Gunston Hall, Home of George Mason
  The Colonial Plantations of George Mason
by Robert Morgan Moxham


Gunston Hall, plantation seat of the fourth George Mason[1] is deservedly honored as a National Historical Landmark as much for its beautifully preserved colonial architecture as for the illustrious character of its first owner. The documentary evidence on the structure, its builder and the construction minutiae stand in stark contrast to the nearly total obscurity of the earlier Mason plantation seats in northern Virginia.[2]

George Mason IV moved into Gunston Hall upon its completion in late 1758 or early 1759,[3] but the Mason seating north of the Occoquan River in Stafford (now Fairfax) County began nearly 70 years earlier. In fact, the economic stature of Mason IV was made possible in large part by the land acquisitions of his forebearers, primarily his grandfather. Of these founding manors very little has been recorded. But among the Mason papers are notes upon a land survey made personally by George Mason IV that shed considerable light on the earlier Mason plantations and which provide the foundation for this report.[4]

The acquisition of real property and the preservation of clear, unclouded titles was a preoccupation of many of the prominent colonial planters. George Mason of Gunston Hall, like several of his large land-holding contemporaries, apparently found it to be in his best interest to learn the art of surveying as a safeguard against adverse land actions during a period when boundaries were not firmly established in legal precedent as they are today. The basis for proving one’s claim to land often rested in factual data derived from such surveys. Moreover, the early court records recount many complex land disputes which hinged on the interpretation of survey notes, instrumentation methods and technical aspects of colonial land laws. Intimate knowledge of these factors doubtless was a valuable asset to any landowner.

Mason IV evidently was self-educated in the use of surveying instruments as there is no record of his having had any formal training in the art. The survey notes mentioned above show him to have had a rather remarkable skill nonetheless. But more important, the survey in 1754 makes a traverse around Mason Neck* wherein he locates the plantation seat of his grandfather as well as his own dwelling prior to Gunston Hall. He also records the bearings to more distant houses thereby providing a means of locating on a modern map the early Mason plantation seats and those of his neighbors.

To fully comprehend the building of the Mason dynasty in northern Stafford, it must be pointed out that George Mason II, the founder of their fortunes, ventured north of the Occoquan about four decades after the first adventurers had staked their land dividends in this region. The earliest Mason land acquisitions here were by purchase rather than by patent, so that the prior seatings provide the prologue to the Mason history.

*19th and 20th century geographic names are italicized to distinguish them from colonial terminology.

The Seating of Mason Neck

"You will find some Circumstances in this Affair too difficult and mysterious to be unravelled, or accounted for, without better Lights or Evidence, than it is possible, at this time of Day, to procure; they can therefore only be guessed at" (Letter from Mason IV to William Fitzhugh, 23 February 1787)

George Mason IV thus describes the patents and land boundaries as he saw them in 1787 and matters have not greatly improved in the meantime.[5] The colonial land records have been the despair of several generations of historians. The documents are relatively complete and well preserved but descriptions of the lands claimed are exceedingly brief and highly generalized. They are specific only in the acreage conveyed. Moreover, colonial land law demanded that a patentee plant the land within three years, failing which the land was deemed escheated and thereby thrown open to new claims. Consequently, there were many abandoned dividends, overlapping and interfering boundaries, with the confusion compounded by contending colonial and Northern Neck Proprietary title sources.[6]

It is nearly impossible to place the colonial patents properly upon a modern map if one relies solely upon the descriptions contained in the original Land Office records. But the ownership disputes engendered by the inadequacies of the patent descriptions led to a century of legal conflict whose records and surveys have been partially preserved and from which we can construct the colonial land boundaries with a fair degree of confidence; or perhaps more correctly, we can learn where the courts decided the lines should be drawn.[7]

The principal plantation seats of the George Masons, for more than a century, were on Mason Neck, a promontory bounded on three sides by the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers and Pohick Creek. The following discussion consequently is concerned mostly with Mason Neck but also includes such nearby lands as are relevant.

Mason Neck was patented by adventurers who travelled up the Occoquan River and Pohick Creek which gave access to the land between. The dimensions of the Neck are such that it could accommodate one tier of moderately-sized claims parallel to each waterway, with the tracts having a common boundary along the median of the Neck. In Table I the chronology of the first Mason Neck seatings is given and the patent locations are shown on Figure 1.

