Role in Ravensworth – owner parcels,, and

William Gooding, Jr. was born in Fairfax County into a family with six brothers and one sister.1 He appeared in a 1797 Fairfax County Court report of tithables (white males, 16 or older) responsible for road maintenance. He was one of 12 named for maintaining a section of the Alexandria-Centreville Turnpike road (today’s Braddock Road) west of Price’s Ordinary (intersection with Backlick Road). This would indicate that he was living on Ravensworth. His position in the list of tithables suggests between Rolling Road and Backlick Road and probably close to Price’s Ordinary.2

William Gooding, Jr. married Jane Davis (1773-1857) with whom he had six children.3

  • Peter Gooding (1798-1859)
  • Nancy Gooding (1801-1894)
  • William H. Gooding (1804-1872)
  • Maria Gooding (1805-1870/80) – married Samuel Howard (?-1860)
  • Susannah Gooding (1806-1891) – married David Kennedy (1803-1873)
  • Jane E. Gooding (1813-?) – married James Coyle (?-1863) about 1860. Jane reportedly was an invalid who became paralyzed at age 11.

Gooding’s Tavern

From 1807 and until his death, Gooding held a license from the Fairfax County Court to operate an ordinary – a place of hospitality and lodging – in his home. The annual license required payment of a tax ($18.00 in 1813) and a bond posted by a responsible property owner (neighbor Price Sinner in 1813).

In 1814, Gooding purchased the 60 acres of land north of the turnpike that included his home and tavern. In 1821, he bought another 100 acres south of the road, where, in 1835, he expanded his business with a blacksmith shop and stables. In all, he acquired 525 Ravensworth acres.

In the 1850s the Manassas Gap Railroad (MGRR) took land from William Gooding, Jr. and his son Peter for right of way to build the railroad through their property on its path west from Annandale to Fairfax Courthouse (City of Fairfax).

The 1820 federal census counted nine free and 16 enslaved persons in William, Jr.’s household. Seven were identified as engaged in agriculture, none in manufacture or commerce. Either the tavern business was not counted as commerce or was minimal compared to farming pursuits. In his nineties in 1860, he was identified as a hotel keeper and the owner of a thriving farming business – as shown in this summary of Gooding family property holdings in 1860

Insights From Court Records

  • The Fairfax County Court Minute Book (FCCMB) recorded each annual granting of a license to operate an ordinary. The citation for May 21, 1822 declared him “of good character, not addicted to drunkenness or gaming” – virtues in one operating a tavern. The citation for March 19, 1845 cited him as “a man of honesty, probity and good demeanor.”
  • A much earlier entry for February 19, 1816 notes that a minor child relative, Robert Gooding, chose him as guardian.
  • Minute Book entries also cited court cases in which William Gooding, Jr. was a defendant in suits brought against him by others: the state (1809), Henry Richards (1809), Jonathan Scholfield (1817) to recover goods, the county (1851) for “obtaining goods under false pretenses.”
  • Other entries record assignments to make road surveys and bonds he posted to underwrite others assigned public duties.

A Self-made and Respected Man

When William Gooding, Jr. died at 93 in 1861, the Alexandria Gazette obituary summed up his life thus:

“He was, in many respects, a remarkable man. Without education, by his honest industry he amassed a comfortable independence, without ever stooping to a mean action.” The article recalled him as “familiarly known as ‘Old Uncle Billy.'” And “Travelers on the turnpike road…will long recollect the kindly cheer and genial humor of the old man, and his ever ready ‘Cornwallis’ [corn whiskey], which…was inexhaustible in its flow.”4


  1. Kathe Gunther, Family Group Sheet for William Gooding, unpublished genealogical document.
  2. Beth Mitchell, Fairfax County Road Orders, 1749-1800 (Virginia Transportation Research Council, 2003), 174. Tithables appear to be listed geographically by residence location from west to east. Richard Lane, who had a lease close to Rolling Road, is listed first; Gooding is last following Nicholas Fitzhugh whose property bordered Backlick Road.
  3. Gooding family genealogy provided by (1) Kathe Gunther, Family Group Sheet for William Gooding, unpublished genealogical document, and (2) Maddy McCoy, historian and historical preservationist, developer Slavery Inventory Database for Fairfax County, Virginia.
  4. Obituary, Alexandria Gazette, 1/23/1861, page 3.