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Title: Frying Pan Farm
Author: Pryor, Elizabeth Brown
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Frying Pan Farm" ***

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  By Elizabeth Brown Pryor

  Office of Comprehensive Planning
  Fairfax County, Virginia

  September, 1979


  John F. Herrity, Chairman
  Martha V. Pennino, Vice Chairman
  Joseph Alexander
  Warren I. Cikins
  Alan H. Magazine
  Audrey Moore
  James M. Scott
  John P. Shacochis
  Marie B. Travesky


  Donie Rieger, Chairman
  John P. Liberty, Vice Chairman
  Denzil O. Evans
  Bernard N. Boston
  C. J. S. Durham
  Mary M. Fahringer
  Ceres Gaskins
  Dana K. Greene
  William A. Klene
  Virginia B. Peters
  Edith M. Sprouse
  Mayo S. Stuntz

Gloria M. Matthews, Layout

Carolynn J. Castellucci, Copy Preparation

Library of Congress Catalog Number 79-90519


  List of Illustrations                                              iv
  Acknowledgments                                                     v
  Introduction                                                        1
  Part I,   Continuity                                                5
  Part II,  Change                                                   36
  Part III, Professionalization and an Increased Standard of Living  59
  Part IV,  The New Deal                                             87
  Part V,   Community                                               115
  Part VI,  Frying Pan Park                                         126


  Holden Harrison, 1935                                         6
  Harrison dairy barn, 1936                                     6
  McNair Guernsey bull, 1918                                    7
  Interior Harrison dairy barn                                  7
  Spring plowing on McNair farm                                12
  Shock of wheat, Ellmore farm, 1925                           15
  Mechanical hay loader, 1935                                  15
  Small orchard apiary, 1925                                   17
  Inventory of 1920 farmer                                     20
  Plan of Smith farm, 1929                                     21
  Rebecca Rice canning fruit                                   25
  Elizabeth Harrison, Herndon                                  25
  Homemade manure sled                                         27
  Broadcast harvester, 1921                                    37
  Wheat being mechanically harvested, 1925                     37
  Tractor-drawn drill, 1922                                    40
  McNair aboard a Row Crop 70 tractor                          40
  Soybeans on a demonstration farm, 1925                       43
  A wild cherry tree destroyed by web worms                    45
  "Hard Work Made Easy and Quick"                              54
  The Fairfax County Grange meeting, 1940                      60
  The Floris Home Demonstration Club, 1930                     63
  A 4-H Club, "Achievement Day" displays, 1930                 63
  A community fair, 1922                                       64
  A suggested model farm for Fairfax County, 1924              64
  The 4-H Girls Camp at Woodlawn, 1925                         66
  A Piedmont Dairy Festival parade float, 1930                 66
  Map of improved and unimproved roads, 1930                   70
  Stuck in the mud on one of county's roads                    71
  Aerial of Kidwell farm and Floris vicinity                   75
  1930 map of Floris community                                 88
  G. Ray Harrison, 1925                                        90
  Early threshing machine                                     118
  Laura Parham and Kim Stanton work in vegetable garden       118
  The farmyard at Frying Pan Farm in the early fall           118
  Farmer's house--Frying Pan Farm                             120
  Two young girls meet two young goats                        120
  John Hopkins in the Moffett Blacksmith Shop                 120
  Pat Middleton at 4-H Club Fair                              121
  Cattle judging, Floris School, 1950                         121
  Dressage competition at Frying Pan Park, 1978               123


Cooperation and goodwill were the essential characteristics of the
agricultural communities examined in this study, and it has been my
pleasure to discover that those qualities are still very evident today
among the county's rural folk. Many residents of the Herndon area shared
their personal memories and offered really old-fashioned Virginia
hospitality to those doing research. Without the help of Neal Bailey,
Elizabeth Ellmore, Emma Ellmore, Virginia Greear, Holden Harrison, Mr.
and Mrs. Ray Harrison, Margaret Mary Lee, Edna Middleton, John
Middleton, Rebecca Middleton, Richard Peck, Elizabeth Rice, Louise
Ryder, and Mary Scott, this monograph could not have been completed.

Special mention must be made of retired County Agricultural Extension
Agent Joseph Beard, who shared his detailed knowledge of county
agricultural practices on numerous occasions. He willingly arranged
interviews with county farmers, and often helped to break the ice by
accompanying the interviewer. This was always done with abundant good
humor and his enthusiasm was infectious. I am also particularly grateful
to Dr. John T. Schlebecker of the Extractive Industries Division of the
Smithsonian Institution. His expertise in the field of agricultural
technology and special interest in living historical farms added
significantly to the quality of the monograph. Additional thanks go to
Anthony Pryor of the Rockefeller Foundation who read this paper and
helped to put its conclusions in perspective with trends of agricultural

Nan Netherton originally conceived the project and did much of the
initial groundwork. The majority of interviews with Floris area farmers
were conducted by her. Mrs. Netherton's reputation in the county made it
possible for us both to acquire private papers and photographs which
might otherwise have been overlooked or withheld. What is more, she
sympathetically "initiated" me into the project, offering suggestions
and constructive aid without discouraging my own ideas about the
direction the study should take.

  Elizabeth Brown Pryor
  Fairfax, Virginia
  June 21, 1979


In 1925 Fairfax County was still predominantly rural in character.
Farmers occupied over half of the county's land, living on individual
holdings which averaged 62.5 acres. Nearly 85% of these farmers were
white and of this group only 15% did not own their own farm. They shared
their domain with 3,605 horses, 11,636 head of cattle, 5,408 swine,
171,526 chickens and 178 mules. One-tenth of the farms enjoyed the use
of a tractor and 25% had a radio. The average capital holding on land
and buildings was $8,229, and the Fairfax County farmer netted something
less than $1,000 income annually.[1]

These figures give a skeleton picture of Fairfax County's most prominent
citizen in the period between the two World Wars; when the statistics
are translated in prose, his shadowy form gains weight. The farmer at
this time was a small landowner, possessing a farm only as large as his
own family and a few hired laborers could manage. Although his capital
holdings were not huge, they were well above the state average. He had
the prestige of being a homeowner, and the pride of working his own
soil, perhaps the same soil his grandparents had tilled. The rural
family raised livestock for their own use, but principally for the
market, and favored draft horses over tractors, mules or oxen to power
farm equipment. This farmer's time was spent on a myriad of duties and
details--his function was not yet totally specialized--ranging from
butchering hogs to building chicken coops to thinning corn. He worked
for himself, planning the day's activities, relying on his own judgment
and initiative to cope with the varying responsibilities he shouldered.
His numerical prominence gave him political and social leverage. It was
the rural way of life that shaped the county and his demands which
needed to be met.

At first glance this farmer's life seems tempered by nature and largely
self-contained. The daily routine was established by seasons and
sunlight; fortunes were made or lost at the mercy of the wind and rain.
A farm was not only the farmer's livelihood and workshop but his home.
Thus, unlike the city worker whose occupation was entirely separate from
home concerns, country life had a total integration.[2] Moreover, the
family farmer possessed a sense of continuity with the long tradition of
the small landowner in America. In many respects his life was little
changed from that of the thrifty, energetic and shrewd subsistence
farmer whom Thomas Jefferson had praised in the eighteenth century as
the ideal citizen of a democracy.[3]

In both startling and subtle ways, however, the traditional role of the
family farmer was changing in the 1920s and 1930s. In Ellen Glasgow's
novel _Barren Ground_, which examines the uncertainties of life on a
northern Virginia dairy farm, the heroine, Dorinda Oakley, describes her
emotional and economic reaction to the post World War I period:

     With the return of peace she hoped that the daily life on the farm
     would slip back into orderly grooves; but before the end of the
     first year she discovered that the demoralization of peace was more
     difficult to combat than the madness of war. There was no longer an
     ecstatic patriotism to inspire one to fabulous exploits. The world
     that had been organized for destruction appeared to her to become
     as completely disorganized for folly.... The excessive wages paid
     for unskilled labour were ruinous to the farmer, for the field
     hands who had earned six dollars a day from the Government were not
     satisfied to drive a plough for the small sum that had enabled her
     to reclaim the abandoned meadows of five oaks.... She was using two
     tractor-ploughs on the farm; but the roads were almost impassable
     again because none of the negroes could be persuaded to work on
     them. Even when she employed men to repair the strip of "corduroy"
     road between the bridge and the fork, it was impossible to keep the
     bad places firm enough for any car heavier than a Ford to travel
     over them....[4]

Thus, social and technical advances that had long been desired in rural
areas bolstered the farmer's optimism. Yet curiously enough this same
progress often jarred his expectations and financial security. Improved
roads meant improved markets, and increased contact with outside
communities but, along with the advent of the radio, they resulted in a
homogenizing of city and country ways, and lured many away from the
farm. Concern for rural welfare prompted all levels of government to
design programs to aid the farmer--programs which indeed furthered
agriculture, but at the price of well-meaning interference in a
previously highly individual sphere. Amid regulations and forms the
farmer felt a nagging loss of independence. Perhaps most strikingly,
widespread use of gasoline-powered equipment changed the pace of work,
made him reliant on outside sources for fuel and parts, and involved
investments which often prohibited purchase or encouraged

Hence, the family farm retained its size and shape but it could no
longer revel in complete self-reliance.

The model farm at Frying Pan Park is a representation of this changing
way of life. It recognizes especially the role of the family subsistence
farmer and his contributions to the economy and solidarity of Fairfax
County's rural communities. Although this study focuses on the
institutions and personalities of the Floris-Herndon area, it is meant
to be generic in scope. Dairying, which forms one emphasis of this
monograph, was widespread in the area, and though each district had its
distinctive elements, the underlying social values and farming methods
were consistent throughout the county. In essence, Frying Pan Farm works
much as a snapshot would to recall an important phase in Fairfax
County's history. It gives a brief glance at a world we have lost, but
which lingers significantly in the region's memory.



[1] _United States Census of Agriculture, 1925, Statistics for Virginia_
(Washington. D.C., 1928).

[2] See, E. P. Thompson, _The Making of the English Working Class_
(London, 1966), 76-78.

[3] For an overview of Jefferson's political beliefs, including his
admiration for the small farmer, see John C. Miller, _The Federalist Era_
(New York, 1968), 70-83.

[4] Ellen Glasgow, _Barren Ground_ (Richmond, 1925), 448-49.



Tradition and personal experience colored the 20th century farmer's
reactions. He was accustomed to a world in which his occupation and
social status were assured, and childhood experience probably led him to
assume the farmer's role naturally. The rhythms of farm life were based
on the immutable round of the seasons. Each day's sun and wind pulled
the tiller in its direction as did the unceasing need to tame the growth
and habits of beasts and land. Nature was the farmer's clock, and though
he bid the land to produce what he desired, it was the earth which fixed
his hours and chores. From this close association with nature came a
continuity and special bond between farmers, which defied both time and

Although the early years of the 20th century heralded a new era of
specialization in agriculture, the farmers of Fairfax County persisted
in executing the varied functions of general farming. Dairying might be
the emphasis on many farms, but it was rarely pursued at the expense of
production of grain or food for home consumption. Variety continued to
be an important quality of farm work. Families on large and specialized
farms still did chores similar to those done by subsistence farmers,
though the amount of time allotted for each task might differ. The
relentlessness of certain activities, such as feeding the stock, was the
same whether the farm boasted one cow or fifty. Thus distinctions
between general and specialized farmers were not so clear-cut in this
period. The following pages detail the work done on a small dairy farm,
yet the kinds and methods of activities also pertain to the farmer whose
acreage was devoted solely to general farming.

Perpetuity--a continual need to perform certain tasks and watch over
specific events on a daily basis--was the most fundamental aspect of
farming. The farmer's day began with such an interminable chore: milking
the cows. This twice-daily task was, of course, particularly important
on dairy farms and its relentlessness is often the first aspect to be
mentioned in any farming recollection. "When you have dairy cows,"
Joseph Beard, who grew up in the Floris area, acknowledged, "that's a
365-day proposition regardless of whether you're sick or anything like
that." Another resident, Margaret Mary Lee, explained it more tersely:
"Cows and hens and milk trucks did not take holidays."[5] The first
milking was early in the morning and most farmers rose around four
a.m.[6] The men and any hired hands usually began milking around 4:30
a.m., while the women prepared breakfast. What might initially appear to
the outsider as a pleasing novelty was hard and demanding work. This was
especially true in the morning when both the new and often the
previous night's milk needed to be hauled to Herndon for the early train
into Washington. Ray Harrison, with his brother the owner of one of the
area's biggest herds, could milk a cow in six minutes--"quicker than a
lot people could do it"[7]--but even at this rate, milking his 80-odd
cows was a formidable undertaking. John Middleton, who lived down the
road from the Harrisons, estimated it took about 1-1/2 hours for seven
people to milk his herd of 40 cows; they barely finished in time for the
hired man, who took the milk to Herndon, to grab a sandwich and cup of
coffee to eat en route.[8]

[Illustration: Portrait of a confident and successful farmer. Holden
Harrison, c. 1935. Photo courtesy of Ray Harrison.]

[Illustration: The well-equipped dairy barn owned by the Harrison
Brothers, c. 1936. The Harrisons owned one of the county's largest
herds. Photo courtesy Holden and Ray Harrison.]

[Illustration: A Guernsey bull owned by Wilson D. McNair. Acquired in
1918, it was among the earliest pure-bred stock in the area. Photo
courtesy of Louise McNair Ryder.]

[Illustration: The interior of a large and well-maintained dairy barn on
the farm of Holden and Ray Harrison. The barn could house over 50 cows.
Photo courtesy of Holden and Ray Harrison.]

The milk which traveled to Herndon was strained to remove any extraneous
matter and cooked to about 35° F to retard spoilage and reduce the risk
of spreading bacterial infections. This was a real problem until
mechanized refrigerators became available, and the farmers had to use
considerable ingenuity to keep their milk chilled. Some, like the
Middletons, kept the milk in the well overnight, and Wilson McNair wrote
that his family stored the milk in tall cans set in cold water.
Occasionally more drastic action was needed. "Can you imagine going out
to Herndon and getting great big chunks of ice and putting it in a
washing tub and setting a can of milk in and keeping it cool all night
long?" queried Joseph Beard.[9]

Milk earmarked for home use underwent the further process of separating
the thick cream from the rest of the milk. In the days before mechanical
separators the milk had to stand several hours for the cream to rise,
and it was then skimmed by hand or the milk drawn off from the bottom of
a can with a spigot. Mechanical separators streamlined this task by
allowing the milk to be separated while still warm, using centrifugal
action to bring the heavier cream particles to the bottom of the

While the farmers sat down to breakfast the roads started filling with
wagons and trucks bringing the day's milk from the entire area. Like
Alexandria and Falls Church, the county's other major shipping centers,
Herndon served what was known as a "milkshed" area, that is a community
whose milk could be transported to that locality without spoiling. Here
too the freshness of the milk was of crucial concern. Herndon, with its
electric cars on the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad, served most
of the county's Dranesville district; however, Floris' close proximity
to Herndon gave it an added advantage, for even packed in ice water,
milk could easily spoil during the sultry summer months.[10]

A farmer with a good-sized herd such as John Middleton would haul eight
or more ten-gallon cans of milk to the depot depending on the time of
year. The milk was transported in a light wagon with two horses, which
generally held only one farm's milk, though sometimes two or more
families shared this duty. Rebecca Middleton recalled her brother
collecting cans in an early model truck with a canvas top; he traded
hauling with the neighboring Bradleys.[11] For a short time a community
co-op, based in Floris, was also established to collect milk for
shipment to Washington, D.C.[12] As this milk-laden caravan approached
Herndon, the small station there bustled suddenly with activity. For at
least one local resident, the sight and sounds were memorable. The
"banging of the milk cans at the depot," recalled Lottie Schneider, who
grew up in Herndon, "... resounded far and wide." "I liked to hear [it]
... for busy men were working and it was a friendly sound."[13]

Milking was, of course, just one of many chores involved on the family
farm. After a 6:30 breakfast (still early in the eyes of many city
dwellers) there were stalls to clean, equipment to sterilize, other farm
animals to be cared for. Most Fairfax farms retained a few animals for
home use even when concentrating on milk production. Before
mechanization completely revolutionized farm work, draft horses provided
the farm's muscle and a fifty-acre farm would need two to four for
plowing, raking hay, and cutting wheat with a binder. The feeding and
grooming of these animals formed a vital task. Though Lang and Hurst's
commercial meat wagon came through Floris and other communities each
Saturday, many families kept hogs and chickens for their own
consumption.[14] Elizabeth Rice from the Oakton area stated that,
despite her husband's reluctance to spend energy on any facet of farming
outside dairying, they raised hogs, "kept on the back end of the farm in
the woods."[15] In Floris nearly every family also raised hogs and
chickens and Holden Harrison remembered that they "used to get about a
hundred chicks each spring--we'd eat them all up by fall."[16] Few
Floris area farms kept sheep, though census figures show about 1,200 in
the county during this period.[17] In addition, dogs, cats, mules and an
occasional goat made up the farm population, all demanding the farmer's
attention and time.

With the stock watered, fed, given fresh bedding, and possibly turned
out to pasture, the farmer could turn his attention to crops and other
matters. Census records show hay and corn to be Fairfax County's most
important crops. Little of these were sold commercially, however, rather
they were used as support crops for the dairy industry.[18] Hay and feed
stores abounded in neighboring towns but most dairymen attempted to
supply their own straw, ensilage and grain, thus cutting costs by making
the most efficient use of their land. This involved raising several
crops and a year-round effort of cultivation.

