Difficult Run
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  Colvin Run Mill
  Interesting Places
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  Cue Sheet for Trail
  Elevation Profile
  Artifacts From Trail
  Cross-County Hike
Drovers Rest Drovers Rest, c. 1730.

Historical Sites Along The Difficult Run Trail

From North To South:

Tolston's Mill (Towlston's Mill) site On the east side of Difficult Run, 500 yards from the Potomac River, stood a mill. Now owned by Madeira School.

old quarry 400 yards north of Old Georgetown Pike, on west side of stream.

Drover's Rest, east bank of Difficult Run at Old Georgetown Pike; 8526 Old Georgetown Pike, about a quarter mile from the trail. Built in 1730, this house gets its name from the habit of wagoneers stopping here on their way to and from the port of Georgetown. Please respect the rights of owners of private property.

Old Georgetown Pike became a State Scenic
Bridge over Difficult Run
Georgetown Pike, bridge over Difficult Run. Photo credit: Richard Netherton.  
Highway in June, 1974. More recently perservationists nominated it to be a National Historic Landmark. It is "eligible" to become one. An ancient route followed first by Indians and then by colonists. Carried commerce from both Loudoun County and the Shenandoah Valley to Georgetown, then a seaport. Now this road is a battleground between preservationists and proponents of widening and straightening it.

Thomas Peacock House, east bank of Difficult Run
Thomas Peacock House
Photo credit: . This house sits high above the stream valley.  
at Old Dominion Drive bridge; north side of Old Dominion Drive, across from Peacock Station Road. George Washington once owned this land. The Sheppards bought it from his estate and built this house in the early 19th century. Please respect the rights of owners of private property.

Old Dominion Drive bridge For payment of back taxes during the Great Depression, Virginia acquired the bed of a railroad from the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad. This railroad had earned a profit carrying tourists to Great Falls. But passenger traffic dwindled as Great Falls lost its popularity. At the same time, more people acquired automobiles, as the state paved more and more roads. Virginia promptly converted the railroad bed into Old Dominion Drive. The present bridge over Difficult Run replaced the railroad trestle.

Leigh (Jackson's) Mill (site) was located
Jacksons Mill
Photo credit: J. Harry Shannon ("The Rambler"), 1919. From "This Was Virginia", by Connie and Mayo Stuntz, 1988. By 1919 the mill had ceased operations, unlike Colvin Run Mill, which was a working mill until the Great Depression.  
on west bank of Difficult Run, and on the south side of Leigh Mill Road. Across stream from trail. This mill competed with Colvin Run Mill to grind both corn and flour in the late 1800's.

Old Leesburg Pike once crossed Difficult Run north of the present-day bridge. The approaches to this bridge are still visible; in fact, the Difficult Run Trail briefly follows the western approach to this bridge. The old highway then proceeded west up the hill to the village on what is today called, "Colvin Run Road." During the French and Indian Wars, General Braddock marched some of his troops up this road on their way to their defeat at Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh).

Colvin (Carper's) Mill, now part of Colvin Run Mill Park, operated as a mill by Fairfax County Park Authority.

Colvin Run Village, a half-mile up Colvin Run Road from the trail, features the Alfred Leigh house (1890), now a restaurant; Colvin Run School; a grange; and a working country store.

Wiley's Tavern (site) where First Lady Dolley Madison and President James Madison stayed one rainy night two days after the British burned the White House. Located on the south side of present-day Leesburg Pike, and on the crest of the hill to the east of Difficult Run, the tavern was part bar but also part hotel, unlike today's taverns. The tavern has been torn down. Thanks to John Weiler for this information.

Not far from Difficult Run Trail, about 500 yards west from its junction with Colvin Run Trail, is an old quarry. It is on the south side of Colvin Run Trail.

At Brown's Mill Road, Day Family Cemetery is 400 yards east of the trail on the north side or the road, and on the east side of the hill. A small set of cast-iron stairs leads up from the road to the plot. The oldest tombstones date from 1860. The patriarch of the family was a country doctor, whose house was also on the north side of Brown's Mill Road. Please respect the rights of owners of private property.

Brown's (Walter's) Mill stood on Wolf Trap Run, a tributary of Difficult Run. From trail at Brown's Mill Road, take sidewalk east one-half mile to stop sign. Mill stood across Beulah Road.

