Servin’ the Pies - The story of Kitty Hanna's run in with John Singleton Mosby
by Carol Bruce
There are many places throughout Herndon that evoke thoughts of an earlier time— from the beautiful old homes along Elden Street to the old Town Hall and, of course, the Depot. But some of the Town's most interesting and colorful history is associated with the resident of a place that you probably wouldn't give a passing glance. It's the little white frame cottage across from . . .
Have you ever wondered about that little concrete building across the street from the Herndon Municipal Center? It’s an acetylene gas generating station—one of several that used to be located throughout Herndon. It dates to about 1900, when two brothers and . . .
Herndon’s Red Caboose - More Than a Local Landmark
by Carol Bruce
The big red caboose that sits between the Herndon Municipal Center and the W&OD trail is more than a local landmark. It is a symbol of the railroad that for so many years was the heart of our town. What eventually became known as the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad had its origins more than a century and a half ago, in Alexandria. In 1853—after an earlier effort to establish a railroad . . .
Several weeks ago this column focused on the little acetylene gas generating station located across the street from the Herndon Municipal Center. In that column I said that two brothers—Edwin (Dr. Ed) and Benjamin (Dr. Ben) Detwiler—founded the Herndon Gas Company . . .
The older neighborhoods throughout Herndon boast a wide array of historic homes— everything from 19th century farmhouses, to cozy bungalows, to sturdy American Foursquares, to ornate Queen Anne Victorians. And at least a few of those homes were ordered as kits from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. You may think of Sears today as the go-to place for power tools and home appliances. But for years, beginning with its establishment back in . . .
“Along with the coming of Dulles International Airport and Reston there came to our quiet little village a great influx of people and the need, it was thought, for a county library.” The little building at 660 Spring Street that now houses the Herndon Friends Meeting has quite a history. The Herndon Fortnightly Club—an organization . . .
Ferenc Nagy was an active member of the Herndon community and, in fact, is responsible for Herndon having the regional presence that it enjoys today. The next time you’re driving through the middle of Herndon, take a look at the big white house at the corner of Elden and School Streets. Now the home of former Herndon Town Council member Harlon Reece and his wife Midge, it was . . .
The Historical Society is proud to have several very special items relating to William Lewis Herndon on display in the depot. There’s an interesting story in the connection between the town’s namesake and a little lump of coal that is on display in the museum. The Town of Herndon is named for William Lewis Herndon, a naval hero. He was born in 1813 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Orphaned at an early age, he entered the Navy when he was 15. In 1851, he was assigned to lead . . .
Visit the Walking Tour page on the Historical Society website, pick out a few of the structures from the historic registry that are listed there, and take a stroll back through Herndon history! Herndon’s wonderful array of older homes has attracted many people to the Town over the years; I am one of them. I moved here because I loved the homes and the sense of history and community that . . .
Take a Walk Through Herndon History - Early churches and schools
by Carol Bruce
The holiday season is a time to celebrate, and for many of us that means the addition of an unwanted pound or two. What a great excuse to go for a walk! Next time you feel the need to get out and stretch your legs, walk with a purpose. Take a walking tour of some of the properties listed on Herndon’s Historic Registry. You can start at the Herndon Depot on Lynn Street. (If you decide to walk between noon and 3:00 p.m. any Sunday afternoon except Christmas, stop in and . . .
The buildings in Herndon’s downtown area have undergone many changes in use over the years. There have been lots of stores—grocery stores, drugstores, general stores, feed stores, and more—and a few surprises, too! The building that houses Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern and Roaches in the Attic . . .
Old Town Council Minute Books: A Snapshot of the Past
by Carol Bruce
There’s a host of interesting—and sometimes amusing—information to be found when reviewing the old Town Council minute books. One of the most important of the many duties carried out by the Town Clerk’s office is keeping the minutes of the Town Council meetings. Those minutes, going back to the first Town Council meeting on January 14, 1879, . . .
In our last column we shared some of the interesting — and occasionally amusing — insights into Herndon’s past that can be found in the old Town Council minute books. Here are a few more. Once again, thank you to Town Clerk Viki Wellershaus and her staff for their assistance with this column. There must have been some attendance issues at those early Council meetings, . . .
This is the third in an occasional series of columns that looks at some of the interesting— and sometimes amusing—insights into Herndon’s past that can be found in the old Town Council minute books. It was the American scientist, inventor, statesman, printer, and philosopher Benjamin Franklin who said, . . .
This is another in an occasional series of columns that looks at some of the interesting— and sometimes amusing—insights into Herndon’s past that can be found in the old Town Council minute books. Exactly 100 years ago last month the Town began moving toward providing public utilities for its residents. On August 5, 1912, . . .
Memories of Herndon, Virginia chronicles the Town’s early years, beginning in 1879. The author’s goal was to “let recollection keep sacred the paradise of memories.” Lottie Dyer Schneider was born in Herndon in 1879, the year the Town was incorporated. In 1962, while living in Marion, Virginia, she wrote Memories of Herndon, Virginia, her recollection of life in her hometown. In 1979, . . .
This is another in an occasional series of columns that looks at some of the interesting— and sometimes amusing—insights into Herndon’s past that can be found in the old Town Council minute books. From the very beginning, livestock were a topic of considerable interest among the Town’s elected officials. On April 26, 1879, . . .
