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History of Fairfax, VA

April 19, 2021

The history of Fairfax, Virginia begins with the villages of the Algonquian-speaking Doeg Native American tribe, located on the southern banks of the Potomac River. The Doeg lived on the land of what would become Fairfax County and eventually the city of Fairfax.

Around 1670, the Doeg were forced out of this area into Maryland by Virginian colonists. In the early 1700s, these colonists settled on a land grant of some five million acres, owned by the Fairfax family, a prominent group of British aristocrats.

Fairfax County, and the city of Fairfax, are named after Thomas Fairfax, the 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1693-1781). Thomas Fairfax himself was a land administrator, and Fairfax County was named after him in 1742.

In 1748, Fairfax hired a young George Washington as a land surveyor. Fairfax would serve as a mentor to Washington in his formative years, guiding Washington to become a member of the House of Burgesses in 1758.

Washington would build and become sole proprietor of Mount Vernon, located in Fairfax County, in 1761.

During the American Revolution, planter George Mason drafted the Fairfax Resolves - Virginia's rejecting of Parliament's claim over the American colonies - which was adopted as a state resolution in 1774.

Mason, a lifelong Fairfax County resident, was instrumental in writing the Virginia Declaration of Rights, on which the United States Bill of Rights would later be based.

After the Revolution, Fairfax County established the "Town of Providence" in 1805. The municipality, which would later become the City of Fairfax, was based around the Fairfax County Courthouse, itself established in 1800.

In August 1814, the British invaded and burned Washington, D.C. President James Madison and his wife fled to safety into Fairfax County - they would later find refuge in Maryland and return to Washington days later.

Before the U.S. Civil War, the Town of Providence was renamed the "Town of Fairfax" in 1859.

The first land battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Fairfax Court House, took place on June 1st, 1861. Another battle was fought there on June 27, 1863 - which despite a Confederate victory, ultimately delayed Confederate troops heading to Gettysburg.

The Fairfax municipality was incorporated into a town in 1874. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw a marked rise in Fairfax's housing and business sectors.

in 1959 Fairfax designated land south of the municipality for George Mason College - what would become George Mason University in 1972.

The town of Fairfax would be incorporated into a city in 1961. After a lengthy struggle for Civil Rights, Fairfax completely desegregated its county public schools on September 8th, 1965.

The city of Fairfax opened the Museum of Fairfax on July 4th, 1992. In the postwar period, the city made built businesses and made achievements in several academic fields, including law and economics.

On January 15th, 2005, the City of Fairfax celebrated its 200th anniversary. With decades of history behind the city, Fairfax stands emblematic of both Virginian and United States history.

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