Figure 1. The original land patents on Mason Neck, 1651-1666  
Mason Neck map showing boundariesPatentees may be identified by the numbers shown and which are keyed to Table 1
Fig. 1 Note: Several of the boundaries that were physically established in the late 1600’s or early 1700’s, were later surveyed and their position is thus set down with reasonable certainty. Many others of these tracts may have had corners marked when they were originally laid out but their identity was lost in the ensuing years during which they were unoccupied. The confusion resulted in major modifications in both the location of these patents and in the shape of their boundaries (see ref. 13). The patents are shown here in highly generalized form, based upon the descriptions given in the patent books. Their location with respect to adjoining patents is thought to be correct, but the boundaries are highly speculative, in several instances. The accuracy of the lines can be surmised from Table I which lists the several categories of descriptors available for each tract.

Table 1. Earliest patents on Mason Neck with some of their geographic descriptors.

Map no.
Fig. 1
Patentee   Date     Acreage      Landmark  
1 Turney, Robert 1651
2 Jenkin, John 1653
3 Dodson, Gervais 1653
4 Speake, Thomas 1653
5 Boren, Richard 1654
6 Cary, Miles 1654
7 Motrom, John 1654
8 Newberry, ________ 1654
9 Gosnell, John 1657
10 Smith, Peeter 1657
11 Molten, Thomas 1657
12 Bushrod, Richard 1660
13 Normansell, Richard and
Scarlett, Martin

   a Patent description contains some reference to a landmark that can be identified on a modern map.
   b Includes Turney’s 2109 acres, Jenkin’s 1000 acres and an added 500 acres.
   c Includes Speake’s 1000 acres and 1000 acres additional.

The first patent north of the Occoquan River was given 8 July 1651 to Robert Turney, for 2109 acres at the junction of the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers.[8] He referred to the tract as "Doggs Island," a name that stuck for more than a century.[9] Some colonial records also designate it as Myampses Island, evidently identical with the Moyumpse Island of Henry Fleete.[10] Within the next four years the entire northwest shore of the Occoquan had been claimed from the mouth to the Falls. In fact, there were at least two interfering sets of patents for the entire area, and locally four patents for the same land were given over a period of about 20 years.[11]

Meanwhile, the first land dividend on the Pohick side of the Neck, 1000 acres at the mouth of that stream, was entered by Col. Thomas Speake in September, 1653.[12] About four years passed before Pohick Creek again attracted land-seekers, at which time four adventurers took up a tier of claims above (upstream from) Col. Speake. They evidently left about 1000 acres between themselves and Speake, which was later taken by Richard Bushrod in 1660.[13]

Many of the original patents shown in Figure 1 were obtained for speculative purposes, were sold several times, then abandoned, overlapped or reissued to later claimants. The corner trees of these patents were probably blazed in accordance with the law, but it is doubtful that lines were run between them (and line trees marked) until the tracts were acquired by those owners who actually took possession. They knew the acreage to which they were entitled and so caused to be laid out lines that would generously accommodate their dividend, also taking into consideration topography and constraints imposed by boundaries previously marked by their neighbors holding prior claims. In most instances, common boundaries were peacefully agreed upon, but others kept the courts busy for decades. From both processes evolved the framework of land lines which delineates the earliest patents from which modern boundaries derive (Table 2 and Figure 2).

On Figure 2 is shown a tract at the head[14] of Dogue Creek patented in 1670 by Col. William Travers.[15] This land is somewhat distant from Mason Neck, but deserves mention in that it was later acquired (prior to 1699) by George Mason II. On this patent a chapel-of-ease was erected before 1714, probably at Mason’s direction, and was likely the first house of worship in Truro Parish.[16] Mason referred to it as his chapel land as did a later owner, George Washington.

 A. Newtown
 B. Dogs Island
 C. Dogues Neck
 D. Gunston Hall
 E. Lexington
 F. Mason's chapel-of-ease
 G. Old Pohick Church
 W. Woodbridge
 H-J. Property Line from Kane's Creek, along Mill Creek, and thence along a mile-long fenced line to Gunston Cove. At his death in 1792, George Mason IV owned all land South of that line.
 K-L. In his will, George Mason V divided the tract along this line, giving a half to each of his eldest sons.

Table 2. Colonial patents and Northern Neck grants from which many modern titles derive.

Map no.
Fig. 2
  Patentee or grantee     Date     Acreage     Referencea  
1 Turney, Robert 8 July 1651 2109
2 Speake, Thomas 11 Sept 1653 1000
3 Drayton, John 25 Nov 1654 2000 P3:313
4 Newberry, ________ ca. 1657 ?
5 Gosnell, John 15 July 1657 500
6 Bushrod, Richard 15 Oct 1660 2000
7 Normansell, Richard
and Scarlett, Martin
5 June 1666 2550
8 Boren, William 5 June 1666 1000
9 James, John 20 July 1670 500 N5:146
10 Travers, William 22 Mar 1678 780 P6:622
11 Sherwood, William 14 Sept 1696 670 N2:253
12 Ball, John 8 Mar 1699 300 N2:311
13 Waugh, John 26 July 1706 298 N3:132
14 Tillett, Giles 4 Dec 1706 198 N3:145
15 Going, William and
Thomas, Evan
23 Nov 1714 124 N5:8
16 Tillett, Giles 26 Nov 1717 416 N5:148
17 Adams, Abednigo 12 Aug 1760 100 NK:207
18 Mason, George (IV) 1 July 1761 265 NI:72
19 Mason, George (Pohick) 8 Nov 1784 115 TW:21460
   a Same as Table 1 except where noted

