Role in Ravensworth – owner Parcel 1.1.4.5

William Marbury Fitzhugh was the only child of Richard Henry and Mary Ann (Marbury) Fitzhugh. He was born on May 20, 1817 in the Georgetown community of Washington, DC, where his father was a merchant. In 1820, his father admitted having forged several bank notes and fled to Kentucky. By October 1829, either his father had died or his parent’s marriage had ended. For on October 21 1829, Mary Ann married James S. Morsell.

The 1850 federal census is the earliest record found with further information about William’s life. That census identified Kentucky as William’s residence as well as the birth place of his wife, Elizabeth McConnell (1819-1896), and their then four children aged 10 and under. It’s unknown whether William grew up in Kentucky, moved there after his mother died in 1831, or moved there even later as an adult.

William and Elizabeth had at least nine children by 1860:

  • Mary A. Fitzhugh (1840-1920)
  • Harry M. Fitzhugh (abt.1844-unknown)
  • Ellen L. Fitzhugh (abt.1846-unknown)
  • Robert Fitzhugh (abt.1849-bfr.1860)
  • Samuel M. Fitzhugh (1851-1924)
  • Elizabeth McConnell Fitzhugh (1854-1920), married (1881) Sandford M. Hutchison, son of Sandford and Frances (Fitzhugh) Hutchison
  • William Fitzhugh (abt.1857-unknown)
  • Sally M. Fitzhugh (abt.1859-unknown)
  • Sarah E. Fitzhugh (abt.1860-unknown), married (1887) Cook F. Slade, son of William and Juliana (Fitzhugh) Slade1

Return From Kentucky and a Federal Job

By 1853 William had returned with his family to his birthplace, Washington, DC. The Washington and Georgetown Directory listed his residence as the Union Hotel at Bridge and Washington streets in Georgetown (today M and 30th streets, NW). His daughter Elizabeth was born in the city in 1854.2

In April 1854 he was listed as one of eight initial directors of the newly chartered Georgetown Gas Light Company. This may have been a temporary position to help start the company, which needed to raise money by selling stock. He does not appear in later lists of elected directors chosen from the ranks of stockholders, as do several other initial directors. 3

Six months later, on October 27, 1854, the following was announced in the Alexandria Gazette:

Yesterday, Mr. William M. Fitzhugh, of Georgetown, D.C., was appointed to a second class ($1,400) clerkship in the General Land Office, in place of R. L. Roam, resigned.4

A federal job 30 years before the Civil Service Reform Act would have been a patronage appointment. It likely was given on the recommendation of a person with connections in the Democratic administration of President Franklin Pierce. Perhaps a member of the Marbury family or his mother’s second husband, Judge Morsell.

The Fitzhugh’s next born children William (abt.1857) and Sally (abt. 1859) were born in Fairfax County, and the 1860 census located the family’s residence in the county. Because census takers move from door to door in their work, it is possible to deduce where William’s family may have been then living from the names of property owners listed before (Jane Cockerille) and after (John Cornwell, Eibeck Birch) Fitzhugh’s in the census list.

Their properties were located on Leesburg Pike and Seminary Road at Bailey’s Crossroads, just south of their intersection with Columbia Pike on the border with Arlington County. The census identified Cornwell and Birch as wheelrights and their neighbor George Mortimer as a blacksmith – appropriate trades for a busy crossroads. Maps of property locations:5

Ravensworth Landowner and Part-time Farmer

William M. Fitzhugh did not own property in Bailey’s Crossroads where the census seems to have located his family in 1860, and county circuit court Historical Records Finding Aids show no lease in his name with any of the area property owners. However, Fitzhugh did own land – 399 acres of Ravensworth (Parcel 1.1.4.5) that he inherited from his grandparents, Richard and Susannah Fitzhugh in 1857.

William M. Fitzhugh was a slave owner. According to Slave Census information in Edith Sprouse’s Fairfax County in 1860: A Collective Biography, he owned four slaves in 1860: three males ages 45, 40 and 15 and a seven year old female.6 The 1860 census lists only the 45-year-old at the Bailey’s Crossroads residence.

Sprouse also reports Fitzhugh’s property holdings from the 1860 Agricultural Census:

  • Real estate: 400 acres, 100 acres improved and 300 acres unimproved, valued at $5,000.
  • Livestock valued at $700, including five horses, five milk cows, two oxen, four cattle and 20 hogs.
  • Bushels of wheat (64), indian corn (500), oats (160), Ir. potatoes (25), buckwheat (75), plus 250 pounds of butter and 10 tons of hay.

Farming was not William’s principal work, as the 1860 census listed his occupation as “Clerk in Pub. Dept.” Living in Bailey’s Crossroads would have been an easier commute to his Public Lands Office job in the Treasury Building in Washington, DC. His Ravensworth land was more than twice as far from the city and served by poorer roads.

Civil War and Reconstruction

Only those who signed an oath of loyalty to the United States could hold public office.7

During the Civil War and until 1870, Fairfax County was under the administration of the Restored Virginia Government headed by Governor Francis Pierpont.

