The Lincoln Loop
A Rural Road Tour in the Heart of Western Loudoun
By Richard T. Gillespie, Historian Emeritus, Mosby Heritage Area Association Photos by Douglas Graham
The historic Lincoln area, once known as Goose Creek, has some of the most handsome Quaker architecture in Loudoun County. This three-mile loop walk travels the rolling country of well-tended, carefully-sited farms, rural roads, and classic stone and brick Quaker homes. This walk also includes the likely site of a Civil War skirmish and two Friends’ meetinghouses. One modern 21st century intrusion you will come upon as a surprise. This is the heart of western Loudoun, and yet just two miles from increasingly urban Purcellville. This tour can be done on foot, horseback, bicycle or by car.
From Leesburg: Take Route 7 West to the Purcellville/Route 287 exit. Turn left at the end-of-exit light onto Route 287. Follow this through two stoplights to a roundabout, go 180º around it and continue south. At the next stop sign, turn left onto Route 722, Lincoln Road. A mile south, you will come to the village of Lincoln, introduced by a sign on the right and an elementary school on the left. Look for tiny Cookesville Road on the right, and immediately after, the small dirt parking lot by the graveyard for the Goose Creek Friends (Quaker) Meetinghouse, which is across the street. Park here to begin your walk.
STOP ONE: The Goose Creek Friends Meeting graveyard immediately borders the parking lot. It is still in use. The simplicity of Quaker stones, some dating back more than two centuries, tells you much about the ethic of the Friends, as they called themselves, despite their education, middle class, and economic wealth.
STOP TWO: As you leave the parking lot, you will notice an ancient stone house with dark brown trim on your right. This is the earlier Quaker Meeting House of Lincoln – Goose Creek Friends Meeting. There is a plaque on the building that reads:
“This Stone House served as the place of worship for Goose Creek Friends from 1765 to 1819. It has served as the residence for the caretaker of the meeting’s property since that time.”
The current single-story Friends Meeting House is across the street, dating to 1817-19. This newer meetinghouse originally had two stories, but lost one in a 1943 storm. There are benches in front of the Meeting; feel welcome to sit there and orient yourself to this walk before embarking. Look in the windows—simple pews, no religious symbols, no altar. You can come to a service any Sunday at 9:45 a.m. The Quakers, their meetinghouse, and their Goose Creek neighborhood are the keys to this walk.
The Religious Society of Friends – “Quakers” – arrived in Loudoun County from Quaker-settled Pennsylvania in 1733, finding that colony becoming crowded with good land in short supply. The Loudoun Valley’s fine soil fit the bill. Initially, Quakers settled some seven miles to the north in and around the village of Waterford, but soon spread out. The Goose Creek Friends Meeting followed in the 1740s.
Quakers, a Christian sect founded in Lancashire in England in the 1650s as an outgrowth of the Puritan movement, believed in the “Divine Spark” in every human being, regardless of race, nationality, or gender. It was their consequent duty, they felt, to learn to read the Bible to bring out that spark, and they worked to promote education, treat all fairly and as equals (including native Americans), eschew slavery, and to worship without fancy churches, symbols, or idolatry, and avoid violence or war. Those who so pledged and became part of a Quaker congregation were held to these standards or forced out of the meeting.
Well-educated and middle class for the time, they brought superior methods of farming and trade to Loudoun with a good sense of how to preserve the land as a resource. In time, Loudoun’s Quakers established Fairfax (Waterford), Goose Creek (Lincoln), The Gap (Hillsboro), and South Fork (Unison) Meetings. Only Goose Creek Friends Meeting survives today, meeting weekly.
Those attending note the lack of crucifixes, statues, fancy artwork, and particularly, a minister, preacher, or priest. Friends meditate at meeting, then stand and share when the spirit moves them. Today’s Meeting is a mix of descendants from early families and people who have moved more recently to Loudoun County.
STOP THREE: To explore a part of the Quaker realm here in Loudoun, cross the lawn from the modern meetinghouse to the small brick building just across Sands Road. This is the circa 1815 one-room Oakdale School. One of the earliest schools in Loudoun and today its oldest, this early 19th century Quaker school could be attended for $15 per year (about $1200 in current dollars) in the times before Virginia had public schools. The school was open year ’round, except for harvest time.
Today, it is still used for day care, Sunday school, and a living history one-room school program. It is the embodiment of the Quaker ethic: All could attend for a modest cost-basis fee since education is key to the development of the Divine Spark in every human being. A plaque on the building says:
“Oakdale School house was built in 1815. It served as a Quaker school until 1885, a few years after the opening of the Public Schools.”