The Early Mason Plantations

It is well documented that the first George Mason had established his plantation on Aquia Creek and that his eldest son was the first of that name to venture further north. Though there is no evidence designating the first plantation seat of George Mason II, speculation can be narrowed somewhat by chronological and geographic factors. The Stafford court records for the period are fragmentary but some of the facts are related in later documents, including his will.[17] The properties which qualify as possible sites for the first plantation seat are listed below:

Original Patentee
or grantee
Map No.
(fig. 2)
Acreage Reference
John James 19 July 1690 9 500 [18]
Richard Normansell
and Martin Scarlett
10 March 1690 7 955 [19]
Richard Bushrod before 1692 6 900 [20]
Robert Turney--
William Sherwood
1696 1,11 2779 [21]
William Travers before 1699 10 780 [22]

The first documentary evidence of the Mason II seating north of the Occoquan appears in David Strahan’s report of the Potomac Rangers. His account dated 31 October 1692, mentions Capt. Mason’s (II) dwelling in connection with Pohick [Creek].[23] Later, in a letter to Gov. Nicholson in July 1700, Mason refers to his plantation seat on Pohick Creek.[24] Thus, the choice for a first seat is narrowed to the tracts on that waterway. The Travers patent and the Turney-Sherwood land can be eliminated by geography and chronology, respectively, and the Normansell tract seems somewhat remote. We are left with the James and Bushrod patents.

The land records indicate the Bushrods sold their patent in three parts, the southernmost and center portions in 1687 and 1689, respectively.[25] The northern part, about 900 acres by deduction, and which now includes Gunston Hall, was sold to Edward Smith, (see ref. 25) probably at about the same time, though I could find no deed. Mason II, according to his will, purchased the land from Smith. It seems to me, all evidence considered, that the Bushrod tract was the first Mason seat on Mason Neck, particularly in view of Thomas Ousley’s testimony that Mason II was in possession in 1694 (see ref. 20). Strahan’s (report suggests the first seating here probably took place somewhat prior to 1692. Moreover, I speculate that the first seat was at Newtown (also spelled as two words) plantation which we know to have been the later dwelling place of George Mason III before the latter leased it to his brother-in-law Jeremiah Bronaugh, in 1734. It is this lease wherein the name of the plantation first appears and which describes the place as "Newtown, on the lower side of the Pohick, whereon the said George Mason (III) lately dwelt."[26]

Brooke Map, 1737
(fig. 3) Click on map for larger image

The location is not known precisely but is shown on Brooke’s map of the Potomac River drawn in 1737 (Figure 3)[27], only three years after Bronaugh leased the plantation. The dwelling labelled "Mr. Brenauds" surely, represents Newtown and the only uncertainty in the site is occasioned by the small scale of Brooke’s map. I believe the location was at or near the present site of Overlook, about 1/4 mile east of Gunston Hall.

None of the maps made after 1737 show a house at this location until the post-Civil War era. Rowland evidently paid a visit prior to 1892. She reported (op. cit., p. 111) that the name Newtown was unknown in the neighborhood and that the only remnant of the past was a tombstone from the old graveyard, left propped against a tree but the location is not given. Gen. John Mason, son of George Mason of Gunston Hall, left a fairly detailed recollection (ca late 1840’s in Rowland, op. cit., 1: 95-102) of the estate and neighborhood but his failure to mention Newtown suggests it did not survive the 18th century.

The foregoing discussion includes both speculation and fact. Documentary evidence is given that George Mason II first seated on the Pohick and circumstantially we place him on the upper part of Bushrod’s patent. We know without doubt that his son lived at Newtown and there is evidence to support the location. The inference is drawn that Mason II proceeded his son in residence at Newtown.

For the location of the two subsequent Mason plantation seats, we have the best possible documentation, a survey made by George Mason IV which identifies them unambiguously.[28]

Mason’s 1754 Survey of Dogues Neck

The survey courses, taken from Mason’s notes[29] were plotted at a scale of 1:24,000 on a translucent overlay of a U.S. Geological Survey topographic quadrangle map. The angles were set down as true, rather than magnetic as there is some uncertainty in the local magnetic declination in 1754. The overlay was then rotated to achieve a "best fit" of the survey to landmarks shown on the map.[30] The traverses agree very well indeed with the modern map in nearly every respect, with the exception of the portion through the Great Marsh, which doubtless reflects the inhospitality of the terrain for man, if not for beast (today, the Marsh is a National Wildlife Refuge).