Work began in early spring when a team of horses--later a
tractor--pulled a steel plow across each field, turning up the earth
into a rough and lumpy mass. Little was known of contour plowing or
planting at this time, and the team was driven back and forth in
straight rows. C. T. Rice and County Agricultural Extension Agent H. B.
Derr both noted that erosion was a major problem in the area at the
time.[19] The newly broken ground was then worked with a "drag,"
generally made of heavy logs chained together and topped with a platform
on which the driver stood. The purpose of this implement was to use the
weight of the "drag" to break up the soil clods. After this was
finished, a field still needed to be worked once more before planting,
this time with a harrow. The harrow resembled a large, spike-toothed
rake, with two sections, each containing four rows of teeth. Passed over
the field, it stirred up the ground and continued the pulverization of
the soil to make a mellow, friable seed bed.[20]

These chores were exacting and time-consuming. Neal Bailey, who has
spent many of his 66 years in working fields around Floris, estimated
that a man and strong team could harrow or drag but a ten-acre field in
about 6-1/2 hours. Plowing took even longer. "Most of the land was hard
to plow and we had to start as soon as possible in the spring in order
to get through before it got too hard and sometimes we didn't make it,"
wrote Wilson McNair. The majority of farmers could plow only an acre or
acre and a half in a day's time.[21]

Fairfax County's soil (principally Chester loam, a clay soil with a
slightly acidic base) was deep, fertile and, as Joseph Beard put it,
"adapted to growing the kinds of things cows like to eat at a reasonable
price."[22] Because it was somewhat acidic, the soil benefitted from the
addition of lime and, of course, needed other fertilizers. Fertilization
techniques had been known for hundreds of years (George Washington
burned oyster shells to obtain lime for his fields), however, their
benefits were not always fully understood. Most farmers spread manure
and some guano on their cropland, but correct chemical balances for
specific crops were achieved only infrequently. Often the small
landowner did not have spare fields to lie fallow for a year--the ideal
situation for soil enrichment. "We spread some lime a time or two, but
not nearly enough," admitted Wilson McNair. "We got burned lump lime and
dumped it on the ground in piles of one bushel and when it had slaked we
spread it with a shovel." The spreading itself could be a problem,
especially when the earliest trucks began to be used in the mid-1920s. A
truck hauling seven or eight tons of lime would bog down in a wet field:
"The only way you could get out was to dump the lime, and if you dumped
the lime you were in the hole you got stuck in." Thus, a lack of
understanding of soil building techniques was coupled with the physical
difficulty of fertilization, to inhibit the optimum efficiency of the
land in the early 20th century.[23]

With the soil prepared, the crops could be sown. In the fall, generally
between mid-October and Thanksgiving, winter wheat was planted. A
"drill" or mechanical planter drawn by horses was used, which could be
adapted for use with oats, barley or rye. The area had once been a
principal wheat-growing region, but in the early 20th century dairymen
cultivated wheat chiefly for the straw which was used for bedding. In
the mid-1930s, however, the availability of certified seed (seed which
was grown to be of a uniform and established varietal type, much as
genetically pure livestock was bred) raised the quality of Fairfax
wheat and slightly increased the grain's marketability.[24] Edith
Rogers, a long-time Floris resident and for many years a member of the
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, grew wheat on her family's farm to
use in chicken feed, and to have milled into flour for home use. It was
ground at the Herndon Milling Company.[25] Like the use of certified
seed, increased understanding of fertilization and crop rotation
practices boosted production of wheat per acre, yet it never gained
prominence as even a secondary crop. In large part this was due to the
fact that wheat was a less desirable ingredient in cattle feed than was
corn or even soybeans.[26]

Corn was planted in the spring, generally in late April. Again a drill
was employed, which, planting two rows at a time, enabled the farmer to
plant about ten acres in one day. The wide variety of uses for corn made
it Fairfax County's most important grain crop and a 1926 report on the
area's agriculture observed that "nearly every farm has more or less
corn."[27] Not only was the grain a chief ingredient in the dairy
cattle's "concentrate" or feed mixture, but it was used to feed horses,
chickens and to fatten pigs near butchering time. The leaves and stalks
were ground for ensilage or stored in the shock for dry fodder. During
the 1920s, County Agent Derr promoted a continual campaign to improve
the area's corn production and even introduced a new variety, dubbed
"Fairfax County White Corn," because of its local success. He also
worked to increase yields of other popular strains, notably Reid's
Yellow Dent. In a report on his work in this field in 1925, Derr shows
his methods to be not far removed from the early genetic experimentation
of Gregor Mendel.

     For the past four years the writer has assisted one of his best
     demonstrators in improving his crop of Reid's Yellow Dent Corn. The
     first year the best 50 ears were planted in 50 separate rows and at
     harvest time the best yielding 10 rows were selected for the next
     year's work. This work was continued, each year the number of rows
     being reduced. This year the results show a very uniform type of

Soybeans began to be introduced into the area during this period and
Fairfax County farmers also sowed various grasses for summer pasturage
and to make hay for winter feeding. Timothy and clover predominated
among pasture crops. Some farmers persisted in raising alfalfa, despite
H. B. Derr's repeated protests that it was unprofitable on the county's
lime-poor soil.[29] A few ambitious farmers even experimented with
grasses attempting to find those which produced the highest milk yields
and one went so far as to have a special ladino clover seed brought from
Oregon because he felt it increased the richness of his milk.[30] As
with wheat and corn, improved varietal types and stricter control over
the uniformity of the seed greatly aided the cultivator.

[Illustration: Spring plowing on the McNair farm near Floris. The serene
aspect of the pre-mechanization farm is evident in this photograph taken
in the first decade of the twentieth century. Photo courtesy of Louise
McNair Ryder.]

Naturally, the farmer's work only began with the sowing of the seed, for
activity continued throughout the year. The work of calving, of pruning
orchard trees, digging garden beds, and trimming cattle hooves occurred
in the spring. In early summer the corn was thinned from four to two
stalks per hill, by using a sharp stick to dig the stalks out. Then,
toward the end of June the winter wheat was harvested. Cut with a binder
and tied in bundles, it was shocked (put in stacks of ten to twelve
bundles, wigwam fashion, with a bundle on top to shed water, or stacked
on poles in a mound with the outside sloping a bit to let the rain run
off) and left to dry in the field. If threshed by hand after about a
month it had to be gathered and taken to the barn for further drying.

In the 1920s, however, only a few farmers still wielded the flail; most
threshing was done by steam and later gas-powered threshing machines
which travelled from farm to farm. Wilson McNair described these
cumbersome and sometimes dangerous machines this way:

     The thresher was run and pulled by a traction engine. They moved
     slowly only about 2 mi. an hour. The engine had a water tank
     mounted on each side in the rear to carry water while it was moving
     from one place to another.... The engines all had whistles and they
     would blow them every once in a while when they were on the road so
     we would know they were coming. We had to haul up some wood to fire
     the engine before we threshed....

     In later years we had self-packing and weighing threshers with
     blowers that moved the straw further from the thresher. One time
     Mr. Hornbaker threshed for us. We had a small engine and thresher
     that was pulled by a team. While we were washing up for dinner some
     one looked up and saw smoke, [on] the other side of the barn where
     the thresher was. All hands ran up there and pulled the thresher
     out of the way and saved the wheat that was threshed, but the straw
     burned up. A spark from the engine had fallen into the straw.[31]

During the summer months of the cultivation process, insect control was
also a major consideration. By the late 1930s a few large farms, such as
the Harrisons, could hire an airplane to dust their crops, but modest
farms of necessity relied on hand labor for this, as most other chores.
"As ... new varieties of clover, alfalfa, and other plants came to be
used, seems like the insects came along with them," lamented one
farmer.[32] The Japanese beetle, introduced into America in the 1920s,
wrecked particular havoc with the crucial corn crop. "The Japanese
beetle was just awful," recalled Ray Harrison, "it would eat the tassel
up which pollinated the corn ... then would get right into the ear of
the corn and go right down into the shuckings."[33] Against these pests,
and the inevitable destruction of wildlife, weather, and weeds, the
farmer had to maintain an eternal vigilance. Much of the growing season
was spent in monitoring these destructive forces.

The benefits of this watchfulness became apparent with the harvest. As
mentioned above, wheat was the earliest crop reaped but the major
harvesting was done early in September. Corn was cut and shocked at this
time, and the large task of filling the silo was undertaken. To do this
stalks and leaves of the corn were chopped by an ensilage cutter. Like
the thresher, this machine was generally owned by an outside agent; it
travelled from farm to farm to process each farmer's fodder. The early
cutters were powered by steam, but like numerous other farm instruments,
gasoline-driven equipment was developed during World War I. On a large
farm up to twenty men were needed to keep a threshing machine or
ensilage cutter going. Bundles of corn were chopped by the machine and
then conveyed to a fan which blew the ensilage through a pipe into the
silo. There one to four men tamped it down and guided the nozzle on the
blower pipe to insure even distribution. It was dirty work, the corn
stalks oozing juice and sticking as tenaciously as burrs to the clothes,
hands and hair of those working in the silo. A small landowner might
complete the silo filling process in a day, but for large farms it often
took the better part of a week.[34]

Just as the spring brought forth a burgeoning activity, so did things
happen with a rush in the fall. Haying was done just before the corn
harvest, in the hot, late summer days which would cure the new-mown
grass in the field. To cut the hay the county's farmers often used a
one- or two-horse rake with a single attachment to raise or lower the
rake's teeth when passing over a meadow. The dried hay, with its almost
overpoweringly sweet smell, was lifted by forks into a wagon, tramped
down, then transported to fill bursting barns. The least mechanized
farms forked the hay into the lofts by hand but later barns were
equipped with a mechanical fork for lifting the hay. Haying had to be
done at precisely the right time or the grass would not cure properly
and the hay would spoil. The combination of heat, hard, backbreaking
work, and the necessity for hurry made haying a particularly fatiguing

Most of the harvest was used right on the farm. Like manure, which was
recycled to enrich fields and gardens, the grain and hay crops went to
nourish the farm's dairy animals. Little was marketed and little was
wasted. "That proved to be the best thing you could do," noted Holden
Harrison, "grow as much of your own feed for your cattle as you could.
You sold your ... crop production through your milk can."[36]

[Illustration: A shock of wheat on the Ellmore farm near Floris. On this
particularly successful farm the wheat was sold for seed to help improve
the stock on other area farms. Photo in Annual Report of County Agent H.
B. Derr, 1925, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.]

[Illustration: This mechanical hay loader on the Harrison Brothers' farm
near Floris dates from 1935. Photo courtesy of Holden Harrison.]

The fruits of the year's labor came not only from the hay fields but
from garden and orchard, whose abundance had to be gathered, preserved
and stored in the late summer season. Fairfax County had once been a
major truck farming section but the onslaught of insects and competition
from large commercial orchards (such as those in the Shenandoah Valley)
had relegated this produce to the realm of home use. The A. S. Harrison
farm included plum, apple, peach and cherry trees and Margaret Mary Lee
recalled that cherries, pears and apples grew in her family's orchard.
Sometimes pears and apples were made into cider but most of the fruit
was dried or canned for winter use. Many farmers made the extra effort
to keep bees under their fruit trees because they aided pollination and
produced honey from the blossoms. The Lees were among those who enjoyed
the soft hum of the bees among the orchard trees. Margaret Lee
especially liked to recall them darting busily between the fragrant
white sheets, when the washing was hung in the yard.[37]

The vegetable garden, too, had a prominent place in the farm scheme.
Elizabeth Rice noted that "everyone had a good garden, growing such
things as sweet corn, limas, string beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and
asparagus."[38] Others mentioned lettuce, herbs and popcorn in the
family vegetable patch and many farms had grape arbors.[39] Like other
areas of cultivation, the garden plot required care and attention for
three seasons of the year. The round of soil preparation, planting,
nourishing and harvesting added additional responsibilities to the
multitude of duties which already crowded the sunlight hours. Still, the
rewards were great: self-sufficiency, economy, and the enjoyment of the
earth's fresh bounty.

With the harvest over the farmer would fill the less hectic winter hours
with the unending minutia of the farm. Fence and equipment mendings,
cutting ice from ponds and rivers, chopping wood, and grubbing up trees
all had a part in his busy life. Another burst of activity occurred in
early winter when animals were butchered for the year's meat. Most farm
families bought their beef in Herndon, but nearly everyone kept hogs for
home consumption.[40] Neal Bailey, a veteran of many local butcherings,
described them in this particularly detailed manner:

     Two to three meat hogs per year were raised and slaughtered, all
     about Thanksgiving. Farmers used to do everything by the almanac.
     Two men would grab a hog and throw it on its back and cut the
     jugular vein with a butcher knife. The pig was thrown then into a
     scalding trough--a metal trough with water placed over a wood fire
     burning in a trench.... In the old days, the local farmers heated
     rocks red hot and threw them in a big barrel of water. It was a
     day's work to haul rocks for this. The hair was scalded and scraped
     off. Then the hog was gutted. Old folks used to take the insides
     and make chitlins out of them. I never ate them myself. The hogs
     were hung up overnight in a shed or in a tree where dogs couldn't
     get it, to let the carcasses cure. The skin was left on the
     carcass, and next day, it was cut up and salted down in a box. It
     was kept tight so flies and mice couldn't get in.... Anything that
     was left in spring was smoked to preserve it through the

[Illustration: A small orchard apiary kept to provide honey and aid
pollination of the fruit trees. Photo in Annual Report of County Agent
H. B. Derr, 1925, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.]

Each family preserved its own meat and as Emma Ellmore related,
"everybody had his own pet recipe ... for mixing the salt and the brown
sugar--and some smoked the meat and some didn't." Lard had to be
rendered for storage in the cellar, sausage hand-ground and canned or
frozen, the heads boiled until the meat left the bones, then chopped and
pressed into a pan with the pot liquor to make headcheese. Butchering
time seems to have been an especially unforgettable occasion, for its
details stand out sharply in the minds of many. "After butchering each
year, Mother made ... buckwheat cakes to eat with fresh sausage,"
reminisced Margaret Peck. "Baked on a long black griddle, over a wood
stove, spread with homemade butter and topped with corn syrup, they were
the right beginning for a winter day."[42] For Floris residents, the
smells and tastes of a time seem to whirl the memory backward with
particular acuity.

Even in the hectic activity of harvest, a farmer was obliged to move
through the evening routine of milking, feeding and bedding his animals.
With these tasks completed, and a final check on the barns to see that
all was snug, the farmer's day was nearly complete by about 6:00. He ate
a hearty supper, then read _The Southern Planter_, and possibly mended
farm machinery or did a little work in the barn.[43] For those who arose
at 4:00 a.m. "in all kinds of weather," sleep came early and the house
was usually dark by 9:00 p.m.[44]

       *       *       *       *       *

In all of this activity of cultivation, the rush of harvest, and
regularity of day-to-day chores, the farmer worked, not alone, but in
conjunction with his family. Unlike the industrial worker, whose
employment was discrete and separate from his home life, the farmer's
home was his workshop, and his labor directly connected to his
sustenance. His family was an integral part of this scheme; far from
being removed from the household's form of support, they were intimately
bound up in it. Wife, husband, children and grandparents all contributed
in their distinct sphere. The term "family farm" was no idle
denomination, but a recognition of the importance the entire family
played in the smooth operation of the farm.

The relationship of a farm husband and wife was in many ways a truer
partnership than that of the urban marriage. "A farmer needs a wife like
he needs the rain," is an old farm saying, expounded for decades in the
farmer's almanacs. It has now been collaborated by rural sociologists to
show that farm efficiency was based largely on the partners' shared
duties.[45] The farmers themselves seemed to realize this. In a 1932
nationwide survey of factors which farmers regarded as most important to
their success, "co-operation of wives" was ranked second.[46]

The activities of rural men and women were co-equal, not identical.
Women rarely worked in the fields except in the press of harvesting when
they might drive a horse to pull up the hay fork--"what we've all done,
I guess," agreed one group of Floris women.[47] They only occasionally
aided the men in the barn. Edith Rogers remembered working with the
stock as did Margaret Mary Lee, who helped with milking and also
recalled washing the milk storage tank and other equipment. This pleased
the local milk inspector who told her, "When women are in the barn, I
know the equipment is clean."[48] Except for such intermittent work, the
outside duties were left to the men. Instead, most women's activity was
to be found in the farmhouse and garden. Her responsibilities
encompassed the expected areas of housekeeping, decorating and sewing,
and often the less obvious work of bookkeeping or lawnmowing.

The farm woman's most demanding task probably centered around the
preparation and preservation of food, a vitally important function, for
to waste or misuse food was to negate the hard labor of a year. In the
current era of convenience foods, the time-consuming nature of cooking
is easily forgotten. Just operating a wood-burning stove was a
complicated task, attested to by the directions for laying a fire in a
contemporary cookbook.

     To build a fire, first let down the grate, and take up the ashes
     and cinders carefully to avoid raising a dust, sifting the cinders
     to use in building the fire; brush the soot and dust out of the
     upper part of the stove, and from the flues which can be reached;
     be sure that all parts of the ovens and hot-boxes are clean; if
     there is a water-back attached to the stove, see that it is filled
     with water; if it is connected with water-pipes, be sure in winter
     that they are not frozen; brush up the hearth-stone. Lay the fire
     as follows: Put a few handfuls of dry shavings or paper in the
     bottom of the grate; upon them, some small sticks of pine wood laid
     across each other; then a few larger sticks, and some cinders free
     from ashes; a few small lumps of coke or coal may be mixed with the
     cinders. Open all the draughts of the stove, close all the covers,
     and light the fire; when the cinders are lighted, add fresh coke
     and coal gradually and repeatedly until a clear, bright fire is
     started; then partly close the draughts. To keep up a fire, add
     fuel often, a little at once, in order not to check the heat:
     letting the fire burn low, and then replenishing it abundantly, is
     a wasteful method, because the stove grows so cold that most of the
     fresh heat is lost in raising the temperature again to the degree
     necessary for cooking.[49]

  December 9, 1925

  ARTICLE                                                  VALUE.

  8 Grade Guernsey Cows, $40.00 each                       $ 320.00
  12 Holstein Cows                                           480.00
  1 Bull                                                      50.00
  1 Holstein Calf                                             10.00
  2 Black Heiffers, $40.00 each                               80.00
  2 Small Black Heiffers                                      30.00
  2 Black Horses                                             100.00
  2 Double Sets Harness                                       25.00
  15 milk Cans                                                15.00
  2 Milk Buckets                                               1.00
  1 Strainer                                                    .25
  133 Shocks Fodder                                           39.90
  120 Barrels Corn                                           360.00
  6 2/3 Tons Hay Bailed, $20.00 Ton                          133.33
  6600 Lbs. Loose Hay @.75                                    49.50
  20 Tons Ensilage                                            40.00
  160 Bu. Wheat @ $1.40 per Bu                               224.00
  1 High Wheel Wagon                                          25.00
  1 Truck Wagon                                               20.00
  1 Top Wagon                                                 10.00
  1 Manure Spreader                                          100.00
  1 Hay Ladder                                                10.00
  1 Blizzard Ensilage Cutter                                  15.00
  1 Gasoline Engine                                           20.00
  1 Milk Wagon                                                10.00
  1 Platform Scale                                            10.00
  1 Set Single Harness                                         1.00
  1 Buggy                                                      2.00
  1/2 Ton $16.00 Rock                                          9.00
  1 Oil Drum                                                    .50
  1 One Horse Wagon                                            2.00
  1 Basket Sleigh                                              3.00
  1 Top Wagon                                                  3.00
  1 Smoothing Harrow                                           5.00
  2 Single Shovel Plows                                        1.00
  1 Single Cultivator                                           .50
  1 Oliver 2 Horse Plow                                        2.00
  1 Spring Tooth Harrow                                        5.00
  1 Set Blacksmith Tools                                      25.00
  1 Lot of Lumber at Mill House                               40.00
  1 Lot of Tools and Repairs in Mill House                     5.00
  1 Cut off Saw                                                1.00
  Contents of Well House                                      15.00
  1 Dort Automobile                                          100.00
  Contents of Garage                                          25.00
  1 Lot of Ladders and Contents of Wood House                 25.00
  Contents of Tool House                                      25.00
  1 Grindstone                                                 2.00
  1 Iron Boiler                                                5.00
  1 Wheelbarrow                                                3.00
  1 Hay Rake                                                  20.00
  2 Mowing Machines, $5.00 each                               10.00
  1 Riding Cultivator                                          5.00
  1 Corn Planter                                              20.00
  1 Lath Mill and Bench                                        1.00
  1 Grain Drill                                               80.00
  1 Hay Tedder                                                25.00
  1 Dish Harrow                                                1.00
  1 Three Horse Plow                                           5.00
  1 Binder                                                     5.00
  1 Note dated Aug. 30th, 1921 payable 3 yrs. after date     500.00
  Interest on above note from Aug. 30th, 1924, to the
      present time @ 6%                                       38.33
  Cash in Herndon National Bank                              901.88
  Cash on Savings Account Farmers & Mechanics National       685.60
  Cash on Savings Account The Potomac Savings Bank           549.80
  Liberty Bonds                                              200.00

  This inventory, attached to the will of a small farmer, shows the
  diverse equipment found on the 1920's farm.