STOP FOUR: Continue to the back of the school to a second gravel road, joining Sands Road in a “V”. This is Foundry Road, which you will be taking. Just beyond Oakdale School on the left is a fine house-like brick building that was the first public school in Lincoln. It was originally the Lincoln Graded School from 1880 to 1909, and subsequently the Lincoln Elementary until 1955. Catherine Marshall, author of the acclaimed novel Christy, about a young woman teaching in Appalachian Tennessee, was a recent resident. Today, it continues as a private dwelling, but emphasizes again how the importance of education was stressed in this area of Loudoun. Virginia was, after all, the last state in the Union to adopt public school, forced to by the federal government after the Civil War.
STOP FIVE: Continuing to 0.2 mile along Foundry Road, a fine grove of pines appears on the left, not particularly common in these parts. This is the beginning of Somerset Farm, built about 1820, whose handsome yellow pargeted (painting on white plaster fresco-style) walls and red tin roof soon appear behind the board fence.
You will get several views of this estate-like farm; at 0.5 miles on a curve in the road, you will have a fine prospect over the farm’s pond of the front of the main house. Note two things: the house is nicely nestled on its hillside for economy of heating and cooling (not put garishly on a hilltop for all to see as today) and it is a fine home. Quakers, industrious and avoiding show, were prosperous.
The road now heads downhill. Looking to the right across the horse fences, you will see another classic Quaker farmhouse in the distance. Notice how it is sited – nestled – the Quaker ethic again at work.
STOP SIX: At the base of the hill, the terrain opens into a park-like setting in the bottomland created by Crooked Run, and then crosses a small bridge. Immediately beyond the small bridge, on the right-hand side of the road, sat Taylor’s Foundry, from which the road gets its name. Richard Henry Taylor made plows and bells here in the late 1860s and 1870s, quite necessary in this farm country.
Just beyond on a small hill also on the right is a new home built in the Loudoun vernacular style, a pleasant blending with its environs. Note the horse jumps just beyond the driveway. Loudoun is a paradise for horse owners.
STOP SEVEN: At 0.9 miles on the left, just before an intersection, sits a very old stone Quaker cottage (circa 1749) that once belonged to Jacob and Hannah Janney, two of the earliest Quaker settlers. Raising twelve children here, Hannah was one of the leading lights of the congregation, praying near a fallen log as her natural alter until the first meetinghouse was built in 1765.
Quakers had brought their Lancashire stone architecture from the English midlands to Pennsylvania, and thence to Maryland and northwestern Virginia. Note the springhouse just a little farther along. The home has been lovingly restored by Virginia poet and educator Perry Epes and his wife Gail. He wrote, “We bought this farm to live again.” Extensive preservation efforts by groups and individuals like the Epes are one of the reasons that Loudoun is part of two heritage areas celebrating historic preservation – the five-county Mosby Heritage Area and four-state Journey Through Hallowed Ground.
STOP EIGHT: At 0.95 miles, just beyond the Hannah Janney cottage, turn left onto Rt. 726 (Taylor Road). Note the steep banks as you enter the road – it is indicative of how long vehicles have been cutting the road deeper, and thus just how old this road is. This is something commonly seen in Loudoun throughout its historic rural routes network. A short distance down the road is a bridge over one of the meandering branches of Crooked Run. It is a nice place to dawdle.
STOP NINE: Moving along Taylor Road you will almost immediately come to a stone and weatherboard barn on the left as the road curves. Federal troops came to the Loudoun Valley to burn barns, corncribs, crops harvested in the fields, and mills while confiscating all livestock in November 28 – December 2, 1864 as a way to starve out the Confederacy and particularly the Mosby Ranger guerrilla operation based just south of Lincoln. The whole region of this walk was burned over. A boy out shooting small game hid in this barn when the troops came; evidently his rifle was enough to guide federals away from this old structure. And so it stands, photogenic and symbolic.
STOP TEN: Opposite it is a tree-lined lane that leads into Coolbrook Farm, where Pulitzer Prize-winning Virginia Poet Laureate Henry Taylor grew up. The brick farmhouse was built in 1827, and suffered through the burning raid. Notice the stone outbuildings and barns. This farm, these fields, this babbling Crooked Run was inspiration for much of his poetry. In his poem Harvest Taylor wrote, Every year in late July I come back to where I was raised/ to mosey and browse through old farm buildings/ over fields that seem never to change . . .
STOP ELEVEN: From here the dirt road heads uphill. At the crest, there is a gate on the left offering a beautiful panorama to the west over rolling, hilly pastureland. Opposite, is a view east over open country looking toward Hogback Mountain, part of the eastern most foothills of the Blue Ridge.