Local elections were held in May 1862. However, until 1863, local institutions barely functioned if they functioned at all, as Union and Confederate forces contested to control the area. With the Fairfax Courthouse area unsafe, the court moved to the village of West End near Alexandria in December 1862 and remained there until after the war ended.

Fitzhugh would have had to sign a loyalty oath to retain his federal position during the war. Later he served in other public positions after the war during reconstruction. The Fairfax County Court Minute Book for the July Court 1865, (volume 1863, page 191) recorded:

  • “William M. Fitzhugh and R. Makely who were duly elected and Commissioned Justice of the Peace for this County this day came into Court and took the several oaths prescribed by law.”
  • “William M. Fitzhugh was this day appointed Clerk Pro Tempore of this Court in the place of H. T. Brooks deceased, whereupon he took the oaths prescribed by law.”
  • And later on page 208 for a later court session: “Ordered that the Sheriff of this County pay to William M. Fitzhugh $32 for expenses in removing the records from West End to this CH…”

William’s temporary appointment led to a permanent appointment as Clerk of the Court from 1866 to 1867.8

On January 2, 1867, he was nominated by President Andrew Johnson “…to be assessor of internal revenue of the 7th district of Virginia, he having been appointed during the recess of the Senate, in place of Josiah Millard…” The Senate confirmed Firzhugh but, on the motion of Senator George Edmunds (Vermont), a few days later asked the president to return the nomination, which he did. On the second consideration, the Senate voted to reject the nomination. The Senate record doesn’t reveal why Fitzhugh was opposed.9 Apparently, Fitzhugh remained on the job in the same or a related position, as he is listed as “assessor of internal revenue, Fairfax Court-house, Virginia” in May 1868.10

Later Years

In May 1873, William was elected to the six-member Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which had been created in 1870 under the new Virginia constitution. Elected as a Conservative Party candidate, he served a single, one-year term as Lee Township’s representative.11

In March 1878, six weeks before William died, a letter signed “Dollie Fitzhugh” indicated the family was in difficult financial straits and preparing their house to take in boarders. The letter is credited to the oldest daughter Mary. It asked the administrator of David Fitzhugh’s estate if money remaining from a legacy left to William by his great uncle could be paid. Thomas R. Love replied that William’s creditors had obtained judgement against him and would receive all the remaining money.12

William M. Fitzhugh died on May 9, 1878. He, Elizabeth and several immediate and extended family members are buried in the Fairfax City Cemetery. William’s middle name is spelled “Mauberry” on his and Elizabeth’s marker, which appears to have been placed decades after their deaths.


 

  1. 1850 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Louisville District 3, Jefferson, Kentucky, Page 251B, Wm M 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; 1860 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Fairfax, Virginia, Page 904, Wm M 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; and Edith Moore Sprouse, Fairfax County in 1860: A Collective Biography (The Author, 1996), 665-666a.
  2. Alfred Hunter, The Washington and Georgetown Directory, Strangers’ Guide-Book for Washington, and Congressional and Clerks’ Register, 1853, 86, http://name.umdl.umich.edu/AFJ8697.0001.001, University of Michigan Library, Making of America Books http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moa/.
  3. George MInot, ed., Public Laws of the United States of America Passed at the 1st Session of the 33rd Congress; 1853-1854 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), 62. (Google Book https://books.google.com/books?id=zi4xAQAAMAAJ)
  4. “Appointments,” Alexandria Gazette, Alexandria, Virginia, October 27, 1854, 3.; NewsBank/Readex, Database: The Historical Evening Star and Alexandria Gazette, SQN: 12FF44ED90ED4C38, Newsbank http://infoweb.newsbank.com.library.access.arlingtonva.us/ (accessed August 25, 2015).
  5. Maps of property locations are linked images within Land Ownership in Fairfax County in 1860, an online resource of the Fairfax County History Commission.
  6. Edith Moore Sprouse, Fairfax County in 1860: A Collective Biography (The Author, 1996), 665-666a.
  7. Netherton et al., Fairfax County, Virginia, 347-353.
  8. Ross De Witt Netherton and Ruby Waldeck, The Fairfax County Courthouse (Fairfax County Office of Comprehensive Planning, 1977; Project Gutenberg eBook, Release Date: May 10, 2009 (EBook #28750)), 107.
  9. United States. Congress. Senate, Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States, 1887, 85, 139, 156, 177, 241 (Google Books).
  10. United States. Congress. Joint Select Committee on Retrenchment and Thomas Allen Jenckes, The Civil Service: Report Of Mr. Jenckes, Of Rhode Island, From The Joint Select Committee On Retrenchment, Made To The House Of Representatives Of The United States, May 14, 1868 (Gov’t. Print. Off., 1868), 96 Google Books).
  11. Fairfax News, 5/30/1873 (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/newsindex/DisplayText.aspx?newsDate=5/30/1873), Fairfax County Public Library Historical Newspaper Index (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/dbsremote/company/hni.htm); and Nan Netherton et al., Fairfax County, Virginia: A History (Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, 1978), 727.
  12. Watt Family Papers, call number Mss1 W3403 a 55-60, rec. number 192542, Virginia Historical Society