[Illustration: Plan of the family farm of Mason F. Smith, drawn by Mason
Smith, Jr., for a 4-H Club project. The farm was bought in 1932 by Floyd
Kidwell and now constitutes the nucleus of Frying Pan Farm Park. From
Mason Smith, Jr. Livestock Record Books in Annual Report of County Agent
H. B. Derr, 1929, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.]

Though the wood-burning stoves often imparted a special flavor to the
food prepared on them (for example, one farm cooking devotee opined that
no waffles could taste like those from a wood-burning stove[50]), the
stoves were fearfully hot in the summer and needed constant refueling
and expert attention to heat evenly. Few Fairfax County farm women had
the luxury of electricity in their kitchens until well after 1935.
Statistics show that only 65% of farm women cooked with electricity even
in 1940.[51]

In addition to the large regular meals required by a hard-working
family, the farm woman prepared the gargantuan harvest meals shared by
all who worked in the fields. Cooking these meals in the late summer
heat was a chore which took several days. "An ordeal" one veteran called
it and enumerated some parts of the expected menu: corn bread, hot
biscuits, pork shoulder, pressed chicken, fried chicken, vegetables and
pie. "We'd put food enough together for them--and did they eat!"[52]
Even at other times of the year, a farm wife needed to count on
unexpected visitors and accommodate her activities to an unforeseen need
to entertain. Her adaptability is attested to by Joseph Beard who
described the open farm hospitality of the era:

     When anybody came around to your farm in those days, when
     dinnertime came, you'd say, 'Well, it's time for dinner. Let's go
     eat.' It didn't seem to matter if you had somebody drop in on you
     on short notice. Women, ladies, mothers, wives, were accustomed to
     this kind of thing. It never seemed to upset them. They just took
     it in stride. They put on another plate and said, 'We haven't got
     much, but you're welcome to what we have.' They'd go on like this.
     They would bring out the best they could find. That was the kind of
     condition that prevailed.[53]

The lady of the house in this period did not merely cook her family's
food; she was instrumental in its production and processing. The family
garden was generally her responsibility. It was she who planted the
early radishes, herbs, flowers and all the multitude of summer
vegetables in the cool, moist spring soil, weeded and nurtured them
through the summer months, and finally gathered them in the lingering
Indian summer days. If there were daughters in the family, they aided
her in this as in her other activities. When the produce was finally all
picked, peeled and cut, she combined them with vinegar, sugar, and
spices to preserve the vegetables as pickles, jelly or canned goods. It
was warm and tiring, but highly rewarding work. "Never will I forget the
pungent fragrances that pervaded the air when it was catsup or
pickle-making season," wrote Lottie Schneider.

     When our mothers made apple butter in great kettles each child took
     a turn at stirring the delicious mixture. The wonderful fragrance
     made the task easier even though the thickening ingredients
     sometimes sputtered and caused burns as they popped out on the
     hands who used the stirring paddle.[54]

The pantry shelves filled with glass jars displaying their highly
colored contents produced feelings of pride and plenty in the farm

Poultry keeping also fell to the farmer's wife. There were a sizable
number of commercial poultry farms in the county--it was in fact the
area's second most important farm industry--but most dairy and general
farms kept just enough for their own use.[55] Egg collecting, feeding
and cleaning of the chicken house and yard, even killing, dressing and
plucking the poultry were done by female members of the farm family.
Thrifty women saved the feathers for pillows and coverlets and nearly
all sold their excess eggs to the "hucksters" who travelled from farm to
farm buying surplus goods. These peddlars also bought rabbits, turkeys,
and other poultry, as well as home-churned butter from the farms. This
was yet another area in which women utilized and processed the raw
materials of the land. Twice a week the cream that had been skimmed and
saved was churned (generally in round barrel churns with wooden
paddles), salted, and packed in stone jars to be picked up and
transported to the Alexandria and Washington markets. One of the early
hucksters was Earl Robey who collected eggs and chickens once a week.
"He travelled with 2 horses hitched to a covered wagon," wrote one
farmer. "In later years he had a model T truck." The money made by the
women was theirs to keep, for running the house and personal expenses,
and the austerity or comparative comfort of a farmstead was often the
direct result of the energy and efficiency of the farm woman.[56]

The rural woman's place was respected and secure on the farms of fifty
years ago. The farmer might consider himself the overall manager but he
recognized his spouse's vital contributions. "Mutually they both decided
to make things go and they did go," wrote one 1930s farm boy of his
parents. "Mother did not feel inferior to father and she never felt that
he expected her to feel so."[57] If the woman's role and duties were
firmly set in this rural society, then so was her status.

An additional responsibility was that of caring for children, but in the
farm family this was more clearly a joint obligation of the father and
mother than in families in which the male parent left home to work. Too,
children were more closely tied to the family as a working unit; they
felt both the necessity of aiding their parents with the running of the
farm and the pride of contributing in a real sense to the family's
well-being. Of course, farm children attended school, but they also
shared the pattern of their parents' life. With father and mother they
awoke in the early hours of the morning to help with barn or household
chores: "It didn't make any difference how small they were, they got up
at six o'clock."[58] Many learned to milk before the age of ten. On
weekends, summer holidays and after school, they were also expected to
help on the farm. Both boys and girls performed the unending job of
gathering firewood for the kitchen stove. Carrying water was another
constant chore which often fell to the family's children, for as late as
1940 nearly 40% of the county's homes still lacked running water.[59]
Farm youngsters learned to drive a team and ride horseback at an early
age, and this enabled them to take a horse to be shod, fetch a mower
section from the general store, or run other unexpected errands.
Margaret Lee stated that as a girl she used to hitch up a mule and buggy
each Monday to take the family's laundry to be washed by a local Negro
laundress, and pick it up again on Thursday.[60] Girls also helped with
the dishes, fed chickens, and cooked while boys tackled plowing,
threshing and animal husbandry. One woman recalled the special
satisfaction she felt when, at the age of thirteen, she shocked an
entire field of wheat.[61] By doing these chores and errands, farm
children were not merely assisting in the farm operation. In the
emulation of their parents' activity, they benefitted from a kind of
on-the-job training which both sharpened their skills for a later farm
career and furthered their identity with the family group and farm life
in general.

The farm child's close connection to his parents' life and the necessity
for performing a variety of chores also acted in some measure as a force
for social control: the child who worked with his parents was expected
to act in a manner acceptable to them. Furthermore, the close-knit
nature of the community reinforced the parents' values when their
offspring were away from home. "A farmer was always busy, and his kids
didn't run the streets," noted Joseph Beard.[62] Another native of
northern Virginia explained the prevalent philosophy in more detail:

     Papa was a firm believer that work was a therapy that kept young
     people out of mischief. It was unthought of for youngsters to get
     into serious trouble in those days other than smoking corn silk or
     grapevine, and that was a punishment in itself. All were assigned
     specific chores and the youngest started out picking up chips and
     other small pieces of wood from the 'woodpile' for kindling to
     start the fire in the kitchen range at daylight in the morning....
     As we grew a little older bringing in the firewood was added to the
     list of chores and when you grew big enough to chop and split
     cordwood, usually around the age of 10-12 years, one found the
     chores around the home were endless.[63]

[Illustration: Rebecca Rice, daughter of C. T. Rice, canning fruit in
her home near Oakton, Virginia. Note the ice box and wood burning stove,
standard features of the early 20th century kitchen. Photo in H. B. Derr
Reports, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.]

[Illustration: Elizabeth Harrison in her room on a farm near Herndon,
Virginia. She refurbished the room herself as part of a 4-H project.
Photo in H. B. Derr Reports, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County
Public Library.]

The round of chores might seem endless, but farm kids had their fun,
too. Joseph Beard and Richard Peck both recall swimming in Horse Pen Run
and Peck also reminisced about fishing in the local streams.[64]
Margaret Lee was sometimes treated to a baked sweet potato after school;
she rode the family mule for recreation.[65] At Halloween, much secret
giggling went on as plans were afoot to take an outhouse and sit it on
the school porch, or sneak all of the milk cans out of the dairy and set
them outside.[66] Skating on the baptismal pond of Frying Pan Baptist
Church, and neighborhood events such as picnics, watermelon feasts and
oyster suppers also lent excitement to the child's life. Perhaps the
most pervasive enjoyment came from the ever-changing delights of the
countryside itself. Wrote one resident of the Herndon area: "We could
ramble through the woods, finding huckleberries, wild flowers, sassafras
roots and stems, chestnuts and lovely mosses."[67]

       *       *       *       *       *

Although children provided a great deal of supplemental labor on the
county's small farms, the "hired hand" was also an important part of the
community's work force. One local resident estimated that approximately
half of the farms in the Herndon area used hired labor, and this figure
is collaborated by the agricultural census of 1940. Other evidence shows
that the largest single expense (about 38% of total farm expenditures)
for the owner of thirty or more acres was hired help.[68] In Fairfax
County, as in most of the South, this hired labor was composed almost
entirely of the community's black residents, though occasionally a
family would employ a white man. The Ellmore family, who often had a
white man as their hired help, was such an exception.[69]

[Illustration: A homemade sled used for hauling manure to the fields.
Note the two young boys who, by driving the sled, shared the family's
responsibility for the farm. Photo in Annual Report of County Agent H.
B. Derr, 1925, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.]

Extra help was engaged in several ways. Larger farms frequently kept one
or two men throughout the year, sometimes supplying them with a house
and their noon meal as well as a salary.[70] On most farms, however,
extra help would be hired at particularly busy seasons by the day or
the week. "In the summertime you'd get seasonal help, gather them up
here and there, wherever you could," stated Holden Harrison. "If you
could carry those men, at least the best ones, over the winter, then
you'd have a good force that you could depend on for your summer work,
your planting and harvesting."[71] In some cases the hired man would
come with his team of horses for which he received additional wages. In
another variation groups of workers would organize into crews to perform
a specific function (for example, to fill a silo) and travelled from
farm to farm accomplishing this special task.[72]

Many of the laborers in the Floris area came from Willard, a community
of both whites and blacks, just over the Loudoun County line. About 85%
of Fairfax County's black population owned no land in 1934 and supported
themselves solely by agricultural labor.[73] Unlike this large landless
majority, many of Willard's families owned three to fifteen acres of
land. Most of these families grew vegetables on their land and nearly
all kept a cow.[74] A few black families tried to support themselves by
truck gardening, a difficult task when competing with larger more
economical farms. One such farmer, Ernest E. Webb, struggled to maintain
his children by selling vegetables in the city market. Biweekly he took
his goods by wagon across the low, unstable Chain Bridge and along Canal
Road to the markets in Washington, but for this long, exhausting trip
his profits were slim: "We made enough to come back home, feed the
horses, and feed ourselves a little for another trip."[75] To eke out an
existence, most blacks had to supplement any farming income they might
have by working as agricultural laborers.

Those laborers who did not have steady employment had to wait for work
until they were needed for a specific job. When a farmer wanted extra
help, he went to the black community, or sent word by someone else, and
detailed the number of men needed and the job to be done. "In the spring
my father would go up there [to Willard] or send me up there to see if I
could get three or four fellows to help get the spring work going,"
remarked Holden Harrison. "Maybe you could get them and maybe you
couldn't."[76] Sometimes there was a labor shortage, but frequently more
men wanted work than there were jobs to go around. Several area
residents remembered that if word got out that ten men were needed for a
job, often fifteen or more would show up.[77] This was especially true
during the agricultural depression of the 1920s and 1930s, which hit
blacks far worse than the county's white population. The blacks'
landholdings were of inferior quality and generally too small for
efficient operation, and this, combined with their meagre operating
capital and inadequate reserves, made the black agriculturalist more
dependent than ever on work from the large landowner.[78]

The hired man was expected to arrive in time for the early morning
milking and work the lengthy fifteen-hour day alongside the farmer. His
chores ranged from making hay to cutting wood and building fences. Neal
Bailey recalled that he spent his entire first day as a laborer driving
fence posts with a 16-pound hammer. The standard salary was $1.00 to
$1.50 per day plus all he could eat for lunch. Some farmers paid by the
job rather than by the day though they found the latter system
preferable. When the help was not so concerned with completing a task
rapidly, farmers believed it produced a better quality work.
Occasionally the white farmers shared or traded work with their black
counterparts. More frequently, hired hands worked for a share of the
fruits of their labor. At butchering time, the hired help might go home
with sausage, side meat (bacon) or a pork shoulder for his pay. At berry
season they picked a farmer's blackberries or wild cherries for half of
the take.[79]

The women and children of the black communities in Fairfax County also
worked. Black women took in laundry, picked fruit and sometimes came to
the white farmer's houses to help with canning or meat preservation at
butchering time. One woman worked as a midwife; according to Margaret
Lee, the only one in the area. She delivered Miss Lee's younger sister
around 1913.[80] Children as young as nine would thin corn or pluck
potato bugs off the dark, leafy plants for 50¢ a day. Girls used to pick
berries and pull field cress when it was going to seed, and some
children worked in the farmhouses running errands.[81] The Ellmore
family often had a young boy to help do odds and ends, and another
Floris resident noted that "there was some twins of about twelve years
old and we needed a little help so I took one of them in the house and
my brother had the other out to help him with things."[82] Neal Bailey
recalled going out to help his father cut corn at a very young age and
being told to "keep working--you have no back," even when it felt as if
it were breaking.[83]

Within these labor relationships the white employer retained the most
control since he set wages and hours, and because he worked with the
knowledge that the black families were dependent on him for employment.
Yet the blacks had their influence too, for the larger landowners needed
their labor to keep the farms operating smoothly. The farmer's
dependence was apparent in instances such as that related by Ray
Harrison, who remembered one Christmas night when no help at all showed
up. That night he milked fifty-two cows by hand, something he could not
afford to do every day.[84] In numerous ways the hired hands exercised
some control over their working conditions. For example, seasoned
workmen reserved the right to "break in" a field hand new to the
neighborhood, thus both initiating him into local work patterns and
assuring that his expectations and treatment corresponded to that of the
veteran help.[85] In times of intense activity, the labor supply would
be short and the workers raised their prices accordingly. One farmer
recalled that during an exceptionally busy silo-filling season the help
were "jacking up the price ... ten cents an hour about four times in
one day.... They were putting pressure on because they thought they had
the leverage there." In this case the farmer called their bluff and sent
the workers home, but in many instances, the laborers held sway and
received higher wages during peak work periods.[86]

The white attitude toward their black workers seems to have been
paternalistic, as was the pattern of most racial relations in the
post-bellum South. Though area farmers maintain that their hired
laborers were liked and respected--"as much a part of the neighborhood
as anyone else"--in conversation capable workers were referred to as
"boy" or by the old plantation epithets of "Aunt" and "Uncle." A hearty
noon meal was part of the hired man's pay, but the help ate outside by
themselves, rather than with the family.[87] Moreover, rather than admit
his need for the laborers, the white employer sometimes viewed his
hiring in an altruistic light. "I remember my brother went over to these
colored people that had been working for him at different times, in the
middle of the winter, and told them to come over and cut some wood, and
he paid them for it so that they would have something, because they were
pretty bad off. So he just made work for them," stated one county
woman.[88] Undoubtedly, charitable motives were truly meant, but the
outcome was a paternalistic attitude which failed to recognize the
mutual dependence of land and labor.

This reliable supply of labor eliminated the county's need for migratory
workers, and also reduced the amount of tenancy since most farmers found
labor enough to manage all of their acreage. Nevertheless, during the
period between 1918-1940, about 10-12% of the white farm population and
2% of the black were tenants.[89] Statistical evidence shows over half
of the tenants to be cash croppers in 1925 and 40% in 1940. Many
historians believe this to be the least beneficial system for the tenant
as his obligation was to pay the landlord a fixed rent on the land
regardless of the success of his crop.[90] However, Joseph Beard stated
that most of the tenants with whom he had contact when he was county
agent in the late 1930s were sharecroppers. By this system, the renting
farmer supplied his tools and labor, the landlord furnished the land,
and the crop was split.

Fairfax County never harbored the kind of perpetual tenancy described by
James Agee's _Let Us Now Praise Famous Men_, in which families lived in
squalor and humiliation with little hope of pulling their way out of
debt. This occurred more frequently in the one-crop areas of the deep
South where exhausted soil and crop dependency made for a high debt risk
each year. Beard maintained that the sharecroppers of the late 1930s
were respectable people, merely renting land until they could afford to
purchase their own. In several instances, they were young local couples
who went on to buy their tenured land and to become established members
of the community.[91] Still, at best, any tenure system was a
demoralizing one for the renter because his profits were consistently
skimmed off to the landlord.



[5] Interview with Joseph Beard by Elizabeth Pryor, Fairfax, Virginia,
January 23, 1979; notes from interview with Margaret Mary Lee by Nan
Netherton, Herndon, Virginia, March 28, 1978. All transcripts and notes
from interviews used in this paper are deposited in the Fairfax County
Library Virginiana Collection (hereafter cited "Virginiana").

[6] Notes on interview with Elizabeth and Emma Ellmore by Nan Netherton,
Herndon, Virginia, March 2, 1978.

[7] Interview with Holden Harrison, Ray Harrison and Virginia Presgraves
Harrison by Elizabeth Pryor, Chantilly, Virginia, February 5, 1979.

[8] Notes on interview with John and Edna Middleton by Nan Netherton,
Herndon, Virginia, February 24, 1978.

[9] Interview with Joseph Beard and Holden Harrison by Elizabeth Pryor,
Floris, Virginia, March 6, 1979; Wilson Day McNair, "What I Remember,"
unpublished manuscript, n.d., copy courtesy of Louise McNair Ryder;
author's conversation with Rebecca Middleton, Floris, Virginia, April 4,

[10] John Middleton/Netherton, February 24, 1978; and interview with
Joseph Beard by Nan Netherton and Patrick Reed, Fairfax, Virginia,
November, 1974.

[11] Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[12] "Floris Producers Active," _Herndon News-Observer_, January 22, 1925.

[13] Lottie Dyer Schneider, _Memoirs of Herndon, Virginia_ (Marion,
Virginia, 1962), 10 and 30.

[14] Notes on interview with Richard Peck by Nan Netherton, Herndon,
Virginia, February 23, 1978; notes on interview with Virginia McFarland
Greear by Nan Netherton, Herndon, Virginia, March 2, 1978; and
Schneider, _Memoirs of Herndon, Virginia_, 10.

[15] Elizabeth Rice to author, Wilmington, Delaware, January 30, 1979.

[16] Beard/Netherton/Reed, November, 1974; Peck/Netherton, February 23,
1978; Ellmore/Netherton, March 2, 1978; and Harrison/Pryor, February 5,

[17] _Agricultural Census, 1925_; and Federal Crop Reporting Service,
_Virginia Farm Statistics, 1935-1936_ (Richmond, 1936).

[18] _Ibid._; and Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[19] Lehman Nickell and Cary J. Randolph, _An Economic and Social Survey
of Fairfax County_ (Charlottesville, 1924), 29-40; notes on interview
with Neal Bailey by Nan Netherton, Herndon, Virginia, December 12, 1978;
"Fairfax Farmer Threw Away His Plow in 1928 and Amazing Results Have
Been Revolutionary," _Richmond Times-Dispatch_, September 17, 1951; and
Annual Reports of County Agricultural Extension Agent H. B. Derr, 1928,
1929 and 1932, in Virginiana.

[20] Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978.

[21] _Ibid._; and McNair, "What I Remember."

