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Monday, October 22, 2012

Descendants of historic families lend authenticity to marker dedication

Mason Supervisor Penny Gross points to the new interpretive sign in Mason District Park. Frank Vajda of the Park Board is on the far left, and Mary Munson Root is on the far right.

Descendants of people who lived around here during the Civil War and before came to the dedication of a historic marker Oct. 20 in Mason District Park in Annandale.

The interpretive sign describes several events of historical significance that happened in the area. Mason’s Hill, which was located near where the Mason District Government Center is now, was important because of its strategic elevation. JEB Stuart had an outpost at Mason’s Hill, and there was an observation tower allowing his men to keep an eye on Washington, D.C.

Stuart also occupied Munson’s Hill in Bailey’s Crossroads for three months in 1861. It was the first place the Confederates installed “Quaker cannons,” which were fake cannons made out of logs to fool the Union Army into thinking they had some artillery strength.

Jimmy Fleming as Mosby with Tim Frawley and his daughter, Kai.
“Fairfax County was forever changed by the Civil War,” said Frank Vajda, the Mason representative on the Fairfax County Park Authority Board. “Throughout Virginia and the South, small places such as this played large and significant roles in the outcome of this heroic conflict.”

The new interpretive sign in Mason District Park and others throughout the county are part of a larger project to educate the public about the historical significance of this area during Fairfax County’s observance of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The signs will be listed on maps and guidebooks produced by Civil War Trails.

Julie Munson
Having a site listed on the Civil War Trail means it will bring history tourists to the area who are likely to eat in Annandale restaurants and otherwise support the local economy, said Patrick Lennon, chair of the Fairfax County Civil War 150th Anniversary Planning Committee.

Mason’s Hill was owned by Murray Mason (1709-77), the grandson of Founding Father George Mason and son of John Mason, a U.S. senator, said Naomi Zeavin, who represents the Mason District on the Fairfax County History Commission.

A couple of direct descendants of Timothy Bishop Munson, who owned a farm at Munson’s Hill, spoke at the dedication ceremony. Julie Munson described how her ancestor had to flee temporarily for opposing slavery and supporting Lincoln’s campaign for the presidency. His daughter, Lucy, met with Lincoln in the White House to tell the president about the destruction of property by the Confederates. Lincoln wrote a letter recommending her for a job with the federal government. Even with that recommendation, though, she didn’t get the position.

Mary Munson Root, also a descendant of Timothy Bishop Munson, described how John Mosby, the “Gray Ghost,” raided Munson’s Hill on Sept. 25, 1863. Mosby’s Raiders searched the house looking for Munson, and mistakenly captured his son, Daniel, instead. There was a skirmish in Falls Church, and Daniel was able to escape and go home.

Jimmy Fleming, a noted Mosby portrayer, was there, too, with his horse, Willie. Mosby didn’t have a special horse; he “borrowed” horses from farms as he needed them, Fleming said.

The Munson house was torn down in 1962 to make way for the Munson Hill Towers apartment complex on Leesburg Pike.

Bonnie Fairbank and Naomi Zeavin
Samuel Bailey, the fifth-generation great grandson of Hachaliah Bailey (1775-1845), the original “Bailey” of Bailey’s Crossroads, also spoke at the ceremony. Hachaliah moved from New York to Virginia because he needed a place where the circus he had founded could spend the winter.

In 1837, he purchased a 320-acre farm for $6,000. The house, near the intersection of what is now Columbia Pike and Leesburg Pike, had 100 rooms, Bailey said. It burned down in 1952 after being vacant for a number of years.

Bailey, a resident of Frederick, Md., brought to the ceremony a large engraving showing Lincoln’s Grand Review of the Troops, which took place in Bailey’s Crossroads in 1861. Bailey said his ancestor supported the North during the Civil War, and Union soldiers stayed at the farm, although his son was drafted into the Confederate Army.

Bonnie Fairbank, wearing a hoop skirt and seven layers of clothing, usually portrays Martha Washington in Colonial Williamsburg, but appeared at the Mason Hill ceremony as Annie Clark of the historic Clark House on Columbia Pike. In the midst of the Civil War “Annie took care of everyone,” providing food and care for the wounded soldiers on both sides, said Fairbank, although she probably favored the Rebels.

Fairbank, a native of Annandale and a graduate of Annandale High School, called historic markers “magic markers” that keep history alive for schoolchildren “when so much of our heritage is being lost every day.”


  1. Did the County videotape this?

  2. naomi sokol zeavin10/22/12, 2:48 PM

    no, but Naomi sokol zeavin did and in a month she will Edit it and it will be on channel 10.

    1. Naomi Zeavin is wonderful. What fantastic pictures.

  3. Great, will look for it!