Warner Map, c. 1752
Fig. 4. Click on map for larger image

When the survey is thus placed on the map (Figure 4) it becomes obvious that Baxter’s alias Holt’s Creek", where Mason began his traverse, is Kanes Creek of modern terminology. He further specifies the first station to be at the Creek’s intersection with Bushrod’s back (ie., inland) line. This line, near its upper end, is now marked with a stone monument and the southeast end is well located by a survey made in 1757 by John West Jr., the Fairfax County Surveyor.[31] These two points fix the location of Bushrod’s back line and thereby also the starting point of Mason’s survey.

Mason proceeds westward along Kanes Creek to Belmont Bay, thence to Sandy Point. At two stations along the way, he records bearings to "Mr. Cocks...Dwelling House". The house specified by Mason was probably built by Thomas Simpson and later became the Belmont plantation home of Catesby Cocke, Clerk of the Fairfax County Court. An early 18th century brick house stands today at or near this site, and if it is in fact the Simpson house, it was built prior to 1727 and is the oldest remaining structure in Fairfax County.[32]

As Mason IV continued his survey, rounding Sandy Point, he came to one of the most interesting landmarks which he dismisses briefly with the cryptic note "thence along the Bank Side [of the Occoquan River] to the place where my grandfather formerly lived, course continued 58 p[oles]s in all to the old plantation Landing..."

George Mason II in 1696 acquired the Turney-Sherwood land on Dogues Neck (or Island, as it was sometimes called). A quit rent tender submitted by him in 1704 refers to his "home seat of Dogs Island,"[33] so that we infer that sometime between 1696 and 1704 he transferred his headquarters across Mason Neck from Newtown to Dogs Island, about four miles to the southwest. This site today is occupied by a modern home. Local residents state that a hunting lodge formerly stood there but it was also of recent vintage. Brooke shows no dwelling in this place in 1737 so I assume the house was then occupied by a tenant or had fallen into disuse after the death of Mason II in 1716. Its ultimate fate is unknown.

Further on, along the Potomac shore, Mason notes that "...(at 60p[ole]s came to my dwelling House) course continued in all 95 poles to the lower End of the Great Marsh at the Foot of the Causeway just above the Causeway Landing [Sycamore Point]." Thus, we can locate precisely the plantation seat, Dogues Neck, so often mentioned in the Mason correspondence.

There is no convincing evidence as to when or by whose direction Dogues Neck was built, but some speculation seems justified from the few facts at hand:

1. The Treaty of Albany, in 1722, provided that runaway slaves were to be returned to George Mason’s (III) house "on the Potowmack River".

2. George Mason III was a member of the Assembly and attended all sessions from 1718-1726 but is not listed thereafter. Records for 1727 and 1728 are incomplete but in 1730 the Stafford delegation does not include Mason.[34] Consequently, it is assumed he lived in Virginia until at least 1726, a year after the birth of his first son, George IV.

3. By 1731 Mason III had removed to Charles County, Maryland, according to a lease he gave, bearing that date.[35] His prior residence in Virginia was Newtown, as stated in his lease of the property to Bronaugh in 1734 (ref. 26).

4. The Potomac River and its environs at Mason Neck are shown on five maps made in the period 1737-1751[36] but it is likely that all of these maps, in their coverage of Mason Neck, are based upon the detailed surveys of Robert Brooke, the Prince William County Surveyor, whose 1737 map is the only one that shows the plantation houses in any way remotely resembling their actual number. In essence then, there is no document depicting the location of houses on the Mason land from 1737 until ca 1752.

Warner Map, c. 1752  
Click on map for larger image

5. The only map showing Dogues Neck is the so-called 4th edition of John Warner’s map of the Northern Neck, dated "1747 or later" (Figure 5). One copy exists which was annotated by an unknown person, who added several political boundaries, towns and dwellings. The latter include Dogues Neck, labelled "Mason", in its proper location. The base map upon which the annotations are made is Warner’s compilation which was printed after the Proprietors had won their suit against the Virginia colony in 1745, but the anonymous additions include Lord Fairfax’s Greenway Court which was not named until 1752 so it is evident that the plotting of Dogues Neck must have been in 1752 or later.[37]

Of the facts listed above, only item 1 is inconsistent with the others and then only if one places a literal interpretation upon the Treaty wording, wherein George Mason’s (III) house is on the Potomac River. Newtown was on Pohick Creek about a mile above its junction with the Potomac River. The Pohick estuary here joins the main river in a wide expanse of water, so that the boundary between the two waterways is not as easily perceived on the ground as it is on a modern map. In view of the contrary evidence conveyed by the other facts listed, I believe the Treaty reference to Mason’s house must be interpreted in general terms, i.e., that no distinction was intended between the Pohick estuary and the Potomac River.