[22] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[23] Derr Reports, 1928, 1932; McNair, "What I Remember"; and Joseph
Beard quoted in Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[24] _Ibid._

[25] Notes on interview with Edith Rogers by Nan Netherton, Herndon,
Virginia, n.d. (c. spring, 1978).

[26] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[27] Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978; Rogers/Netherton; Derr Report,
1926, 9.

[28] Derr Report, 1925, 2.

[29] _Agricultural Census, 1925_; and Derr Reports, 1921 and 1924.

[30] "Fairfax Farmer Threw Away Plow."

[31] Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978; and McNair, "What I Remember."

[32] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[33] _Ibid._

[34] Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978; notes on interview with Joseph
Beard by Elizabeth Pryor, Fairfax, Virginia, February 27, 1979; and
Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[35] Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978; McNair, "What I Remember."

[36] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[37] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979; Lee/Netherton, March 28, 1978;
Elizabeth Rice to Mary Scott, n.d. (c. fall, 1978), copy courtesy of
Mary Scott.

[38] Elizabeth Rice to author, January 30, 1979.

[39] 4-H Record Books, copy in Annual Report of County Agricultural
Extension Agent; Derr Report, 1927; Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979; and
McNair, "What I Remember."

[40] Rogers/Netherton; Greear/Netherton, March 23, 1978.

[41] Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978.

[42] Margaret Peck quoted in _Out of the Frying Pan_ (Herndon, Virginia,
1964), 4.

[43] J. Middleton/Netherton, February 24, 1978.

[44] Ellmore/Netherton, March 2, 1978; and Beard/Pryor, January 23,

[45] See _Hills Southern Almanac_, (Virginia Fire and Marine Insurance
Company, 1929); J. H. Kolb and Edmund S. de Brunner, _A Study of Rural
Society_ (Boston, 1935), 36-37.

[46] _Ibid._, 37.

[47] Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[48] Rogers/Netherton; Lee/Netherton, March 28, 1978.

[49] Juliet Corson, _Miss Corson's Practical American Cookery_ (New York,
1886), 4; and Adeline Goessling, _The Farm and Home Cook Book_ (Chicago,

[50] Frances Darlington Simpson, _Virginia Country Life and Cooking_
(Washington, D.C., 1963).

[51] Virginia Polytechnical Institute, _The Housing of Virginia's Rural
Folk_ (Blacksburg, 1940), 26.

[52] Rebecca Middleton quoted in Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[53] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[54] Schneider, _Memoirs of Herndon, Virginia_, 30.

[55] Derr Reports, 1926, 1927; nearly all interviews collaborated this
information, see especially Peck/Netherton, February 23, 1978.

[56] Greear/Netherton, March 23, 1978; McNair, "What I Remember."

[57] Unidentified 1930s farmer quoted in Kolb and Brunner, _A Study of
Rural Society_, 33.

[58] _Ibid._; Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[59] VPI, _Housing_, 26.

[60] Lee/Netherton, March 28, 1978.

[61] _Ibid._; Ellmore/Netherton, March 2, 1978; Peck/Netherton, February
23, 1978.

[62] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[63] Edwin W. Beitzell, _Life on the Potomac River_ (Abell, Maryland,
1968), 130.

[64] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979; Peck/Netherton, February 23, 1978.

[65] Lee/Netherton, March 28, 1978.

[66] _Ibid._

[67] Schneider, _Memoirs of Herndon, Virginia_, 31.

[68] Lee/Netherton, March 28, 1978; and W. C. Funk, "An Economic Study
of Small Farms Near Washington, D.C.," _United States Department of
Agriculture Bulletin 848_, June 22, 1920. This study concludes that the
farmer with thirty or more acres spent 38% of his revenue for labor, as
compared with 10% for feed, 11% for marketing and 3% for insurance and
taxes. See Table IV of this study for a complete breakdown.

[69] Ellmore/Netherton, March 2, 1978.

[70] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[71] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[72] _Ibid._

[73] _Ibid._; and William Edward Garnett and John W. Ellison, "Negro Life
in Rural Virginia, 1865-1934," _Virginia Polytechnical Institute Bulletin
295_, June, 1934.

[74] Beard/Pryor, February 27, 1979; and Bailey/Netherton, December 19,

[75] Dana Gumb, "Pioneer Recalls McLean," _Echoes of History_, (March and
May, 1972), 28.

[76] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[77] Beard/Pryor, February 27, 1979; and Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6,

[78] Garnett and Ellison, "Negro Life in Rural Virginia," 13.

[79] Beard/Pryor, February 27, 1979; Bailey/Netherton, December 19,
1978; Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[80] Lee/Netherton, March 28, 1978.

[81] Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978.

[82] Ellmore/Netherton, March 2, 1978; interview with Edith Rogers by
Patty Corbat, Craig Smith and Phyllis Hirshman, June 12, 1970.

[83] Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978.

[84] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[85] Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978; Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6,

[86] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979; Beard/Pryor, February 27,

[87] Greear/Netherton, March 23, 1978; Peck/Netherton, February 23,

[88] Rogers/Corbat, et al., June 12, 1970.

[89] Nickell and Randolph, _An Economic and Social Survey of Fairfax
County_, 75-76; and _Agricultural Census, 1925_. Nickell gives a 13%
tenancy and lists 175 out of 304 tenants to be working on a cash-tenant
basis. The Agricultural Census for 1940 also shows a 10% tenancy figure.

[90] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979. For a grim but revealing view of
what tenancy could mean during this period, see James Agee and Walker
Evans, _Let Us Now Praise Famous Men_, (New York, 1960).

[91] Harold Barger and Hans M. Lansburg, _American Agriculture 1899-1939_
(New York, 1975), 212; and Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.



In its seasonal cycle of activity, the close and interdependent family
relationships, and the singular self-motivation of the farmer, the early
20th century farm carried on many of the traditions of the past. Except
for the change from slave to free labor and the marginal use of
mechanical equipment, these elements made up a world in which the farmer
of 1890, 1870, or even 1850 would have felt comfortable. But running
concurrently with these expected qualities of rural life were major
changes which jarred and fractured the constant trends of farming.
Change in attitude, technology or society occurs during all periods, but
the 1920s and 1930s were a particularly dynamic time in the field of
agriculture. Advances in the understanding of plant biology, animal
husbandry and soil conservation, together with higher living standards
through rural electrification and improved communications, were a cause
for optimism about the future of the family farm. Yet these advances
irrevocably altered the familiar rural life patterns. To maintain his
own station within this changing world, the farmer's outlook and methods
would also have to change.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps the most obvious modification of the traditional methods of
farming was the increased mechanization of many farm functions during
the early part of the 20th century. Not only were plows improved (by the
addition of a vertical disk which made for deeper cutting and more
thorough turning of the soil) and heavier harrows developed, but
gasoline-powered machinery began to be widely used.[92] The diesel
tractor had actually been available as early as 1905, but was not
generally adopted until World War I at which time military
experimentation improved the engine's construction and worker shortages
made the labor-efficient machinery especially valuable. The introduction
in 1924 of an all-purpose tractor, which could cultivate as well as
prepare the soil, increased the machinery's usefulness and gave an
additional thrust to its popularity.[93] The tractor was meant to
replace the work of draft horses, the large, gentle creatures who, along
with oxen and mules, had supplied the farm's power for centuries. The
saving the new machinery incurred was chiefly in time, an intangible
element of economics which farmers were just beginning to consider in
their appraisal of income and farm value. Often the use of a tractor cut
work time by half or more. Ray Harrison recalled that it took five
horses and three men several days work to clean out the trees and brush
for a potential field; his brother could do it with only one helper in a
single day.[94]

[Illustration: A broadcast harvester capable of picking four rows at a
time. This mechanical picker was developed by a county farmer, H. C.
Clapp. Photo in H. B. Derr Report, 1921, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax
County Public Library.]

[Illustration: Wheat being mechanically harvested, c. 1925. Few farms
could afford the luxury of such equipment at this time. Photo in H. B.
Derr Report, 1925, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public

The early tractors were not without their problems. Initially their
wheels were of steel, which packed down the wet earth making plowing
difficult, or lost traction and became mired in the ever-present red
mud; the addition of spiked wheels or heavy chains helped only a little
before pneumatic tires were introduced in 1932.[95] The machinery was
also expensive and complicated to repair. Few farms were as fortunate as
the Harrisons' on which one brother had taken numerous mechanical
courses and had even worked in a tractor repair shop.[96] For farmers
who could not always correlate time savings with financial advantage,
the large capital outlay seemed unnecessary or even unwise. As the
machinery was best adapted to large farms and intensive cultivation,
this was especially true in situations where the farmer did not feel
overworked, or held few ambitions to expand production.

Thus, Fairfax County farmers were slow to embrace the newfangled
technology. A 1924 survey of the county showed that only 10% of the
farmers owned a tractor despite County Agent Derr's assertion that the
"cutting of wheat with the tractor had been found the most economical
way for many reasons. The principle being rapidity and saving of
labor."[97] As late as 1936 Derr wrote that the majority of the small
farmers could not afford to purchase mechanized equipment and were
compelled to continue with their horses. The cost was partially offset
by machinery loaned by the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA), for example, a seed corn grader and wheat smut treater which
travelled "like a missionary ... from farm to farm in their crop
improvement work."[98] Nevertheless even men such as A. S. Harrison, one
of the area's most progressive farmers, were hesitant about the new
machines, as Holden Harrison relates:

     He knew I was sort of a tractor bug, and one day he called me in
     and he said, 'Now son, now we don't use tractors out here, we grow
     the feed for the horses ... we do our farm work with horses.' But
     that very spring it got so hot that an old broken down tractor that
     I rounded up did more work than the twelve horses we had.[99]

Economics, custom and suspicion of objects so divorced from nature's
cadence reduced the farmers' enthusiasm for new machinery.

Mechanized milking equipment was also held in suspicion initially.
Milking machines were developed around 1900, but a prejudice against
them lasted well into the 1920s. Older cows, accustomed to hand milking,
did not like the sound and feel of the machines and many farmers
contended that they impaired the milk-producing capabilities of some
animals.[100] Separators were likewise mistrusted by some who felt that
they skimmed the cream inadequately. Moreover, most of the dairy
equipment required electricity for its operation and for many years this
was not readily available in the area. These factors kept milking
machines from being swiftly adopted in Fairfax County. Conversations
with farmers of the inter-war period indicate that such equipment was
not generally acquired until the mid 1930s.[101]

Farmers learned of the new labor-saving devices by word of mouth,
through agricultural organizations, catalogs and manufacturer's
salesmen. The latter could be a nuisance to the already preoccupied
farmer, but he also acted as an invaluable informational source.

One dairyman explained:

     That was a very useful service that salesmen performed. Salesmen
     sort of get a black eye from some quarters but they kept the
     farmers up to date on the new machines.... We had a very good
     tractor with steel wheels, and a salesman came in and said, 'I'm
     representing Goodrich Rubber Company. We're making tractor tires
     now and if you'll let us put a set of tires on your tractor we'll
     let you try them out, and if you don't like them, we'll take them
     off and go back home with them.' So we did, we tried them and they

The new equipment, attachments and improvements could be bought on
credit, or by deferred payment (that is, extended credit) until a crop
was harvested. This was frequently necessary as the machinery was
costly. Joseph Beard indicated that a tractor cost about $600 to $800 in
1930. The Sears and Roebuck catalog for 1928 offered an electric milker
for $145 (including a 3/4 horsepower engine) and a harrow attachment to
be used with a tractor for $60. Cream separators ranged from $42.95 to
$100 without a motor, which could cost as much as $30.00. "Don't make a
horse out of yourself," the catalog cajoled. But with the additional
cost of parts, maintenance and fuel, a farmer earning only $1,000
annually could at best hope to equip his farm only gradually.[103]

To offset costs, farmers retained their old tools while gradually
acquiring up-to-date equipment. An inventory of the equipment on a
fifty-acre farm shows the mix of old and new owned by the typical farmer
of this transition period. In 1928 the farm of George W. Kidwell near
Hunter was equipped with harnesses, a two-horse plow, and blacksmithing
tools, but also a gasoline engine, an oil drum and automobile.[104]

Ultimately, of course, the machines were of tremendous advantage to the
large and specialized dairyman. They speeded and streamlined the
twice-daily milkings, efficiently strained and separated the milk while
warm. Later, the machines cooled the milk to the optimum temperature
required to retard spoilage. This latter development was an especially
noteworthy improvement over the old well or ice-water coolings.

Similar advances were made with electric incubators and chicken feeders
for poultry specialists and improved spraying equipment for orchardists.
Warren McNair was a pioneer in the Floris neighborhood in the use of
mechanized hatcheries, establishing one which was powered by coal before
World War I. Like the dairy equipment, poultry technology offered
efficiency and improved production.[105]

[Illustration: A tractor-drawn drill which could plant four rows at a
time. This snapshot shows a black agricultural laborer planting
soybeans, which were used as high protein livestock feed. Photo in
Annual Report of County Agent H. B. Derr, 1922, Virginiana Collection,
Fairfax County Public Library.]

[Illustration: Wilson D. McNair aboard a Row Crop 70 tractor, featuring
rubber tires, c. 1940. In the background is the farm's chicken house.
Growing poultry and eggs was the specialty of this farmer. Photo
courtesy of Louise McNair Ryder.]

Along with a slow-growing recognition of the advantages of automated
farm equipment came a quantum leap in knowledge of the agricultural
sciences. Some experimentation in plant and animal breeding was
attempted around the turn of the century, but the real impetus for
extended research was the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. In
Virginia the work was undertaken at the Virginia Polytechnical Institute
(VPI) in Blacksburg. The early efforts of the United States Department
of Agriculture were enlarged at this time and, most significantly, were
made accessible to individual farmers through the county agricultural
extension program. Interconnected with the state agricultural colleges,
the program used representatives known as county agents to advise and
educate the farmers. Working on a personal level, they were able to, in
the words of one Fairfax agent, "bring the college to the people." As a
result of the improved access to information, new ideas on breeding,
animal care, soil improvements, and planting almost inundated the

Of special importance was an increased understanding of livestock
breeding and a change in the desired criteria for a prime animal. As
more and more emphasis was placed on pragmatic qualities, the old show
points of stature, color or markings lost prestige next to reproductive
capacity or productivity. One Maryland farmer who marketed his products
in the same areas as Fairfax dairymen, stated the case emphatically.
"What does a man want a cow for? _Milk!_ And to get milk you've got to
have a ... female animal with some size to her, strong bone, a good bag
and a big barrel--a real machine ... producing quality milk."[107] A
Fairfax County poultry raiser concurred. Complaining to the editor of
the _Fairfax Herald_ in 1926, he wrote:

     As is now being done, fowls are being judged by the show standard
     rather than from a utility standpoint. As one member [of the
     Poultrymen's organization] present stated ... one of his birds won
     the blue ribbon as the best marked bird in her class but shortly
     after the fair he sold her in the market owing to [her] being such
     a poor layer.[108]

Actually some disagreement occurred over exactly which qualities should
be stressed in breeding. Experts in animal husbandry found that
cross-breeding often produced the highest yield of milk, a conclusion
which was at odds with those who wanted to emphasize pure-bred stock. In
Fairfax County, H. B. Derr followed the latter persuasion. In the end
both parties hoped to achieve the same result: a controlled breeding
program which would allow the farmer to predetermine the type and
characteristics of the stock on his farm.

To improve the county's stock, farmers were urged to breed their
livestock with purebred animals whenever possible, and keep accurate
records of milk and egg production. An especially successful tool was
the establishment of Dairy Herd Improvement Associations which tested
the yield and butter fat content of each cow's milk. The aim of these
organizations was to identify the high and low producers in a herd so
that poor producers could be sold and breeding done to best advantage.
Agricultural Agent H. B. Derr moved quickly to establish these groups in
the county. By 1920 two of the fourteen Dairy Herd Improvement
Associations in Virginia were in Fairfax County, and the result was a
continual improvement in the stock owned by Fairfax farmers. Derr
reported with pleasure that within the first year of the program 15% of
the cows were eliminated and replaced by better stock and that "one
dairyman said the first month's test paid for the year's work."[109]

Similar improvements were taking place in the grading and
standardization of seed. When Derr first arrived in Fairfax County in
1917, he complained that it was "the dumping ground of about as bad a
lot of seed as he had ever seen."[110] Old or genetically mixed seed
yielded poor crops and Derr organized volunteer farmers to help test new
strains as well as established varieties in the area's soil. The
experimentation for crop return and quality and controlled breeding done
at the Virginia Polytechnical Institute and similar institutions
increased the variety of seed available and made for highly predictable
returns. An additional help was the increased dependability of seed
distributors. Holden Harrison recalled that Southern States Cooperative
was particularly conscientious in this regard. "Other seed companies had
begun to improve their seed stocks, but Southern States put the emphasis
on it. The seed wheat we got from Southern States outproduced any other
that we could find."[111] Whereas traditionally many had merely been
saving the most likely ears of corn or a random bushel of wheat for
seed, the farmer now demanded certified seed of a variety most
responsive to his area's soil type and weather.

Agriculturalists were also making huge strides in understanding the
physical needs of animals and disease prevention. The discoveries about
bacterial and viral infections made by medical researchers during the
1920s and 1930s were beginning to be understood in veterinary circles
and applied to animal care. Mastitis and chicken cholera were among the
common diseases brought under control by new drugs. County agents
carried medicine and veterinary equipment with them using it both in
emergency cases and to instruct farmers in sanitation and preventative
care.[112] Health standards, especially for dairy products sold in
Washington, D.C., had been stiffened during the first World War, and it
was important for the farmer to understand disease prevention not only
to save his animals but to keep his produce marketable.

[Illustration: Soybeans on a demonstration field showing the
improvements made by the addition of lime to the soil. Photo in H. B.
Derr Report, 1925, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public

Veterinarians abounded in the area, but were called in generally for
required tests (such as tuberculin) or when the situation was really
grave; most farmers relied on their own experience for delivering
calves or treating common ailments.[113] Among the prominent vets in the
county were Dr. Harry Drake, Dr. Bernard Poole and C. L. Kronfeld. All
of these men made house calls, bringing medical kits and medicine with
them. Their fee was $2.50 per visit which included the price of
follow-up medicine. Perhaps because this fee was prohibitive to some, or
through a desire for self-reliance, farmers often neglected to call the
veterinarian until an animal was critically ill. "The farmer in what I
suspect was fifty percent of the cases lost the animal anyway after the
vet got there," acknowledged Joseph Beard,

     because so many times instead of having preventative medicine ...
     they never called him until things were in very bad shape. I
     suspect that the vet would have been able to save so many of the
     animals that he didn't by virtue of the fact that he didn't get
     there on time.... They weren't interested in prevention; they were
     interested in the cure.[114]

The farmers were not entirely to blame since preventative medicine was a
new concept, the benefits of which were not always immediately obvious.
County agents Derr and Beard both waged exhaustive battles to convince
local agriculturalists of the advantage of vaccination and show them the
proper methods of inoculating their own animals. Derr found the farmers
unwilling to do their own vaccinating, preferring to rely on
specialists; yet with classic inconsistency they were also reluctant to
call in a veterinarian for such a purpose.[115] In the end, the agents
found that, like many other progressive techniques which seemed new and
unsubstantiated to the farmer, demonstration worked better than
rhetoric. An example of this occurred in 1926 when a farmer let some
cattle onto a pasture, believed to be infested with a calf disease known
as blackleg. When one of his best calves died, he panicked and turned to
the county agent. The farmer's animals were all inoculated, as were
those on several neighboring farms, and there were no further losses.
"This incident has done more to place confidence in vaccinations than
several years' talking could do," wrote a pleased H. B. Derr. "There are
no more doubting Thomases in that community at least."[116]

Similar work was undertaken to convince orchardists and crop producers
of the advantages of preventative spraying to eliminate bacterial
diseases and aid in insect control. The county's production of fruits,
vegetables and grains had suffered less from direct neglect than from
ignorance of proper care.[117] The value of chemical pesticides was just
beginning to be understood (their use would not reach major proportions
until the years after World War II) and Joseph Beard noted that the
agents were frequently "bombarded with all these new advertisements
coming from the supplier or chemical company...."[118] The agents
refrained from recommending products that had not been tested for at
least three years at the State Agricultural Experiment Station, insuring
some safety in the pesticides, though Beard admitted that the principles
of chemical buildup were not yet recognized.[119] Slowly word
travelled through the county of the advantages of protecting crops from
disease. By 1930 the program was progressing nicely, as Derr reported to
the state agency. Driving through the county one day, he met a
successful orchardist whom he had previously urged to use fungicides.
"Derr," the farmer remarked to him, "you sure keep me busy; every time
my wife sees your spray notices she makes me get the machine out and go
to work, but it surely does pay to spray."[120] Here too the farmer
relied on his own verification and judged personal experience stronger
than the words of experts.

