Reston, VA

A little over four years ago, residents of the Hunt Club Cluster near Lake Fairfax rallied to have a possible slave cemetery recognized to stave off potential development.

But what’s happened in the years since then?

In short: not much.

“The short answer is that we don’t have any additional information, including whether this was a slave cemetery,” Brian Worthy, a public information officer for Fairfax County government said in an email. “As far as I know, there are no preservation protections in place, and there no redevelopment proposals for this location.”

County records say the story of the potential cemetery is tied with that of Mildred Johnson, the matriarch of a prominent local family of Union loyalists. The Johnson family owned hundreds of acres of farmland in Fairfax, with one son fighting for the Union and Mildred Johnson herself sewing sacks for Union soldiers.

The Johnsons owned slaves, including one female slave held by the family for 20 years, and a plot of land 200 yards north of the log clubhouse is reported to have been the slave burial ground.

But while there’s no official recognition of the site as a slave cemetery, Worthy said the area is recognized in county documents as some kind of unmarked cemetery and thus would require study prior to redevelopment.

“The adopted Reston Master Plan acknowledges this unmarked cemetery,” Worthy said. “It states that any required surveys and studies should conducted if this site is planned for redevelopment, and the Master Plan recommends the cemetery be preserved. The county wouldn’t conduct any studies or survey unless there’s a development proposal on the table.”

File photo

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A former slave cemetery is believed to be located on the grounds of the Fairfax Hunt Club in Reston

Many residents of Hunt Club Cluster have written to the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning to remember the possible slave cemetery in Reston when making the final changes to Reston’s Master Plan.

Here is what may be hiding in the woods, according to Hunt Club resident Heather Greenfield, a PR executive and former reporter who has been researching the site, calls Lake Fairfax Unnamed Cemetery #FX242.

“The more we learn about this historic cemetery, the more we see what a fascinating piece of history this is for Fairfax County and pre-history for Reston, and the principles it was founded on,” Greenfield wrote to the DPZ. “This cemetery involves a prominent Fairfax family, the issue of slavery, and how the family matriarch, Mildred Johnson, created a cemetery for those she lived with through treacherous Civil War politics.”

Greenfield and other Hunt Club residents have requested that the wording regarding the Hunt Club property be written with more specifics as to what will happen when/if graves are discovered. The cluster says that when the graves are discovered, the cemetery should be preserved with a 500-foot buffer around it.

The cemetery is believed to be about 200 yards north of the log clubhouse.

The deadline to submit comments to the county was last week, and the DPZ heard from nearly a dozen residents of the housing subdivision near Lake Fairfax Park. Phase 2 of the Master Plan looks at new language for neighborhoods and village centers as Reston goes through its next 50 years. Read More

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