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About Broad Run Farms
If a request was made today to subdivide the land on which Broad Run Farms stands, an archeological survey would be required before construction could begin. It would be a fruitful investigation for sure, because Broad Run Farms definitely has a colorful past.
This area has a layer of fractured shale underground, a substrata that is a wonderful repository for fossilized dinosaur footprints and bones.
Native Americans roamed and settled in Broad Run Farms for many years. Archeological evidence indicates that they were here as early as 6500 B.C. it appears that the first visitors were hunting parties, and it is common to turn up arrowheads while gardening in our community. Closer to the time of European colonization, there were agricultural settlements along the bank of the Potomac and the islands in the river. For more information on the island Indian residents visit this site. Floods occurred every three to four years during this time, and the tribal residents used this to their advantage, as a way to fertilize their fields. The Algonquians were the primary tribe living here when the Europeans arrived. Some Iroquois groups may have passed through the area too, while traveling between their summer and winter hunting grounds.
The First Europeans
Broad Run Farms was named by the first known Europeans to visit this area. On April 17, 1699, Burr Harrison and Giles Vandercastle, deputized ambassadors to the Piscataway Indians who lived near Point of Rocks wrote in their journal: “About seven or eight miles above sugar land, we came to a broad Branch of about 50 to 60 yards wide: a still or small streeme; it took oure hourses up to the Belleys, very good going in and out”. Historians think that this description was written about what is the present Route 7 crossing. Even then, it was a natural break in the river bluff.
The First Owners
Exactly who was the first European to live on the land of Broad Run Farms is subject to historical controversy. On paper, at least, King Charles II gave a patent for land, which included Broad Run Farms to his loyal supporters in 1649. Originally, there were seven grantees, but in 1690, the Culpeper and Fairfax clans owned the property jointly. Both families appointed agents to survey and lease the land in their domain.
John Pope – The First European Resident
Until recently, it was thought that the first lessee and therefore, the first resident, was Thomas Lee. His holdings stretched from Goose Creek to the Sugarlands, and included Seldon’s Island (Wilson C.V. Seldon bought the island that now bears his name in 1825 from Ludwell Lee, a descendent of Thomas Lee). However, Carl MacIntyre, a local amateur historian, discovered a map and deed in the early 1980’s indicating that first ownership actually went to a different man, John Pope, in 1709. The grant to Pope came eight days after the famous grant to captain Daniel McCarty, and extended from Broad Run to the boundaries of McCarty’s tract near Sugarland Run. Pope’s grant given on February 10th, was the earliest patch of land located wholly in today’s Loudoun County. The Southern part of Broad Run Farms, according to MacIntyre, was originally granted to Robert Carter, Jr. in 1729. Like the rest of Eastern Loudoun County during this period, corn and tobacco were probably grown here, with salves working the land.
The Broad Run Bridge
The route 7 bridge over Broad Run has a long and colorful history, dating from the 1750’s. The crossing at this location was described as “too deep for ford, too narrow for ferry” by Eugene Scheel in his history of the crossing. Since travel was heavy during this time, a typical early Virginia bridge was erected, composed of sleepers and rafters. The sleepers were three or four logs linking each bank, and supporting the rafters, boards that were laid at right angles to the sleepers – usually without nails. If the bridge was flooded and needed its rafters adjusted or replaced, it was up to the next traveler who wished to cross to repair the bridge. George Washington was probably one of those impromptu repairman since it is known that he used the bridge in 1753 and 1754.
The Broad Run Bridge was one of the earliest county-maintained byways. As early as 1771, minutes from Loudoun governments meetings indicate that about $500 had to be allocated to reconstruction of the bridge “at the usual place”. In 1809, the bridge was part of the $41,450 state appropriation to build the twenty mile Leesburg Turnpike from Leesburg to Dranesville. This sum incidentally, was the largest state road appropriation to date. The stone Broad Run Bridge and Tollhouse were probably completed by 1820.
Levi Whaley founded a settlement called Broad Run around the bridge site about 1810 when he bought 51 acres on “both sides of the turnpike and along Broad Run”. He purchased the land from Henry B Lee the last of the area’s “Virginia Lees”. There was a gristmill, a sawmill and post office at this site.
Below is a picture of the Broad Run Toll Bridge at Rt.7 from 1953.
Photo courtesy of the Loudoun Planning Commission.
Below is a picture of the Broad Run Toll Bridge at Rt.7 from 1973
after Hurricane Agnes destroyed the bridge. Photo courtesy of the Tomas Balch Library.
The Making of John Mosby
During the mid 1800’s, most of Broad Run Farms was a 755-acre farm owned by John Miskel. The farm, with a historical marker at the roadside, stands near the intersection of Broad Run Drive and Dairy Lane. On March 31, 1863, a Civil War Battle took place on Miskel’s Farm that began the rise to fame of the legendary John Singleton Mosby, who was at that time a captain in the Confederate Army.