[Illustration: A wild cherry tree destroyed by web worms. Insect pests
such as these were a chief reason for the decline of orchards in the
area. Photo in H. B. Derr Report, 1925, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax
County Public Library.]

       *       *       *       *       *

In this period of exciting and crucial advances in agricultural
knowledge, the individual landowner was sometimes at a loss to, in his
parlance, separate the wheat from the chaff. Radio programs, bulletins
from the USDA and VPI, local newspaper columns and talks by visiting
experts all vied for the farmer's time, as did the news in _The Southern
Planter_, _Country Gentleman_ and _Farm Journal_, favorite periodicals in
the area. "These programs came so rapidly the farmers just about got
familiar with one until another appeared," Derr reported in 1936. "As
one farmer put it, 'just one durned thing after another."[121]
Furthermore, the information was often confusing, at odds with the
handed-down teachings of generations, or juxtaposed with other advice
with which it was dramatically opposed. The _Herndon News-Observer_, for
example, carried several articles on "scientific feeding" in its early
1925 issues and advocated crop rotation and strict attention to
cleanliness. Only a year later, however, it printed a column advising
farmers to feed kerosene and lard to hens to rid them of vermin.[122] In
an even more blatant example, this paper contained an article written by
Virginia state dairy specialist John A. Avery, which counseled area
farmers to increase their dairy herds; the same edition ran a piece by
H. B. Derr which bemoaned the surplus of milk then glutting the
Washington market.[123] It is not surprising that the farmer, caught in
the midst of a bewildering amount of concrete advice and misinformation,
sometimes preferred to stick to his ancestors' ways. Thus, the old
adages--that corn should be planted when the leaves were as large as
squirrel's ears, or that when a hen's comb isn't bright red, it isn't
laying--were relinquished with reluctance.[124] The only consistently
accepted source on scientific farming seems to have been Virginia
Polytechnical Institute's _Handbook of Agronomy_, which more than one
farmer stated he held in one hand while directing the plow with the

A particularly difficult question for the farmer to consider was the
problem of specialization. General farming had been the rule for so
long, and one-crop systems had such a reputation for running farms into
debt, that many were doubtful of the advantages of specialization. Here,
too, they received mixed signals. On one hand farmers were advised to
sink their all into poultry or dairying, only to hear that to
concentrate too completely on one area would limit their
self-sufficiency and mitigate the integrated quality of the farm. In an
increasingly technical world, however, specialization had many
attractions. Expensive machinery needed to be purchased for only one
kind of production, the farmer could cut down the vast influx of
information to only those subjects which directly interested him, and
the methods of mass production, first pioneered in factories, could be
applied to his concentrated effort. Moreover, specialization in market
commodities produced the cash which had become ever more important to
buy equipment, pay taxes and purchase manufactured goods which were no
longer made on the farm. In the end, Fairfax County farmers generally
effected a compromise: while focusing on one aspect of farming, they
retained many of the advantages of the general farmer. Vegetable
gardens, poultry houses, orchards, and sometimes sheep all kept their
place on the family farm. Even C. T. Rice, who liked to refer to his
farm as a milk producing plant, with "little time or space for anything
else" kept a few chickens and hogs.[126]

An early specialization in the county was truck gardening. The long
growing season and potential markets in Alexandria and Washington in
theory seemed to point to success in this field. The list of vegetables
and fruits grown for the commercial market was impressive and included
potatoes, corn, tomatoes, spinach, black-eyed peas, parsnips and
rhubarb, apples and several varieties of berries.[127] One man even grew
artichokes, making quite a substantial profit, but decided to move his
operation to more productive soils in New Jersey.[128] Yet those who
attempted raising large quantities of these crops found it difficult to
show clear profits. Fruit growers had to compete with the world-famous
produce of the Shenandoah Valley, whose strong cooperative organization
gave an added advantage to the area's natural abundance. Hay and forage
grains were of decreasing importance in a country rapidly becoming
enamored of the automobile. In addition, a slump in farm prices had
begun in 1920-21, the after-effect of the inflated agricultural revenues
of the World War I years.

A study of small truck farms in the Washington, D.C. area showed that
despite intensive labor and a double cropping system, a farmer was often
clearing only $500 annually by raising produce for the city markets. The
study concluded that it took "the best management and a considerable
knowledge of farm practice and markets" to till such a farm to
advantage. On the smallest farms it was only the exceptional farmer who
could make more than a living without any outside source of income.[129]

Marketing the produce was a special problem of truck farming. The
vegetables had to be delivered and sold at the peak of their ripeness
and their highly perishable nature made this somewhat difficult in the
days before refrigeration. It was generally undesirable to sell through
a middleman, and therefore the farmer was responsible for personally
marketing as well as raising his produce. Moreover, the trip to
Washington was tedious and time consuming, especially in the early 1920s
when the condition of the area's roads was at a notoriously low point.
One market farmer's trip was described in this way:

     He planted all sorts of garden produce and he had what you'd call a
     market wagon; it was a covered wagon.... During the day he would
     fill that wagon with his produce and in the evening he would hook
     his ... two horses to the wagon to get to Washington. He'd aim to
     get there by six o'clock in the morning when the markets opened. He
     would sell his produce as much as he could [directly from the
     wagon] ... to individuals at the old Center Market.... They paid a
     higher price. If he had any left over he had to sell it at whatever
     he could get to the people who owned the stalls.... It took him
     three or four hours ... to sell his load of produce. Then it was
     the next night before he came home.[130]

Conditions at the city markets were also less than perfect as large
companies tried to dump cheap produce from outside areas on the
Washington consumer. Not only did they compete with the local farmer for
the lowest prices, but they misused the stall space itself. Even when a
new market was built in 1933, this remained a problem. One irate farmer
angrily stated to the editor of the _Herndon News-Observer_ that the large
retail trucks held all the available spaces while the area farmers
"stand out doors (sic) all day and part of the night, trying to eke out
money for taxes, interest and other arbitrary costs." The streets were
filthy, he continued, and the market protection itself inadequate. "The
only pretense of shelter barely covers the sidewalk, leaving the
farmer's truck or car outdoors where produce is in danger from heat,
cold, or rain."[131]

Partially because of these problems, the specialty which gained in
distinction and profitability at this time was dairy farming. There were
several additional reasons for this. The land itself was well adapted to
the raising of milk cows; its gently undulating terrain--which formed
numerous natural water depressions--coupled with the abundance of small
streams or "runs," made water easily available. To the dairy farmer who
must water his stock regardless of seasonal conditions, this was
essential. As previously mentioned, Fairfax County also possessed soil
types which worked up well and produced high yields of the pasturage and
ensilage crops required to support large dairy herds. And, one observer
noted, the weather was favorable for the dairy industry: "The winters
are relatively short in Fairfax, thus allowing cattle to stay out often
until the latter part of November, returning to pasture by April or

These natural assets tell only part of the story for, as stated above,
Fairfax County continually produced well above the state per acre
average in both corn and orchard fruits and its market crops were
considerably varied as late as 1920. Although dairying required more
capital initially and more land than did market gardening, it held an
advantage in that the plummeting farm prices did not affect milk
products as disasterously as crops. The really great asset that the
Fairfax County dairy industry possessed, however, was its proximity to
the large milk-consuming markets in Alexandria and Washington, D.C., and
the speedy access afforded by rail lines connecting the two areas. Where
truck farmers needed to sell their produce personally in order to make
the best profit, milk producers sold to distributors, who collected at
the depot, making rail transportation a feasible marketing device.

In the earliest days of the century milk was shipped by boat to the city
markets, but the lack of river access for many farms and the ease of
spoilage on this slow mode of transportation retarded the growth of the
commercial milk market. It was not until the old and unreliable steam
railway lines, such as the Washington and Old Dominion Railway, were
converted to electricity around 1912 and refrigerated cars were widely
used, that the shipment of milk became really profitable.[133]
Communities such as Floris, situated only a few miles from the Herndon
depot, began to flourish as dairy centers when only a few years earlier
poor transportation would have made marketing of such a highly
perishable product unthinkable. So successful and rapid was the dairy
boom that by 1924 over 1,800 gallons of milk were shipped daily from the
county to Washington, and its production was the highest in

Other factors served to enhance the burgeoning dairy industry. Around
1910 milk pasteurization and bottling plants were established in
Washington. This created a large market for whole milk, which had
formerly been held in suspicion by many people who believed milk to be a
carrier of disease. Another important aspect was the well-directed
efforts of the two county agricultural extension agents who, in addition
to introducing the previously mentioned Dairy Herd Improvement
Associations, encouraged the use of pure-bred bulls for breeding, often
acquiring the free loan of USDA animals for the purpose. The use of
these bulls was an added incentive for farmers to pay the nominal fee
and join the Dairy Herd Improvement Associations, since membership was
required in order to borrow a government animal. By these methods and
repeated admonitions to "get out of the scrub class and join the
pure-bred bunch," the county agents helped Fairfax farmers develop so
fine a reputation for quality dairy cows that buyers came from many
states to procure these high-testing animals for their farms.[135]

Another factor affecting the rise of dairying in Fairfax County was the
early formation of the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Association.
The organization had been informally started in 1907 as a clearinghouse
for grievances among some producers in the vicinity of Washington, D.C.,
but for many years it "amounted to little more than an occasional
general meeting for the purpose of some united effort toward raising the
price of milk."[136] In 1920 it was incorporated and a full-time manager
employed. Each member paid a fee of one cent per gallon of milk sold (a
fund which was accumulated and refunded when a farmer left the
organization) and the Association handled the business of selling to the
distributors in Washington. By such collective action the dairymen were
able to control milk prices more effectively, and their unity assured a
measure of security against unscrupulous action by distributors. In the
early years of Fairfax County dairying this was a very real threat as
former Association member Holden Harrison attests:

     There were four or five principal distributors in Washington. I
     don't know whether they got together on this or not, but to start
     out with they had a two price program. They paid you more in the
     winter than they did in the summer.... The dairy farmer was at the
     mercy of the milk distributor then. They set prices just as low as
     they thought the best dairyman could continue to produce.... The
     distributors were about to starve the farmers out, that's what
     brought it around. We weren't getting a fair deal. So when we
     formed this Association the management of the Association could
     say, 'We've got these farmers lined up. They pretty well depend on
     us and we can pretty well tell them what to do.' Through that
     leverage they could pretty well tell the distributors what to do,

The Association furthered its prestige--and its bargaining power--by
waging a battle against "bootleg," or uninspected, milk being brought
into the area from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It had the additional
advantage of stabilizing prices so that the farmer with only a small
amount of milk for the market could compete with the larger producer
whose more economical methods had previously allowed him to undersell
his smaller neighbor. Better methods of testing and pasteurizing the
milk were also concerns and the cooperative used its muscle to negotiate
loans for its members.[138]

Furthermore, in the late 1920s, the Association became concerned about
the drop in prices due to an overabundance of milk in the area and
developed a system of handling the surplus. "It eventually built itself
into a position where the Association itself either rented or purchased
a plant that could take care of surplus milk...," stated Holden
Harrison. "This surplus milk was processed into cheese or butter or ice
cream or maybe even powdered milk.... They had a plant in Frederick,
Maryland, and they would divert whatever amount of producers' milk to
Frederick to the processing plant and keep it out of the hands of the
distributors."[139] This action had the double advantage of avoiding
waste and preventing a profit-lowering glut of milk.

By 1927 the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Association was the
largest farmer's cooperative in Virginia. It included 85% of the
Washington area producers in its membership, despite the effort of
distributors to dissuade some of the better producers from joining. They
exercised bargaining control of over $2,500,000 annually. Though they
never actually went on strike, their large membership fund gave them a
strong bargaining position. "The distributors knew when that fund
accumulated to a good-sized sum that we weren't just a fly-by-night
outfit that could be pushed around, that we had resources we could rely
on."[140] Furthermore, the organization wisely kept its clout by
avoiding political issues and exercising minimum control over individual
methods of production. Its purpose was to streamline the
commercialization of a farm product, and in this effort it was highly

Northern Virginia's reputation for dairy excellence grew both in local
circles and throughout the state as a result of published census reports
and statewide comparisons of milk volume and butterfat content. The 1925
agricultural census shows Fairfax County to be the largest producer in
the state, with average yield per cow 70% above the statewide figure; in
1940 this margin was even greater.[141] Dairy Herd Improvement
Association #1, based in the Herndon area, had especially impressive
results. In 1935, for example, it had the second highest overall average
in Virginia and included four of the state's five most productive herds.
In 1937 the county's high-testing cow, a Holstein owned by Dr. F. W.
Huddleston, gave 2,031 pounds of milk (8.6 pounds to a gallon) per month
to a statewide average of 620.[142]

As a result of these impressive showings, many local farmers shied away
from general farming and began to put their energies into milk
production; new farmers were drawn to the area specifically for the
possibilities in dairy farming. Of ten families interviewed in the
Floris area, all save one connected their family's removal to Fairfax
County to the combination of transportation ease and excellent prices
afforded by the Washington milk market. "In this period there was an
immigration of farmers from other parts of the country, particularly in
the Valley of Virginia, who did not have an opportunity to market their
farm products and their livestock very readily up there in the Valley,"
related Joseph Beard, "... the Southern Railway, the Richmond,
Fredericksburg and Potomac [Railways were] quite an asset to people who
wanted to market their farm products so a lot of them moved up
here."[143] Many of the newcomers became outstanding in the field of
dairy husbandry, for example, C. T. Rice, a celebrated dairy owner of
the Oakton area, whose animals consistently scored highly on milk
production. He came to the county in 1915 but "threw away his plow"
during the 1920s to concentrate solely on dairying, citing erosion
problems and the more constant income of dairying as his reasons.[144]
So widespread was this tendency to embrace dairy farming that a
traveller riding through the county in 1930 sensed that "it is not
farming country at all, because there is very little planting done. We
saw few fields in which a crop had been recently harvested ... it is
apparently a grazing country."[145]

Despite its spectacular achievements, the Fairfax County dairy industry
did not rise with an unchecked ascent but suffered a certain share of
problems and setbacks. In one sense its very success was its worst
enemy. Although many farmers continued to focus on dairying, by 1926
there was a surplus of milk on the Washington market and the county
agent noted that "it appears as if we had sufficient dairies."[146]
Still, while prices dropped steadily between 1926 and 1935,[147] farmers
continued to increase their yields in hopes of increasing profits by
shear quantities of milk sold. One county farmer commenting on the
futility of this, remarked:

     We were getting about 25¢ a gallon for our base milk. Seventy-five
     gallons a day at 25¢ a gallon wasn't paying the interest and the
     mortgage on [his farm loan]. So we decided in 1928 that we would
     put in some more cows and get a little extra money to help pay off
     this mortgage and this loan. So we started shipping, instead of 75
     gallons of milk a day, 90 to 95 gallons of milk a day. Then milk
     went down from 25¢ a gallon to 22¢ a gallon. Well, we couldn't do
     that, so we put some more stalls on the barn and built a new silo
     and put in enough cows to ship 125 gallons of milk a day ... it was
     only netting us 18 to 19¢ a gallon ... the more we worked, the more
     we produced, and the harder we worked, it seemed like the less net
     income we had.[148]

Against this turn of events the state agricultural service advocated
poultry and truck farming for those entering the county and urged a more
uniform distribution of the county's cattle. Some farmers had too few
cows for even their own use. Others had too many and no feed. "A few
good cows well kept, rather than a large number poorly fed, will bring
in a steady income, that will do much for our farmers in their present
conditions," advised County Agent Derr.[149] He also hoped to see
farmers concentrate on the butterfat content of their milk and to
increase their production of cream for which there was a continual
market; the skim milk left after the removal of cream could be fed to
calves, pigs or children. Most often Derr cautioned against the dangers
of complete specialization at the expense of an integrated farm in which
each facet of the farm was both aided and benefitted by every other
part. "The old slogan, 'the cow, the sow and the hen,' is a very true
one," he wrote, "especially in the South."[150]

Derr did well to emphasize the quality of milk products. A 1932 ruling
in the District of Columbia requiring a 4% butterfat content in milk
sold there occurred just as Derr was complaining that "with many the
quality of the milk is not such a vital question as the quantity."
Holstein cattle, which gave higher yields but less rich milk than did
Jerseys or Guernseys, predominated in the county, making the new demand
a difficult one to meet. In desperation some farmers tried
cross-breeding the two strains with mixed results; the inevitable
outcome was to compromise the county's movement towards establishing
herds of pure-bred animals.[151]

The mixing of breeds to increase butterfat content was not the only
element which undercut the breeding program. One problem, the selling of
highly profitable animals, was yet another hazard of success. "Owing to
the excellent reports being made by our cow testing associations,
numerous buyers from other states have come into the county and by
paying almost fabulous prices have taken away quite a number of our best
animals," Derr wrote in 1926. "In some cases this has proved a costly
undertaking for our dairymen, as by bringing new animals into their
herds ... either T B or abortion has been introduced."[152] Another
factor working against pure-bred stock was the depression, which for
farmers encompassed not only the 1930s, but the entire period following
the deflation of World War I prices. With less cash available, many
farmers bought poor quality bulls rather than invest the money for a
pure-bred animal.[153]

Notwithstanding these setbacks, dairy farming continued to be Fairfax
County's predominant (and most prestigious) industry during the 1920s
and 1930s. Indeed, it flourished well into the 1950s and was eclipsed
only by the overwhelming spread of urban workers into the area in the
second half of the century. Until this development occurred, it was the
dairy farmer's life which set the style and pace of life in the county.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mechanization and specialization of the family farm did not necessarily
lighten the farmer's workload. An electric machine could cut several
hours per week off milking time, but this time gain was offset by the
hours spent on sterilization and maintenance. Threshers eliminated the
time-consuming chore of hand-flailing the grain, but the farmer still
had to cut and stack his harvest, and it took several men a number of
days to run the machine. The grower was at the mercy of the machine's
owner as to the day and time he was able to thresh; here again, he lost
a measure of independence.[154] The excellent efforts of the Dairy Herd
Improvement Associations also produced work for the farmers, especially
those unaccustomed to bookkeeping. The landowner who had kept his
records in an old shoe box was now expected to record the precise weight
and butterfat content of the milk given by each cow, as well as the
market value, number of days tested and amount and cost of grain fed the
animal. The data shown in the Herd Record Books belonging to C. T. Rice
reveal them to be complex documents which required in addition to the
above information, hereditary records, descriptions of physical
features, and yearly and monthly production averages.[155] The efforts
were rewarding, of course, but, added to the farmer's already overloaded
day, the recordkeeping could be burdensome. Both Agents Derr and Beard
complained constantly of the farmer's reluctance to keep records and in
their attempts to increase the area's professional methods and pride,
they stressed the need to keep accurate accounts of the farm's

       *       *       *       *       *

The advent of technological application in the farming sector was a
cause of both optimism and disquiet. It eliminated some drudgery, it
streamlined and modernized, but it also uprooted traditions and added
financial and emotional burdens to the already pressured farmer. To cope
with the new agricultural methods and outlook, farmers increasingly
chose to relinquish some of their independence and band together to
solve their problems.