If Walls Could Talk: The Tale of the Herndon Depot
by Virginia Clarity
If walls could talk, the Depot would certainly have a lot to say. Much has happened in and around the building throughout the 150 years that it has stood in the midst of downtown Herndon. Constructed in 1857 as a stop on the Alexandria, Loudoun, and Hampshire Railroad, the building consisted of two rooms—the waiting room and the adjoining freight room. The route of the line through the rural area enabled . . .
The records people keep can give a wealth of knowledge and history. William Harmon Kephart was born in 1856, into a family of weavers. In his early years he spent his days in his father’s handloom woolen factory in Beltsville, Maryland, weaving carpets. During the Civil War the family moved to Loudoun County, where his father built Rock Bridge Woolen Mills near Lincoln. Mr. Kephart later . . .
Back to the Future: Herndon’s first Metro…100 Years Ago!
by Richard Downer
A 100-year-old newspaper article provides a glimpse back at the origins of Herndon’s 21st century reality. At the Herndon Depot Museum there is a 100-year-old copy of The Observer newspaper, dated October 12, 1912. (The Observer name of 1912 was the inspiration for the name of the more recent Herndon Observer newspaper that served Herndon from 1976 until 2010.) The headline on a front-page article read, “Electric Cars In Operation - New Schedule Convenient and Satisfactory—Some Operating . . .
I have written once before about Ancel St. John. However, as I learn more about him it becomes increasingly clear to me how important a figure he was in Herndon’s early history.
Who was Ancel St. John? That is a question that few people in Herndon seem to know the answer to. Although his contributions were many, he arrived in Herndon later in his life and never set down long-term roots, which may have contributed to his name being lost to history.
It was not until several years ago, when I took a very close look at the first official map of Herndon – the 1878 map drawn by cartographer G.M. Hopkins – that I noticed that many parcels of land in the downtown Herndon area were owned by . . .
It all started at a Herndon Historical Society meeting last fall. The guest speaker, a local historian, casually mentioned that there was a small, unmarked cemetery behind Herndon Middle School. He said it belonged to the Colemans, the first family to build a house in Herndon. I had never heard about this, so I asked him if the cemetery was marked. His answer was no, it was just an overgrown plot of land next to the school’s tennis courts. The conversation quickly . . .
Herndon has a rich history when it comes to public education. In fact, this year marks the 100th anniversary of Herndon High School. Our last column (“Herndon’s Historic Homes Registry”) made mention of the home at 725 Center Street. This home is not only significant for its age, but also because it originally housed . . .
Memories of Herndon High School: The Locust Street Years
by Barbara Glakas
Many long-term Herndon residents have memories of their days at “the old Herndon High School” on Locust Street. Last month we wrote about one of the earliest Herndon schools, which was located at 725 Center Street (“Herndon’s Early Public Schools”). A new school that housed all 12 grades was built on Locust Street in 1910-11. It was destroyed . . .
The first church to be built in Herndon remains today, at the corner of Center and Elden Streets. The first church to be built in Herndon was the Northern Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church. It was built in 1872 on a tract of land formerly owned by Ancel St. John, a member of Herndon’s first Town Council, and is still located at 800 Elden Street, . . .
From Wilkins Store to Jimmy’s Tavern: A Herndon Landmark
by Barbara Glakas
More than 100 years later, the large frame structure at the corner of Elden and Spring Streets remains a Herndon landmark. In the mid-1800s, Herndon was a small dairy farming community. It began to grow as the railroad arrived in the 1850s. The Depot was built in 1857, and stores, buildings, and homes grew up around it as people moved into the area. In 1897, Cora Laws, foster daughter . . .
Herndon’s Town seal provides a visual representation of several important aspects of our history. In 1976, Herndon joined in as the nation celebrated its bicentennial. One of the many activities that took place was a Town-sponsored contest to design a new town seal. On June 8, 1976, the Town Council, led by Mayor Gary Lopp, passed a resolution thanking those who had participated in the contest and announcing the creator of the winning design, Tony DeBenedittis, an art teacher at Herndon High School. He received a $100 . . .
We may never know the true nature of the relationship between J.E.B. and Laura. Many of you already are familiar with Laura Ratcliffe, a southern sympathizer who once lived just outside Herndon on Centreville Road and helped John Mosby during the Civil War. [For more about Laura, see the December 26, 2010 column, “Laura Ratcliffe, Herndon's Confederate Spy.”] But you may not be familiar with her relationship with Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. James Ewell Brown (J.E.B.) Stuart was . . .
Runnymede Park, one of nine parks in the Town of Herndon, is a heavily wooded natural park of 58 acres which boasts over 450 native plants, diverse wildlife habitats, the Sugarland Run stream, and Native American artifacts that date back hundreds of years.
If you have ever travelled along the eastern portion of Herndon Parkway, you have noticed the entrance into Runnymede Park, marked by a small parking lot, a picnic shelter and a two-story brick home, known as the Atkin’s House, built in 1956 and named after the family who built it. That house is currently occupied by residential tenants – the Alger family -- who keep a watchful eye over the property.
But if you have never walked deeper into Runnymede Park, you may not have yet discovered another little jewel, . . .
Another Herndon Festival has recently come to an end. Do you know how and why the Herndon Festival first got started? Flashback to 1980: Jimmy Carter was President, Tom Rust was Mayor of Herndon, and Herndon’s population was s little over 13,000. At that time, the Town had an annual arts and crafts show near the old Town Hall, but a man named Arno Randall . . .
