Yardley Taylor Map Making
Attention to Detail Marks Rare Map Of Loudoun County

by Eugene Scheel
A Waterford historian and mapmaker.

The first detailed map of Loudoun County — or of any part of the Virginia Piedmont or Northern Virginia — was surveyed and drawn by Yardley Taylor in 1852-53. Taylor's 36-by-51-inch "Map of Loudoun County, Virginia, from Actual Surveys" was printed on linen in muted red, yellow and green and black and cost $2, about twice the average daily wage. Anyone who bought the map also received a 28-page "Memoir of Loudon County" (the printer omitted the second "u" in Loudoun), a treatise on the county's geography, geology and agricultural enterprise. "Memoir" tells little about how Taylor made the map, other than that "a viameter was attached to his buggy, and in this way with his surveyor's compass he took the courses and distances of all the principal roads of the county, as well as of many of less note."
A viameter, similar to an odometer, was a wheel, and each turn registered distance on an attached dial.Taylor's surveying notes and other data for the map no longer exist, and the booklet "Yardley Taylor's Surveying Note Book" at the Thomas Balch Library in Leesburg does not mention his 1853 map. The booklet indicates that Taylor was an accomplished surveyor who had surveyed numerous properties for his neighbors south of Purcellville from 1832-69."Memoir" begins by stating that there was "no Map of the County, from which materials could be used in constructing a new one."But this statement does not sit well with the historical record.An 1816 act of the Virginia General Assembly authorized the surveying and drawing of maps for all Virginia counties. John Wood was chosen as chief surveyor on the recommendation of Thomas Jefferson, whose father, Peter, along with Joshua Fry, prepared three maps of Virginia in the mid-1700s. Wood had taught mathematics, surveying and a host of other subjects at The College of William and Mary.By February 1822, Wood, or a surveyor appointed by him, completed the first Loudoun map. Judging from the several Wood maps I have seen, the Loudoun map was comparable in size or larger than Taylor's but identified no more than 100 landmarks or physical features. In compliance with the 1816 act, the map was to locate and identify major physical features, roads and ferries, towns, houses of worship and public houses (taverns).

Wood made two copies of every map, one to be filed at the board of public works in Richmond and the other to be given to the clerk of the county court "to be by him carefully preserved for the use of his county."

It is difficult to believe that Taylor, a surveyor and carrier of the U.S. mail between Leesburg and Purcellville, did not know of the Wood map.

Neither copy of Wood's map of Loudoun apparently survives. The clerk's copy may have been commandeered by Union troops when they occupied Leesburg in March 1862.

Other Wood maps, however, continue to turn up. In my mapping of various Virginia counties, I have uncovered two supposedly lost Wood maps in the past 20 years, of Madison and Prince William counties.

After Wood's death in May 1822, Herman Boye, an immigrant from Denmark, completed the few remaining county maps. He used the 102 county maps to construct a state map on nine sheets in 1827. On the state map, the Loudoun's borders are shown with greater accuracy than on Taylor's 1853 map.

But the worth of Taylor's map rests in its detail. He identified hundreds of owners or occupiers of residences and 77 water-powered mills. He gave the denomination for each house of worship, which, as a Quaker, he designated as "Meeting Houses."

All of the names are set in type, presumably at the Philadelphia firm of Robert Pearsall Smith, where the map was printed.

Several old-timers from the Purcellville area said they had been told that Taylor would ask each homeowner or occupant of a substantial home for $1 to include the house and name on the map. These recollections jibe with the few houses on Taylor's map in the eastern part of Loudoun. Eastern Loudoun, with much of its soils worn from the continual planting of corn and tobacco without application of fertilizer, was a poor cousin to the west.

Corn ears and leaves, stalks of wheat and grazing cattle and hogs grace the borders of Taylor's map, as do miniature inset maps of the county's three largest towns -- Leesburg, Middleburg and Waterford. Each inset is laden with the names of homeowners and businesses that are so small they are difficult to read.

As was common with many 19th-century maps, there are drawings of well-known county scenes along the perimeter. Taylor, or an unidentified artist, sketched the courthouse and downtown Leesburg and Oak Hill, which was labeled as "Former Residence of President Monroe."

There also are sketches of Belmont manor house and the nearby "Miss Mercer's Monument," indicating Taylor's respect for Margaret Mercer. The educator, headmistress of a girls school at Belmont, died in 1846 after having spent a good part of her inherited wealth and profits from tuitions to free her family's slaves and send them to Liberia.

Taylor, like most Quakers, was strongly opposed to slavery. A broadside in an 1857 poster -- author unknown -- called him head of "the Abolitionistclan in Loudoun County" and implied that he aided slaves in escaping to the north and Canada.

A second edition of Taylor's map, rarer than the first, replaces the etching of downtown Leesburg with one of Evergreen, Taylor's farm south of today's Lincoln, where he ran one of the county's first commercial nurseries. Many of the plantings survive today. Several pages of Taylor's "Memoir" discuss the trees, fruits and floras that flourish, or wither, in Loudoun's climate and soils.

A third edition of Taylor's map, again rare, corrects his one major mistake -- placement of the Loudoun branch of the Manassas Gap Railroad. Taylor initially drew the right of way between today's Route 50 and Braddock Road. The correction places the railroad north of and parallel to Route 50.

Scratch marks on the map at the incorrect location indicate that someone corrected the error on the printing plate. Dismantled by retreating Confederates in the fall of 1861, the Loudoun branch track bed can be seen plainly today.

Taylor may have chosen 1852 to begin his map because a Jefferson County cartographer, Samuel Howell Brown, published his map of Loudoun's western neighbor that year. Brown's map is similar in size, pastel coloring and scope of detail to Taylor's effort, and Brown's title includes the words "Actual Survey."

Brown's draftsmanship surpasses Taylor's. As county surveyor of Jefferson, Brown drew an even more detailed map of his county in 1883.

During the Civil War, Brown earned distinction as the Confederate mapper of Harpers Ferry and Sharpsburg (Antietam) and drew field maps of the battles of Brandy Station, battles in Loudoun and Fauquier, the Aldie-to-Upperville cavalry battles and a major skirmish at Arcola.