History of Loudoun County
Loudoun County is located between Washington, DC, and the Shenandoah
Valley of Virginia. To the east, Dulles International Airport and commerce
thrive; while the western section still maintains its small farms, towns,
Loudoun County constitutes a part of the five million acre
Northern Neck of Virginia Proprietary granted by King Charles II of
England to seven noblemen in 1649. This grant, later known as the Fairfax
Proprietary, lay between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. Between
1653 and 1730, Westmoreland, Stafford and Prince William Counties were
formed within the Proprietary, and in 1742 the remaining land was designated
Settling of the Loudoun area began between 1725 and 1730, while it was still owned by Lord Fairfax. Permanent settlers came from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. During the same period, settlers from eastern Virginia of English Cavalier stock came to lower Loudoun and established large tobacco plantations.
During the 1720s, a number of Quakers, Germans, Irish and Scots-Irish settled west of the Catoctin mountains. Quakers formed the settlements of Waterford, Goose Creek (now Lincoln), Harmony (now Hamilton) and Union (now Unison).
From 1745 to 1760, Germans from Pennsylvania and Maryland formed the settlement at Lovettsville. After General Braddock's defeat by the French at Fort Duquesne in 1755, refugees from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia settled in the western part of Loudoun County, south of Short Hill. Catoctin Church became the center of that settlement.
In 1774, a meeting a freeholders and other residents was held in the County Courthouse to discuss the protection of rights and liberties in North America. The group adopted the Loudoun Resolves as well as a formal protest of the Stamp Act. Later, a number of Loudoun County men fought in the Revolutionary War.
During the War of 1812, Loudoun County served briefly as a temporary refuge for the President and important state papers. The Constitution and other state papers were brought to Rokeby, near Leesburg, for safekeeping when the British burned Washington. President Madison established headquarters at Belmont, where he was the guest of Ludwell Lee.
In 1861, residents of Loudoun County were split over the issue of secession. The Quakers and most of the Germans in northern and central Loudoun opposed slavery and secession, while the landed gentry in the southern part of the county favored secession.
During the Civil War, Colonel John Mosby and his Rangers were active in Loudoun County, which was also the home of the Laurel Brigade, a famous Confederate Cavalry unit commanded by Elijah V. White of Leesburg. A national cemetery near Leesburg marks the site of the Battle of Balls Bluff, where Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., then a young Union soldier, fought in 1861.
For more than two centuries, agriculture was the dominant way of life in Loudoun County, which had a relatively constant population of about 20,000. That began to change in the early 1960s, when Dulles International Airport was built in the southeastern part of the county. The airport attracted new businesses, workers and their families to the area.
At the same time, the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area began a period of rapid growth. Major road improvements made commuting from Loudoun County much easier, attracting more and more people to the eastern part of the county. In the last three decades, the population of Loudoun County nearly quadrupled.
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