Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Murder at the Old Keene Mill, 1855

I first came across Jack Hiller's 1990's article about the Murder at the Old Keene Mill in a scholarly Virginia historical journal of some kind - I forget the name. The article is fascinating and very well-researched, however, and I've never forgotten it.

I recently made the acquaintance of Lynne Garvey-Hodge, a Fairfax County History Commissioner, who also knew of it. She was kind enough to send me a copy. I link to a .pdf copy here for your reading pleasure.


Summary: On October 27th, 1855, Lewis Q. Hall of the local Hall family was attacked by William H. Keene (owner of the Old Keene Mill which the street in Springfield and Burke is named after). Keene used a knife; alcohol was involved. Hall died, and Keene was tried and condemned to hang on 30 January 1857. Virginia's Governor Wise changed the punishment to ten years in prison in Richmond. We lose track of William H. Keene due to records being destroyed as a result of the Civil War.

The article is fascinating, and gives an interesting account of some local 19th C. history most residents are unaware of these days.

Whenever I drive by the site of the Old Keene Mill - at the intersection of Old Keene Mill Road and the Pohick Creek, I think about the events that took place there in 1855!

LINK: An interesting "suburban archaeology" article about the Keene Mill is here.

Allie Guidry has found some interesting mentions of the case from the Alexandria Gazette:



From November 24th, 1855. 


From April 5th, 1856 - Keene was an escapee!

From November 10th, 1856.


From January 17, 1857. 


From 1857.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sydenstricker Road and Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S. Buck
When I first moved into Springfield, a Burke resident told me that Sydenstricker Road was named after a family who represented the "S" in famous novelist Pearl S. Buck's family. I accepted this as true for a few years, then began to have doubt. When the Internet Age began, I looked up details about the Sydenstrickers that Pearl S. Buck was a part of. No... those seem to be from West Virginia. Must be a different family.

But lo and behold, I was told the truth.

Sydenstricker History 

Thanks to Mr. Marc Points,
Historian of Sydenstricker United Methodist Church
Researched and Compiled by Mr. Dick Pape 

Q: What does a street in Orange Hunt have in common with a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author?

A: Its name - Sydenstricker 


Early in the 1900's, Reverend Christopher Sydenstricker and a pastor from Baltimore approached a local general storekeeper, John Quincy Hall, about the use of his picnic grove for an evangelistic camp meeting. The outgrowth of this became Sydenstricker Methodist Episcopal Church, South. 

Rev. Sydenstricker began to hold services in 1910 at Mr. Hall's wooden dance pavilion located on Gambrill Road, (later renamed Sydenstricker Road). 

When it was decided to build a church in the area Caleb Hall donated the land on which the chapel was to be built. While the chapel was being built, Fairfax County granted permission to Rev Sydenstricker to hold services in the Red Schoolhouse next to the building site.

Later when the schoolhouse burned down (in the 1920's), Sydenstricker Church gave permission to the county to hold school in the chapel. 

The chapel was completed in 1911, and was used regularly for Sunday services until 1981, when a new sanctuary was built across Hooes Road. 

The Rev. Christopher Sydenstricker was an uncle of the noted author Pearl S. (Sydenstricker) Buck. She was born in Hillsboro, IN, but grew up in China where her parents were missionaries. She received the Pulitzer Prize in 1932, for her book
The Good Earth. In 1938, she received the Nobel Prize, the first American women to receive that award in literature. She graduated from Randolph-Macon Women's College in 1914. She has written more than 65 books. 

Note: I am indebted to Lisa Becker and Lynn Garvey Hodge, who pointed out that the original story I was told was, in fact, correct.

Odd Street Names


I remember, just after we moved into Springfield, reading a local newspaper article highlighting the oddball street names in town - and which, according to readers, was the oddest one? Bardu Ave. was one submission. And then there are the funny alphabet ones near Forrester and Carrleigh Parkway: F Dr., J Dr. Cc Dr. (why two "c's?"), S Dr., M Dr., N Dr., Gg Dr. (why two "g's?"), W Dr., Y Dr. and so on. Painted Daisy Dr. was another submission. Itte Ln. ("It?" "Ittee?") seems a bit odd. We're all used to Backlick Rd., but you must admit it paints a funny mental image. 


I've always gotten a kick out of Goins St.: "Doctor, my goins hurt. Is there anything you can do for it?" Is Laural Valley Way a misspelling? Isn't is "Laurel?" 


By vote, however, the winner was Atteentee Rd. There was some question as to how it's pronounced: AT-ten-tee? Aay-tee-an-tee? (AT&T?) At-E'EeN-tee? The consensus was that it's pronounced the same as the company, AT&T. 


I live on Shepherd Ridge Ct. Nothing unusual there, except that I have to spell "shepherd" lest it become "shephard."