Since Brooke’s 1737 map fails to show Dogues Neck, it seems unlikely that it existed during Mason’s (III) lifetime and that he moved directly from Newtown to Charles County. His untimely death in 1735 left the Bronaugh family in possession (by lease) of the plantation house at Newtown, where George Mason IV had presumably been born in 1725. Tradition has it that Ann Mason, the widow, returned from Maryland to her dower plantation at Chipawansick, where George IV is presumed to have spent the remainder of his boyhood. He reached his majority in 1746 and had evidently decided to cast his lot with Virginia, and accordingly, by either his or his guardian’s direction, Dogues Neck was erected as his plantation seat. This event probably took place sometime between 1746 and 1750 at which time he married Anne Eilbeck[*] His first of many letters dated "Dogues Neck" was in 1752 and represents the latest year in which the house could have been built. George Mason IV continued to live there until Gunston Hall was ready for occupancy in 1758. A modern brick house, now abandoned and vandalized, stands at the Dogues Neck site, which is within the bounds of the Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge. The fate of Dogues Neck, like that of Dogs Island, may never be known.

* At a Fairfax County court 26 September 1749, the members of the Truro vestry were called to take their oaths. John Minor "objected against this vestry being sworn and gives for his reason that he conceives it was an undue Election , George Mason Gent, one of the members not being a resident of the Parish…" [Order Book, 1749-54, Fairfax County, p. 34]. Minor, a vestryman, evidently was overruled as the vestry book lists Mason as a vestryman on 9 October 1749. But Minor’s objection suggests that Mason may not have established a permanent seat at Dogues Neck as late as 1749 and perhaps was dwelling part of the time at Chapawamsick or in Maryland.

Gunston Hall

The fourth and surely the most elegant of the Mason plantation seats is Gunston Hall, which is sited within the tier of early colonial patents that border Pohick Creek and is in close proximity to the first Mason dwelling at Newtown. After a period of about 80 years, the George Masons have come full circle geographically, perhaps a portent of their fate.

George Mason of Hollin Hall described the estate of his grandfather (Mason IV) as some 15,000 acres of the Very best land in the Potomac region, well improved and with large and comfortable mansions. There was in addition some 300 slaves, more than $50,000 in personal property and at least $30,000 in debts owed to the estate.[38] As pointed out earlier on. Mason IV had himself inherited a substantial patrimonial estate, but the wealth he devised to his children he had greatly augmented through his own efforts. In the early 1800’s however, the agrarian culture of much of Virginia atrophied[39] as many of the large plantation operators apparently were technologically incapable of the innovation required of the times, or perhaps some were simply content to carry on in 18th-century fashion. In any event, it is clear in retrospect that the Mason empire reached its apogee toward the twilight of the career of George Mason of Gunston Hall.

Mason IV devised the Mason Neck plantations to his eldest son George V of Lexington.[40] The latter survived his father by only four years. By his will, George V divided the Neck land into two nearly equal parts along a north-south line from Causeway Point to Martin Cockburn’s south line (see Figure 2).[41] George VI received the eastern moiety with the ownership privilege of either Lexington or Gunston Hall. He chose the latter. His brother William received the western half of the property.

Some of the Mason heirs were caught up in the economic depression and perhaps others from personal inclination chose not to pursue the bucolic life. Consequently, from about 1834-1866 the Mason holdings were gradually sold out of the family in fairly large tracts. Most of William’s moiety was sold at public auction to satisfy an heir’s defaulted note. The lower half of Mason Vl’s part of the Neck, taking in the Speake patent and most of the Sherwood grant, was sold out of the family in 1834.[42]

The last Mason to occupy Gunston Hall was Eleanor A.C. Patton Mason, widow of George VI. Pursuant to a court decree handed down in a suit against Mrs. Mason by George Mason of Hollin Hall, the Gunston Hall tract was sold at public auction on 9 February 1842 though Eleanor Mason was given the right to live there for her lifetime.[43] She and the purchaser, George Mason Graham, sold the property in 1866[44] It is said that, at a later time, the mansion was occupied by woodcutters who had bought the land for its timber.[45] Fortunately, the Hall and its environs were acquired by Louis Hertle in 1912, and by him restored to its 18th century elegance. The nation owes a great debt to Mr. Hertle for his generosity in donating to the Commonwealth of Virginia the handsome Hall and its grounds, to commemorate an intellectual giant and his barony on Mason Neck.


