Did Greenway Court give Lord Fairfax sanctuary from heartbreak?
Posted: January 5, 2013
The Winchester Star
WHITE POST— The home of a British lord in present-day Clarke County helped to play a critical part in surveying and dividing up land in colonial Virginia, according to a local historical organization.
Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, lived at Greenway Court — just south of White Post — from about 1752 until his death in 1781.
The house and its associated buildings were built in the 1740s, according to Laura Christensen, director of the Clarke County Historical Association (CCHA).
The Greenway Court historical marker is about three miles from the property — at Lord Fairfax Highway (U.S. 340) and John Mosby Highway (U.S. 50).
Fairfax was unique because, among the British nobles who owned land in the colonies, he lived on his property, Christensen said.
“[Fairfax] was an interesting, interesting guy,” she said. “It’s fun to read some of the older accounts of why he came here. There was a lot of folklore that kind of sprung up around it. I think the biggest story was that he had a botched love affair [in Britain] and he decided that he just wanted to be alone so he came out to settle on his land.”
Christensen added that a folk tale about the white post in the nearby village of the same name indicated that it was installed to warn women to stay away from Greenway Court — because Fairfax wanted to be alone.
“What’s really remarkable about [Fairfax and Greenway Court] is not only that he came as the British owner of all this land, but it’s the point where surveyors went out and worked at dividing up the land,” she said.
The only historical structures remaining at Greenway Court are the land survey office, a smokehouse — which, Christensen said, is architecturally unique due to its conical roof and square structure — and a carriage house.
The CCHA recently commissioned a dendrochronology study (tree-ring dating), which determined that the land survey office was constructed in the 1760s.
“This is new information and it’s disappointing information because it had been hoped that it was the earlier building that George Washington would have worked in, [but] he would have been there in the 1740s,” Christensen said.
Fairfax served as a mentor to Washington before the American Revolution and, while he was a Loyalist, he and Washington wrote to each other during the war and Fairfax maintained relative neutrality, Christensen said.
Greenway Court also helped to draw residents to the nearby area.
“White Post grew up as a community because it was on the way to Greenway Court,” Christensen said. “Also by being here, Lord Fairfax sort of attracted other people to settle the land . . . which is why everybody from the Tidewater came up here and started plantations.
“The history of the area in terms of settlement really starts from that point,” she added.
Restoration efforts at Greenway Court — which is privately owned — continue, and the CCHA hopes to set up virtual tours of the remaining buildings in the future.
— Contact Matt Armstrong at email@example.com