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Before the Beginning

Fairfax County

Fairfax County, Virginia spans some 400 years of history. It was formally created in 1742 but as early as 1608 English explorer. Captain John Smith journeyed up the Potomac River and recorded what he saw. Twenty years before that in 1588, a party of Spanish soldiers and sailors sailed up the Potomac, searching for English settlements and instead found Algonquian Indian Villages. This was possibly the first contact between Europeans and Indians in the area now known as Northern Virginia.

The native populations remained substantially undisturbed until the middle 1600s. English adventurers followed and at first actually lived in villages abandoned by the indigenous people.

The area was part of a land grant from King Charles II of England to a group of seven Englishmen. It was called "The Northern Neck of Virginia." Eventually the land came into the possession of Thomas, Sixth Lord of Fairfax after whom the county was named.

Change has been the descriptive word for Fairfax County throughout its history. Forests were cut down and farmland was created. Some roads were built but in 1752, Fairfax County could still be described as wilderness. There was no industry. The cultivation of tobacco using slave labor was the main source of income and remained so throughout the 18th century until the over planting of that crop had ruined the soil.

Other changes came swiftly with the end of the Revolutionary War when allegiance changed from the mighty British Empire to a small, new, untested country. It was a resident of Fairfax County who became the First President of the new nation. Other fellow residents played major parts in the early history of the Republic.

Then the new Capital City was located just across the Potomac River, it was expected that Fairfax County would prosper but it was not so. Part of the county, including the port city of Alexandria, was taken for the creation of the new District of Columbia. Conditions were harsh and the population declined.

The population loss was reversed in the mid-1800s when new and improved farming techniques were adopted. But again history intervened as the Virginia Secession Convention met in Richmond and Virginia voted to secede from the Union following the bombardment of Fort Sumter. While Fairfax County residents approved that action by 1213 to 289, many pro-union voters were kept from the polls by pro-Secessionists with guns at the roads.

Bitter battles were fought on Fairfax County soil. Troops from both sides of the Civil War crisscrossed the land, wreaking havoc. Commercial activities in Fairfax County were seriously disrupted. Hospitals were overcrowded. Rail transportation was interrupted. Destitute citizens wandered hopelessly across the land.

Economic recovery came slowly after the war, but traditional lifestyles of former years never returned. The County remained a rural, farm-oriented society. By 1870 when Virginia was readmitted to the Union, the economy of Fairfax County had substantially recovered.

The population of Fairfax County almost doubled between the end of the Civil War and 1930. After 1930, the population grew consistently with the increase in government programs introduced in the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Second World War brought even more dramatic growth as a major focus of Fairfax County became the business of government.

The Baptists

Baptists were few and far between in Fairfax County in the days of Colonial Virginia. One of the very early Baptist congregations was gathered in 1782 and took the name of a nearby creek — Accotink. The customs of the time described it as "The Baptist Church of Christ at Accotink." They constituted with 18 members, most of whom were taken from the Popeshead Church (near present day Clifton) and the Difficult Church (west of Tyson's Corner near Colvin Run Mill).

Sometime around 1792, they changed their name to Backlick Baptist Church, maybe because they had built a building along Backlick Creek. In his 1810 History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists of Virginia, Robert Baylor Semple describes Backlick as "a church of very respectable standing."

During the 1820s and 1830s, Backlick became a center of the "anti-mission" sentiment so prevalent during those years. By the 1850s, Backlick was an "Old School” church. It was dominated by a "hyper-Calvinism" that featured an "anti" spirit: anti-missions, anti-education, anti-evangelism, and had dwindled in size and influence.

Their substantial building was located next to Backlick Creek near where the Creek goes under the Alexandria and Orange Railroad (now the Norfolk-Southern Railroad) and where Backlick Road goes over the Railroad. The Union Army had taken over the building and was using it as a warehouse to store foodstuffs for both men and horses and other supplies. In order to keep the supplies out of the hands of the pursuing Confederates, the church building was burned by the retreating Union Army after their defeat at the Second Battle of Manassas in August 1862.

A few remaining families gathered after the war and in 1870 organized Beulah Baptist Church. About 1910, after years of lobbying, led by the Fredericksburg Baptist Church, the U. S. Congress voted to pay reparations to the several churches damaged by the Union Army during the Civil War. Beulah received almost $3,000 and built a building on Beulah Road sometime in 1911. In 1954, Beulah changed its name to Franconia Baptist Church and relocated to the corner of Franconia Road and Van Dorn Street.

The Neighborhood

Springfield was a quiet rural area. In earlier years, the tobacco casks were rolled down the roads (Rolling Road) to the ports at Alexandria and at Occoquan for shipment. A few years the crops were good, but the thin soil was soon exhausted and the farmers gave up on growing tobacco. Agriculture did not shift to alternate crops and much of the land was allowed to lay fallow and gradually reforested itself. There were a few successful dairy farms on the better land to the north. Not much changed until after World War II. Springfield was a two-room combination Railroad Station and Post Office situated on the north side of the railroad just east of Backlick Road. A few hearty souls had built houses along the narrow roads that had been cut through forests of ancient trees. The closest school and a few small stores were in nearby Franconia and Burke. Professional services and food shopping were available only in Alexandria or Arlington.

A New Springfield Envisioned

In the spring of 1949, an entrepreneur of remarkable vision was the speaker at a meeting of the Annandale Lions Club. Only a small group of a dozen or so men were present. The Club had to meet at a restaurant in Falls Church because there was no suitable place to meet in Annandale.

That visionary was Edward R. Carr, Sr. When he announced that he was planning to build houses for 10,000 people in Springfield, the Lions all laughed… It seemed to be such an impossibly large dream that the lions had difficulty believing it.

But the dream began becoming reality. Houses sprang up like mushrooms in a hothouse. A rush of development brought all the elements of a new community into being: new streets, new schools, new stores… and new churches!     top


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