Union Farm

Dublin Core

Title

Union Farm

Date

1760 – 1840s

Description

In 1760, French’s Farm was the second largest community of enslaved people in Fairfax County with 60 enslaved people living on this property. They were, at times, leased to work on neighboring farms.

In 1786, the property was combined with others to form Union Farm, one of Mount Vernon’s five farms. According to Mount Vernon’s website, “In 1799 there were seventy-five slaves living at Union Farm. Of these individuals, six were owned by George Washington, thirty were dower slaves owned by Martha Washington, and thirty-nine were individuals rented from a neighbor to Mount Vernon, Mrs. French. There appear to have been at least twelve family groups, housing fifty-seven of the people (including thirty children under the age of eleven and twenty-seven individuals considered to be "adults," age eleven and over). Another seventeen individuals cannot yet be linked with any relatives living at this farm. All of the family groups at this farm seem to have been headed by women, about one-third of whom were unmarried. Of the seventeen slaves living at Union Farm, owned by George and Martha Washington and considered to be of adult working age, sixteen (around ninety-four percent) had been living on Union Farm since 1786.”

A visitor in June 1789 noted, “We entered one of the huts of the Blacks. The husband and wife sleep on a mean pallet, the children on the ground; a very bad fireplace, some utensils for cooking, but in the middle of this poverty some cups and a teapot.”

On January 1, 1801, George Washington’s enslaved were emancipated according to his will. In 1802, following Martha’s death, the enslaved of the Custis family were divided among the heirs, separating families to distant estates. Their departure did not eliminate slavery at Mount Vernon. Washington heirs brought enslaved people to the property.

In 1815, there were and estimated 79 enslaved people at Mount Vernon, approximately half of those individuals are thought to have lived on Union Farm. These included Oliver and Doll Smith and their son, Phil. Another family headed by Sinah and Joe, included 8 children, two sons-in-law and eleven grandchildren. Sinah’s brother Ham and his wife Pat also had 3 children who resided there.

According to Scott Casper, author of Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon, in 1821 many or all of these enslaved people were transferred to the Alexandria jail and subsequently sold, “Bushrod appears to have sold the families that worked and lived at Union Farm, including Sinah and Joe, Ham and Pat and all their children and grandchildren, about thirty in all.” In 1834, Oliver Smith spoke to an abolitionist visiting the Mount Vernon Estate about six of his nine children, “Sold into Georgia.” “O, it was like cutting off my own limbs.”

A core of Union Farm is currently under the supervision of the Fairfax County Park Authority as part of two separate properties: “Grist Mill Park” and “Union Farm,” a 2021 acquisition from a private owner through the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. Archaeological resources are located on the properties including: remains of the overseer’s house, bricks, brickbats, and domestic artifacts. There is also possible evidence of 5 slave cabins.

Source

Grist Mill Park: Master Plan Revision 2002, Grist Mill Report (fairfaxcounty.gov) p. 13-16 

Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon: The Forgotten History of an American Shrine. By Scott E. Casper. 2008
Fairfax County, Virginia in 1760: An Interpretive Historical Map, Prepared by Beth Mitchell

“Hidden in Plain Sight: Archaeologists search for clues to the other working farms that were once part of George Washington’s estate” by Jason Buroughs, Mount Vernon Magazine, Spring 2021. Mount Vernon Magazine – Hidden in Plain Sight 

“The Only Unavoidable Subject of Regret”: George Washington, Slavery, and the Enslaved Community at Mount Vernon by Mary V. Thompson. 2019.

Communities Item Type Metadata

Additional Name

French’s Farm

District

Mount Vernon

Location

Grist Mill Park, 4320 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22309 and the newly acquired FCPA property at 9150 Union Farm Rd.

Collection

Citation

“Union Farm,” Fairfax County African American History Inventory, accessed April 19, 2024, https://fairfaxaahi.centerformasonslegacies.com/items/show/170.

Geolocation