The night before the battle, Mosby and his men were encamped at the Miskel Farm. Mosby decided not to post guards at the Pike that night, because he knew that the Union camp was 15 miles away. Since they planned to leave the next morning, he figured his unit would be gone by the time Union troops reached the area. That night, though, an informer reported Mosby’s whereabouts to the Union Army. At daybreak, the First Vermont Cavalry charged into the Miskel barnyard. The Union troops were so confident that they closed the farm gates behind themselves to prevent Confederate escape. Although the cavalry numbered 150 to Mosby’s 70, the rebels had repeating pistols and carbines, firepower superior to the sabers carried by the Union Cavalry. The Yankees found themselves retreating very quickly after starting the battle. Having closed the gates though, the retreat turned into a route for the Confederates. Mosby concluded the battle by chasing the cavalry down Leesburg Pike to Dranesville, a distance of five miles, taking 83 prisoners and 95 horses before pulling back. The victory earned Mosby a promotion to Major for his gallantry. An 1895 engraving made by artist James Taylor depicts this battle and is included in an 1896 book, Mosby’s Rangers, by James Williamson.
Post-war: A Growing Area
Sam Jenkins, a nephew of Miskel’s, ran the farm in the latter half of the 1800s. In 1880, Isaac VanDeventer bought both the Broad Run settlement and the Miskel Farm.
During the late 1870’s, Broad Run got its first public school. The building used to stand where the first residence is on the east side of Lakeside Drive. It was a one-room frame school that closed in 1922. Ten years later, the building was moved about a mile south to house farmhands working on what was then Sterling Farm. Until the 1920’s, Broad Run was also known as the best site for winter ice because it’s depth was just right to hack out the needed three-foot ice blocks.
The 20th Century
From World War I through the 1930’s, Broad Run Farms was known as a hotbed of bootleg whiskey manufacturing. The stone house near the Broad Run crossing and VanDeventer’s Island were major stills. Long-time residents tell us that there were many smaller operations scattered throughout the Farms area. After Prohibition, the Toll House became merely a sightseer’s attraction for its gardens and view of the “sturdy bridgeside”.
The Farms Becomes a Neighborhood
The Broad Run Farms of today began in 1950 when Robert Barns Young, a US Senate Lawyer, purchased the 706-acre Miskel Farm. For a year, he continued to operate it as a dairy farm, but then decided to subdivide it and named it Broad Run Farms. It was the first subdivision to meet modern standards in the county. Unlike Loudoun’s Fairview and Ridgeview subdivisions established earlier, the Broad Run Farms plots were wide enough that buyers did not need to purchase two adjacent lots to have enough space to build a reasonably sized house. Young was required to put in 40-foot-wide paved roads and his decisions have common access to the Potomac and Broad Run was a very innovative feature for a neighborhood at the time.
With prices of $1,200 for the one-half to one-acre plots, and $10,000 for the ten-acre riverside plots; needless to say, they sold quickly. By 1958, all of the plots were sold, some by Young himself, who would park a trailer alongside Route 7 and bring in passers-by, several of whom ended up as residents.
A Prominent Neighborhood
The first resident of Broad Run Farms was General William Lafayette Fagg, who moved in May of 1952. General Fagg was at one time the Provost Marshall of the Air Force. Another famous resident was Senator Everett Dirksen. He and his wife moved into “Heart’s Desire”, a home on the Potomac along Young Cliff’s Road, during the late 1950’s. In 1959, while a resident, he became Minority Leader of the Senate. For a while, our community considered the marigold its official flower. Dirksen, an avid horticulturalist, raised large numbers of the flowers at his residence. In fact, he began his plantings even before his house was built by coming out on weekends and living in a specially exempted trailer.
Broad Run Farms in 1957 and 2012. Aerial photography from Loudoun County.
The Broad Run Civic Association Lots
In 1950, Broad Run Farms was purchased by Robert and Barbara Young and was subdivided a year later into the lots we know today. In 1955, the Young’s filed a deed to allow homeowner’s the use of 2 plots of land as recreational areas; one on Broad Run and the other on the Potomac River. In 1984, after the death of Robert, the properties were deeded to the Broad Run Farms Civic Association (BRFCA). The last deed filed on these properties was done in 1985, after realizing a barn had been built on the wrong piece of land. Therefore, a land swap was accomplished with the River property. As you can see from the 1957 aerial photography the neighborhood and the two recreational lots were not densely wooded. Over time the properties became overgrown, in 1977 our local Boy Scouts did an Eagle Scout project to improve the properties by clearing the overgrown vegetation and building picnic benches. After that due to years of neglect and general disrepair residents referred to these properties as “Mudsville”. Around 1995, the BRFCA started the first of many improvement projects on these properties. With a limited budget in hand and many volunteer hours, the dedication of our residents has paid off with the two beautiful parks we have today.
Galilee United Methodist Church
The only non-residential building ever built in Broad Run Farms is of the course, the Galilee United Methodist Church. The architecture of the original church building built in 1965 reflects the fact that it is located right next to the lake. The strong relationship between the lake and the church was cemented when the lake acquired the name Lake Galilee, and the fourteen crests of the church’s wavy roof line were set up to suggest a water’s surface. This lake, incidentally, did not exist when Young first arrived. Although a swampy area, several small homes were built there. In 1952, running in a six-inch sanitary sewer line created the lake. Interestingly, the surface of the lake is common property for the owners of the land where the lake was formed, but at the bottom of the lake, individual property lines hold. Of course, the water surface intended by the architect was really Israel’s Sea of Galilee, but the lake’s presence no doubt triggered the idea.
The Association has monthly meetings the Second Wednesday of each month at the Galilee United Methodist Church at 7pm. All residents are welcome. Only paid members of the Association are allowed to vote on issues facing the Board.