Del. Ken Plum: Celebrating Fairfax County at 275 Years

by Del. Ken Plum September 28, 2017 at 10:15 am 24 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Fairfax County is celebrating the 275th anniversary of its formation, when in 1742 it was split off from Prince William County to be a separate county encompassing what we now know as the current county plus Loudoun and Arlington counties and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax. It was named for Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax, who had a proprietary of 5,282,000 acres. For a time a part of the county that is now Arlington County and the City of Alexandria was a part of the 10 square miles that made up the District of Columbia, until those jurisdictions were returned to Virginia.

Fairfax County is compared today with jurisdictions throughout the country as it leads in economic growth and development in many ways. That national comparison was not always appropriate. In its early years, it was a struggling community, raising tobacco with the labor of enslaved black persons. By 1749, the county’s population was 28 percent enslaved persons; by 1782, that number had reached 41 percent.

The county’s early fame came from its two most important residents: George Mason, who wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Constitution and whose work led to the Bill of Rights in our national Constitution; and George Washington, who as our first President brought the country together and whose service in office set important precedents that continue today.

Surprisingly, Fairfax County voted with the South to secede from the Union leading up to the Civil War. While the County was not the scene of major military battles, there were many skirmishes and an almost constant flow of troops passing through it. After the war and Reconstruction, investments started to flow to the county that helped its recovery. Although still an agricultural community at that time, the following decades brought significant changes that led to the community as we know it today.

Not surprisingly, one of the big issues was transportation. In the early years most settlements were along the rivers that provided a means for transporting tobacco and crops. As inland developments occurred, there was no governmental mechanism for building roads. Those that were in place were narrow without a hard surface. New turnpikes supported by tolls included the Little River Turnpike, Columbia Turnpike, Leesburg Turnpike and Falls Bridge Turnpike. The start of railroads before the Civil War accelerated with the electric trolley lines that followed. It is estimated that as many as a million passengers or more were carried per year by the Washington, Alexandria and Mt. Vernon electric railways that ran 30 trips per day.

The growth of the federal government after the Great Depression and the World Wars brought huge growth to Fairfax County. Its population of 40,000 grew to 98,000 in 1950, and by 1970 was 454,000. It is now approaching 1.2 million people. Recognized as among the best places in the country to live and to start a business, we have clearly left behind our humble beginnings.

It is worthwhile to remember our history and the 275th anniversary provides many different opportunities. (www.fxva.com/275/)

  • Umust B Kidding

    The word “trite” doesn’t do this drool justice.

    Even uber optimist Stephen Fuller of GMU (and paid County hack) is pessimistic about our future. See this: https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/2014/08/stephen-fuller-paints-greater-washingtons-economy.html?page=all

    • Mike M

      Your criticism of Fuller is dead on. He made his name and money doing “studies” in support of unsustainable growth. I have followed him for years.

      But your citation is three years old.

  • Anonymous Poster

    I can’t tell if he’s proud of Fairfax County, or hates it. But I applaud him for actually speaking about his district for the first time this year.

    • Mike M

      Delegatin’ is hard!

      • Simple Q

        How you know?

    • Chuck Morningwood

      Why is it that, when you’re not proud of some part of your heritage, you “hate” it? There’s part of Va, of which I’m not proud. Eric Cantor is one of those, including most of RoVa. But just because I’m not proud of these, doesn’t mean that I hate them.

      • RestonAssurance

        Yep. It’s black or white for them in the same way that they see liberals, yet shout that they themselves are not what the Republican party has become.

  • SuperCoop1280

    I’d be curious to know what Del. Plum’s thoughts are on the Board of Supervisors’ proposed population density increase in Reston. I totally get it is not an Assembly issue but as a resident of Fairfax County, I would like to think Del. Plum cares about his own community.

    I know it is not a fluff question, but where do you stand? Are you with the people or your out of touch buddy who has been in office since 1999, Supervisor Hudgins?

    • Anonymous Poster

      Don’t expect him to have an answer for that. He’s still too hung up on the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and guns!

    • Mike M

      It’s a very good question since he speaks about “transportation issues” in the context of County history. Yet he ignore pressing transportation issues right here in his constituency. Always irrelevant Ken Plum.

    • TheKingJAK

      He’s a major reason behind why Reston isn’t a town.

  • LOL

    Surprisingly, Fairfax County voted with the South to secede from the Union leading up to the Civil War”

    Uh, whut now? You just said it relied on slaves to harvest tobacco. Why would secession be a surprise?

    • Anonymous Poster

      Because Ken has not lived in reality for quite some time.

  • ?

    George Mason and George Washington owned slaves. When are we going to tear down their statues?

    • IllegallyLivingInReston

      Whenever we find out they committed treason against the US, I suppose.

      • Mike M

        But slaves are OK until the next election won by a Republican?
        Liberals are generally traitors.

        • IllegallyLivingInReston

          Classic Mike M coming in hot with the “actually only conservatives are American” take.

          But if you want to remove statues of Washington and George Mason okay.

  • TheRealMikeSapupello

    Why is it surprising that Fairfax County seceded?

    Also, wasn’t Robert E. Lee a famous resident of Fairfax County? I mean I get that history offends Del. Plum and he wants to rewrite it in his safe space, but I mean seriously.

  • A proud republican

    I actually read Ken s article and found it refreshingly apolitical. Thanks,

  • 40yearsinreston

    Congestion is progress
    Just ask.Hudgins

  • Onereally

    “While the County was not the scene of major military battles”

    Tell that to the 2100 killed in action at the Battle of Chantilly or Ox Hill. The Union also lost Generals Kearny and Stevens.

    But due to Fairfax’s over development we have pretty much lost 95% of the battlefield. Shh we will leave that out.

  • Plum1

    “looks like a machine gun to me”


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