Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pohick Creek

It runs through what's known as West Springfield; my kids have played in or near this flowing body of water since 1987.

It doesn't look like much, I know, but for a kid it's a place to throw sticks and rocks and watch overflow after heavy rains.

A path near the creek was nomenclated "the Gerry Connolly Cross Country Trail" after a local politician seeking immortality. Paugh. Crappy logo, too.

In "1993" these lovers - J.W. (or I.W.) and B.S. - carved their affection for one another in a tree along the creek. Do they still love each other, I wonder? What happened to them? 

This is a funny little walkway across the creek between the townhouse community in which we used to live and another townhouse community. I guess it's cheaper and more maintenance free than erecting a bridge. It's fun after a heavy rain. 

There used to be a abandoned and hopeless Volkwagen Beetle shell alongside at this point, c. 1988. It was kind of fun to inspect. 

The path winds ever onwards. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lake Accotink Park

One of the Crown Jewels of Springfield! Okay - that's overstating things a bit. But it is a unique place and a fun spot for families.

You get there via a nice, long drive through some woods on Accotink Park Road. In fall it's especially pretty.

The place has some historic connotations having to do with the old Orange and Alexandria railroad - Civil War history for the completist!

There is even Depression Era history here, if you're into that. 

The thing that makes the park distinctive is the Orange and Alexandria Railroad Trestle. Teenagers walk it as a dare - it's a very foolish dare. You could get killed as there are still trains running on that line. And in July 1997 a 22 year old man used homemade bungee cords to take a leap off the bridge. Sadly, he miscalculated the amount of stretch in the cords and was killed; the police investigator said, "The length of the cord that he had assembled was greater than the distance between the trestle and ground." Another commenter in the Washington Post article stated, "it's hard to imagine a scenario that would not go wrong." 

As promised - there is Civil War history here. 

The site is part of the 1685 Ravensworth Tract - that's a long time ago!

The lake is pretty. One of the traditions of Springfield Days is a competition to see whose cardboard boat can stay afloat longest. I've never seen this... but I'm told it's fun to watch. 

Here's another thing to do that I've never done: a summertime stroll on the lake with one of these paddleboats. 

...or taking my grandsons on this merry-go-round!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

1729 Indian Camp

I once heard somebody tell me that Springfield, Virginia was the most densely populated area of the most densely populated region of the state. I suppose that could be true. But Virginia is an interesting state in that, if an area were to be left alone, one will not have a weedy vacant lot of the type I recall from my Burbank, California home. One will have a second growth forest! Indeed, one can see from the air that the deciduous forests are the most typical characteristic of the state.

Living in the heavily wooded Northern Virginia area of Springfield, even in modern times, it's not difficult to envision an era when the Indians were the main human inhabitants: mysterious, hidden hunter/trackers making their way though the forests. Even today, I can look at the woods around me and wonder, "What's in there? Long overgrown homes? Forgotten battlefields? Indian campsites?" Indeed, back in 1988, when I was a Cubmaster, I took my pack on a birding expedition into the forest along a trail near the Hidden Pond Nature Center, and, in the middle of a forested nowhere, came across signs that a home had once existed in the 19th or even 18th century on that spot.

Enter Randy Becker, a history-minded fellow who lives nearby. A fellow who takes a lively interest in the place where he lives, he once led me and my wife to a little expedition to the confluence of the Pohick Creek and the Middle Run, in what is today the Middle Valley subdivision. In 1729 there was a (probably Algonquian) Indian camp there!

He knows this thanks to a March 8th, 1729 deed describing part of the area. (Back then, the area now known as Fairfax County hadn't acquired that name yet - it was still Stafford County.)

A google map shows the site:

Right there, behind what is now Chars Landing Court. You can pass by the area if you hike the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail.

A google satellite image doesn't show much - the area is heavily wooded.

Do the residents of Chars Landing Ct. ever see ghostly campfires in the woods behind their homes?

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.

(33 MB .pdf, so be patient while it loads up.)

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!

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."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Springfield Golf and Country Club

How are you assured that you're in a more affluent than average community? You see a golf course - and a privately-owned one, not a municipal one. Such is the case with the Springfield Golf and Country Club.

This is a street view from Old Keene Mill Road. Looks pretty, bucolic, green and... well... like a golf course.

I am not a member. Number one, I don't like golf. Number two, I probably couldn't afford it.

This is the Clubhouse. As a guest of a fanatical golfer friend who is a member, I've eaten here one Friday night. Pretty good food! And thanks to the same friend we were sponsored to obtain the place for my daughter's wedding reception. It was very nice.

I'd like to be able to tell some more stories about this Springfield Thing, but, as I said, I don't golf.