Fairfax County, Virginia


Fairfax County (including the future Loudoun County in 1751, six years before Loudoun was formed.1 Northwest Fairfax County in 1886.3
Loudoun and Fairfax counties in 1839 - the Broad Run area between Broad Run and Goose Creek.2 Cemeteries in Fairfax where some family members are buried. Brown's Chapel Cemetery no longer has the chapel located next to the cemetery - it was removed to a preservation site in Reston some years ago.


There is a good summary of the history of the county at the web site of the Fairfax County Convention & Visitors Bureau. If this link is broken, then a copy of the material is available here. Another excellent reference is that created by Nan Netherton, Patrick Reed and others who co-authored a fine history of Fairfax4, which includes information on McLean. Patrick Reed's web site5 contains material from this book as well as quotes from an article on McLean by John Mackall (see sidebar).

The central post office referred to above was in Storm's store where Elm Street joined Chain Bridge Road. The store can be seen in the McLean Images section below and in images in the book McLean Remembers Again6, and was an early place of work for Maria (Caylor) Stoy.

The rural character of the county is clearly captured by Elizabeth Pryor in Frying Pan Farm7, which reviews life in the town of Floris, near Herndon, in the first part of the Twentieth Century. The dairy industry was important to the county for the first forty years of the century and it caused great changes in the transportation system that linked the county to Washington DC and Georgetown. Although the rail lines and automobile roads were very helpful to the farmers, the longer lasting effect was the creation of the villages and towns that became the suburbs of Washington beginning in the late 1940s.

By the end of WWII, Fairfax started to grow beyond it's rural roots. When growing up in the late 1940s, there were still many dairy farms outside the central McLean area but by the mid-1950s these were disappearing and becoming subdivisions. It had only been a few years since the electric railroad (Great Falls and Old Dominion Railway Line, established in 1906 and shut down in 1935) was replaced by Old Dominion Drive and used by cars.


Today's McLean bears little relation to the smaller, slower-paced community just after WWII. I remember social events centered around the McLean Volunteer Fire Department - pot luck dinners at the fire house as well as donkey baseball games played on the field behind Franklin Sherman. Many streets have changed both in physical appearance and in the character of the neighborhood, but some are largely the same if you know where to look. Many of the old homes are now gone, despite significant efforts to retain the historic character of the region, and can be found only in old photos. Central McLean has changed most - at one time it was a place of homes and a few businesses. Today, the businesses dominate most of the area. The Stoy property on Elm Street was torn down to make way for a McDonalds by the mid-1960s.

Franklin Sherman's small softball field on Chain Bridge Road served as a location for the annual McLean Volunteer Fire Department carnival - sawdust on the ground, ring pitching, penny and dime pitching into small bowls, pitching balls to knock down milk bottles, small Ferris wheel, good carousel, cotton candy and unnamed things behind closed doors that we kids couldn't get into. All in all, a typical small-town carnival of the 1940s and very early 50s. An announcement of the carnival for 1939 appeared in the Washington Post and Jerry Hennings has supplied a listing of where these people lived in the McLean area at the time.

The original plat map of Ingleside subdivision, which comprises a large area north of Chain Bridge Road in central McLean, is in the Fairfax County Archives and images of the two pages are included in the sidebar. A marked copy of the section of Ingleside in central McLean is also included along with comments on the property owners in the decade of the 1940s.9

McLean was not established until the early years of the 20th Century but the Mackall family owned property there (and in Langley) much earlier. Mackall's hill is shown on the 1860 map (sidebar) and this hill is visible in the 1941 topo image, although now the hill is barely discernable, having been lowered for development. McLean at the end of WWII was still a small community but growth started before 1950 when several subdivisions were built.

