Our History

Written by James Mullen

King George County, named for King George I of England, was formed in 1720 from Richmond County. The boundaries were from Richmond County to Fauquier County. At that time, King George County had no contact with the Potomac River until the boundaries were changed in 1776. These boundaries ran from Westmoreland to Stafford.

They Happened Here

Leedstown was in King George and on February 27, 1766, Thomas Ludwell Lee, Richard Henry Lee and 115 patriots signed the Leedstown Resolutions. Ferry Farm was in King George where George Washington lived for about 10 years. It was here where Parson Weems told that George said to his father "I shall not tell a lie, I cut down your cherry tree."

Notable residents and residences

James Madison was born at Port Conway on March 5, 1751. James Madison was the "Father of the Constitution" and the fourth President of the United States. Another famous person born in King George was William "Extra Billy" Smith. Born at his father's ancestral home, Marengo, on September 6, 1797. Billy later became a lawyer, mail carrier, and on January 1, 1846, became Governor of Virginia. That was the same year the United States went to war with Mexico. In 1861 Smith was a colonel in the Confederacy. In 1863 he became a Major General. On New Year's Day 1864, at the age of 67, Smith was again inaugurated Governor of Virginia until the close of the Civil War.

Colonel Joseph Jones, whose nephew was James Monroe, resided in King George. Other notable residents and homes were those of William Strother of Millbank. Millbank stood next to Canning, which was the first County seat. It had a courthouse, jail and ordinary. William Fitzhugh was of "Bedford", Thomas Fairfax's land office at Indiantown", Robert "King" Carter of Cleve, Thomas B. B. Baber of Spy Hill, Samuel Washington, brother of George, of Chotank and Colonel Gustavous Alexander of Salisbury, for whom the City of Alexandria is named.

I find the most interest in Marmion. It was built about 1690. Today it has several notable features such as the original outbuildings, kitchen, school, dairy and meat house. Marmion also has a secret hiding place. In the parlor were hand painted murals with floral decorations and rosettes of great taste. This room today is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

Barnesfield was built about 1719 by Rice Hooe. Hooe's Ferry enabled people to cross the Potomac into Maryland. Patrick Henry rode the Ferry in 1775 on his way to attend General Congress. Others who used Hooe's Ferry were Light Horse Harry Lee, and George Washington during Revolutionary War years.

Native Americans

Long before these notables lived in King George, the Dogue Indians were on the north side of the Rappahannock near the entrance of Dogue Creek.

Cuttatawomen were at Lamb's Creek on the Rappahannock River. The Potowmack Indians were near the Stafford and King George boundary and used the Friendly Cottage area as a camping ground for the Indians.

Military Service

The men from King George County served in the 10th Virginia. This unit was formed in October 1776 under the command of Colonel Edward Stevens, Lt. Colonel Lewis Willis, and Major Samuel Hawes. The 10th Virginia spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge as a part of General George Weedon's brigade. In 1778 the 10th was reassigned to the 6th Virginia and then in 1780 to the 2nd Virginia and was commanded by Col. Richard Parker and Lt. Col. Burgess Ball. On May 2, 1780, the 2nd Virginia was captured by the British at Charles Town, South Carolina.

During the Civil War years, the Company 19th Virginia Cavalry was formed in October 12, 1861 under the command of Capt. J. A. Billingsley. Company K of the 30th Virginia infantry was formed on April 27, 1861, under the command of Captains G. T. Tayloe, H. L. Foster and F. C. S. Hunter. This unit was at Sharpsburg on September 17, 1862 where Capt. Henry Foster and Lt. Lewis Baber were killed in the first minutes of fighting.

On May 1, confederates started erecting batteries at Mathias Point commanded by General Daniel Ruggles and Col. R. M. Mayo. These batteries were to blockade the Potomac River. On June 27, 1861, the Thomas Freeborn shelled Mathias Point to drive away the Confederate batteries. The Confederates fired back striking Commanded James H. Ward in the abdomen and he soon died. Commander Ward was the first Union naval officer to die in the Civil War.

Booth's Escape

John Wilkes Booth and David Herold crossed from Maryland on the night of April 21, 1865. They rowed past Barnsfield where Booth probably said that was the home of Dr. A. B. Hooe, which was burned by the Yankees in 1861. They landed at Mrs. Quesenberry's home where she gave them food. They left there and proceeded to Cleydael the home of Dr. Richard Stuart. Dr. Stuart refused to give any aid to the assassins. The next day they were taken to Port Conway by William Lucas. They met William O. Rollins who took them across the Rappahannock to Port Royal.

After the war it took King George several years to recover. On August 8, 1873, the steamer Wawaset caught fire and sank at Chatterton's Landing. 100 lives were lost and the $40,000 steamer was a total loss. The Wawaset's sinking is the worst maritime disaster on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Other points of interest

Many other points of interest in King George are Boyd's Hole, a colonial shipping point, Stuart's Wharf, Smith's Wharf, and Wilmont Wharf, where bricks were once made and shipped. Nanzatico was built about 1770; St. Paul's Church built around 1776; Litchfield was in 1802. Lamb's Creek, which was built in 1770 was used as a Union stable in 1864, Rokeby built in 1837 was used as Union headquarters in 1862 for Gen. Ambrose Burnside. Cedar Grove was built about 1840 by Dr. Richard Stuart. Sometime in 1785, the courthouse site was moved to its present site where a courthouse, clerk's office and jail were built. That courthouse lasted until 1922. In July 1922, E. G. Heflin was contracted to build the present courthouse for $12,933.

Navy Proving Ground

In 1918 a Navy Proving Ground was started and called Dahlgren, after John A. Dahlgren, the "Father of Naval Ordnance." It has been the county's largest employer. NSWC Dahlgren has played a big part in our nation's defense.

Crossing the Potomac

In December 1940, the Potomac River Bridge opened. Attending at the ribbon cutting ceremony was President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Maryland Governor Herbert O'Conor. Just as they were to cut the ribbon, a J-3 Piper Cub flew under the bridge. That plane was piloted by Roland "Blue" Burgess and Walter B. Mason of King George. This action added to the excitement of the bridge opening. Over 250 years later at the same location of Mr. Hooe's ferry the Potomac River Bridge is the Gateway to the North and South.

About the Author

James Mullen has served as president of the King George Historical Society and is owner of James F. Mullen Grading, Clearing and Hauling, Inc.

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