Now, a friend has sent me an article from a mid-Nineties issue of the (now sadly defunct) Blue Ridge Leader, and I have been smacked in the face with a lesson in how present is the past -- just what William Faulkner was talking about when he observed that "The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past."
Let's tease that apart, shall we?
Below I reproduce a map of Loudoun County borrowed from this excellent website. (Click to enlarge.) I've fiddled with it a bit to illustrate my point.
My talk to the kids started with a simple premise: Loudoun County was, during the Civil War, a deeply divided place. The northern reaches of the county (shown in blue on the map) were settled in the early and middle eighteenth century by two main groups: Quakers, and Pennsylvania Dutch farmers down from Lancaster County. Those farmers brought with them a style of farming that hearkened back to the Old Country: Small, independent farms that could be operated by a single family.
The southern part of the county (shown in gray and red) exhibited a style of agriculture that was quite radically different. The English Cavaliers who settled it established very large plantations (essentially, huge land grants given them for various services) that needed an extensive labor force to run them. And we know what that labor force consisted of: Slaves.
Some of these plantations still exist today as historic tourist sites: Sully Plantation on Route 28 (not technically in Loudoun), and Oatlands on Route 15 south of Leesburg.
As they were not slaveowners (whether for sociopolitical reasons or religious ones), during the Civil War the people in the northern half of the county were viewed with extreme suspicion by the southern half. I've already recounted the lopsided vote totals during the 1861 referendum on secession; the northern part of the county voted against it in very nearly the same proportion as the southerners voted for it. As they were perceived as traitors, the Confederacy felt no compunction about taking whatever they felt like from them, and John Singleton Mosby' dependence on them as his breadbasket ultimately led to the Burning Raid of 1864, which left farms from Snickersville to Point of Rocks in smoking ruin.
This is what I told the kids.
Now comes this article from the Leader.
Recall that, before the Great Real Estate Collapse of the last few years, Loudoun County was one of the fastest-growing counties in the entire country. When I was a lad in Fairfax County (one county east), one could cross Baron Cameron Avenue in Reston and be in a boyhood paradise of meadows and trees and streams; we plucked crawdads out of the stream that ran through our neighborhood. Leesburg, way off west in Loudoun County, may as well have been San Francisco. The very first stirring of the Rape of Loudoun was present in Sterling Park, but mostly what stood between us and Loudoun was... nature.
That is all gone now. While western and northern Loudoun (where we live) mostly looks like this:
Eastern Loudoun is more like this:
Now take a squint at that map again. I've placed a red overlay over the parts of Loudoun that look like that.
Starting to see a pattern?
Phil Bolen was the Loudoun County Administrator for twenty years from 1971 until 1991. In the mid-Nineties, he gave a talk at the East/West conference at the George Washington University Campus in Eastern Loudoun. It was reported in the Leader thus:
That Loudoun County today is divided into a western region of small towns and farms, while Eastern Loudoun is marked by huge developments is, according to Bolen, a direct result of the patterns of plantation farming that developed in the county over 200 years ago. Back then, the East was made up of large plantations of up to 1000 acres, owned by the Anglican elite. These country gentlemen were able to imitate the manorial style of English country life, only because they had slaves to work the land for them. The slave, in effect, made up the role of the peasant of old Europe who had made the manorial life there possible.Past as prologue....
Western Loudoun, on the other hand, was settled by Quakers, Presbyterians, and Lutherans coming down from the north who rejected slavery and preferred to work small farms with the sweat of their own brows. Western Loudoun thus became a relatively populous region of small farms while the east remained sparsely populated, at least by white men who could vote....
When Phil Bolen came into office thirty years ago, Loudoun County had 24,000 residents. Today it has 115,000. By 2010, we are expected to number 218,000. [This was optimistic. Wikipedia gives the estimated population in 2007 as nearly 279,000.] The large tracts of land needed to create the massive developments to house these new residents are hard to accumulate. Developers have to buy them one by one to put together the necessary tracts. The legacy of large estates in the East, said Bolen, meant that "large tracts of land still remained relatively intact which made it much easier and cheaper to put together the large parcels of land that are required in
big time development interests."