McLean Aerial Images - 1937 and 1966

In 1937 the United States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, undertook an aerial survey of much of the country as part of an effort to better counter the effects of soil erosion - this was the middle of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the Midwest was an immediate problem. Many of these images still exist and, in fact, are being used by local conservation, archeological and planning departments. During 1937 aerial photographic crews covered 375,000 square miles and by 1941 had photographed 90% of the United States.10 The images for Fairfax County were digitized and are distributed by the county on DVDs.11

I've converted the DVD images from the MrSID format to TIF files and then cropped these images to smaller areas surrounding McLean (the original TIF files are each roughly 250Meg and it took about 200 images to cover the county). I then used the Zoomify Express software from Zoomify, Inc. to put the images on this web page. After clicking on the thumbnail, each image can be zoomed to its original maximum size using the controls at the bottom of the image. Control is much like Google maps - double-clicking on the image zooms and dragging with the cursor pans the image.

McLean Images

These images cover a period in McLean from about 1930 to 2006.

Franklin Sherman School

Within a block of the center of McLean was Franklin Sherman, first an elementary/high school (including both higher and lower grades) then an elementary school (grades 1-7). The school still exists, located in the addition built onto the old school in 1952, but the original building is no longer and it's that old building that I most remember because it was my life from grades 2-7. My father and uncle graduated from it as a high school and Mom was secretary to the principal most of the years while my brother and I were there. In 1954, while in the 7th grade, the Salk vaccine was first administered to students of the school in the 1st and 2nd grades (we older children received the vaccine later, after the initial trials were concluded) - it was a big deal at the time and we were aware of the importance. See an expired web site for commentary on the Salk trial.

My father went to Franklin Sherman, when it was both and elementary and high school, from about 1916 to about 1926, playing on the high school baseball team in 1924. He appeared in the school photo taken about 1920 (sidebar).

I was at Franklin Sherman from 1948-1954 and my brother between 1949-1956. Having your mother be secretary to the principal of your elementary school has its pros and cons. On one side, it was an incentive to not get called into the principal's office for any reason. On another side, we got to know the principal, and many of the teachers were friends of the family. Mom and Dad played Canasta, and in later years bridge, with Ruby Dunkum (principal), Laura Jett (my 4th grade teacher), and Conrad Geier (my 7th grade teacher and the only male teacher at the time - a WWII veteran who survived the concentration camps as a POW. I was an usher in his wedding in 1954). Ruby was a reference for my co-op job at General Dynamics in Fort Worth, Texas, starting in 1960.

Ruby Dunkum had a long history with the Fairfax school system (see her entry in the database). Neither she nor Laura Jett married and were close friends since the time they both worked at Franklin Sherman. Laura passed away in the mid-1980s and Ruby in 2001 at age 92.

The teachers I had at Franklin Sherman were:

2nd grade    Louise Millard

3rd grade    Kate Eadie

4th grade    Laura Jett

5th grade    Helen Tietjen

6th grade    Margaret Grant

7th grade    Conrad Geier

Although I never had her as a teacher, Alice West was the 1st grade teacher at Franklin Sherman, apparently starting about 1947. Louise Millard, born in 1906, passed away 26 Jun 1982 and was buried at Brown's Chapel Cemetery, close by where my grandparents are buried. She was first assigned to Franklin Sherman in 1928 when it was both a high school and elementary school. Kate Eadie, born in 1909, married to Orrin C Eadie, passed away 25 Feb 1997. She first taught at Franklin Sherman about 1946 and eventually taught at Spring Hill Elementary School in the 1970s. Her daughter, Sally, was in the same class with me and I recall visiting their home off of Old Dominion Road, near Pimmit Run, while selling doughnuts to earn money for the Langley Methodist Church in the very early 1950s.