[Illustration: "Hard Work Made Easy and Quick" wrote a local farmer on
the back of this photograph. The mechanical hay loader eliminated the
taxing work of pitching hay into a barn loft, c. 1935. Photo courtesy of
Holden Harrison.]



[92] Barger and Lansberg, _American Agriculture, 1899-1939_, 212.

[93] _Ibid._, 201-202.

[94] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[95] _Ibid._; Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978; Barger and Lansberg,
_American Agriculture, 1899-1939_, 212.

[96] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[97] Nickell and Randolph, _An Economic and Social Survey of Fairfax
County_, 75-76; and Derr Report, 1925, photo section.

[98] Derr Report, 1936. In 1940 there were still only 298 tractors in
the county. See _Agricultural Census, 1940_.

[99] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[100] Barger and Lansberg, _American Agriculture, 1899-1939_, 221; Richard
Peck was among those in the Floris vicinity who believed that the early
machines "ruined" a good cow; see Peck/Netherton, February 23, 1978.

[101] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979. The Harrisons bought their
equipment quite early--around 1924; McNair, "What I Remember";
Peck/Netherton, February 23, 1978; J. Middleton/Netherton, February 24,
1978; Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978.

[102] Advertisements in _Herndon News-Observer_; and Holden Harrison
quoted in Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[103] Author's conversation with Joseph Beard, April 25, 1979; and Sears
and Roebuck catalog, 1927-1928.

[104] Inventory of property of George W. Kidwell, April 6, 1928, Fairfax
County Will Book Liber 11, 343-344.

[105] McNair, "What I Remember"; and notes on conversation with Joseph
Beard, April 16, 1979.

[106] Beard/Pryor, February 27, 1979; Congressional Record.

[107] Russell Lord, _Men of Earth_ (New York, 1931), 80.

[108] "Poultry Men Confer," _Fairfax Herald_, February 26, 1926.

[109] Virginia Agricultural Advisory Council, _A Five Year Program for
the Development of Virginia's Agriculture_ (Richmond, 1923), 29; and Derr
Report, 1920.

[110] Derr Report, 1926.

[111] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[112] Derr Reports, nearly every year. See, for example, 1932, 11.

[113] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979; and Harrison/Pryor, February 5,

[114] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[115] Derr Report, 1932, 11.

[116] _Ibid._, 1926, 8.

[117] _Ibid._, 1925, 6.

[118] Beard/Netherton/Reid, November, 1974.

[119] _Ibid._

[120] Derr Report, 1930, 29.

[121] _Ibid._, 1936, 16; and notes following interview,
Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[122] "Farm Notes" and "Scientific Feeding," January 22, 1925; and "Rid
Houses and Hens of Vermin," October 21, 1926; all in _Herndon

[123] _Ibid._, April 14, 1932.

[124] Bailey/Netherton, December 19, 1978; and _The Southern Planter_,
April, 1930.

[125] Statements of Holden Harrison and Joseph Beard in Beard/Pryor,
February 27, 1979; and Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[126] "The Way Out for the Farmer," _Washington Star_, June 19, 1932;
_Agricultural Census, 1925_; Nickell and Randolph, _An Economic and Social
Survey of Fairfax County_, 71; "A Unique Fairfax County Farm," undated
newspaper clipping (c. 1945) belonging to Mrs. Mary Scott; Elizabeth
Rice to author, Wilmington, Delaware, January 30, 1979.

[127] Funk, "An Economic History of Small Farms Near Washington, D.C.,"

[128] Derr Report, 1935, 10. Mr. D. H. McAslan made about $500 the first
year from a $143 investment.

[129] Funk, "An Economic History of Small Farms Near Washington, D.C.,"
6-7; Nickell and Randolph, _An Economic and Social Survey of Fairfax
County_; and Derr Report, 1927, 13.

[130] Description of A. S. Harrison by Holden Harrison, Harrison/Pryor,
February 5, 1979.

[131] "Fairfax Farmer States Facts," _Herndon News-Observer_, March 1,

[132] Nickell and Randolph, _An Economic and Social Survey of Fairfax
County_, 29-30.

[133] Nan Netherton, Donald Sweig, Janice Artemel, Patricia Hickin, and
Patrick Reed, _Fairfax County, Virginia: A History_ (Fairfax Virginia,
1978), 480-483.

[134] Nickell and Randolph, _An Economic and Social Survey of Fairfax
County_, 26-27.

[135] "Pure Bred Bulls," _Herndon News-Observer_, May 17, 1928, 1; and
Derr Report, 1926, 6.

[136] "History of the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Association,"
_Herndon News-Observer_, May 4, 1933.

[137] _Ibid._; and Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[138] William Edward Garnett, "Rural Organization in Relation to Rural
Life in Virginia," _Virginia Agricultural Extension Station Bulletin 256_
(Blacksburg, May 1927), 11; and Nickell and Randolph, _An Economic and
Social Survey of Fairfax County_, 83.

[139] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[140] Garnett, "Rural Organization in Relation to Rural Life in
Virginia," and _Ibid._

[141] _Agricultural Censes, 1925, 1940._ The 1940 figures show milk
production per farm in Fairfax County to be 400% above the average in
the state.

[142] Derr Report, 1937; and "State Dairy Herd Improvement Association,"
_Herndon News-Observer_, August 8, 1935.

[143] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[144] "Fairfax Farmer Threw Away His Plow in 1928 and Amazing Results
Have Been Revolutionary," _Richmond Times-Dispatch_, September 17, 1951.

[145] Oliver Martin, _On and Off the Concrete in Maryland, Virginia and
West Virginia_ (Washington, 1930), 26.

[146] Derr Reports, 1926, 6, and 1927, 13.

[147] Milk prices dropped from $4.05 per 100 gallons in 1920 to a low of
$2.10 in 1932. By 1935 they were still low, but had risen some to $2.25.
The prices given are July figures; January listings were generally a bit
higher. See _Virginia Farm Statistics_ (Richmond, 1936), 59.

[148] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[149] H. B. Derr, "Helping Farmers," _Herndon News-Observer_, April 14,
1932; and Derr Report, 1927, 13.

[150] Derr, "Helping Farmers."

[151] Derr Report, 1932, 5.

[152] Derr Report, 1926, 6.

[153] Derr Report, 1932, 6.

[154] McNair, "What I Remember"; and _16th Census of the United States,
1940, Agriculture--Volume I, Statistics for Counties_ (Washington, 1942).

[155] C. T. Rice Herd Record Books, 1923-1937, in possession of Mrs.
Mary Scott.

[156] Derr and Beard Reports, nearly every year, see especially 1926,


_Professionalization and an Increased Standard of Living_

Specialization, whether in truck farming, dairying or poultry raising,
streamlined the farmer's work and gave him an in-depth body of knowledge
in a particular field. This expertise made for occupational prestige and
increased status in non-farm communities; acknowledgment of the farmer
as a professional developed markedly during the 1920s and 1930s.
Detailed knowledge had been essential to the general farmer but it was
not widely recognized as a specialized skill. The professionalization
taking place was also due to the farmer's own recognition of his unique
role and his attempts to enhance it through farmer's clubs, educational
opportunities and community projects. It also reflected a larger concern
in the nation with upgrading standards and promoting solidarity among
discrete occupational groups, a remnant from the movement towards
efficiency and proficiency of the Progressive Era.[157]

An important advance for the farmer was the increased opportunities in
agricultural education. The Hatch Act had provided for agricultural
programs to be established in the Land Grant Colleges, and ensuing
legislation in 1917 called for farm courses to be added to the high
school curriculum.[158] This significant step was resisted for a short
time in Fairfax County, where the school board preferred to teach Latin
rather than agriculture in the schools, a policy held in disdain by
local farmers: "Latin was of no use unless you want to go around the
barn and swear at some creature in an old language."[159] When
vocational training was finally adopted in 1919, the chances for farm
children to keep up with the burgeoning technology and sharpen their
acquired skills were immeasurably increased. In Virginia practical
skills were taught but so were a program of social studies dealing with
the quality of life in rural areas, focusing on problems of
transportation, recreation, resource protection and consumption
patterns.[160] Such official sanction for agricultural education was a
recognition that farming was not merely a plodding or unskilled
activity, but an exacting science which required intelligence and
application to master.

Extensive study of agriculture in high school or college was the ideal,
of course, but a number of programs were developed to further the
established farmer's basic skills. Ray Harrison went to Baltimore to
take a farmer's course in veterinary medicine and Wilson D. McNair
travelled all the way to New Brunswick, New Jersey, to learn the most
advanced methods of poultry farming. McNair later enrolled in a two-year
course at VPI. Another farmer, Fred Curtice, from the Navy area, had
degrees from Cornell University and took veterinary courses from George
Washington University.[161] The county agent also designed extension
schools for interested farmers. In February, 1933, for example, a
two-day poultry school was attended by 75 farmers who heard reports by
local farmers, talks by experts from USDA and VPI and workshops on
topics such as "Egg Grading," "Growing the Pullets," and "The Poultry
Outlook for Virginia."[162] Less intensive programs were also offered,
such as the free showing of a dairy-oriented film, "Safeguarding the
Foster Mothers of the World." "A profitable evening is promised,"
announced the film's advertisement, "especially to those interested in
the economical production of milk by up-to-date methods."[163]

[Illustration: The Fairfax County Grange meeting at a schoolhouse near
Fairfax, c. 1940. Photo, Library of Congress.]

Perhaps of even greater benefit to the farmer's image and expertise was
the growth of local farmer's organizations and cooperatives. The largest
and most prominent nationally was the Grange, a farmer's association
initially started in Washington, D.C., in 1867. Fairfax County boasted
four chapters of this organization, formed in the late years of the
1920s. The Grange interested itself in agricultural activities and civic
matters and it was upon its recommendation that the county agent was
appointed.[164] Of more immediate concern, however, were the local
farmer's clubs, and the unofficial associations of orchardists or
dairymen who met to discuss surpluses, crop problems or the need to
advertise. The farmer's clubs were the outgrowth of community groups
which sprang up spontaneously in the county from the mid-nineteenth
century on, but which were expanded and formalized by H. B. Derr in the
mid-1920s. As he described them they were

     unique in their plans in that they are composed of twelve families
     and they meet once a year at each home.... They meet in time for
     dinner and after dinner ... the men go over the farm and discuss
     current farm problems. Then they return to the house and listen to
     some speaker who has been invited for an informal talk.[165]

Broadening and sociable, the clubs became an outstanding feature of
Fairfax County farm organization.

The minutes from the meetings of Farmer's Club #1, which was based in
Herndon and was made up predominantly of members from the Floris area,
show the variety of subjects discussed. A meeting in March, 1921,
included a lecture on contagious abortion (a disease chiefly affecting
dairy cows). Road conditions were discussed in April, 1924. Problems of
milk cooling and the effectiveness of the agricultural high school were
topics in March, 1928, and the following month state legislator H. E.
Hanes addressed the club on farm issues and voting procedures in the
upcoming elections. The club members also joined together to buy seed
in quantity in order to reduce cost and effort.

Informative as the meetings were, of equal importance was the bond of
friendship and professional affiliation which the farmer's clubs
fostered. By working closely with men of similar interests, a network
was built up which increased the agriculturalists' pride and
effectiveness; not only could the farmer identify with the attitudes and
problems of his associates, but could work with them to fulfill mutual
needs. The sincere respect felt among members of this group is shown in
the following tribute, written after the death of one associated farmer,
S. L. Chapin:

     Be it resolved: That we pause to drop a tear of sympathy and love,
     to express in our humble way the deep feeling of our loss. Bold and
     fearless in the expression of his opinion, kind and considerate at
     all times, and under all conditions. His life and association with
     his fellow men were full of love and tenderness.... To his bereaved
     family we tender our deepest sympathy and may the recolections
     (sic) of his cheerful disposition ever remain fresh in our
     memories, as we recall many pleasant incidents of his

As farmers organized, they reinforced their own values and occupational
identity, and what is more, they combined their efforts to work for the
change they sought most. The Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers
Association is an obvious example of this. Smaller cooperatives, many of
them outgrowths of the farmer's clubs, sprang up throughout the county,
though none of them had the longevity or impact of the Maryland and
Virginia Milk Producers Association. A Floris Milk Producers Association
was founded in 1925 to operate and repair milk collecting trucks and the
Dairy Marketing Company and Fairfax County Farmer's Service Company
(which featured cooperative buying of seed) started a few years later.
None of these bodies remained permanent features of the area's
organizations, but all helped the farmer to see the advantage of
collective effort. The professional attitude adopted by the farmers'
groups is evident in the stringent standards required in their service
contracts. No longer was an informal gentleman's agreement sufficient.
Farmers expected seed to be of a certain weight and quality, milk to be
delivered "at a coolness satisfactory to the dealer," and sanitary
measures to be strictly followed.[167] In effect the cooperative
movement enlarged the farmer's working partners to include not only his
family and hired labor, but the community as a whole.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: The Floris Home Demonstration Club, 1930 winners of the
County Championship for most effective club. Photo in H. B. Derr
Reports, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.]


[Illustration: A 4-H Club display at the county "Achievement Day,"
showing the stress on nutrition of the Oakton and Pope's Head Clubs.
Photos in H. B. Derr Report, 1930, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County
Public Library.]

[Illustration: A community fair, c. 1922, similar to those held in the
Floris area. Photo in H. B. Derr Report, 1922, Virginiana Collection,
Fairfax County Public Library.]

[Illustration: A suggested model farm for Fairfax County developed in
1924 by County Agent H. B. Derr. The model includes crop rotation,
annual budget and a schedule of livestock feeding and purchase. Photo in
H. B. Derr Report, 1924, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public

Women and children were also encouraged to professionalize. Working
jointly with the agricultural agent was a "home demonstration agent" who
gave advice, lectures and demonstrations geared toward increased economy
and convenience for the homemaker. Home Demonstration Clubs were
organized in each community to acquaint farm women with the newest
research on food preservation, household efficiency and organizational
skills. Courses in fancy needlework and cake-baking were sometimes
featured but the home demonstration agents' work more frequently took a
pragmatic bent. The seriousness with which the homemaker was regarded,
and the new image of professionalism which she hoped to evoke is
evidenced in the schedule of classes led by agent Lucy Blake in early

  January   Home Lighting and Wiring
  February  The Homemaker as Planner--Her Job and the Planning Center
  March     Schedules and Deadlines
  April     Citizenship
  May       The Homemaker as Handyman
  June      The Homemaker as Buyer[168]

In addition, the clubs raised money for neighborhood beautification and
worked on community projects. The Floris Club annually canned fruits,
vegetables and meats for a hot school lunch program and also donated
their time to serve it. As in the more male-oriented Farmer's Clubs, the
organizations fostered pride and identity among the farm women, as well
as concretely improving conditions on the farm.[169]

The home demonstration agent also ran the county's 4-H clubs, branches
of a nationwide organization founded in 1903. Four-H members dedicated
their "heads, hearts, hands and health" to improving rural conditions;
the club's goal was to give practical training to children whose life
was likely to be spent on the farm. Boys were schooled in agronomy,
mechanics and animal husbandry and pursued individual projects in these
fields. Girls also worked both with groups and individually in such
areas as "food for health," clothes remodeling and room improvement.
Summer camps, rallies and fairs were also sponsored by 4-H Clubs. At one
camp, held near Woodlawn, the week-long program included workshops in
canning, basketry and utilization of dairy products, a sidetrip to see
fireworks, and those perennial camp favorites of swimming, "weenie
roasts" and stunt nights.[170]

[Illustration: The 4-H Girls Camp at Woodlawn. Fewer boys were able to
attend such camps since their labor was needed on the farm. Photo in H.
B. Derr Report, 1925, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public

[Illustration: The cream of the crop of Fairfax County girlhood on a
float meant for the Piedmont Dairy Festival parade. Photo in H. B. Derr
Report, 1930, Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.]

The 4-H Clubs never caught on in Fairfax County to the satisfaction of
the home demonstration and agricultural agents. "The past year has not
been a banner year for club work," wrote Derr in 1926. "Four clubs were
organized ... but the agent is inclined to think that with a number of
[members] this was done to be excused from a study period. The small
amount of work done on their projects seems to substantiate this
belief."[171] The clubs grew slowly partly because they overlapped the
work of the Floris Vocational High School and the Future Farmers of
America Club, founded in 1927.[172] There is also some evidence that
parents were reluctant to release their children from farm work to
attend meetings.[173] For those who did join, the meetings seem to have
been fun and profitable. "Not only do you learn from 4-H how to make a
home and a living," an enthusiastic member commented in 1933, "but you
also learn how to make life worthwhile. We now realize more than ever
our duties, as the child of today will be the adult of tomorrow."[174]

As is evident in the above quotation, groups such as the 4-H or Future
Farmers of America encouraged a child to identify with and improve on
rural life. These organizations not only stressed occupational pride,
but benefitted the community by training leaders who had early
experience with professional farming techniques.