From these overlooks, the world seemed afire during the 1864 burning raid. How ironic that the Quakers were among those so targeted. Homes like Coolbrook Farm were saved by the efforts of desperate Quaker lasses on bent knees. While the Union boys did not target homes, barns burning often set houses alight.
STOP TWELVE: At 1.4 miles, nearing the halfway point of the walk, you will see a classic Victorian vernacular white clapboard farmhouse on the left. This is Ferris Hill Farm (circa 1877), home of the late Judge Julia Cannon, a descendant of one of Loudoun’s first Quaker families. Just beyond, under the huge spreading limbs of an old oak on the same side of the road nearing a slight crest in the road, there is a fine view over the horse jumps.
You can see the Blue Ridge rising to the west, and to the northwest is the water tower indicating the location of Purcellville. It’s a fine place to catch a sunset.
STOP THIRTEEN: At 1.65 miles, at the crest of another hill, there is a handsome brick Greek revival farmhouse on the right, with two barns across the road. Bonnie Mersinger Carroll grew up here. Carroll won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for founding Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) in 1994 after her husband, a general officer, was killed with seven others in a military plane crash in Alaska. She works with the families of those lost in the military. As a girl and young woman, she walked these same roads, often riding her horse. She is an accomplished equestrienne, though no longer lives here.
STOP FOURTEEN: Just beyond, coming up a slight rise, is a surprise – much fought over on this historic Quaker landscape, to be sure. A local doctor left land to the local non-profit hospital; they sold it to finance a new suburban campus well east of the center of the county. You will view the result.
STOP FIFTEEN: Taylor Road ends at historic and recently paved Sands Road (Rt. 709) at 1.95 miles. The paving of this ancient roadway was controversial, unneeded over more than two centuries until . . . Well, you can guess. Now this winding Quaker lane has been suburbanized.
However, in a short distance, it returns to its historic ambiance. Across the intersection, you will see a fine stone Quaker farmhouse and stone and white weatherboard barn surrounded by new houses. The Brown farm, belonging to an old Loudoun family, sold off most of its acreage in the mid 1990s when farming no longer prospered sufficiently on the site. Certainly this is a picture often repeated in recent years. However, another long-time Loudoun family uses the smaller farm, and is heavily involved in history and historic preservation. They raise sheep, and insistently use the old roads to move their sheep between fields.
Heading left on Sands Road, you will head downhill to cross another branch of the ubiquitous Crooked Run. Look back over your right shoulder and you will see a picture of barn, silo, and farmhouse less spoiled by new development.
STOP SIXTEEN: Now head uphill. Near the top of the hill, beyond Manassas Gap Court on your left, you will see a tree line on the right and left sides of the road. This marks the railroad cut of the Loudoun Branch of the Manassas Gap Railroad. It was to connect Harpers Ferry to the Manassas Gap Railroad in the vicinity of Centreville, via Purcellville. This would require tunneling under Hogback Mountain to the east, which was begun in the years 1855-57. The Irish railroad workers ran into trouble with local Quaker maidens in 1857, necessitating the militia be called out. The officer in charge was Turner Ashby’s brother, Richard. In 1857, the financial panic of that year put an end to the Loudoun Branch plans for the time being, and then the Civil War came and the idea was never revived. It sits here as an aging relic of past dreams.
STOP SEVENTEEN: In the railroad cut to the left, John S. Mosby’s Confederate raiders of the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry gathered on Tuesday, March 21, 1865, less than three weeks before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Some of the Rangers had been sent to Purcellville where there was a large Union force (approx. 1500) under Colonel Reno, with the object of luring Union cavalry in pursuit. They succeeded, turned, raced for Hamilton, passed through the village (sometimes then called Harmony), and then turned down this Hamilton-Lincoln Road.
Six raiders under Charlie Wiltshire galloped up this road in the direction you’ve been walking, with Lt. John H. Black and Company G of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry in hot pursuit. Captain Glascock of Mosby’s command had 103 men here in the railroad cut waiting to attack the flank of the Federal cavalry as it passed and slowed for the curve just above.
Mosby arrived on the scene just before Wiltshire and the pursuing Federals, and wanted to move his men back further into the cut. (Look down this tree line on the left and you can still see the cut where Mosby’s men were hiding.) Lt. Black and his men saw Mosby’s men moving, and charged; Capt. Glascock ordered a countercharge. The raiders chased the Federal cavalry all the way back to Hamilton, unfortunately failing to stop short, thus running into a line of Federal infantry at what is now the edge of town. They suffered several unnecessary casualties including more than five wounded and two new recruits killed. However, the federals lost nine killed, 12 wounded, and 10 prisoners.
