going to start renovating it this spring. It will be like any other historic monument in the area.
Some of the trees on this property are 300 years old. They're oaks mostly and it's perfectly possible that our forefathers tied their horses to these trees because plantation societies were visiting societies. They didn't have any recreation. There weren't any music halls or theaters or anything like that so they visited each other for fun. I like to think that it's possible one of the trees might have had Washington's horse tied to it.
Up on the top of the hill are Civil War redoubts where they planned to defend this area if necessary. There are some musket balls. Before that it belonged to the Indians because there are a lot of Indian remains here. This whole tract in pre-history was a lake bed. We find fossil rocks all the time with animal imprints, fish and fern and things like that in the rocks. It was a lake as late as 2000 years ago, because they're Indian artifacts and they always camp near water.
The pond and the stream are the head waters of Little Hunting Creek. We are on well water. We don't have city water here. It's divine water. It's not chemicalized. It's just natural. It comes from deep deep under the ground. Probably, the lake that was on top is underground.
The only real school in this area was a slave school. George Mason and George Washington's property ran side by side and since there was a heavy concentration of slaves in this general area they decided -Washington being a very forward thinking man, Mason also- they decided that the slave children needed educating, primarily to teach them the language and how to count. Some of them became foremen and they needed to be able to count how much cotton, how much corn and so forth. The slave school is still standing down here. Washington and Mason split the cost of an instructor between them and all the slaves up to 12 years went to the slave school to learn English and learn to count.
The foundations of this house were built in 1779. Its been in three fires. The interior came from England. It belonged to the ancestral home of a Mrs. St. Jermanin, who purchased this house in 1937 or '38 from one of the heirs of the doctor. Twice this house has nearly burnt down to the ground. The foundation is the original. There is only one original room; all the others have been repaired or replaced.
The dining roan is an original. We had a fire in there which destroyed one wall since we've lived here and it cost $30,000 to put it back. The kind of walls and the kind of woodwork you cannot buy anymore. They have to be handmade.
The main house (Huntley) the Historic Society is gonna take over and then they'll furnish it to period. That house is really interesting because it has a seventeenth century ice house. It's entirely underground. What they did in the winter was chop ice off the river or where ever they could find it, the thicker the better. Then they put it underground and if you get enough of it, it's just like a refrigerator. There used to be an earth entrance down below but that's gradually overgrown. They raised the top and put the ice down in and they had great huge iron hooks that they'd pull it out with.
They had a lot of slaves. Those are slave quarters over there originally. Now it's two apartments. Our sons live in the lower one and the upper one we rent to a young man who works in Washington.
This was country area when we moved in. Where Beacon Mall is was a field where circuses and carnivals were held. Hybla Valley had Thieves Market and Atlantic Thrift Store. I think there were only two stores there and that was all open land. Now all of the open land has been closed up and there isn't any open land left.