       *       *       *       *       *

Aside from the need to influence milk and produce prices, two chief
concerns of the farmer's organizations were the establishment of
electricity throughout the county and the improvement of the area's
roads. The move towards rural electrification was a popular one across
the nation, cited continually as the one item most useful to the farmer
for advancing mechanization and of greatest importance in raising the
farm family's standard of living. With electricity the family could use
a radio, rid themselves of smoky kerosene lighting and enjoy the use of
more efficient and cleaner stoves and refrigeration. The pragmatic
desire for electrical equipment to operate milking machines and water
pumps was intensified by advertisements such as one which appeared in
the _Herndon News-Observer_ claiming that electricity would make life
"convenient and happy" as well as add fifteen to twenty years to the
farm woman's life.[175]

Unfortunately, the route to establishing electrical facilities in the
county was not an easy one. Some farmers used small gasoline engines to
produce power, but these, the "contrariest little machines," were
unreliable and frequently too weak to run milking equipment. Derr
reported that 98% of the farmers desired this convenience but the
expense seemed prohibitive. Commercial electric companies were reluctant
to build lines through sparsely settled areas, and the farmers were
forced to finance their own power plants. In 1933 the federal government
began a program to subsidize local electrification programs and make
them financially viable the only drawback being the undue amount of red
tape to go through involved in qualifying. "The cost of building new
lines was found to range from one thousand to two thousand dollars a
mile," stated a discouraged Derr. "We were hardly prepared to be told
that the farmers ... must organize a farm cooperative ... borrow the
money from the Government and build their own lines to be
self-liquidating in twenty years at 3% interest."[176] Difficult as the
process seemed, the farmers had little choice if they hoped to electrify
their neighborhoods. In this instance, an organization was not only an
advantage for success in furthering the community's amenities, but a

That the Floris community was one of the earlier areas to enjoy the
benefits of electrification was a result of great effort on the part of
its citizens. A franchise for an electric power plant was granted to
Herndon in 1915 but never materialized, and prior to 1924 the nearest
generating operation was in Alexandria.[177] A group of farmers from
Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, headed by A. S. Harrison, hired an
engineer and travelled throughout the Dranesville District to encourage
farmers to contribute time and money towards an electrical plant.
Eventually they raised enough cash to form a stock company and a power
line was built between Alexandria and Herndon, and subsequently on to
Leesburg.[178] The initiative shown by the Floris farmers was rewarded
by a distinct advantage over non-electrified communities. As late as
1940 over 35% of the county's farms were without electric power. A
survey conducted in that year showed these non-electrified areas to be
the least productive, and most depressed in morale and way of life.[179]

Water and sanitation systems were also difficult to establish despite
concerted efforts by the home demonstration agents. Slightly over 10% of
the county's farm homes contained "complete water systems" in 1932,
though a larger percentage had partial plumbing facilities. Even in
1940, only 19% of the homes in the Dranesville area (and 40% in the
county as a whole) boasted running water. Low as these figures seem,
however, they were the highest in the state. Because good water was
abundant in the area, farmers saw less need to campaign for extended
water mains or sewer lines, in spite of their advantages for health and
convenience. It was not until the population boom of World War II that
really modern utilities were established in the county on a large

Of greater significance was the effort to better the county's road
system. Southern roads in general--and Virginia's in particular--had
been notorious since their inception for ruts, abrupt endings and,
especially, mud. In 1918 there were only a few miles of surfaced road in
Fairfax County, and any roadbuilding or repairs were made at the
discretion of individual landowners.[181] The inconveniences caused by
the poor roads became legendary. One woman remembered the roads being so
rough that eggs would break on the way to market, and another, Emma
Millard, stated that conditions were bad enough that "you would lose
your boots when you went through so much mud and had to go back and
retrieve the boots."[182] When automobiles became more common on the
county's thoroughfares, they increased the problem of dust, deeply worn
grooves and splashing muddy water. At the same time they pointed up the
necessity for improvement. The early solid tire vehicles could barely
operate in the thick red Virginia mud, thus greatly retarding
transportation of produce and milk. "If you had three drops of rain on
the road, [the tires] started spinning and you couldn't go anywhere much
without chains," recollected one early farmer. "Every truck carried a
set of tire chains in the event it rained. In the summertime if it
rained, you stuck right on the first little grade you hit." Not until
1922 did farmers attempt to haul their goods in trucks, and even then
they "broke more axles than anything else."[183]

Farmers were acutely aware of the situation and some of their earliest
united efforts were focused on road improvement. Records of Farmer's
Club #1 show the topic to be the subject of discussion at several
meetings a year, beginning in 1909. Initially they tried only to
interest the county in undertaking repairs but as conditions worsened,
the landowners began to appeal to county judges and the Board of
Supervisors for bond issues to surface Little River Turnpike and other
main roads. Resolutions, such as the following from a Herndon-based
club, were regularly sent to government officials:

     Resolved: That we, Farmer's Club #4 ... favor petitioning the
     circuit judge of the county to order an election for the purpose of
     determining whether bonds shall be issued for the sum of $50,000
     for the construction of a macadam road from Little River Turnpike
     at Chantilly to the Leesburg Pike at Dranesville, and as much more
     as possible.[184]

In some cases the clubs even worked together to build their own
roads.[185] After ten years of pressure by farm groups, a bond issue was
presented to the voters to pave the Leesburg Pike, the road from
Chantilly to Herndon which ran through Floris, and a thoroughfare
extending beyond Herndon to Mock Corner. The weight with which area
residents viewed this issue is shown in a statement made by the Herndon
Chamber of Commerce: "If this bond issue fails, it will be the greatest
calamity that has befallen this community in many years." Happily the
bond issue did pass and this, plus the statewide road program sponsored
under the leadership of Governor Harry F. Byrd from 1926 to 1930,
eliminated the bulk of the road problems. Only a few years later, in
1928, Fairfax was one of the foremost counties in Virginia in the area
of transportation, with over 160 miles of surfaced roads.[186]

[Illustration: Improved and unimproved roads in the Herndon area, c.
1930. Note that the only surfaced roads ran between Herndon and
Centreville. Map surveyed by the Office of the County Engineer, Fairfax
County. Copy courtesy of Library of Congress Map Division.]

[Illustration: Stuck in the mud on one of the county's roads, c. 1911.
Photo, Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation.]

Surfaced roads were an obvious boon to marketing but they also had a
number of unexpected positive effects. Conscientious and efficient as
the farmers had tried to be, the county had worn a rather untidy
appearance for several years. A traveler observed that "the fences are
not as trigly mended or the buildings as trimly painted as in the
[Shenandoah] Valley. A haystack is merely a pile of hay and not a neatly
fashioned cock...."[187] County agent Derr also admitted that "in at
least 75 percent of the farm homes there is little or no attention to
the improvement of the home surroundings." The extension service worked
valiantly to mitigate this problem by offering courses in landscaping
and home maintenance, but to their surprise they found that the chief
stimulus to home improvement was the repair of roads. Those areas which
appeared most untidy were found on unimproved thoroughfares, which Derr
maintained had a depressing effect on the farm family. "There is a
direct correllation (sic)," he noted, "between the improvement of the
roads and the painting and fixing up of things around the house."[188]

Another beneficial side effect of the surfaced highway network was the
birth of the roadside stand for selling surplus produce, dairy and
poultry products. There were some distinct advantages to the stands, as
farmers could sell directly to the customer without the costly use of a
middleman, and did not have to transport his goods to city consumers. A
count made in 1937 found 210 roadside stands in the county.[189]
Earlier, the _Herndon News-Observer_ had reported the success of the new
markets which lent themselves "to the disposal of second-grade products
or fruits and vegetables too ripe for distant shipping [and had] grown
to an unusual business ... for the farmers fortunate enough to live
along popular highways." Business indeed seems to have been brisk; by
1926 the farmers were pocketing over $2,000 per month from the roadside

       *       *       *       *       *

New discoveries in technology, educational opportunities and a
refurbished transportation network were naturally considered advances in
their time; they could be loosely headed under the term "progress." But
progress does not run along a perfectly straight path, rather it dips
and weaves ignoring some people and places in its circuitous route.
Consequently, many of the changes so eagerly embraced by the farmer of
modest means were the very factors which eventually crowded out the
family farm. The farmers of Fairfax County were for the most part
unaware of their impending doom, being instead optimistic and relatively
prosperous during the 1920s and 1930s. But the small, varied and
preindustrial farm could not compete for long against the lure of city
wages, highly mechanized and specialized farms, and the inroads of the
city into rural areas.

Mechanization most drastically altered life on the family farm. Work
rhythms and patterns, previously geared to hand labor, were disrupted,
and even the sounds on the farm changed. Older cows, for example,
disliked the noise of the electric milking machines, and Wilson McNair
wrote that

     horses were generally scared of traction engines with their hissing
     steam, etc. When the engine met a team it would stop and one man
     would lead the horses by the bridle past the engine.... At the
     railroad crossing in Herndon there was a bell that rung when a
     train was coming. Our pony, if the bell was ringing when we crossed
     the track coming home would break into a dead run. You couldn't
     hold her.[191]

To the interim farmer, caught between completely automated equipment and
the tradition of hand labor, the change in work habits, knowledge and
goals could be more than vaguely disquieting.

As mechanization increased, many began to speak of agriculture in
industrial terms, believing that "factorizing" the farm would solve its
problems. This meant dispensing with any unnecessary tasks, such as
raising sheep or making soap, and as much as possible replacing manpower
with machinery. Technical terminology started to creep into farm talk.
C. T. Rice referred to his dairy as "a milk producing plant,"[192]
ancient terms such as "culling" became "selective breeding," and even
the animals were referred to as machines, which if "poorly constructed
must be ... discarded by the good breeder."[193] To independent-minded
farmers, who, as Sinclair Lewis had observed, jealously guarded the
ability to escape the mill and turmoil of the city, this
industrialization seemed the ultimate compromise. The findings of the
Commission to study the Condition of the Farmers of Virginia (1930) show
the rural values of a most fundamental character to be those most prized
by the agriculturalist:

     Among these are: a) The advantages of the country for bringing up a
     family ... a greater sharing of responsibilities, a closer knit,
     more stable family life.... b) The satisfactions ... of contacts
     with forces of nature, of caring for plants and animals, and of
     seeing them grow.... c) Greater freedom from various types of
     restraints, including somewhat greater control over time and
     freedom of personal action; also less intense struggle to keep up
     with or ahead of others.... d) somewhat greater freedom from
     illness, together with a better prospect of attaining old age. e)
     Greater security against unemployment as well as less prospect of
     falling into absolute want.[194]

Yet in the post-World War I period the farmer had increasingly to
commercialize and mechanize his business to remain solvent and to
"citify" his life, destroying in numerous instances the standards he
held dear.

"I used to 'farm' some and made money at it; now I'm 'engaged in the
pursuit of agriculture' and can't make ends meet," commented one U. S.
Secretary of Agriculture, echoing the sentiments of many small
landowners.[195] The new farm mechanization was, in many cases, not
particularly well adapted to the family farm in this period.
Gasoline-powered tractors, harvesters and other equipment worked most
economically on the large, level acres of midwestern farms, and the east
coast farmer with modest landholdings could not hope to compete on the
market with the streamlined efficiency of western farms. Mechanized
farming was also capital intensive. Besides the initial cost of
equipment there were expenses for maintenance and fuel. Whereas the
farmer had been able to raise feed for horses or mules inexpensively, he
could not grow gasoline.

Farmers usually had to borrow money to purchase equipment and sometimes
they over-indulged. "I know one or two that did," said Joseph Beard.

     When you have several thousand dollars invested in machinery, and
     you only use it three, five, ten, fifteen days a year, the rest of
     the time it's sitting idle ... it would have been ... better if
     they had hired their work done from someone else rather than put
     that much into it.[196]

More cash was needed to buy manufactured goods as the farm became less
self-supporting, but prices for raw materials remained low during the
agricultural slump of the 1920s and 1930s. "Agriculture was much less
distressed when the farm was a self-supporting home," reflected the
_Washington Star_:

     But when factories began producing commodities in quantity the
     farmer could buy them easier than he could make them at home.

     At first glance this looks like an admirable situation. But the
     hitch arose when the farmer found himself unable to maintain a fair
     basis of exchange.[197]

The result was that many farms of long-standing ownership had to be
mortgaged. In the space of one year (between 1924 and 1925) county
mortgages rose a dramatic 30% and by 1940 they had risen another
20%.[198] Worse yet, a small but significant number of farmers and farm
laborers were beginning to leave the countryside altogether to work in
the city.

[Illustration: The Kidwell farm and Floris vicinity shown in an aerial
photograph taken in 1937. Photo, National Archives and Records Service.]

The county's improved transportation system was partially responsible
for this. Access to markets had been facilitated by surfaced roads but
an easy avenue to city jobs was also opened. Short and regular hours,
higher pay and city amenities were strong attractions to the farmer who
had had to work "from daybreak to backbreak" for a scanty living.[199]
In recognition of this problem, Derr wrote plaintively in his annual
report of 1925:

     The worst feature is the fact that our small farmers in the main
     have such a hard time to get along that many of them are actually
     training their children along more lucrative lines, and occupations
     other than farming. Many of these farmers have sold their farms or
     abandoned their leases and moved into the cities and are earning
     more money per day than they made per week in the country. Another
     important factor in this exodus from the farm is the fact that so
     many of our farm boys with good health and strength, and not afraid
     of hard work are making good in the city.[200]

Continuing on, Derr quoted one discouraged farmer: "One of my daughters
is making 22 dollars a week, and my wife is talking of getting a job
too. My wife can earn more in the city than I am getting so I guess I
will take care of the house and let them go to work."[201]

Ironically, additions such as electrification, intended to improve the
rural standard of living, seem to have done little to check the
migration. USDA and United Nations studies show that the very amenities
which should have made life in the country more attractive often
resulted in a large flow of the population towards urban areas, a trend
which continues today in developing countries. Even increased education,
which had as its goal professional quality in agricultural training,
sometimes simply broadened the farmer to possibilities outside his own
realm. Sociologists and agriculturalists have found these repercussions
puzzling and have not discovered clear-cut reasons for them. Perhaps
with country and city life being ever homogenized by the use of radios,
automobiles, consumer goods and the interflow of people, the step of
leaving the farm to try city life seemed less foreign and formidable. In
Fairfax County the proximity of Washington and Alexandria made it
especially tempting.[202]

It was not only farm owners who left home for city jobs, but the farm
laborers. The effect of this exodus was devastating to the county's
small farmer. Initially the scarcity of help meant cutting back
additional farm activities, the products of which were not earmarked for
the market. Rebecca Middleton remembered, for instance, that farmers
stopped raising their own hogs chiefly because of the difficulty of
hiring laborers to help with butchering.[203] As labor shortages grew,
the available help raised their prices significantly, eventually
outpricing themselves for most farmers. As Joseph Beard observed, this
trend did not affect Fairfax County in a really dramatic way until after
World War II, "by virtue of the fact that most farmers raised anywhere
from two to five children. Most every farmer's hired hand raised from
two to five children. Now there just wasn't room on this farm to employ
ten to twelve children." With such large families the drain to
Washington did not so clearly affect the farms at the outset.[204]
Nevertheless, the trend retains its significance, for the high cost of
labor, which contributed greatly to the demise of the self-supporting
farm, had its roots in the optimistic improvement of transportation
systems in the second and third decades of the century.[205]

The improved roads carried yet another liability: an increase in land
value and the consequent rise in taxation. In 1923 the average acre in
the county was worth $5 to $10; it had more than doubled in value by the
end of that decade.[206] Taxes rose accordingly. The editors of the
_Fairfax Herald_ complained in 1926 that in addition to the cost of living
which had risen 78% from 1913, they paid federal taxes which were 200%
over the pre-World War I figure.[207] The farmer also carried the burden
of cost for his much-desired roads. In addition to bond issues, there
was a Virginia state gasoline tax which fell heavily on the farmer with
his gas-driven machinery and need to haul produce to market.[208]
Taxation, like labor, machinery and manufactured goods, called for
additional cash, which was more and more difficult for the family farmer
to raise. "There's only one thing that has driven the dairy industry out
of Fairfax County, and that's taxes," concluded Holden Harrison. "The
land was suitable, the location was suitable, but who's going to run a
dairy on $10,000 an acre land?"[209]

       *       *       *       *       *

An editorial in the _Fairfax Herald_ for September 6, 1935, reflects well
the changes seen on farms of the depression era.

     Housewives throughout the county are becoming more and more
     incensed over the steadily rising prices of foodstuffs,
     particularly meats.... In many places housewives are actually
     boycotting merchants who attempt to sell meat at the present price
     level. The blame for the present rise in prices lies directly at
     the door of the Raw Dealers and Brain Trusters. These smart young
     gentlemen had a theory and in pursuance of that theory they
     slaughtered a great number of hogs, in order to keep prices at an
     unnaturally high level. They succeeded only too well.[210]

That the farm family was no longer raising its own meat, that they had
lost a good deal of control over the quality and availability of their
daily necessities, that housewives viewed themselves as important and
cohesive enough to organize a boycott, that farm commodities were no
longer strictly under the regulation of the farmer, and that the
government's interference was beginning to be questioned and resented
were signs of radical change in rural economic and social structure. The
farmer was no longer so isolated, nor so overtaxed with sheer physical
labor. The price he paid for these advantages was diminishing control
over a way of life which had begun to slip away.


_Professionalization and an Increased Standard of Living_

[157] Thomas A. Bailey, _The American Pageant_ (Boston, D. C. Heath,
1966), 416.

[158] _United States Congressional Record_, 1914, 1916, 1917.

[159] Beard/Pryor, February 27, 1979.

[160] Kolb and Brunner, _A Study of Rural Society_, 424.

[161] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979; McNair, "What I Remember" and
"Fred Curtice, Fairfax Dairy Farmer," _Washington Post_, October 24, 1978.

[162] "Poultry School at Fairfax," February 16, 1933; and "Two Day
Poultry School a Success," March 2, 1933, both in _Herndon News-Observer_.

[163] Advertisement in _Herndon News-Observer_, June 4, 1925.

[164] Beard/Netherton/Reed, November, 1974.

[165] Derr Report, 1925, 14; and 1937 Report.

[166] Minutes of Meetings, Farmer's Club #1, Herndon, Virginia, October
1, 1909 to January 13, 1935, copy courtesy of Rebecca Middleton.

[167] "Dairymen to Meet," _Fairfax Herald_, August 30, 1935; "Floris
Producers Active," _Herndon News-Observer_, January 22, 1925; Derr Report,
1927; for an outstanding example of a contract such as the one
described, see contract between Burden S. Athey and Windsor Lodge Farm,
Huntley, Virginia, May 31, 1933, in possession of Mrs. Mary Scott.

[168] Lucy Blake Report, 1938, 7.

[169] See all of the annual reports of home demonstration agents,
especially Sarah E. Thomas Reports, 1933 and 1934; and Lucy Steptoe
Report, 1936.

[170] For 4-H Club activity, see annual reports of home demonstration
agents; and "The Short Course," _Fairfax Herald_, July 16, 1926.

[171] Derr Report, 1926.

[172] "Floris 'Aggies' Organize," _Herndon News-Observer_, January 13,
1926 (sic, 1927); and Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[173] "Influence of Club Members," _Herndon News-Observer_.

[174] Muriel Wheeler, 4-H Record Book, Herndon Club, 1933, in 4-H Record
File, in Virginiana.

[175] _15th Census of the United States, Agricultural Summary, 1930_; Kolb
and Brunner, _A Study of Rural Society_, 387; and advertisement in
_Herndon News-Observer_, March 26, 1925.

[176] Derr Report, 1935, 13; and Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[177] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979; and Rita Shug, "The Town of
Herndon," unpublished monograph, George Mason University, May, 1973, 8.

[178] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[179] VPI, _Housing_, 26.

[180] _Ibid._, 14 and 26; "Farm Home Water Supply for Fairfax County,"
_Herndon News-Observer_, June 23, 1932; and Netherton, et al., _Fairfax
County_, 519.

[181] Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, _Historic Progressive Fairfax
County in Old Virginia_ (Alexandria, 1928), 35; Harrison/Pryor, February
5, 1979.

[182] Greear/Netherton, March 23, 1978; and interview with Emma Millard,
by Dana Gumb, November 15, 1972.

[183] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[184] Minutes of Farmer's Club #1; and Resolution of Farmer's Club #14,
n.d., copy found in Minutes of Farmer's Club #1.

[185] Derr Report, 1925, 14.

[186] Publicity Committee of Herndon Chamber of Commerce, "Facts
Regarding Bond Issue Every Voter Should Know," 1924, copy courtesy of
Holden Harrison; Robert T. Hawkes, Jr., "The Emergence of a Leader:
Harry Flood Byrd, Governor of Virginia, 1926-1930," _Virginia Magazine of
History and Biography_, LXXXII, July 1, 1974, 281; _Historic Progressive
Fairfax County_, 35.