Gardening and hometown beautification have been time-honored traditions in Herndon. Over the years this has included individual home gardens, farm gardens, and garden-related organizations. In 1935, some of the women of Herndon formed The Home Interest Garden Club of Herndon. Their club objectives included promoting interest in gardens, protecting windflowers and shrubs, encouraging civic planting and landscaping, and encouraging the culture of flowers among . . .
The Veterans Memorial on the Town Green provides a link to Herndon’s namesake—and to the U.S. Naval Academy. If you have ever wandered around the Town Green behind the Herndon Municipal building you have probably noticed the tall grey obelisk, Herndon’s Veterans Memorial. It is a half-size replica of the famous Herndon Monument located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The Annapolis monument was dedicated in memory of Commander William Lewis Herndon, . . .
What’s the story behind the old stained glass windows that two Grace Street residents recently found in their garage? We may never know for sure, but the mystery is an intriguing one. While I was acting as a docent in the Herndon Depot Museum one recent Sunday afternoon, two Town residents—Phil Jones and Aubrey Stokes—walked in and inquired about the significance of the stained glass windows in the transom . . .
Located in the center of Town on the Town Green, the building we now call the Old Town Hall has had many uses in its 73 years. Sitting proudly at the corner of Elden and Station Streets is Herndon’s first official municipal building, now commonly referred to as the Old Town Hall. But long before the building was erected in 1939, the Town Hall property served as a center of commerce, . . .
Because next Sunday is Veterans Day, we thought it would be appropriate to tell the story of Congressional Medal of Honor winner Wesley L. Fox, a legendary hero within the Marine Corps whose roots are in Herndon. The Medal of Honor is the highest award that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services. One of those medals was awarded to a Marine . . .
On Sunday, March 17—the 150th anniversary of the original event—Mosby’s Raid on Herndon Station will be reenacted. The Herndon Historical Society and the Herndon Chamber of Commerce are sponsoring the free event with support from the Town of Herndon and many local businesses. There will be two reenactments of the raid, . . .
Major William Wells and Mosby’s Raid on Herndon Station
by Barbara Glakas
On Sunday, March 17, Mosby’s Raid on Herndon Station will be reenacted at 11 a.m and 2 p.m. The Herndon Historical Society and the Herndon Chamber of Commerce are sponsoring the event with support from the Town of Herndon. Many Herndon residents are familiar with Confederate Captain John S. Mosby’s raid at Herndon Station on March 17, 1863. But few may be familiar with the story of a famous Union Officer who . . .
A story of a Confederate soldier who met his demise in Herndon. As you have learned from our last series of articles about Mosby’s Raid at the Herndon Station, Col. John Singleton Mosby frequently operated his Confederate Cavalry unit around the Northern Virginia area. One man who rode . . .
The Crounse family was one of a number of northern families that relocated to Herndon during the Civil War era. Our last article, “Private French Dulany, C.S.A.” (March 25), was about a young Confederate soldier who was killed in Herndon during the Civil War. He was buried on a hill where the Crounse house now stands, at the corner of Madison and . . .
Herndon’s history includes a focus on trees, which were celebrated this past Friday on Arbor Day 2013. People plant trees on Arbor Day, a celebration that was originated by J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor who later became President Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture. The first Arbor Day was held in . . .
Learn about the history of the annual event, and read about the very first tour that took place. Herndon’s annual homes tour is a long-standing holiday tradition. The first homes tour in Herndon was conducted in 1979, as one of many events that were held in celebration of the town’s centennial...
Nearly a Century of Herndon History in One Popular Downtown Store
by Barbara Glakas
The Herndon Historical Society tells the history of the Nachman Building, which now houses Green Lizard Cycling on Lynn Street. In about 1913, Robert Schneider—former Town Council member and long-time hardware store owner in downtown Herndon—and his wife, Lottie, sold a piece of land and a building on Lynn Street to...
On this Memorial Day weekend we remember Wayne M. Kidwell, for whom the Town’s American Legion post is named. Herndon’s American Legion Post #184 was chartered in 1989. The first Sergeant at Arms, John Kirk, suggested naming the Post after Wayne M. Kidwell, a Herndon native who was killed in action in Vietnam. At a meeting on . . .
Memories Abound in Chestnut Grove Cemetery - Part1
by Barbara Glakas
Herndon’s history is a reflection of the many people who have lived here over the years. And many of those people now rest in Chestnut Grove. In 1874, Mrs. Katherine Barker, with the financial assistance of 30 other citizens, purchased a section of land for a cemetery at the northeast corner of the Town, . . .
Memories Abound in Chestnut Grove Cemetery - Part2
by Barbara Glakas
Herndon’s history is a reflection of the many people who have lived here over the years. And many of those people now rest in Chestnut Grove. This is a continuation of the list we began in last week’s edition.
Col. John Singleton Mosby was known as one of the greatest guerillas in American history. One hundred and three years ago, on Sept. 10, 1910, 96 of Mosby’s Rangers gathered in the Town of Herndon for...
Remembering Herndon's History: How the Town Got Its Name
by Barbara Glakas
You may know of the man the town was named for—but do you know how and why he was chosen as its namesake? Many people know that the Town of Herndon was named after William Lewis Herndon, the Virginia native and brave Naval officer who went down with his ship in 1857. That ship was the SS Central America. It carried mail, passengers, and 15 tons of...
The Yellow House: The Home of Herndon’s First Undertaker
by Barbara Glakas
Now sitting at the corner of Pearl and Oak Streets is a home commonly referred to as The Yellow House. Built approximately 150 years ago, the home has always been a shade of yellow, but it has not always been located at its present location. The house was originally located at 721 Elden Street, where the Adams-Green Funeral Home now stands. This small plot of land, surrounded...