Colonial Land Patent Book, Virginia State Library, Richmond =P

Fairfax County Records:

Deed Book = FDB.
Records of Surveys (2 vol.) = RS.
Proceedings in Land Causes (2 vol.) = PLC,
Land Records of Long Standing (2 vol.) == LRLS.
Will Book =FWB.

Mason, George, 1754, Notes upon a Survey of Dogues Neck: Lib. of Cong., Manusc. Div. = Mason, Survey notes

Northern Neck Land Grant Book, Virginia State Library, Richmond = N.

Prince William County, Deed Book = PWDB.

Stafford County, Deed Book = SDB.

State Treasury Warrant = TW.

Westmoreland County, Deed Book = WDB.


1. The George Mason lineage adopted in this report is in accord with Rowland, Kate Mason, 1892 (reprinted 1964), The Life of George Mason 1725-1792: Russell and Russell, Inc., New York, 2 vol., wherein GM I "the Immigrant" (1629-1686); GM II (1660-1716); GM III (1690-1735); GM IV of Gunston Hall (1725-1792); GM V of Lexington (1753-1796); GM VI (1786-1834).

2. Beirne, Rosamond R., and Scharff, John H., 1958, William Buckland, 1734-1774: Maryland Hist. Soc., 175 p.

3. The family bible records a birth at Dogues Neck in May 1758 and another at Gunston in 1759 (Mason Family Bible Records: Virginia State Library, Ac. no. 26400).

4. Mason, Survey notes.

5. Rutland, Robert A., 1970, The Papers of George Mason 1725-1792: Univ. of North Carolina Press, p. 868-874.

6. The land between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers, from their headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay, had been granted by Charles II to seven of his subjects in 1649. This private barony was empowered to give land grants which for several decades conflicted with the land patenting authority of the colonial government. A compromise was effected in 1681 whereby the Proprietors agreed to recognize prior colonial patents in exchange for their owa uncontested right to convey grants in the Northern Neck.

7. The primary sources are Fairfax County records, including LRLS, RS, and PLC.

8. P2:33, The patentee, Turney, later came to a violent end with other promoters of Bacon’s Rebellion, being "legally convicted and attained and executed for their horrid treasons and rebellions..." (Hening 2:461)

9. There were two geographic localities called Dogues Island (also Doge, Dogs and other variations) which can lead to some confusion in interpreting the patent and grant descriptions. Dogues Island was used as a synonym for Dogues Neck, that part of Mason Neck south of Kanes Creek. However, in the late 17th century, there was also a small island in Belmont Bay that was called Dogues Island, evidently in reference to the Indian encampment there. Today, only Conrad Island exists in Belmont Bay (Figure 4). It is near the west shore and seems not to correspond to the small "Dogues Island" shown by Brooke (Figure 3).

10. Fleete, Henry, A brief Journall of A Voyage made in the Barque Warwick to Virginnea and other Pts. of the Continent in Neill, Edward D., 1871, The English Colonization of America during the Seventeenth Century: London.

11. Less than two years after Turney’s Dogues Island patent was filed, Corbet Piddel (recorded in Westmoreland documents as Porbett PedelDtook a 1000 acre dividend (P3:17) that seems to interfere with Turney in that it bounds southeasterly on the Potomac River and southwesterly upon the Occoquan. On the same day (14 May 1653) John Jenkin patented 1000 acres (P3:80) adjoining Piddel on the northwest and Gervais Dodson took the next adjacent 1300 acre patent (P3:82) shown on Figure 1. Dodson was a surveyor and as the Jenkin and Piddel patents were assigned to him about three months later (WDB 1:7), I assume that Dodson laid out all three tracts. In any event, by August 1653 Dodson held claim to all of the northwest shore of the Occoquan from the mouth (where he interfered with Turney) to near State Rt. 611. Evidently Dodson did not seat these patents and in 1660, citing ill health, he gave James Pope his power of attorney (WDB 1:117). No further record of these men appears and the Dodson patents were probably abandoned. In 1654, Col. John Motrom had Turney declared escheated and repatented the 2109 acre Dogues Island tract (P3:306). He also added Jenkin’s 1000 acre patent and 500 acres adjoining Dogues Island on the east (recited in N2:253). Motrom’s interest passed to his son who sold the tracts in 1666 to Richard James (A2:253). The Northern Neck Proprietors judged James escheated and in 1696 granted the 2779 acres (omitting the Jenkin dividend) to William Sherwood, a prominent Jamestown attorney, who in turn sold them to George Mason II (N2: 53).. The date of the latter transaction is given as 1696 but the Stafford deed books for this period are missing.

