The Fairfax Story is the American story. It is a story of migration and settlement, of civil war and economic boom, and of respecting heritage – while embracing new cultures. While our earliest residents were Native Americans who lived here near the end of the ice age, Colonial Fairfax was a place of tobacco plantations, revolutionary ideas, and a black slave labor force. The church parish and the county court framed both politics and everyday life.
Life was first organized around the Truro Parish in 1732. Like the church, large plantation owners controlled the county court, charged with both judicial and administrative duties.
Fairfax Resolves authored by Mason and Washington
Eighteenth-century Fairfax was home to two of the greatest political figures of the period: George Washington and George Mason. Together, they authored the Fairfax Resolves in 1774, a proclamation of colonists’ rights. By the end of the century, a new crop – wheat – had replaced tobacco.
New Courthouse Location
In 1798, county officials chose a new courthouse location, one catering to Fairfax’s economic and political changes.
First Session of Court at the New Courthouse
The first session of court at the new courthouse in the Town of Providence convened April 21, 1800.
Virginia General Assembly established the Town of Providence
On January 14, 1805, the Virginia General Assembly established the Town of Providence on 14 acres of Ratcliffe’s land surrounding the new courthouse. However, residents and travelers alike commonly called the area “Fairfax Court House.” It was officially re-named Fairfax in 1874.
The First Officer Casualty
Captain John Quincy Marr, the first officer casualty of the Confederacy, was killed at Fairfax Courthouse on June 1, 1861.
The Occupation of Fairfax
By late 1862, Union forces under the command of Brigadier General Edwin H. Stoughton occupied the town.
In an audacious raid led by Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby in March of 1863, Stoughton was captured while he slept in a house belonging to Truro Episcopal Church.
Also in 1863, Antonia Ford, whose girlhood home was the Ford Building on Chain Bridge Road, was imprisoned as a Southern spy after being accused of aiding Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. She fell in love with her jailer, Major Joseph C. Willard, who secured her release from prison after seven months. They were married, and their son Joseph built Old Town Hall in 1900.
Minority of Fairfax Residents Lived on Farms
Fairfax greeted the twentieth century with Old Town Hall’s impressive classical revival façade raising hopes for continuing prosperity. The electric railway or trolley “infused new life into the town.” The town organized a baseball team and a brass band and watched “moving pictures” at Old Town Hall. In 1945, for the first time in its history, a minority of Fairfax residents lived on farms.
Important Suburban Community
The 1950’s transformed Fairfax into an important suburban community for Washington DC.
City of Fairfax
The Town of Fairfax became a City in 1961 and matured into an urban village with a strong sense of community.