The Oldest House in Herndon: The Colonial Era Home of George Payne
by Barbara Glakas
The first house to be built in Herndon was the Coleman house, built in 1776 by Col. John Coleman, a militia officer during the American Revolution. That house was taken down in 1964 when the International Apartments were built, with the Jefferson Mews and Lifestyle Condominiums arriving shortly thereafter. Just seven years after the Coleman house was built,...
Hollywood came to Herndon in the 1990’s. Portions of the 1997 Warner Bros. science fiction movie “Contact” were filmed in Herndon at a historic home on Grace Street. The movie was based on a novel by the same name, written by Carl Sagan. The basic plot line is as follows: Dr. Ellie Arroway, played by actress Jodie Foster, had an interest in astronomy since her childhood, an interest that was fostered by her father. Later in her life, as a SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) scientist,...
Dotted on various properties, which lay between Elden Street and Locust Street, are a few old red barns, big and stately, some with a slight lean, showing their age. These red barns sit in an area of Herndon known as The Eldenwood Fruit Farm, a farm dating back to the late 1800’s. This area is a 12.5 acre section of land that sits between Elden and Locust Streets, and extends from Center Street to the intersection of Locust Street and Sterling Road.
In about 1803-04, Fernando Fairfax sold 370 acres of land in the downtown Herndon area to James and John Colemen. John Coleman – a Revolutionary War veteran...
The railroad arrived in Herndon in the 1850s. The train station soon became the center of the community. By the 1870s Herndon was a little village of about 400 residents. It had no paved streets, no sewers, no electricity, and livestock would occasionally roam around the area. There were buildings that started sparsely popping up in the downtown area near the railroad. Many were industrial or commercial buildings – saw mills, lumber yards, general supply stores, churches and a locksmith shop.
The Town was incorporated in 1879. By the early 1900s, Station Street, Pine Street and the “plaza” in front of the Depot (now Lynn Street) were full of buildings. There was a jewelry store, a livery stable, a harness shop, a...
A Mayor, His Daughter and a Memorable Herndon Businessman
The Dyer-Schneider Families and the Schneider Hardware Store
by Barbara Glakas
On the west side of the Nachman building in downtown Herndon is a small parking lot at the corner of Station and Lynn Streets which conveniently serves the patrons of surrounding stores. There was once a hardware store on that small parcel of land. The beginning of that story takes us back to 1838. Elisha Dyer was born in Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1838.
Information was unearthed by a Dyer family member indicated that...
Gypsies, Street Entertainers and Medicine Men in Early Herndon
The odd and amusing visitors in turn-of-the-century Herndon
by Barbara Glakas
Lottie Dyer Schneider was born in 1879, the year the Town of Herndon was incorporated. Her father served as Town Sergeant and as Mayor in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Her husband was a town merchant who ran a general hardware store on Lynn Street from 1909 to about 1919. Mrs. Schneider was among the first supervisors of Fairfax County Schools and later moved to Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
In 1962 Mrs. Schneider wrote a book about the village in which she grew up, the book entitled “Memories of Herndon, Virginia.” Her recollections covered the time period 1879-1920. An interesting part of her book was...
Herndon Day! The Big Community Event of the 1920’s
by Barbara Glakas
Long before there was the Herndon Festival there was another town-wide celebration that dates back to 1919 – Herndon Day!
Like our current Herndon Festival, Herndon Day was a large-scale outdoor event that drew crowds from all around Fairfax County as well as from other surrounding counties. There was a wide variety of games, food, contests and entertainment.
J.J. Darlington’s granddaughter, Frances, who spent summers in Herndon, described the event...
Prohibition was a national ban on the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages, a ban that was in place from 1920 to 1933. Prohibition impacted the Town of Herndon much like it did many other cities and towns around the country. However, the anti-alcohol trend began long before national laws went into effect.
The temperance movement started in the early 1800s, advocating against drunkenness and excessive use of alcohol. An American Temperance Society formed in the 1820s. Its membership grew to...
A Snapshot of the Townspeople in Herndon’s First Year
by Barbara Glakas
The Town of Herndon was incorporated in 1879. The next national census was taken one year later in 1880. Those census statistics reflect the make-up of the town, a snapshot in time where we can read about the numbers, the races, the ethnicities, the education levels and the occupations of those people who lived in the town.
People lived in the unnamed village before the town became incorporated. A Revolutionary War veteran, John Coleman, built the first house in the yet-to-be-named Herndon in 1776. A little over 100 years later, after the Town celebrated its first incorporation birthday, there were 422...
A Prominent Woman’s Influence on The Herndon Seminary and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church
by Barbara Glakas
An early of resident who had a significant impact on the Town of Herndon was Mrs. Mary Lee Castleman.
Ann Ward Crocker, an author of the book, “Mary Morrison (Lee) Castleman: Our Woman of History,” spoke to the Herndon Historical Society in 2002. Ms. Crocker described Mrs. Castleman’s life both before and after she moved to Herndon. Mary Morrison Lee was born in Richmond in 1830. She was one of seven children of an Episcopal Minister, Rev. William Fitzhugh Lee and Mary Catharine Simms Chilton. Mary Lee was a first cousin to Robert E. Lee. The family...