The bridge which carries the bike trail over Difficult Run rests on the original stone abutments, built in the late 1850's. In 1861 the Confederates burned the first bridge at this spot. No one replaced it until after the war.

In 1864 Herman Melville, a civilian author, accompanied a troop of Union cavalry riding along the bed of the destroyed railroad. Their mission was to find the Confederate partisan, John Mosby, who was reported to be in Leesburg. They failed to find him. Melville wrote about this ride in his poem, The Scout Toward Aldie.

W&OD Trail at Hunter Mill Road. For over a century, the hamlet of Hunters had a station on the railroad and a post office, known as "Hunters P.O." A mill stood near here from the mid-18th Century until it burned down at the end of the Civil War. Click here for a schedule of train service from 1911, the heyday of railroad passenger traffic, a few years before the county began to pave roads, enabling people to drive to D.C. Hunter was also an important station for cargo, too. In the early 1900's, Colvin Run Mill sent wagon loads of flour to be shipped on the railroad at Hunter.

W&OD Trail at Hunter Mill Road -- 18th Century miller's house, Lewis House, Saddleview Court. c. 1750.
18th Century Miller House
Lewis House, c. 1750. Not visible from trail, but easily seen from Silk Oak Dr.  
Built by the miller of the mill, now demolished, which stood on Difficult Run at Hunter Mill Road. "Potomac Valley style." A two-and-one-half story brick house with a sweeping front porch, steep metal roof and barn. Because landscaping screens it from view, this house is best seen during the winter from Hunter Mill Road at its intersection with Silk Oak Drive, one-half block north from the trail. The house is across from Silk Oak Drive. Please respect the rights of owners of private property.

W&OD Trail at Hunter Mill Road -- 19th Century miller's house, Hunter House, 10407 Hunter Station Road. c. 1852 This house briefly served as a hospital during the Civil War for Lt. Col. Kane's Union cavalry. From W&OD parking lot, right on Hunter Station Road for 100 yards. Please respect the rights of owners of private property.

About twenty Northern families settled in Oakton during the decade before the Civil War. Both Falls Church and Vienna experienced similar "immigration" by Northerners. Some of the earlier settlers moved away, because they were discouraged by the yield from the land exhausted from growing tobacco. The Northern new-comers generally did not hold slaves. During Virginia's secession, these Northerners voted to stay in the Union.

In 1846, two Quakers from Long Island, Job and John Hawxhurst, bought a run-down mill on Difficult Run from Colonel Broadwater. It stood near the present-day Lawyers Road bridge over Difficult Run.
"The land John and I bought was 470 acres on Difficult Run about 6 miles north of Fairfax Court House. It was in very rough condition. The price paid for it was $2000. 140 acres of it on the south end was under a life lease to John Adams, then a very old man. The rent stipulated for it was one thousand pounds of tobacco per year, but it had for several years been committed to $36.00. Adams died some years after our purchase and we sold that part to Isaac Leeds (Maria's brother) who had married here and settled....There was an old mill on the land when we bought it which we repaired and improved and developed so that it became an important source of income for us of more consequence than the land to our support. But it was destroyed by fire soon after Maria's death."

--Job Hawxhurst

Source: The Story of Oakton, 1768-1982, by Anne D'Evans.

As the above memoirs attests, Leeds Road was named after a wealthy family. They called their home, "Rose Hill." After the War, the three Leeds daughters worked in the temperance movement; they married prominent men.

In 1862 U.S. Army engineers noted that Vale Road was in extremely poor condition, even by the standards of an area not noted for its roads. On a map of the environs of Washington, made for purposes of defense, they noted that Vale Road was a "old bad road."

On the day of the Confederate victory at Chantilly, General J.E.B. Stuart rode up Jermantown Road toward Oakton. Oakton was then called Flint Hill. Virginia has erected a historical marker about Stuart's campaign at the corner of Jermantown Road and Route 50. With his cavalry scout's eye for topography, Stuart noticed Jermantown Road's height:

"I reached the summit of the ridge which terminates in Flint Hill about dark..."

--General J.E.B. Stuart, September, 1862

Related Sites
The Washington Post reports on the efforts by the Fairfax County Park Authority to survey Civil War sites, including ones near this trail, for the purposes of preserving them for the future.



Last updated Dec 2, 2002.

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