Articles of interest from the Fairfax County Park Authority
Historic Tree Removed at Frying Pan
This was the issue:
A closer look at it:
See that tombstone on the left? Rotting oak tree, leaning toward the cemetery. That’s the issue. Trees in a graveyard cause problems. They drop seeds. Other trees grow. The roots can disturb the soil, topple gravestones. Or if the tree falls, the roots can disturb gravesites, and that brings on a plethora of legal issues.
The tree also was pretty close to a historic building. That’s the Meetinghouse at Frying Pan Farm Park, and the location tied in to another problem: It was a historic tree that was alive during the Civil War. Why is that a big deal? Because most trees in areas where troops camped were cut down to provide firewood, fence lines, roads, coffins, etc. Frying Pan Farm Park Manager and Historian Yvonne Johnson said J.E.B. Stuart’s 1,600 troops camped at the Frying Pan Meeting House for several days after Second Manassas, and “if there was a tree big enough to provide decent shade for the soldiers, it tended to be saved.” But most trees near a camp were felled.
Step by step:
Limb by Limb:
Piece by piece:
Chunk by chunk:
The reason for this: the tree was rotting. Johnson said the base of the tree was so hollow that the age of the tree could not be determined. There weren’t enough rings to count.
The result: Reusable wood.
Nearing the end:
Done carefully, the tombstone is undisturbed:
“In the old days, the first parks were cemeteries,” Johnson said. “That’s where you went on Sunday afternoon. You went to visit Uncle Joe at the cemetery because it was a parklike setting and you’d have a picnic. It was a very positive family activity to go visit the ancestors.” Johnson says she’s even seen raised gravestones that served as picnic tables.
When all is done:
The tree was gone. The Meeting House was safe. The cemetery’s stones were undisturbed. It took two and a-half days of careful work by Park Authority maintenance crews to remove the tree and protect the site.
The grave marker is for Hudson Bennett:
How Vale Got Its Name
In 1842, Hudson Bennett bought 400 acres between what is now West Ox and Fox Mill Roads. He called his land, “Poplar Vale.” Mr. Bennett became a prominent citizen and helped bring better roads to the community. One of these roads, which went through his farm, is Bennett Road.
By 1883, 20 families lived in the area, and the community was eligible for a post office. The citizens selected the name, “Bennett,” to honor Hudson Bennett. This name was not allowed because Virginia already had a Bennett’s Mill listed among its post offices. Still wishing to honor Mr. Bennett, the community decided to take its name from his homestead, Poplar Vale; hence the choice of “Vale.” The post office was built at the corner of Fox Mill and Stuart Mill Roads, and continued in service for 24 years, until 1907.
Reference: “A Place to Tie To: A History of the Vale Community Center”
By Elsa Norris, 1976
(Filed in the City of Fairfax Regional Library, MSS 05-18 Series B Box 16 File 9)
The grave marker is for Hudson Bennett. His home, Appledore/Poplar Vale, is on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites. (Sully District, map 36-3)