About a month after Motrom patented Dogues Island, John Drayton, on 25 November 1654 filed a patent for 2000 acres (P3:313) which included all of Jenkin’s prior 1000 acres northwest of Baxters Creek and most of Dodson’s 1300 acres. Part of the Drayton tract was later claimed by adjoining patents of Robert Collingwood in 1669 (P6:309) and John Whitt and John Woorman in 1670 (P6:289)... The latter parcel was subsequently granted by the Proprietors to Thomas Kyrton (M:45) but the first to seat this land probably was Thomas Baxter whose son reconfirmed the title as a Northern Neck grant (N3:6). The document recites that the elder Baxter claimed under an old patent but the patentee is not named. Mason IV (Survey notes) states that Baxter bought Drayton’s dividend. Part of the Baxter property was sold to William Holt (SDB Z:209) and John Peak (SDB Z:68). Holt’s 300 acres were subsequently purchased by George Mason III (Survey notes).

12. P3:68.

13. The Speake patent passed to Thomas Brewerton who escheated. In 1660, Richard Bushrod repatented the tract and added 1000 acres adjoining on the northwest. Later records (FDB D:640) recite that his son sold this 2000 acre tract in three parts. From north to south the purchasers were Edward Smith, James Hereford (in 1689) and Robert Colson (in 1687). The northern third is of particular interest as it contains Gunston Hall. The Stafford deed books for this time are missing but the will of George Mason II (see Rowland, op. cit.) devises to his son Nicholson "all land bought of Edward Smith..." Nicholson had died by the time the will was admitted so the property passed to George III.

The south and west bounds of Speake’s dividend can be determined from a survey made in 1719 for a Northern Neck grant (N5:192) to Francis Cofer. This tract had passed from Colson to John Withers in 1693 and by him escheated to the Proprietors, according to the grant application. As Speake did not seat his dividend, we can only surmise that his northwest line must have coincided with Hereford. Bushrod’s northwest corner is identified from a 1703 survey of the adjoining Baxter grant (N3:6).

Next upstream, northwest of Bushrod, there evidently was an earlier 500(?) acre patent held by one Newberry. It is referred to in the description of the adjoining Gosnell patent and which thereby dates it about 1757, but I find no record of this dividend in the colonial patent books. Newberry’s tract is mentioned in the Mason IV - Fitzhugh correspondence (op. cit.) and evidently was tacitly acknowledged by them.

The Gosnell 500 acre patent which joins Newberry, was filed 16 July 1657 (P4:118) and has been described in detail in the Mason - Fitzhugh letter (op. cit.). The Gosnell heirs escheated and William Fitzhugh the elder claimed the land under a Northern Neck grant in 1697 (N2-.282) and settled some tenants on the property. The boundaries were not at that time determined and it was 90 years later that the grandson, William Fitzhugh, sought his cousin Mason’s advice as how best to validate his title to the Gosnell patent under which he claimed. Mason’s reply to Fitzhugh’s request is a most interesting commentary on the colonial land patent system. There is some solace in learning from this documeytthat not all of our uncertainties regarding these boundaries spring from lost or inadequate records; Mason suggests that matters were as cloudy 200 years ago as they are today.

In accordance with Mason’s advice, Fitzhugh laid out the boundaries of the Gosnell patent so as to join Normansell at one point on Pohick Creek. The Fairfax County Surveyor ran the lines and recorded them (RS 2:23) so the Gosnell patent was legally fixed thereby. By so doing, the three adjoining 1657 patents (Newberry, Smith and Molten) were also constrained. Peeter Smith (P4:117) and Thomas Molten (P4: 119) each had taken adjoining 500 acre patents successively upstream from Gosnell. Both patents were abandoned and most of the area was claimed by Normansell and Scarlett in 1666 (P4:323). A small triangular parcel of Peeter Smith’s escheat became wasteland upon which the old Pohick Church was built and which land was later claimed by George Mason of Pohick (cousin of GM IV) on a State Treasury Warrant in 1784 (7W 21460).

14. The head of a watercourse, in colonial usage, meant the upstream limit of tidal flow. It is a frequently used term in colonial land patents and other legal documents. There can be no question of the 17th century meaning in spite of the Northern Neck Proprietor’s insistence to the contrary, which ultimately led to their monumental legal battle with the colonial government in a successful effort to extend the Proprietory boundaries.

15. P6:622. Col. William Travers of Essex County devised the patent to his son Samuel. The latter sold it to his brother Raleigh on I July 1685 (Gary, Wilson Miles, 1896, "Pedigree of the Travers Family:" William and Mary Quarterly (1) 4:16). Mason’s (II) will mentions land bought of Raleigh Travers, which we know from later deeds, refers to this tract.