Lt. Black himself was so badly wounded that he was left to die in the road, made worse by the season’s first violent thunderstorm that broke during the action, coming in from the southwest. It happens that a Quaker widow and her daughters either saw the action from a distance or happened along after the soldiers had left the scene. They retrieved the young Lieutenant, placing him in their wagon, They hid him for several weeks at their home while nursing him back from the brink. Ultimately, he was returned to the federal base at Harpers Ferry. Because of the women’s courageous deed in a Confederate-dominated section of the county, the “gallant lieutenant” survived to go home, living another sixty years back in Pennsylvania as a limping yet inspirational English teacher.
Madison Cawein (1865-1914) commemorated this skirmish in his 1888 poem “Mosby at Hamilton“:
Down Loudoun lanes, with swinging reins
And clash of spur and saber,
And bugling of the battle horn,
Six score and eight we rode at morn,
Six score and eight of Southern born,
All tried in love and labor.
Full in the sun at Hamilton,
We met the South’s invaders;
Who, after fifteen hundred strong,
‘Mid blazing homes had marched along
All night with Northern shout and song
To crush the rebel raiders.
Down Loudoun lanes, with streaming manes,
We spurred in wild March weather;
And all along our war-scarred way
The graves of Southern heroes lay,
Our guide-posts to revenge that day,
As we rode grim together.
Old tales still tell some miracle
Of saints in holy writing–
But who shall say while hundreds fled
Before the few that Mosby led,
Unless the noblest of our dead
Charged with us then when fighting?
While Yankee cheers still stunned our ears
of troops at Harpers Ferry,
While Sheridan led on his Huns,
And Richmond rocked to roaring guns,
We felt the South still had some sons
She would not scorn to bury.
Raiders James Keith (17) and Wirt Binford (18) were two of those sons who fell that wild March day.
Recently, historians have wondered whether this action began here or back up the road closer to Hamilton a ways; still, the story stands wherever it occurred and may well fit this railroad cut location the best.
To this day, no one knows who the Quaker mother and her daughters were. They likely would have wanted it that way. The story of the heroism of these lady Quakers was discovered locally only in 1981 when Lt. Black’s letters were discovered and published in a West Virginia history magazine, keeping local historians debating ever since.
STOP EIGHTEEN: Just beyond the railroad cut, the road turns 90 degrees left beneath a massive spreading oak on the right corner. A quarter of a mile down the road, you will cross a creek – another branch of Crooked run, no doubt! In the best of country spirit, note the swing hanging over the creek from a tree limb on the left. A few yards past the creek, there is a fine prospect off to the right of a brick Quaker farmhouse set back from the road. Built about 1815, it has been lovingly restored by a descendent of one of the earliest Goose Creek Quaker settlers. They maintain that Lt. Black was not kept here…
STOP NINETEEN: You will climb a hill after the creek. At its crest, look through the gate on the left for another fine view of Hogback Mountain to the east. Just beyond, behind tall boxwoods on the right, is a Victorian vernacular house that once served as a store but now has been preserved as a residence.
STOP TWENTY: At 2.75 miles, the road heads downhill, and a view of open fields appears on the left as you begin to enter the village of Lincoln. At the base of this steep little hill, before the last rise into Lincoln on the right, sits a striking elongated white weatherboard farmhouse with a long front porch. It is set back from the right side of the road, but at the road itself sits a small bank barn. It has long been rumored to have been a temporary hiding place on the Underground Railroad. Several Quakers in this area were reputed to be quite active in helping slaves to freedom, but the proof of their careful operations has been nearly impossible to come by, leaving us with a delicious mystery. It may also speak to their success.
Now climb the hill to return to the village of Lincoln where you began. Hoping for a village post office once the Civil War was concluded, residents applied to Washington indicating their willingness to have the post office named for the recently assassinated President Lincoln. They got their post office, the first such to be so named in the South. The old name “Goose Creek” still remains as the name of the meetinghouse and of the Loudoun County Historic District you’ve been walking through. You may wish to return to that wide Meetinghouse porch at the top of the hill with its benches to pause for breath.
Your loop is now complete. Cross the street to your vehicle. You now have an idea through walking a sample of Loudoun’s historic roads network of the heritage of this Northern Virginia county. You’ve also seen some of its preservation victories, and one of its glaring failures. You have much to ponder!
Refreshment can be found at a number of places when you return on the road where you’re parked to Purcellville, two miles north. These include five microbreweries, a distillery, multiple wineries, coffee shops, and restaurants in shopping centers and in the historic downtown section at Main and 21st Streets.