Markham Historic District

Markham, Fauquier County, VA

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Even though the community has no official limits, the linear district encompasses roughly 81 acres that are historically and visually associated with the community's growth and development from a crossroads in the early 19th century and as a railroad community during the mid-19th century. The district contains 24 properties with 48 contributing resources. The four non- contributing resources include two garages, a shed, and a swimming pool. Although Markham is located in a rural setting, more remote rural areas directly adjacent to the district are not included within the boundaries.

The district has three nodes: the eastern edge along US Route 55 (John Marshall Highway); the buildings flanking the railroad at the center of town; and the western edge near where Route 688 (Old Markham Road) crosses the railroad tracks at Farrowsville and becomes Leeds Manor Road. Located at the edges of these nodes are dwellings with fairly large acreage. These include: Mountain View, constructedcirca 1811; Wolfs Crag, constructedcirca 1820; and Rosebank, constructedcirca 1870.

The oldest resources in the district are generally found in the area near the western boundary at the village of Farrowsville, which was located along a significant 18th- and 19th-century stagecoach road. These include two early-19th-century dwellings, an 1819 stone church, and a collection of early- to mid-19th-century outbuildings. Early-19th-century dwellings as well as an inn stand in the center of the district, and were constructed before the arrival of the railroad in 1852. The majority of resources in the district were constructed in the mid- and late 19th century and include multiple dwellings, a hotel, as well as commercial buildings, and a train station. The district also contains early-20th-century dwellings. The most modem resource is the 1918 Markham School, located adjacent to the 1819 church.

Markham is a well-preserved, small, rural village that lies in northwestern Fauquier County, Virginia. In many ways Markham has been protected because it was bypassed by Interstate 66 in the 1970s and has physical site limitations: it is situated in a hollow between three mountains, is flanked by US Route 55(John Marshall Highway) and 1-66 to the north, and has Goose Creek and the old Manassas Gap Railroad running through it. Markham is undoubtedly one of the best preserved 19th-century communities in all of Fauquier County and contains a wide range of building types and architectural styles that illustrate the story of its growth and development. The district contains three distinct areas within its boundaries: the western edge known as Farrowsville, which includes the oldest resources; the central section that is focused around the railroad and its arrival in 1852; and the northern and eastern edges along US Route 55, which include resources from throughout the 19th century,

The land on which Markham is located was originally part of Lord Fairfax's Leeds Manor. The area was settled by the mid-18th century as nearby resources, such as The Hollow, date to that period. Farrowsville, the western edge of the historic district, was the earliest commercial settlement. Named for Nimrod Farrow, who owned a store and several nearby mills, the settlement marked the northern point of a stage line that came from Culpeper and was originally called "North Point." Current Route 688 (Leeds Manor Road) is an important colonial northsouth corridor through much of Leeds Manor. It is not surprising that the oldest resources in the village are located in this portion of the district

When the Manassas Gap Railroad reached the area in 1852, it was decided that the grade at Farrowsville was too steep for a stop so a site east of it was chosen. It was named "Markham" by Edward C. Marshall, president of the Manassas Gap Railroad and nearby resident, in honor of his great-grandmother's family. During the mid-19th-century, Markham was a bustling commercial and industrial center. The community contained several mills, two hotels, a church, several commercial enterprises and numerous dwellings.

The Markham area is historically associated with the Marshall family, who owned much of the surrounding land. Several of the old Marshall family estates are still standing. In addition, Markham was the birthplace and early home of Gen. Turner Ashby, who lived at Wolfs Crag. According to accounts by Col. Robert Stribling's daughter-in-law, who lived nearby and described Markham at the time, the village was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War. In the 1890s, many summer boarders came to Markham for holidays in the mountains. The community retains many of its architectural resources that portray it as a mid and late-19th-century railroad town. These include two hotels, a railroad station, cobbler's shop, former mill, store, church, and multiple dwellings. The most recent resource in this district, which has an extremely high degree of architectural integrity, is the Markham School, constructed in 1918 and closed in the 1950s.