16. Moxham, Robert Morgan, 1974, Early Colonial Churches of Northern Virginia: Colonial Press, North Springfield, Va.

17. The will of George Mason II is in Rowland {op. cit,). A copy also appears in PLC 2:13.

18. N5: 146.

19. RS 1:42 recites that Mason II purchased Scarlett’s moiety, west of Pohick Creek.

20. There is no direct documentation of the purchase date. N2:5888 states that Mason II is "in tenure and occupation" as of 15 November 1694.

21. SDBD:250.

22. Mason’s (II) will indicates he bought the patent from Raleigh Travers (see ref. 15). N2:311 dated 8 March 169910 John Ball for the adjoining tract indicates Mason was at that time in possession.

23. Calendar of Virginia State Papers: 1:44.

24. Calendar, op. cit„ 1:71.

25. 500 acres to Robert Colson 14 December 1687 (see N5:192)))) and 600 acres to John Hereford 9 September 1689 (see FDB D:640 wherein the sale to Edward Smith is also recited).

26. PWDB A:280, 17 November 1734.

27. Brooke, 1737, op. cit. Overlook, now owned by Mr. Robert H. Thayer, was in earlier years called Benvenue. The estate was separated from the Gunston Hall tract in 1872, but the dwelling is of 19th century vintage and probably was built after the Civil War as it does not appear on military maps of the period. One may speculate that the site George Mason IV selected for Gunston Hall was dictated by the fact that Newtown plantation house still stood on (some would consider) the only other desirable building site in the neighborhood, which further supposes that Newtown existed at least to 1755. There is no remaining sign of Newtown though no serious search for it has been made.

28. Mason, Survey notes.

29. The notes given in Rutland (op. cit.) contain a minor misinterpretation of Mason’s handwriting, transcribing the word "jut" for Mason’s term "gut", a word commonly used for a small stream. The term apparently later fell into disuse in deference to Victorian sensibilities.

30. The magnetic declination and its affect on plotting 17th and 18th century land grants is discussed in Moxham, Robert Morgan, 1974, The Great Hunting Creek Land Grants: Colonial Press, North Springfield, Va.

31. RS :34.

32. Moxham, Robert Morgan, 1975, Belmont Plantation on the Occoquan: Colonial Press, North Springfield, Va.

33. SDBZ:213.

34. Stanard, William G., and Mary, 1902, The Colonial Register: Albany, N.Y.

35.PWDB A:24.

36. Mayo, William, 1737, A Map of the Northern Neck in Virginia, The Territory of the Right Honorable Thomas Lord Fairfax scituate between the Rivers Patomack and Rappahannock: Public Records Office, London. Photocopy in Library of Congress, Geog. and Map Div.; Warner, John, 1737, A true and accurate survey of the Rivers Rappahannock and Patowmack to their first heads or springs done by order of the Commissioners as well on the part of His Majesty as the Lord Fair fax: Public Records Office, London. Photocopy in Lib. of Cong., Geog. and Map Div.; Brooke, Robert, 1737 (see ref. 9); Jefferson, Peter and Brooke, Robert, 1747, A map of the Northern Neck in Virginia according to an actual survey begun in the year MDCCXXXVI and ended in the year MDCCXLVI: Public Records Office, London. Photocopy in Library of Cong., Geog. and Map Div.; Fry, Joshua and Jefferson, Peter, 1751, A map of the most inhabited part of Virginia: Lib. of Cong., Geog. and Map Div. (Photocopy)

37. Harrison, Fairfax, 1924 (reprinted 1964), Landmarks of Old Prince William: Chesapeake Book Co., Berryville, Va., p. 655.

38. Mason Papers in Rowland (op. cit., p. 368). By 1784, Mason IV had acquired on Mason Neck all of the tracts numbered, 1,2,6,11 and 18, and the southeast corner of 3 (Figure 2).

39. A concise resume of the events of this period is in Dabney, Virginius, 1971, Virginia, the Old Dominion: Doubleday and Co., N.Y., 275-283. The fate of the planters is treated in more detail by Sutton, Robert P., 1968, "Nostalgia, Pessimism and Malaise, The Doomed Aristocrat in Late-Jeffersonian Virginia": Virginia Mag. of Hist. and Biog., 41-45.

40. FWB F:95.

41. FWBG:254.

42. DB B:390.

43. Alexandria Gazette, 8 February 1842. The papers in the suit of George Mason vs Eleanor Mason are missing from the Fairfax County Court records. It may have been a quiet title action as George Mason VI died intestate.

44. DB G:247.

45.Plaskett, Susan Annie, 1936, Memories of Plain Family 1836-1936: Franklin Press, Washington, D.C.

Robert Morgan Moxham, 1919-1978, was a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey and was the author of a number of books on the history of Northern Virginia. This essay was published as a booklet in 1975 by Colonial Press, North Springfield, Va.

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