Freemasonry – often referred to as “Masonry” -- is the world's oldest fraternal organization, with records dating back to 1390. Nine separate Virginia Lodges came together to establish The Grand Lodge of Virginia in 1778. Its current website states that its mission is to “teach and perpetuate a way of life that promotes the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God and to assist Lodges to grow and prosper,” with the vision of being a “premier organization composed of men of integrity and character, who are honest, true to their word, believe in God, are devoted to family, charitable in their community, and courteous and helpful to each other.”
The first record of Masons living in Northern Virginia dates back to 1769, with a record of two Masons who lived in Prince William County and were members of a Fredericksburg Masonic Lodge, which had existed since ...
An account of those who were present during the raid
by Barbara Glakas
During the Civil War, the Union Army set up pickets around the nation’s capital in order to protect Washington D.C. from Confederate advances. One of those pickets was positioned at a sawmill adjacent to the Herndon Depot station.
On March 17, 1863, the Herndon picket was manned by a detachment of 25 soldiers from the First Vermont Cavalry, commanded by Lt. Alexander G. Watson. The First Vermont Cavalry was headquartered in Dranesville. Major William Wells, and a couple of other Vermont colleagues, had just arrived in town that day to investigate complaints from ...
Today the building at 757 Elden Street is occupied by a long-time Herndon business, the Upholstery Shop. However, many years ago this building was Herndon’s first movie theatre.
According to a member of the Reed family and to Ms. Virgie Wynkoop -- who was 100 years old when she wrote her memories of Herndon in 1979 -- Mr. Thomas E. Reed built the movie hall in 1921, ran it for a number of years and then later sold it to a man named Henry Lego The Reeds owned much of the land on the block where the theatre was located. According to the son of Thomas E. Reed II, his father (who was born...
An All-Black Elementary School in Pre-Integration Herndon
by Barbara Glakas
In 1869 the Virginia General Assembly authorized a State Superintendent of Public Instruction and a State Board of Education. Fairfax County started opening public schools soon thereafter. Like many post-Civil War counties of that time, there were two sets of schools – one for white students and one for black students.
According to African American Landowners, Churches, Schools and Businesses in Fairfax County, 1860-1900, one room schools served African American children around Fairfax County, with enrollments as high as 408 in 1870 to 1,150 in 1890. The schools were commonly referred to as ...
The beginning of the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Railroad came about as an effort to connect the Alexandria port with points west for the purpose of commerce. Specifically, the idea was to connect the Alexandria ports to the coal mines in West Virginia, but that full dream was never realized.
The once popular Alexandria port was stagnating in the mid-1840s, over shadowed by port competitors to the north and south, including Washington D.C. and Baltimore. Alexandria lived off the turnpike system, which was becoming obsolete. While Baltimore made the bold move to commit to rail -- building the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad -- Alexandria and Washington preferred ...
Telephone lines were first run in Washington, D.C. from 1877 to 1878. A 1928 Herndon News Observer newspaper article reported that telephone service was initially provided to Fairfax County by the Northern Virginia Telephone and Telegraph Company, which was first organized in 1897. At the outset, the plant consisted of a single line that ran three miles between the Fairfax Courthouse and the Fairfax Station on the Southern Railroad. There were six subscribers. The line was later extended to Vienna and then to Herndon.
People quickly began to recognize the value of the telephone service. Soon there were a dozen or more subscribers, some of which were from the Herndon area. Among the first telephone subscribers in the county were...
A picture of a family in 1892 leads to the story of Paul Buchwald
by Barbara Glakas
Occasionally I happen upon an old Herndon photograph that captures my imagination and compels me to write a story about it. So it was with the 1892 picture of a town tinsmith, Paul R. Buchwald, and his family.
The picture shows a seated Mr. Buchwald, who looks to be in his thirties, with disheveled hair, donning a workman’s apron. Seated next to him is a woman, presumably his wife, holding a baby. Closely surrounding the parents are five children. There is one girl and four boys, whose ages range from about one to twelve years old. The children’s clothes are simple. Two of the children are barefooted. The photo is obviously posed, all eyes trained on...
The Life and Death of the Ship that Became the S.S. Central America
by Barbara Glakas
The S.S. George Law, a steamship that was later re-named the S.S. Central America, sunk off the North Carolina coast in 1857 at the hand of an overwhelming hurricane. Commanded by William Lewis Herndon, it was the sinking of this ship, and the brave actions of its captain, that gave rise to the name of the Town of Herndon.
After the Mexican-American War ended, the U.S. government subsidized private companies to build and operate two fleets of sidewheel steamships to connect the newly acquired California Territory to the rest of the country. One fleet would travel from Oregon to ...
The History of Herndon’s Volunteer Fire Department
by Barbara Glakas
One March evening in 1917 a fire broke out in Harrison’s livery stable on Station Street in downtown Herndon. The hot blaze not only spread along Station Street, but also quickly jumped across the road and started igniting the wood frame buildings along the north side of Pine Street. The fire continued to march eastward on Pine Street, heading straight for the Congregational Church that stood at the corner of Pine and Monroe Streets.
Herndon residents tried to control the fire by pouring water out of windows at an effort to protect the buildings, but to no avail. The Town of Herndon had no fire service.
The decision was made to save the Congregational Church by dynamiting ...
Like many localities across the nation, Herndon had many residents who served -- and died -- in World Wars I and II.
In 1949 the Herndon American Legion Post 91 and its Auxiliary group sponsored the publication of a book called Service Record Book of Men and Women of Herndon, Virginia. The book lists the names of Herndon Gold Star Boys as well as other Herndon area men and women who were veterans of World Wars I and II. But what exactly is a Gold Star Boy and how did that tradition come about?