In Joseph Martin's Gazetteer of 1836, Farrowsville is described as having a tavern, two stores, a church, and a population of 20.' Only the church, which at that point was a Union Church, survives according to Martin's description. Upper Goose Creek Church is the oldest religious building in the community. Constructed in 1819 on land donated by Nimrod Farrow, the 1 I%-story, random-rubble stone, gable-end stone building was built as a Union or Free Church to be used by multiple denominations until they could build their own churches. Having replaced a church of 1802 on the same site, the building features a gable-end entry through double-leaf doors flanked by 212-sash windows. The attic story of this end features a bank of three 212 windows, while the side elevations are 3-bays deep with 414-sash windows. The windows and doors on the other gable-end of the building have been closed in using stone, as have some of the other openings. A small cemetery located south of the church contains about ten markers, four of which are plain fieldstone.


Markham, a small village located in the northwestern part of Fauquier County, Virginia, is arguably the best preserved and least altered 19'h-century town in the county. Markham began its life as "North Point," as it marked the northernmost point of the stage road coming from the south from Barbee's Cross Roads and Culpeper Court House. It later became known as "Farrowsville," named for Nimrod Farrow a large landholder and mill operator in the area. In 1850, it expanded eastward to include the eastern part of present-day Markham and was named "Markham" by Edward C. Marshall, son of Chief Justice John Marshall and first president of the Manassas Gap Railroad, in honor of his great-grandmother's family name.' Its significance lies in its surviving and remarkably unaltered architectural fabric that dates primarily from the early to late 1 9th century. It also is significant for its close identification with Civil War hero, Turner Ashby, as well as with railroad pioneer Marshall. Markham thrived from its early years as a 19"'- century stage road stop and later as a strategic stop on the Manassas Gap Railroad at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Because Markham was hemmed in by large landholdings dating from the 1 8'h century and by physical barriers, such as a large over-hanging cliff and the steep grade of the mountainside to the west, its physical growth has been limited, perhaps leading to the survival of its fine collection of 19th-century buildings. Its location on the upper reaches of Goose Creek, which was a primary source of power for milling operations in the 19"' century, as well as its siting at the intersection of Barbee's Cross Roads (County Road 688) and what became known as the Markham Road (Route 55) made Markham a strategic town during the Civil War. Both Confederate and Federal forces fought throughout the war to control the Manassas Gap Railroad and its various junctions. Markham is also significant for a remarkably surviving journal that describes the village and underscores its importance when it was occupied by Federal troops in the early years of the Civil War. Few communities in the United States have experienced military occupation and the resulting ambivalence of those who lived through this difficult time. Moreover, the area was important for its strategic location on a rail line that linked the eastern portion of the state with the Shenandoah Valley, providing an important shipping point for the produce from the surrounding farmland. The village retains its early-20"'~century railroad station along with a post office, several stores, an early mill, and hotel/rooming houses that often appeared in railroad towns to accommodate travelers. Markham is significant under Criterion C for its intact and varied architectural fabric and under Criterion A for it association with military. transportation, and commercial life during the 19th century.

The area around the Markham Historic District, which was part of Lord Fairfax's "Manor of Leeds" created in 1736, with its rich farmland, was settled in the 18th century by some of Fauquier County's founding citizens, most notably Thomas Marshall, father of John Marshall. Just north of Markham was the Hollow, home of Thomas Marshall and birthplace of his famous son. What is called Markham today, made its appearance first as "North Point," denoting the northernmost point of the road coming from the south and Culpeper Court House; by the early 19"' century the cluster of stores and buildings at the intersection of Route 55 and County Road 608 was called "Farrowsville," for Nimrod Farrow, a large landholder in the area as well as a mill operator. The name "Farrowsville" continues to appear in county records until early in the 20th century, although it seems to have been used nearly interchangeably with "Markham" beginning after the Civil War.

