A blog on the go: my favorite places to visit in and near Loudoun County.
The History and Mystery of Round Hill
Even though I live close to the town of Round Hill in Loudoun County, I didn’t know too much about it until I acquired a listing there recently. Like so many beautiful little towns in Virginia, it wears its long and proud history with quiet dignity. When I began to dig into some of Round Hill’s history, I felt almost like an archeologist, uncovering information that brought both knowledge and further mystery as to what had come before.
My first question was where did the name Round Hill originate. That question was easily answered: Round Hill is the name of a 910-foot-high hill about two miles southwest of town. Upon reading about the hill, I found out that Native Americans had camped there for centuries and possibly thousands of years. Apparently the area was part of a wide trail used by the Algonquin, Iroquois, and other tribes until the Treaty of Albany in 1772 kept them west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The exact “who, where, and when” each traversed the area is one of the mysteries I was not able to solve. But names for natural and manmade sites in the area testify to their presence, such as the Catoctin Mountains and the Ketoctin Baptist Church in Round Hill, built in 1854, and listed on the National Register of Historic places.
Almost one hundred years after the last Native American tribes left, Civil War soldiers from both north and south, also camped on Round Hill and used it as a lookout and signal spot. The area is rich in Civil War history, but again, I ran into mysteries I was not able to solve. Confederate Ranger, John S. Mosby (The Gray Ghost) ranged throughout the area, waging guerilla warfare on the Union troops who constantly marched through the county. Pinning the Gray Ghost down to particular spots is not easy; however, I did run into a mention that he showed up at the Poor House Farm at Round Hill, where Union forces later burned the barn (burning there and many other fields and structures in an attempt to starve Mosby’s Rangers and other confederate troops out, a tactic of total war developed by General Sherman and carried out in Sherman’s March to the Sea.)
That bit of information led me to looking into the history of the Poor Farm, which housed indigents who worked the farm from the 1870’s to the 1930’s. In 1987 the farm was converted into a bed and breakfast on thirteen acres of the original 260. Once more I have not been able to uncover all of the history of the Poor Farm, but am tantalized by what remains unknown.
Less mysterious is the origin of Round Hill as a town. Although it became a settlement in the 1700’s, it did not become an actual town until the building of the Leesburg and Snickersville Gap Turnpike (now Route 7) in 1857-1858. That is when Guilford C. Gregg opened a store at the northwest corner of the Turnpike and the road to Woodgrove. In 1858 the U. S. Postal department opened the Round Hill Post Office, and Gregg was appointed postmaster. Round Hill expanded to three stores, and stage coaches began to make runs to the growing number of boarding houses, where Washingtonians enjoyed staying during the summer. Round Hill’s first church was Mount Zion, attended by the African-Americans who lived in the Hook community. The Methodist church was built in 1889 and Mt. Calvary Episcopal in 1892.
Round Hill (Loudoun) was incorporated in 1900, and George T. Ford was elected mayor. Hayward Thompson built a store in 1901 that still stands today. In 1909 the town sergeant, Walter Howell, replaced the boardwalk with cement walkways, inscribing the ends of each slab with his name and the year. These inscriptions are still visible today. I wonder how many years those artifacts of history will be accessible before they too are swallowed up by time and become part of the mysteries of lovely Round Hill.