During World War I families started displaying banner flags to show their support for their husbands and sons fighting in France. In 1917 an Army Infantry Captain from Ohio named...
From farmer to educator to the first female County Supervisor, Edith Roger’s made an indelible mark on Fairfax County and the greater Herndon community.
Prior to coming to Herndon in 1914, the Rogers family lived in Nelson County, Virginia, an area located between Charlottesville and Lynchburg. Edith’s parents, James and Mary Rogers, were born in Delaware and Pennsylvania, respectively, in the 1850s. They married in 1878 and went on to have 12 children. James was a farmer and owned a farm in Lovingston, Virginia.
Edith, the sixth child born in 1887, attended school in Nelson County. She graduated from the State Teacher’s College in Farmville, Virginia, (now ...
Two well-known and well-respected horse and buggy doctors from mid-19th century Herndon were Dr. John T. Day and his brother, Dr. William B. Day.
Both born in Calvert County, Maryland, the Day brothers were descendants of six generations of Days in America. William Day was about twelve years older than John. It is unclear when they first moved to Fairfax County, but census documents found them both in Fairfax County in 1850. At that time William, 33, was already a physician while John, 21, was in school. By 1860 John was also listed as a physician. They both settled in Dranesville, living on Leesburg Pike with their respective families. Both of their adjacent homes, at 11700 and 11706 Leesburg Pike, still stand today and are historical landmarks in the Dranesville District.
William and John split their practices. The blue-eyed William, who was known to be ...
Commander William Lewis Herndon – born in 1813 in Fredericksburg, Virginia -- was the captain of the sidewheel steamer, the S.S. Central America, which sank in a hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas in 1857. Commander Herndon went down with his ship, but not before helping to save 149 people in the disaster. Sadly, 423 people were lost.
The Town of Herndon, Virginia, and the Town of Herndon, Pennsylvania, were both named in his honor is. The stately obelisk Herndon Monument memorial on the campus of the Naval Academy in Annapolis was erected in Commander Herndon’s honor. The Town of Herndon has a miniature replica of the Herndon Monument on its Town Green. Two Navy Destroyer ships were named after Herndon. Some people of that day named their children “Herndon.”
Why did this ship captain become such a revered naval hero? The best way to answer that is to...
The Impact of Manassas Battles on Herndon Residents
by Barbara Glakas
During the Civil War, the village of Herndon experienced one military raid which took place near the railroad Depot in 1863. However, that brief raid was not the villagers’ only war experience. Given the position of Herndon in Northern Virginia the residents were not oblivious to the sights and sounds of war and the troop movements swirling all around them.
Some residents, depending on their individual political leanings, occasionally felt compelled to quickly escape the village in order to avoid the approaching troops, depending on whether those troops were Union or Confederate.
One such couple was Nat Hanna and his wife, Kitty Kitchen Hanna. They were a married couple of different state origins – Kitty a lifelong Virginian who was a southern sympathizer, and Nat a native New Yorker who supported...
One Resident’s Perspective on Early 20th Century Herndon
by Barbara Glakas
Walter Herndon Wiley Sr. (1894-1975) once ran a watch repair, newsstand and candy store in downtown Herndon. His small wood frame building was formerly located in the town square on Lynn Street, nestled between the former Dudding’s Hardware Store (now a parking lot at the corner of Lynn and Station Streets) and the Nachman building (now home of the Green Lizard Cycling Shop at 718 Lynn Street).
Early Herndon residents remember Wiley’s store. Francis Darlington (1914-1998), who spent many summers in Herndon as a child, recalled,
“Next door [to the Dudding’s Hardware Store] is Wiley’s newspaper and candy store where my children can still choose from an intriguing assortment of jawbreakers, red and black licorice strips, peanut chews etc., as we used to…. After Sunday school and church we would walk with our friends to the village for chocolate soda at the drug store, then to Mr. Wiley’s to pick up the Sunday paper and home to enjoy the ‘funny papers.’ ”
The Wiley family had a long history in Herndon. Harvey C. Wiley, born in...
Blacksmiths were once important members of communities around America. In Herndon they provided a vital trade that continued up to the mid-20th century.
A blacksmith is a metal worker who creates objects from iron or steel by heating the metal and using tools to hammer, bend, and cut it. Civil war armies used blacksmiths to shoe horses and repair things such as wagons, horse tack, and artillery equipment.
Many small towns had at least one blacksmith. It is believed there were at least four blacksmith shops or businesses that existed in Herndon since the time the Town was incorporated in 1879. They were run by Enos Garrett, Henry Simms, Thomas Sauls and William Henry Moffett.
Enos Garrett, born 1841, was a prominent resident who came to Herndon from Pennsylvania. He served a short stint in the Civil War...
Many are familiar with the story of how Herndon’s post office was first established: As the railroad was built out to the area we now call Herndon, a village started evolving around the train Depot – built circa 1857 – giving rise to the need for a post office. The village people gathered to select a name for the post office. At a meeting the townspeople heard the story of the brave Captain of the S.S. Central America who had recently died with his sunken ship in the midst of a hurricane after saving all the women and children, making valiant efforts to keep the ship afloat until rescuers arrived. Taken with the story of this heroic ship captain, the townspeople opted to name the new post office...
