Lord Fairfax Biography

Submitted by Alice Warner

Author: Howe

Frederick County History:
Lord Fairfax was buried under the old Episcopal church, which was on the public
square. The land on which it stood was given by him to the society, for the
construction of the church. This structure, which was of stone, was taken down
about 12 or 14 years since. The bones of Fairfax were removed, and placed under
the new Episcopal church. In this house there is a monumental slab to his
memory. At the time of his disinterment, a large mass of silver was found, which
was the mounting to his coffin. There is now in Winchester an old building used
as a stable, which was once a tavern, in which it is said Fairfax occasionally
held levees. His permanent residence was at Greenway Court, 13 miles SE of
Winchester. (See p. 235)**[[Note, this is in the Clarke County history, which is
also in the Archives, under Clarke County]].

Clarke County History:
Lord Fairfax, a distant relative of William Fairfax, was a man of an eccentric
turn of mind, of great private worth, generous, and hospitable. He had been
accustomed to the best society, to which his rank entitled him, in England.
While he was at the University of Oxford he had a fondness for literature, and
his taste and skill in that line may be inferred from his having written some of
the papers in the /i/Spectator/i/. Possessing by inheritance a vast tract of
country, (** The domain of Lord Fairfax, called the Northern Neck of Virginia,
included the immense territory now comprising the counties of Lancaster,
Northumberland, Richmond, Westmoreland, Stafford, King George, Prince William,
Fairfax, Loudoun, Fauquier, Culpeper, Clarke, Madison, Page, Shenandoah, Hardy,
Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley, Jefferson, and Frederick. Charles II granted to the
ancestors of Lord Fairfax all lands lying between the headwaters of the
Rappahannock and Potomach to the Chesapeake Bay; a territory comprising about
one quarter of the present limits of Virginia. For a full history of the
Northern Neck, the reader is referred to Kercheval's History of the Valley of
Virginia.) situate between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, and stretching
across the Alleghany mountains, he made a voyage to Virginia to examine this
domain. So well pleased was he with the climate and mode of life, that he
resolved, after going back to England and arranging his affairs, to return and
spend his days amidst this wild territory. At the time (1748) of which we are
now speaking, he had just arrived to execute this purpose and was residing with
his relatives at Belvoir. This was his home for several years; but he at length
removed over the Blue Ridge, built a house in the Shenandoah Valley, called
/i/Greenway Court/i/ and cultivated a large farm. Here he lived in comparative
seclusion, often amusing himself with huntin, but chiefly devoted to the care of
his estate, to acts of benevolence among his tenants, and to such public duties
as devolved upon him in the narrow sphere he had chosen; a friend of liberty,
honored for his uprightness, esteemed for the amenity of his manners, and his
practical virtues.
The prominent building shown in the view at Greenway Court, was appropriated to
the use of the steward of Fairfax. It was the commencement of a series of
buildings which Lord Fairfax had intended to erect but did not live to complete.
His lordship lived and died in a single clap-board story and a half house, which
stood just in front of the modern brick dwelling of Mr. Kennerly, and was
destroyed in 1834. There are now several of the original buildings standing at
the place: among them is a small limestone structure, where quit-rents were
given and titles draw, of his lordship's domains. Fairfax had, probably, 150
negro servants, who lived in log huts scattered about in the woods.
A few years since, in excavating the ground near the house, the servants of Mr.
Kennerly discovered a large quantity of joes and half-joes, amounting to about
$250; they were what is termed cob-coin, of a square form, and dated about 1730.
They were supposed to have been secreted there by Lord Fairfax. Under a shelving
rock, 9 feet from the surface, there was also found a human skeleton of gigantic
stature; supposed to be that of an Indian.
When Lord Dunmore went on his expedition against the Indians in 1774, he came on
as far as this place with a portion of his troops, and waited here about a
fortnight for reinforcements. His soldiers encamped in what was then a grove --
now a meadow -- about 300 yards N of Mr. Kennerly's present residence. The spot
is indicated by a deep well, supposed to have been dug by them; an old magazine,
destroyed in 1843, stood near the well. Washington, when recruiting at
Winchester, often visited this place.
Lord Fairfax had but little cultivated ground around his premises, and that was
in small patches without taste or design. The land was left for a park, and he
lived almost wholly from his rents. The following, as well as much of the
foregoing, respecting him, is traditionary: His lordship was a dark, swarthy
man, several inches over 6 feet in height, and of a gigantic frame and personal
strength. He lived the life of a bachelor, and fared coarse, adopting in that
respect the rough customs of the people among whom he was. When in the humor, he
was generous -- giving away whole farms to his tenants, and simply demanding for
rent some trifle, for instance, a present of a turkey for his Christmas dinner.
He was passionately fond of hunting, and often passed weeks together in the
pleasures of the chase. When on these expeditions, he made it a rule, that he
who got the fox, cut off his tail, and held it up, should share in the
jollification which was to follow, free of expense. Soon as a fox was started,
the young men of the company usually dashed after him with great impetuosity,
while Fairfax leisurely waited behind, with a favorite servant who was familiar
with the water-courses, and of a quick ear, to discover the course of the fox.
Following his directions, his lordship would start after the game, and, in most
instances, secure the prize, and stick the tail of the fox in his hat in triumph.
Lord Fairfax died at the advanced age of ninety-two, in the autumn of 1782, soon
after the surrender of Cornwallis, an event he is said to have much lamented. He
was buried at Winchester, under the communion table of the old Episcopal Church.
[[See Frederick County History in the archives]]

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