Laura Jett, born about 1908, first taught at Franklin Sherman about 1942 and she retired from teaching in 1973 (see photo above in the sidebar). She had been teaching in public schools by 1930 in her home county in Virginia, Northumberland, and she passed away in the mid-1980s. Helen Tietjen was first assigned to Franklin Sherman in 1951 and, I recall because of a shower we held in her class, she married while I was in her 5th grade class in 1951-2. Margaret Grant lived on Elm Street in McLean and I delivered The Evening Star to her in the 1950s. She was born in 1904 and passed away in 2003. She first taught at Franklin Sherman in 1945 and her daughter, Jacqueline Grant Friedheim, reminisced about her mother's teaching and living in McLean in Carole Herrick's book13. Conrad Geier, born 13 Dec 1920 in Pennsylvania, was a sergeant and a paratrooper in the US Army during WWII, serving in the North African Theater and Sicily. He first taught at Dunn Loring Elementary School in 1949 and came to Franklin Sherman in 1952. At the end of the school year in 1954, he married Mimi Judd who also taught at Franklin Sherman beginning in 1953. Conrad passed away 20 Mar 1988 in Pennsylvania, where he is buried at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery.

See this file for research materials on some of my teachers listed above, collected in 2008.


1. Map of the Inhabited part of Virginia, containing the whole province of Maryland with Part of Pensilvania, New Jersey and North Carolina (London: Thomas Jeffreys, 1755); digital image, Library of Congress American Memory Collection (http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/h?ammem/gmd:@field(NUMBER+@band(g3880+ct000370)) : accessed 14 May 2009).  Drawn by Thomas Fry and Peter Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson's father).

2. David H Burr, Map of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware (London: John Arrowsmith, 1839); digital image, David Rumsey Map Collection (http://www.davidrumsey.com : accessed 14 May 2009).

3. Griffith M Hopkins, Map of the Vicinity of Washington, D.C. (Philadelphia: Griffith M Hopkins. c. 1894); in Richard W Stephenson, The Cartography of Northern Virginia: Facsimile Reproductions of Maps Dating From 1608 to 1915 (Fairfax County, Virginia: Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, 1981), 94.

4. Nan Netherton, Donald Sweig, Janice Artemel, Patricia Hickin and Patrick Reed, Fairfax County, Virginia: A History (Fairfax County, Virginia: Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, 1992). First published in 1978, re-issued in 1992 as a 250th Anniversary Commemorative Edition.

5. Patrick Reed, Personal Web Site - Section on Fairfax County, Virginia, 1900-1925, www.nvcc.edu/home/preed.

6. Louise C Curran, McLean Remembers Again (McLean, Virginia: The Sound Publications, 1976). See pages 53 and 61 for views of Storm's store, which became a DGS (District Grocery Store) in the late 1940s run by the Katz family and then was replaced by a service station in the late 1950s. See page 37 for the image of the McLean Beauty/Barber Shop.

7. Elizabeth Brown Pryor, Frying Pan Farm (Fairfax County, Virginia: Office of Comprehensive Planning, 1979). See Part II, pages 36-54, in particular.

8. John Chichester Mackall, "McLean, Fairfax County, Virginia," Historical Society of Fairfax County, Virginia, Inc. Yearbook 4 (1955): 1-15. This is an excellent article on families and the history of the Langley - McLean - Lewinsville area in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

9. The information on the map and the commentary was provided by Gerald Hennings, Jean (Payne) Volz, Betty Lou (Payne) Bennett, and Ann (Arnold) Hennings, along with the remembrances of James Stoy and myself in early 2003.

10. Mark Monmonier, “Aerial Photography at the Agricultural Adjustment Administration: Acreage Controls, Conservation Benefits, and Overhead Surveillance in the 1930s,” Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing 68 (December 2002); online archives, Maxwell School of Syracuse University (http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/mon2ier/e_reprints/PEARS_Dec_02_AAA.pdf : accessed 20 Jan 2010), 1257.

11. GIS & Mapping, Fairfax County, Virginia (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/maps/ : accessed 20 Jan 2010).

12. Wayne G Dunn to Robert Stoy, letter 28 May 2005; privately held by Stoy, 2008.

13. Carole L Herrick, Yesterday: 100 Recollections of McLean & Great Falls, Virginia (McLean, Virginia: self-published, 2007).
14. Original images courtesy of the Fairfax County Library Public Archive, Fairfax, Virginia.