Pharmacist, Banker and Exceptional Herndon Businessman
by Barbara Glakas
In Herndon’s earlier years, mothers treated their family’s ills with home remedies. Occasionally doctors would be called upon, travelling many miles by horse to reach their sick patients. Herndon also saw its share of “medicine men,” strangers who would sometimes wander into town, standing on boxes as crowds gathered around, pitching the miraculous qualities of the dark liquids that they would sell in little bottles.
Modern pharmacies started emerging in America in the mid-19th century, with apothecaries or druggists becoming a distinct profession. It was during that same general time period that...
Virgie Wells Wynkoop was born in 1878. She grew up on a farm near Oakton and later lived on a farm near Hunter’s Mill. She attended Clark School, located a couple miles from her childhood home. She married Arthur E. Wynkoop in 1901, a wheelwright and blacksmith who later became a house carpenter. They spent the first eight years of their marriage at Colvin Run Mill and later moved to Pender.
In 1928 she and her husband moved to Herndon, first living in an apartment in the home of Sadie Detwiler on the corner of Elden and Spruce Streets. In 1932 they bought a piece of land and built their own home at ...
Many employees in Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern say they have experienced many unexplained events that they attribute to their resident ghost whom they affectionately call “Walter.”
The Tavern building at the corner of Elden and Spring Streets was built around 1899. Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern is a popular Herndon restaurant/bar that opened in 1997. In the early 1900s, and for many years, the building housed the Wilkens and Brothers Bargain Store, a general merchandise store. It also had a residence upstairs. Many other businesses occupied the building after Mr. Wilkins closed his store.
Some of the Tavern employees say they believe in ghosts...
Elisabeth Leonhardt and the Navy’s “Sacred Twenty”
A Famous Herndon Veteran
by Barbara Glakas
Herndon resident, Elisabeth Leonhardt, was among the Navy’s “Sacred Twenty,” a group of female nurses who were the first females to formally serve in U.S. Navy during World War I. She was the Chief Nurse of the United States Navy.
Elisabeth Leonhardt was the daughter of Henrich Jacob and Mary E. Leonhardt. Jacob was born in Germany and was a naturalized citizen, immigrating in 1831. Mary was born in Maryland. Together they ultimately settled in the...
In 1858, Herndon’s first post office, initially located in the railroad Depot, was named after Commander William Lewis Herndon. Herndon was the captain of the S.S. Central America, a steamship which fatefully sunk off the Carolina coast in a monstrous hurricane in 1857. Commander Herndon, who went down with his ship, was considered a hero for saving the lives of 149 people – mostly women and children – and for all his valiant, calm and professional efforts to keep the ship afloat for as long as he could until help arrived.
It has long been local legend that our town’s name, “Herndon,” was the suggestion of a stranger, who happened to be passing through our yet-to-be-named village in 1857, on the night that that the townspeople were voting on a name for the village’s new post office. The legend has it that ...
Herndon officially became an incorporated Town on January 14, 1879 -- Incorporation Day! In the year 2017 the Town celebrates its 138th birthday.
Prior to becoming an incorporated Town, Herndon was but a small, un-named village within the Dranesville District of Fairfax County. One of the first signs of settlement in Herndon was the construction of homes that date back to...
A follow-up story about how the Town of Herndon was named
by Barbara Glakas
Last December we published a story about how a stranger, referred to as “a bronzed man,” played a role in naming the Town of Herndon. The full story can be seen on the Herndon Historical Society’s website at www.HerndonHistoricalSociety.org. In this story we attempt to identify this “bronzed man.”
To recap, in 1857, Commander William Lewis Herndon’s ship – the S.S. Central America – sunk in a hurricane off the Carolina coast. The ship was carrying gold from the California Gold Rush to the banks in New York. That same year our yet-to-be-named village was searching for a name for...
Herndon, like the rest of Fairfax County, was not a welcoming place for African Americans duringmthe segregation era. The population of Herndon had reached 953 by 1920, and African Americans represented about 10 percent of that number. Almost all of them lived.within two “colored settlements”—either Cooktown (at the northern limits of town) or Oak Grove (near Sterling), where a two-room elementary . . .
Herndon had its own confederate spy during the Civil War in the person of a young woman named Laura Ratcliffe, who provided valuable information to General JEB Stuart and Colonel John S. Mosby. Stuart repaid her with an album in which he wrote four poems to her, imploring her to continue her support. Mosby credited her with saving his . . .
Herndon Residents and the Southern Claims Commission - An Aftermath of the Civil War
by Chuck Mauro
One of the more interesting events that occurred as an aftermath of the Civil War was the creation of the Southern Claims Commission. Congress established the Commission in 1870 to allow citizens to make claims against the federal government for losses of personal property that resulted from Union Army actions during the war. Claimants had to prove . . .
On January 14, 1879, Herndon became an incorporated Town. One reason for the incorporation, according to Nan Netherton’s Fairfax County Virginia: A History, may have been so that “saloons could not be established within easy walking distance of the railroad station and so create a town nuisance.” Located 27 miles from the Nation’s Capital, the new Town of Herndon had no paved streets, no sewers, and no electricity. Homes were lighted by candles and oil lamps, which were cleaned . . .
The earliest people to set foot on the land that would become Herndon were hunters and gatherers known as Paleoindians. Some 13,000 years ago, the first American Indians—the Paleoindians—walked across the land that would eventually be called Herndon. They were a Stone Age people who made and used stone tools. Evidence . . .
