Role in Ravensworth: owner parcels 1.1.3, 1.1.5, 1.1.1.1

Mordecai was the third youngest to survive infancy of Henry (Colonel) and Sarah (Battaile) Fitzhugh’s 14 children. Called Cooke by family and friends (according to correspondence and some public records), he married Frances Tabb (abt.1787-1878). They had nine children.1

  • Lucinda Fitzhugh, married (1) Edward H. Henry and (2) Richard Marshall Scott
  • John Henry Fitzhugh (abt.1805-1825)
  • Amanda M. Fitzhugh (1809-1893), married Peter Gooding (1798-1859)
  • Frances Moss Fitzhugh (abt.1815-1881), married Sanford Hutchison
  • Edwin C. Fitzhugh, never married
  • Julianna Fitzhugh (abt.1818-?), married William Slade
  • Fenton Mercer Fitzhugh (1819-abt.1880), never married
  • Henrietta Fitzhugh (abt.1820-?), married (1) William P. Swann and (2) Thomas Clewes
  • Mary Ann Fitzhugh (abt.1827-?), married Maynadier Mason

Land and census records indicate that Mordecai established residence on his Ravensworth land early on. He was a Fairfax County resident in the 1790s and lived out his years there. The 1810 federal census recorded two free adults, four children under 10 years old and 34 slaves in the household.2

The earliest record that specifically identifies Mordecai’s home – Fountainbleau – is the announcement of his daughter Lucinda’s marriage to Richard Scott there in 1832.3

Mordecai was involved in the early effort to build the Middle Turnpike, today’s Leesburg Pike, State Route 7. He is listed with several other men in an April 30, 1818 advertisement of a subscription to establish the road.4 A company had been organized in 1813 to “…construct a turnpike road from Alexandria to Leesburg…” However, the project started only in 1818 and wasn’t completed until after 1838 with help from Congress.5

His house in the northeast part of his 2300 acres was located near the planned road, where it passes through today’s Seven Corners intersection with Arlington Boulevard. Little River Turpike, completed in 1806, bordered his lands in the south. Both roads were promoted as necessary transportation links for commerce and access to markets in Alexandria.

Lawsuits against neighbors and within family

For 10 or more years beginning in 1842 or earlier, Mordecai pursued a series of law suits against his neighbors, including Dabney Ball, Joseph Nicholson, James S. Scott and William Ball. He claimed that they were trespassing and holding land, buildings and fences that were his. In essence the issue seems a dispute over the correct location of the original north boundary line of Ravensworth at the northeast corner. At stake were probably less than 20 acres. Many documents from the cases are in the Chancery Court case file Mordecai C. Fitzhugh V. Dabny Ball Etc. in the Library of Virginia’s Circuit Court Records Preservation Program.6

The case file is inconclusive, but it appears that all of the judgments went against Mordecai. The northeast lines of his property, when divided in 1858, were not the straight borders described in the original Ravensworth survey. They jogged in several turns up to 300 feet inside those borders. (Compare original and final borders.) Having lost earlier suits, in 1851 Mordecai’s attorney considered a change of venue, asking if the many landowners with property bordering Ravensworth’s north line might make it difficult to find a fair jury in Fairfax County.

In another court case Mordecai had won a judgement against Henry Taylor in the March 1839 session of the Fairfax County Court. It was based primarily on a claim that Taylor failed to fully pay $104.22 owed under a contract for use of a slave named Jim or Tom, a blacksmith, for the year 1831. Taylor sued to stop enforcement of the judgement in Henry Taylor v. Mordecai C Fitzhugh. The court appears to have ruled against Taylor. In document 50 of the case file, the Court appears to have decided that Taylor may have fully paid the debt, but his failure to defend himself at law in the earlier case was negligent and “the bill [current case] must be dismissed with costs.”7

In 1853, Mordecai was in court in Fauquier County. He joined with several other family members in challenging the will of his deceased brother Giles Fitzhugh. They asserted that feeble health and mental deterioration made Giles incompetent to make a will. A jury found the will valid.

Even after his death in 1858 Mordecai’s affairs were settled in court. The Fairfax County Court appointed commissioners and employed a surveyor to settle his estate in the case Mordecai. C. Fitzhugh Adm. V. Mordecai C. Fitzhugh Heirs. Deed H4:257 divided his Ravensworth land, as the court directed: “…the allotment of Dower [i.e., widow’s share] to Mrs. Frances T. Fitzhugh widow…in the real estate whereof he died siezed and a division of the residue amongst his heirs…” Frances received 275 acres, including the house. Her share was labeled “Dower” on the deed plat, but illegibly enough that it has been misread as “Dover” and thought to be the name of the house. As already shown, the house was cited as Fountainbleau in 1832.


 

  1. Maddy McCoy, Genealogical Research for Fairfax County, Virginia Slavery Inventory Database (Unpublished manuscript, 2009); The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol 8 (1901) (Virginia Historical Society), 315
  2. 1810 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Fairfax, Virginia, Page 195, M C Fitzhugh household, jpeg image, (Online: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010) (Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC), subscription database, http://www.ancestry.com/, accessed 6 July 2010.
  3. National Genealogical Society, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, vol. 52-53″ (National Genealogical Society, 1964), 213. (Google Books)
  4. T. Michael Miller, Artisans and Merchants of Alexandria (Heritage Books, Westminster, MD, 1991), 334.
  5. Nan Netherton et al., Fairfax County, Virginia: A History (Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, 1978), 195-198.
  6. Mordecai C. Fitzhugh V. Dabny Ball Etc. Index Number 1852-006, Original Case Number CFF30 H, Virginia Memory: Chancery Records Index.
  7. Henry Taylor v. Mordecai C Fitzhugh, Index Number 1843-002, original Case Number CFF93 M, Virginia Memory: Chancery Records Index.