Farrowsville's location on the headwaters of Goose Creek made it an ideal location for water powered mills. Land tax records from the early part of the 19"' century note at least eight mills in the immediate area of Farrowsville including both sawmills and flour mills. Among the mill operators' names that appear in the 18 15 personal property tax records were Nimrod Farrow with two sawmills and two gristmills. The ruins of what likely was one of Nimrod Farrow's mills stood on the property at 3298 Leeds Manor Road located south of and behind the Primitive Baptist Church at 3210 Stone Church Road. That may have been his first mill, possibly dating from the late 18th century, which has been demolished.' Others charged with owning mills included William Gibson with a sawmill, John Triplett with a sawmill, William Thompson with a sawmill, and Robert Catlett with a sawmill. A number of property owners in this area, which in the Land Tax Books is described as 24 miles northwest of the courthouse at Warrenton, were large landholders including John Ashby and both Benjamin and Nimrod Farrow. The 1820 land tax records indicate that the buildings they held were valued at a very high level. Nimrod Farrow was charged with buildings assessed at a total of $20,000, an exorbitant amount in the 19' century. Most records point to Farrow owning the house that became known as "Wolfs Crag," at 11507 Old Markham Road. It is likely that a house owned by John Ashby in 1820 with property improvements valued at $2000 ultimately passed to his son Colonel Turner Ashbycirca 1820 and stood on the property now known as Rosebank at 11560 John Marshall Highway. This same property appears in the tax records charged to Turner Ashby (senior) as being valued at $1200 in 1835 and was at that time known as "Grove Crest." Turner Ashby Sr.'s heirs were also charged in 1835 with a 15-acre parcel with $12,000 in improvements which points to a large mill in addition to a dwelling house. Writing in his survey of water-powered mills, Lee Moffett indicates that there is a mill site "under the hill" (of Rosebank) with only a few remaining stones to mark the location. It is likely that this was the mill operated by Turner Ashby, Jr. in the 1850s. Because there were a number of mills in the area, and likely many subsequent mills were built on the sites of earlier ones, it is difficult to determine to whom the present Hartland Orchard Warehouse on Old Markham Road belonged. Historians have said the mill was builtcirca 1854. According to the most comprehensive survey of water-powered mills in Fauquier County, a very revealing entry appeared in a deed of 1823 when Nimrod Farrow rented a mill to Baldwin Bradford. Quoting from the text of the deed, the property was described as "his Springfield Mills together with the distillery Stone House, dwelling House and garden.. .Bradford paying Farrow a yearly rent of 120 barrels of Superfine flour to be delivered in the mills.. .Nimrod Farrow to repair the dam of said mills and clean out the races so that said mills can go to work..." A later reference to Springfield mill appears in 1852 and then again in 1911 when it is called "Triplett's Old Mill." It is likely that this mill was built on the site of the earlier mill and closed in the 1930s and possibly could have been the mill built and operated by Turner Ashby. Unfortunately none of the court documents of the 20th century mentions the mill. and it ultimately came into the ownership of the James R. Green family that owns many of the properties in the core of the village including the warehouse. What is clear from this data is that this portion of Upper Goose Creek was very conducive to the operation of mills, all of which would enhance the prosperity of the town.

Markham's significance derives from its remarkable collection of both antebellum and late-19th-century architecture and the important place in Virginia's history and the Civil War played by several of its leading residents. Moreover, the district recalls the anguished diary of a young mother during the early years of the Civil War when her town was occupied by Yankee troops. The earlier village of Farrowsville, which was later absorbed into Markham, well represents an early-19th-century settlement located on a primary road and waterway that linked this part of the county with communities to the south and ultimately by rail to the east and west. As the primary residence of Edward C. Marshall, who from his Rosebank residence was able to view the railroad and its traffic, Markham remains a tribute to his energy and foresight in planning and constructing rail service to this remote community.

Adapted from: Maral S. Kalbian/Architectural Historian and Margaret T. Peters/Research Historian, Markham Historic District, 2005, nomination document, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Farm House Road • John Marshall Highway • Leeds Manor Road • Poverty Hollow Lane • Rail Stop Road • Stone Chirch Road

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