Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fairfax Stone, West Virginia

Fairfax Stone is one of those places I like to visit every now and then because it is a nice quiet little park. I love to take friends there to see if they are impressed...but they never are.  It is a couple of miles off Route 219 near Thomas, West Virginia and easy to find.

The marker reads:

This monument at the headspring of the Potomac River marks one of the historic spots of America. It's name is derived from Thomas Lord Fairfax who owned all the land between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. The first Fairfax Stone marked "FX" was set in 1746 by Thomas Lewis, a surveyor employed by Lord Fairfax. This is the base point for the western dividing line between Maryland and West Virginia.

Below is the stream flowing out of the spring that eventually ends up as the Potomac River. I actually find that fact rather awesome and love to straddle the river here with one foot on each "shore".  Of course there are a lot of other headwaters that go to make up the Potomac and they are equally important. Many of our headwater streams are being endangered with chemical pollutants from farms and mining and need protection.  This little spot is protected but much of the waters journey is not.

The original stone was destroyed by vandals in the 1880s, and later replaced by a concrete marker on August 12, 1910.  Then again in 1957 that stone was replaced by the one you see here.

King Charles II of England granted a loyal follower Lord Culpeper the land as a reward for service. Eventually it was held by the 2nd Lord Culpeper and his only child, Catherine, who married Thomas the 5th Lord Fairfax. Until that time the land was basically ignored. Eventually in the early 1700's the land boundaries came into question between Lord Fairfax and the Governor of Virginia. So Lord Fairfax hired surveyors to settle the matter once and for all. What I read of their trek across West Virginia sounded like it might make a good adventure movie or at least an interesting documentary.  When you think about it you realize what a hugh amount of land is involved, almost the whole state. Now we have Fairfax county in Virginia, Fairfax malls and the like. The name is very common, especially in Virginia.   I had a friend who's family owned land in Hedgesville that was given to them by Lord Fairfax and she had a framed document to show the grant given to her family. She has since died but I believe the land is still in the family and will eventually be donated to the Nature Conservency, at least that was her wish.

I write a lot about natural history and often forget the role of people in the development of our land but every now and then when I scratch the surface I find the origins of these little monuments. We have a tremendous influence on the land we live on and it is not something to be ignored.  Thomas is almost a ghost town now and this little marker is all just a tiny spot on the map, it makes me realize how fragile our efforts are and yet how destructive they can be.

Check out other watery scenes at Watery Wednesday.


Wildlife Photography by Uwe Skrzypczak said...

It is wonderful to have found your blog among many thousands. People dealing with so much joy with nature.
Best regards from Germany

Ann said...

The original stone was destroyed by vandals in the 1880s, and later replaced by a concrete marker on August 12, 1910. Then again in 1957 that stone was replaced by the one you see here.

It makes me very cross when mindless people vandalize public property.

I went to a park yesterday and photographed a rock like this too.

Syber said...

It is great pleasure to meet a people who like beautiful place in WV.