In February 2015, an email arrived from Eric Payne seeking help locating the site of his ancestors’ 18th century mill, which he hoped to visit on a trip to Northern Virginia. Locating Payne’s Mill on Accotink Creek began the process of discovering the Payne family’s significant role in governing Fairfax County from its creation in 1742 through 1800, and in the Revolutionary War.
The Paynes were Ravensworth tenants and leaseholders. Henry Fitzhugh (Colonel)’s plantation ledger of his Tenants and Rents 1764 notes rents in pounds of tobacco due from William Payne, Sr., William Payne, Jr. and 41 others. A second account record for 1766-1768 entitled “William Payne my overseer,” reveals that a Payne was his Ravensworth overseer for that period and perhaps at other times. Payne Street in Alexandria honors the memory of William, Sr.’s grandson, Colonel William Payne, who fought in the Revolutionary War and was a pallbearer in George Washington’s funeral.
Only a trace of Payne’s Mill remains: a section of the millrace. Eric Payne’s short video, made there during his March 2015 visit, recorded the site where the mill once stood and something unchanged: the timeless sound of Accotink Creek where generations of Paynes played as children, lived and worked.