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"Hope Park and the Hope Park Mill"

Authors:  Martin Petersilia and Russell Wright

Publisher: Fairfax County Office of Comprehensive Planning (1978)


Hope Park was an 18th and 19th-century plantation in Fairfax County in the U.S. state of Virginia. Hope Park was the residence of Dr. David Stuart (1753–1814), an old friend and associate correspondent of George Washington, and second husband of Washington's former stepdaughter-in-law, Eleanor Calvert Custis (1758–1811). Hope Park Plantation was located approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) southwest of Fairfax Court House (now known as the independent city of Fairfax).

The plantation at Hope Park was founded in the 1750s by Edward Payne, a justice of the Fairfax County Court from 1764 to 1785 and builder of Payne's Church which was completed in 1778. Payne served with George Washington and George Mason on the Truro Parish vestry and the then, Washington, occasionally resided with the Paynes at Hope Park. Payne is also credited with constructing a small grist mill, probably on Piney Branch which was on the Hope Park property. A mill would have been an important adjunct to the plantation.


Dr. David Stuart purchased Hope Park plantation in 1785. Stuart was an Alexandria physician who was appointed on January 22, 1791, by then President Washington, as the member representing Virginia on the first board of Commissioners of the Federal City and he served for almost four years. In 1789, Stuart served as a justice for the Fairfax County Court. Stuart was also later named a trustee by the Virginia General Assembly for the towns of Centreville in 1792 and Providence (later known as Fairfax Court House, and then Fairfax) in 1805.


Stuart married Eleanor Calvert Custis, widow of John Parke Custis and daughter-in-law of Martha Washington and stepdaughter-in-law of George Washington, in 1783. Until relocating to Hope Park sometime between 1791 and 1793, the couple resided first at Custis's Abingdon plantation overlooking the Potomac River. Estates along major waterways found transport and communication easier than those in the interior of Fairfax County such as Hope Park. The Stuarts regularly received George and Martha Washington as guests at Abingdon and at Hope Park plantation and were frequent guests at Mount Vernon. Because of the close relationship between the Stuart and Washington families, Hope Park is mentioned frequently in Washington's correspondences and diaries.


Stuart's stepdaughters and George Washington's step-granddaughters Martha Parke Custis and Elizabeth Parke Custis were both married at Hope Park. Martha Custis married Thomas Peter on January 6, 1795, and Elizabeth Custis married Thomas Law on March 20, 1796. When the Stuart's moved to Hope Park, these elder Custis daughters moved with them and lived there with their mother and stepfather. Peters was the son of a successful Georgetown merchant and Law was the son of Edmund Law, Bishop of Carlisle, and the younger brother of Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough, George Henry Law, later Bishop of Bath and Wells, and John Law, a Church of Ireland bishop. The Custis/Law union was a short one and ended in divorce in 1806. While the two younger Custis siblings, Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis, lived at Mount Vernon, Philadelphia, and New York with George and Martha Washington, they also visited their mother at Hope Park.


Most likely under Stuart's ownership and before the Stuart family relocated to Ossian Hall in 1804, a second mill and was constructed on the west bank of Piney Branch. An adjacent miller's house was also built. The precise dates of construction of this mill and the miller's house are unknown, but the mill was mentioned as being "in complete repair" in an 1815 sale notice following Stuart's 1814 death. A study of the mill undertaken in 1972 by preservationist Russell Wright placed the mill's construction at c. 1800. Then known as "Hope Park Mill," it later gained importance as a neighborhood mill, serving the needs of adjacent plantations in central Fairfax County.


The bulk of the Hope Park plantation property remained in Dr. Stuart's estate until December 1837 when John H. Barnes, Sr. purchased a 1,000-acre tract which included the mill and miller's house but not the main Hope Park dwelling. Barnes purchased the remainder of Hope Park plantation including the main dwelling house in February 1838. The Barnes, Sr. family is the first known to have occupied the miller's house. They subsequently moved into the main house and Barnes Sr. was the last to own Hope Park plantation as a consolidated entity. After Barnes Sr.'s death, Hope Park plantation was broken into eight inheritance properties when his estate was settled in 1853.

The late Barnes Sr.'s wife, Sarah Barnes, received the main Hope Park dwelling house with 194 acres which was referred to as the "Mansion House Tract." The Barnes' eldest son Jack Barnes (i.e., John H. Barnes, Jr.) had been trained as a miller and he and his wife, Mary Fox Barnes, were given property including the mill and miller's house which they occupied and called "Huntley." Barnes Sr.'s other six children received other Hope Park plantation parcels.


As Hope Park plantation grew in prosperity under the Barnes family, so did its slave population. In the 1840s, the Barnes family owned four slaves, seven in 1850, and 12 in 1860. Due to the outlay and high cost of slaves, the number of slaves owned by the Barnes family was relatively low in comparison to the slave workforces at neighboring plantations in Fairfax County. Barnes, Sr. had the aid of his sons in working the plantation, which was also a factor in lessening the family's dependence upon slave labor.



Hope Park and the Hope Park Mill

SKU: FCH1486
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