Pre Civil War

One needs to step back in time to appreciate the depth of our local history. The first recorded settlement was a 2,993 acre tract of land recorded by Daniel McCarthy in 1709. A later settler, Englishman Richard Coleman, arrived around 1740. He built an ordinary (a tavern) and a mill near the Sugarland Run Ford crossing. In 2015 Sugarland Run crosses Route 7 just west of Amberwoods. before the Loudoun County line. The stream, Sugarland Run, seems to have been named for the numerous sugar maples along its banks at the time. The area was also called Redlands for the color of the soil and red sedimentary sandstone found here. Washington Drane moved to the area around 1810 and built a combination general store, hotel, and tavern near the intersection of Georgetown and Leesburg Pikes. And thereafter the settlement became known as Dranesville. In 1840 Dranesville, was recognized by Virginia as a village.

While Dranesville is today just a vague area, it was once a thriving, independent town. George Washington really did sleep in Dranesville; a Civil War battle was fought here; and in the mid-1800’s, Dranesville was a bustling town with doctors, blacksmiths, and as least five taverns.

Better roads were needed to move troops during the War of 1812 and to transport produce and animals from west of Leesburg and the Shenandoah Valley. Turnpike companies were formed. One turnpike, a toll road, went from Alexandria to Leesburg; a second started near Chain Bridge at Georgetown (Old Georgetown Road) and joined the Leesburg Turnpike at what is now the junction of Rt.193 and Rt. 7. Merchants in the “Port Cities” of Georgetown and Alexandria supported these roads to transport goods west to rural consumers and encouraged farm produce to move east to sales markets including shipments to Europe. What we now know as Route 7 carried numerous names over the years: Sugarland Path, Eastern Ridge Road, New Church Road, Vestal’s Gap Road, Old Leesburg Road, Alexandria-Leesburg Turnpike, and now today, Leesburg Pike.

Both the genesis and demise of the village of Dranesville can be traced to the development of roads. Its (history parallels) the growth and development of tobacco rollings roads (to move tobacco to market) and later the turnpike systems. The arrival of the railroad to nearby Herndon in 1858 was greatly responsible for the gradual decline of the importance of Dranesville and the ascendancy of Herndon.

The Great Falls Historical Society

The advent of the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad, contributed to the decline along with the construction of the Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire railroad through Herndon (now the Washington and Old Dominion Bike Path). Once Dranesville had been an important intersection with some 40 to 50 wagons a day passing through the town. When the railroads and the canal systems offered cheaper transportation, traffic declined.

Next: Civil War Era