Memories of summers in Herndon at a time when life moved at a slower pace. Frances Darlington Simpson, granddaughter of prominent summer resident J.J. Darlington (see “Herndon’s Most Prominent Summer Resident”), provided an interesting glimpse of what summers were like in Herndon during the early to middle 1900s. These memories are included in her book, Virginia Country Life and Cooking, originally published in 1963. Francis grew up at the Darlington estate, which was located behind today’s Walgreens drugstore at the corner of . . .
Around 1888, a busy Washington DC lawyer boarded the train and rode out into the Virginia countryside to find a summer residence. Precisely one hour later he stepped off the train and found what he was looking for in the new Town of Herndon. In a grove of oak trees . . .
Most of the structures we see today along Station and Pine Streets were built following The Great Fire of 1917. On a Thursday in March 1917, a fire started at Harrison’s Livery Stable on the east side of Station Street north of Pine Street. It spread rapidly toward the Depot, destroying most of the businesses on Pine and Station Streets. Because the Town had no fire department, . . .
Along with a little exercise and fresh air, a scarce quarter mile journey along the W&OD Trail provides the opportunity to take a trip through close to 150 years of Herndon history. Each day, walkers, runners, bikers, and in-line skaters pass through Herndon as they traverse the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Regional Park—more commonly known as the W&OD Trail. And, as they travel along the site of the former . . .
A symbol of the dominance of dairy farming in the Herndon area was the recognition of Ben Middleton’s prize cow, Sadie, as “the best known Holstein in the world.” In 1900, most of Fairfax County’s 18,850 residents lived on farms, and the County was the state leader when it came to dairy products. Dairy farming continued to be the area’s primary industry during the 1920s and 1930s, and it survived . . .
In an interview in 2000, longtime Herndon resident Ellen Kephart shared her memories of life in Herndon during World War II. Ellen passed away last year. I was driving by Sully Plantation recently when I noticed they were having a World War II reenactment. And that got me thinking about an interview I did with Ellen Kephart in 2000, . . .
The little house at 610 Spring Street has quite a history, and the current owners are adding to it each year with their “spirited” take on Halloween decor. Drive by and see it for yourself! When Bob Matthews and Colleen Delawder purchased the house at 610 Spring Street in 2005, they knew it was old and they loved its charm, but they had no idea of its history. Built as a onestory, . . .
In the early 1900s the W&OD Railroad promoted “the progressive town of Herndon” as a summer destination. One hundred years ago, the town of Herndon had 750 inhabitants. Six trains carried passengers and freight each day along the railroad line from Washington to Herndon, which boasted 2 guesthouses, a hotel, . . .
The mystery remains: What did this well-liked and supposedly upstanding citizen do with the money he embezzled from the National Bank of Herndon? In 1933, the National Bank of Herndon was the second largest bank in Fairfax County. Open since 1910, business was brisk. The bank served customers from a 25-square-mile area. In early January 1935, however, . . .
Old newspapers provide a window into the past. One of the things I truly enjoy when doing research on Herndon’s history is reading old newspapers. I often find such interesting information about the way people used to live 50, 75, even 100 years ago. So, . . .
No doubt a number of Herndon residents can remember that day in 1968 when the last Washington and Old Dominion train pulled out of Herndon. How many, however, know the story of how the railroad came to Herndon to begin with? In the 1840s, because of its port and the turnpikes that linked the city to Virginia’s farmlands, . . .
Thomas S. Underwood vs. Asa Bradshaw and The National Bank of Herndon
by Chuck Mauro
Thomas S. Underwood was a respected, stern, and hard working man. It is safe to say that Asa Bradshaw ruined his life. In a previous column (“Asa Bradshaw and the Mystery of the Missing Money,” published on November 27) we talked about Asa Bradshaw, who for a number of years used his position at the National Bank of Herndon to steal from bank depositors. Unfortunately, . . .
In the Herndon Historical Society’s library in the Depot is a short, unpublished paper entitled “My Home Town,” by Walter “Bud” Wiley, Jr. It provides a glimpse of the Town of Herndon in the early to mid-1900s. Walter Wiley ran a watch repair, news stand, and candy store out of a building next to Nachman’s on Lynn Street in downtown Herndon. He was a clockmaker and a watchmaker, . . .
You probably know that our town was named after William Lewis Herndon, but did you know that two Navy destroyers were named after the famous Commander? William Lewis Herndon, a Commander in the U.S. Navy, explored the entire length of the Amazon beginning in 1850. His goal was to spur steam travel on the river. In 1855, he became the Captain of the S.S. Central America. Captain Herndon went down with his ship in 1857 in a hurricane off of . . .
Roberts Carpets and Oriental Rug Co. has been in business in Herndon for 40 years, selling carpets, wood flooring, and ceramic tile. Chuck Roberts, the owner of Robert’s Carpets, started doing business in Herndon at 697 Spring Street, in the building that now is home to Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern. Twenty years later, Chuck moved it to the current location, a few doors away at 681 Spring Street. The building that houses Jimmy’s today dates to 1897, . . .
Mosby’s 1863 St. Patrick Day Raid on Herndon Station
by Chuck Mauro
On Sunday, March 17, Mosby’s Raid on Herndon Station will be reenacted at 11 a.m and 2 p.m. The Herndon Historical Society and the Herndon Chamber of Commerce are sponsoring the event with support from the Town of Herndon. On March 17, 1863, Saint Patrick’s Day, Captain John S. Mosby made a raid on a Union outpost near one of his favorite targets, the Herndon train station on the Alexandria Loudoun & Hampshire Railroad. This raid also involved . . .