[187] Agnes Rothery, _Virginia: The New Dominion_ (New York, 1940),

[188] Derr Report, 1925.

[189] Lucy Blake Report, 1937, 7.

[190] "Improved Highways are Big Aid to the Farmer," _Herndon
News-Observer_, December 30, 1926.

[191] McNair, "What I Remember."

[192] "A Unique Fairfax County Farm."

[193] "Cows Like Machines," _Herndon News-Observer_, April 28, 1932.

[194] _Report of the Commission to Study the Condition of the Farmers of
Virginia to the General Assembly of Virginia_ (Richmond, 1930), 35; and
Lord, _Men of Earth_, 147.

[195] Jere Rusk quoted in Joseph Schafer, _The Social History of American
Agriculture_ (New York, 1936), 159. This book also contains an excellent
summary of the problems mechanization produced for the small farmer.

[196] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[197] "The Way Out for the Farmer," _Washington Star_, June 19, 1932,
section 7, 3.

[198] Nickell and Randolph, _An Economic and Social Survey of Fairfax
County_, 53; and _Agricultural Censes, 1925_ and _1940_. The figures are
21.9% mortgaged in 1924, 28.4% in 1925 and 30.25% in 1940.

[199] J. Middleton/Netherton, February 24, 1978.

[200] Derr Report, 1925, 8.

[201] Derr Report, 1921, 1.

[202] National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, _Proceedings of
Long Range Study Committee I-III_, November 1967-March 1968, (Washington,
D.C., 1969); and _Rural Electric Fact Book_ (Washington, D.C., 1960).

[203] Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[204] Beard/Netherton/Reed, November, 1974.

[205] See _Ibid._, Derr Reports, 1926 and 1928; and Schaefer, _The Social
History of American Agriculture_, 162.

[206] Virginia Agricultural Advisory Council, _A Five Year Program for
Development of Virginia Agriculture_ (Richmond, 1923), 17; and Fairfax
County Land Record Books, 1930-1931, in Virginiana.

[207] "Tax Rate," editorial in _Fairfax Herald_, April 23, 1926.

[208] Hawkes, "Harry Flood Byrd," 281.

[209] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[210] Editorial in _Fairfax Herald_, September 6, 1935.


_The New Deal_

One of the most important changes to influence farming in the years
between the two world wars was the new interest the government took in
agriculture and its problems. For many years the nation had considered
agriculture to be not just the fundamental, but the ideal way of life.
It was with a start, therefore, that people began to realize, soon after
the turn of the century, that rural population was in fact decreasing,
and that farm life fell short of the rosy dream of pastoral independence
so cherished by Americans. A survey of farm conditions undertaken during
the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt revealed that many
rural areas lacked the most basic amenities offered in cities and that
low farm prices retarded the agriculturist's efforts to better his
condition. Farm conditions improved during the World War I years when
the cries of "Feed the World" expanded markets and expectations.
Inevitably, though, this increased agricultural production became a
liability, for when the European and domestic markets shrunk at the
close of the war farm prices fell drastically. Many farmers, hoping to
offset the low prices with higher yields, took advantage of the new
technology to produce bumper crops; the result was an additional surplus
and even lower prices. Throughout the 1920s, the farm situation remained

The stock market crash of 1929 marked an extension and exacerbation of
the grim farm conditions rather than a sudden decline. It rocked the
farmer's market, of course, by further decreasing the amount of raw
products being sold; unemployed workers bought less of everything, and
often kept gardens themselves. More crucial than the crash of 1929 to
the farmer's well-being in northern Virginia were two severe droughts,
one in the late 1920s and the other in 1931. The latter was particularly
harsh. Wheat planted in October did not come up until April, and one
woman recalled that the cherry trees failed to blossom until the late
fall.[212] Thousands of tons of hay and grain feeds had to be brought in
from other parts of the country to feed the livestock, at enormous cost
to the farmers. The combination of these unfortunate elements meant more
mortgaged farms and tighter belts for the county's farmers.[213]

Relief came in the form of the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) which
went into effect in the spring of 1933. One of the earliest of Franklin
Roosevelt's New Deal policies, it offered a radically new approach to
farm recovery. Whereas earlier governmental policies had relied on
tariffs or half-hearted attempts to buy up surpluses to protect farm
profits, the AAA promoted a scheme of "artificial scarcity." This was
accomplished by price supports and through elimination of
price-depressing surpluses by paying the growers to cut down their crop
acreage. Payments were financed by taxing food processors, such as
millers, who in turn shifted the burden to the consumer.[214]

Many of the AAA provisions were aimed at the large producers of the
lower south and midwest, but they also had their effect in areas of
smaller farms such as Fairfax County. Few county citizens were in
absolute want during the Depression, in part because the effective work
of the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Association insured steady
milk prices. Yet these and later policies were embraced as being the
only available hope for turning around the farm situation. "They were
distressed enough so that they were willing to cooperate in a
considerable degree with anything that would help them out."[215]

Implementing the programs created some initial problems. A system of
acreage allotment had to be devised for each farmer, and this involved
setting up an intricate bureaucracy which included a county committee
(made up of three local farmers), new responsibilities for the county
agent, and close association with representatives of the new federal
programs. Confusion existed about the allowances made in the act for
home consumption and the process by which allotments were decided. To
arrive at the allowances for wheat, for example, the farmer had to
complete two forms, on which it was necessary to compute his average
yield for a three-year period (1930-1932) then adjust it to relate to a
five-year nationwide average; this figure, reduced by 15 to 20 percent
was his allowed production. The ultimate decision was made by the
members of the county committee who had been elected by the taxpayers.
"I've often wondered whether our judgment was accurate enough to really
be used, but it was used," commented Holden Harrison who sat on the
board.[216] The AAA county committee sought to be equitable in its
determinations, but as in any process which tries to fit a series of
requirements to individual cases, the decisions sometimes seemed
arbitrary or unfair. Derr cited a case resulting from the Potato Act
(which required a farmer to pay a penalty for yields exceeding his
allotment) in which an older couple had "had poor luck with their
potatoes for the base years; [they] almost wept when they learned that
their future lease would be only forty bushels and they would have to
pay a tax on what they sold over that amount."[217] Snags also occurred
in the administration of the farm loan program, designed by the
government to aid farmers in the purchase of seed and fertilizer. Not
only were elaborate accounts of mortgage, store and personal debts,
unpaid taxes and notes required (sometimes for a loan of $25.00), but
repayment of the loan was set for dates such as July 1, when the crops
were not yet harvested and ready cash was scarce. As a result, much of
the money designated for aid to Fairfax County was never applied
for.[218] To the farmer, accustomed to deciding for himself what and
when he would plant, and unfamiliar with the niceties of bureaucratic
finagling, the government sometimes seemed more geared to interference
than assistance.

In reality, the programs affected Fairfax County less than other parts
of northern Virginia. Statistics from the Virginia Department of
Agriculture and the USDA show that only 71 wheat adjustment contracts
were taken out in Fairfax County in 1935, compared to 233 for Fauquier
County and 351 for Loudoun County. As each of these neighboring counties
contained over 2,000 farms, these are small figures indeed.[219]

The federal government set few limits on milk or poultry production, the
county's two main economic sources, so the benefits of the AAA programs
were often indirect. The principal effect was to force farmers to set
aside about 15% of their land from wheat or corn production. Because
Fairfax County farmers marketed little of their grain production, the
outcome was that they received a bounty for planting another crop on
this acreage, or allowing it to lie fallow and be fertilized. The policy
resulted in a strong soil improvement program in the county, which was
additionally aided by the cooperative buying power of the county
committee. This meant, for instance, that purchases of lime needed to
improve Fairfax County's acidic soil could be had for $3.50 a ton, the
cost at the quarry, plus handling charges.[220]

Of even greater benefit to Fairfax County farmers was the moratorium on
mortgage and even interest payments during the Depression's most severe
period. Individual banks, such as the National Bank of Leesburg, which
held many farm mortgages, also voluntarily followed the government's
policy of leniency on collection of farm debts. This relieved much of
the stress on the area's producers, allowing them to retain their land
and, in some cases, even improve their holdings.[221]

The Depression years saw the advent of a radical new policy of
government influence in farm affairs. Where laissez-faire had been the
federal rule (and the farmers' desire), a control was now exercised over
production, marketing and farm improvement. Though the farmer might
believe this mitigated his independence and tied his judgment to that of
an impersonal bureaucracy, he was forced to accept Uncle Sam's
interference. The role of the government in designing agricultural
policy proved to be a lasting one, still felt by the farmer of the


_The New Deal_

[211] Barger and Lansburg, _American Agriculture, 1899-1949_, 72-112.

[212] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979; Rogers/Corbat, et al., June
12, 1970.

[213] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[214] Bailey, _The American Pageant_, 842-43.

[215] Rogers, Corbat, et al., June 12, 1970; Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor,
March 8, 1979; Joseph Beard quoted in Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6,

[216] "Wheat Production Control Plan," _Herndon News-Observer_, July 27,
1933; "Wheat Allotment Based on Averages," _Ibid._, August 17, 1933;
Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[217] Derr Report, 1936, 4. The Potato Act, which would in fact have
been disasterous for small farmers, was actually before any crop was
harvested. However, its effect was still to create some hostility to
government programs among farmers.

[218] Derr Reports, 1930, 1931, 1934.

[219] _Virginia Farm Statistics_ (Richmond, 1926, 1930, 1936).

[220] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979.

[221] _Ibid._



Beyond the family, with its special working relationship, the
neighborhood community was the chief social unit for the farmer. It made
available services the family could not provide for itself and added
sociability and security to the farmer's life. It also had some
influence on the tenor of his work because a dynamic community spirit
prompts individual enterprise. The Floris neighborhood on which this
study is focused was such a vigorous community. Fairfax County was
filled with similar crossroads which gave an identity to each farming
area and, with post office, blacksmith and general store, fulfilled the
farmer's simple requirements. Floris seems to have shown an
outstandingly progressive impulse, however, and a social interaction
which made it an area of particular cohesiveness and community

The root of community interaction is neighborliness--an interest in and
concern for other people. Villages contain the same variety of human
relations and personality as large cities, with the advantage that the
smaller number of people are more easily known and understood. There
could be irritating aspects to this (privacy was not always available in
abundance) but also a warm familiarity. The people of Floris were so
well acquainted that each man's favorite kind of pie was community
knowledge.[223] Lottie Schneider, who grew up near Herndon, gave a
charming description of village life in her book, _Memoirs of Herndon,

     Everyone was interested in his neighbor. We shared our joys and
     sorrows, were sympathetic to each other. When we went down the
     street we knew everybody and would stop to greet each other. There
     was a village atmosphere of friendliness and kindness. How often I
     pause over every memory and savor again the charm of the friendly
     neighbors, the school and church relationships, the simple everyday
     happenings which like a weaver's shuttle steadily wove the lights
     and shadows into the tapestry of life.[224]

Neighborliness went beyond social interaction; it was also the basis for
mutual aid and cooperation. Work on hauling projects, barn raisings and
emergency assistance was readily available. "If somebody got sick and
couldn't milk his cows, why the neighbors would go over and help him,"
related Joseph Beard.

     I remember the neighbor next door to me had the flu, and everybody
     thought he was going to die and the snow was about twenty inches
     deep.... There was a wife left there with three ... small children,
     not of school age. My father not only did our work, but he went
     over and did their work too.[225]

Mutual assistance, concern and hospitality were the bedrock of community

[Illustration: A map of the Floris community, c. 1930, drawn from memory
by Joseph Beard.]

Rapid communications made information on everyone's activities
neighborhood knowledge. County agent Derr noted that it was "remarkable
how rapidly news travels, whether good or bad," and that this was in
fact an asset to his work.[226] The postal agent and telephone operator
were two other information catalysts. The postmaster, Thomas Walker, was
notorious for reading the postcards which passed his way, and often
called the recipients to inform them of impending visits by relatives,
or tidings of birth or death.[227] Telephone lines were put up in 1916,
"strung on trees, just old poles up and down the road"[228] and this
greatly speeded channels of gossip and necessary information. The
telephone operator worked from her own bedroom and was the source for
all the latest news. "If you didn't know what was going on in the
neighborhood, all you had to do was ask the telephone operator," one
Floris resident observed. "She knew everything."[229] In a more
pragmatic sense the operator was depended upon for help during
emergencies. The fear of isolation, a chief liability of rural areas,
was much reduced by the improved roads and telecommunications of the
first decade of the 20th century.

The telephone operator was particularly helpful in locating rural
doctors when they were needed in an emergency. Like the veterinarians,
doctors were not relied on for minor illnesses but were called on in
extreme cases. Jack Day and William Robey were among the doctors who
travelled by horse and buggy (and later in early model Fords) to make
housecalls. They were loved and accepted by the community: "We thought
of a family doctor about like we did our minister."[230] Fees were
usually $1.00 for a housecall though farmers would sometimes offer a
bushel of corn or a chicken in payment for their treatment.[231]

The doctors contributed a great deal to the well-being of the community.
Rural families, however, were resourceful in finding home remedies for
many ailments. Some of these were long-respected herbal preparations,
but others were used more because of tradition than effectiveness.
Frances Simpson described the special folk medicines of her family near

     When an epidemic was reported in the village during the winter, she
     prepared the dreadful smelling _asafetida_ bags which she tied about
     our necks under our dresses. They were supposed to ward off

     When my sisters and I had colds, mutton _tallow plasters_ were put
     on our chests and fastened to our underwear. These sticky, clammy
     plasters were worn until all signs of cold had disappeared.

     _Sulpher and molasses_ by the spoonful were given in the spring 'to
     help clear out our systems....' Calomel was an often used remedy
     for the liver until the doctor forbade its use.

     My mother had a bad case of erysipelas and her leg was in a fearful
     state. Nothing seemed to help it. One night she dreamed my sister
     Dora, who had recently died, came to her, told her to make
     _poultices of cabbage leaves_ wrung in hot water and apply them to
     her leg. She followed instructions and in due season her leg was

[Illustration: G. Ray Harrison, c. 1925. Photo courtesy of Ray

[Illustration: The Harrison family's mule team on a shopping trip to
Herndon about 1914. A young Ray Harrison is riding in the wagon. The
stores in Herndon provided basic supplies and services for the Floris
community. Photo courtesy of Ray Harrison.]

The Floris community was an early outgrowth of a mining settlement near
Frying Pan Run. Robert Carter, of Nomini Hall in Westmoreland County,
owned the land which he believed contained rich copper ore. Though roads
were built and several mining attempts made, the mineral proved to be of
poor quality. The access offered by roads built by the miners (for
example, West Ox Road on which Frying Pan Farm is located) opened the
area to agriculture. The first permanent community was formed by a group
of Baptists, who successfully petitioned Carter for permission to build
a church on his property. One of their early churches, a simple, frame
structure built in 1791, still stands near the center of the

The origins of the area's unusual name are obscure--some believe either
Indians or early miners who camped in the vicinity mislaid a frying pan
and named the creek after their loss. Others feel that the circular
shape of a round pool into which the run flows influenced its
appellation. Until 1879 the community at the crossroads of the West Ox
and Centreville Roads was also called Frying Pan, at which time it was
thought too undignified a name. It was rechristened Floris, according to
one source, after the prettiest girl in the neighborhood. Another story
relates that summer boarders near Frying Pan Post Office thought such a
lowly name would cause ridicule among their city friends. They called
the town Floris, which means "flower" in Latin, to tone up the image of
their warm weather "resort." By the time of the name change, the village
had expanded somewhat from an 1801 description of "four log huts and a
Meeting House,"[234] but it retained its small personal character. In
the 1920s and 1930s it consisted of a blacksmith shop, general store and
post office, a boarding house, three churches and two schools, as well
as the surrounding farms.

       *       *       *       *       *

The focal point of the Floris community during this period, and the
factor which gave it a countywide importance, was the Floris Vocational
High School. The school was the result of the Smith-Hughes Act, passed
in 1917 to organize agriculture and home economics courses on the
secondary level of education. H. B. Derr tried unsuccessfully for two
years to establish such a course in Fairfax County but met with little
support from the members of the school board, who favored traditional
academics. It was finally through the farmer's clubs and community
leagues (forerunners of the PTA), especially those in the Floris area,
that Derr was able to convince the county of the program's potential. By
1919 farmers and merchants had donated some $17,000 to start
construction of a building, and in honor of the special efforts of
agriculturalists in Floris, it was decided to locate the school

[Illustration: A sketch of the plot of land originally deeded to the
school board in 1876 by George Kenfield for a Floris school. Fairfax
County Deedbook H-5, p. 617.]

[Illustration: Mr. Jack Walker, the engineer in charge of the
construction of the Floris School 1920. Copy of photo in Virginiana
Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.]

[Illustration: Floris Vocational High School under construction, c.
1920. Note the tennis game being played in the front of the old
building. Copy of photo in Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public

The Floris Vocational High School was the third to be built in
Virginia.[236] It was extended from an existing, two-year high school,
founded in 1911, but the property on which it was built had actually
been deeded to the school board over forty years earlier. In 1876 George
Kenfield deeded about six acres of land to the Frying Pan School
Association and the property remained in school use through several
owner changes.[237] One- and two-room schools stood on the land until
1911 when a larger building was completed.[238]

The citizens of Floris had worked together to raise money for the
vocational school; they also contributed their skills and time to its
construction. Under the direction of two (often dissenting) contractors,
a Mr. Sheffield and Jack Walker, pupils and parents helped to raise the
three-story brick structure, and later to build a smaller agricultural
shop a short distance from the main schoolhouse. The school was open to
the entire county but the immediate community continued to feel a
special interest in it. The Floris Home Demonstration Club served hot
lunches in the school for many years and around 1924 they sponsored the
hiring of a music teacher at their own expense until the county and
state finally gave support to the teacher.[239]

Floris Vocational High School was an immediate success. In 1924 it had
150 pupils, evenly divided between primary and secondary grades, and
hailing chiefly from the Herndon area. Students walked or rode horseback
to reach their classes; some, such as Virginia Presgraves Harrison from
Loudoun County, boarded with local families.[240] The high school
offered the standard curriculum courses of English, American and
European history, algebra, geography, physics and chemistry. Courses in
higher mathematics (plane geometry and trigonometry) were optional as
were English history and foreign languages. The school differed from the
county's other secondary institutions in the varied agriculturally
oriented courses it taught. Boys learned the principles of agronomy,
animal husbandry, soil control and veterinary science, and were expected
to put the theoretical knowledge into practice with test animals and
acreage on their home farms. They also sharpened their skills in
agricultural shop courses. Under the guidance of Ford Lucas and, later,
Harvey D. Seale, they were taught carpentry, motor repair,
blacksmithing, indeed, everything from building chicken coops to "how to
put a roof on a barn and keep it from leaking."[241] Classes for the
girls also stressed the relationship between theory and practice. The
rudiments of nutrition, food preparation, fabric and clothing
construction, were carried over into "Hominy Hall," a house owned by
William Ellmore, which housed the kitchen and serving areas for domestic
science courses. The girls spent several hours a week in this building,
gaining proficiency in the work which would probably occupy most of
their lives. Like the majority of the students' homes, Hominy Hall had
no running water, and baking was done on a large, wood-burning
stove.[242] The classes were taught by, among others, May Calhoun and
Louisa Glassal. Elizabeth Ellmore, principal of Floris Vocational High
School in 1929-1930, noted that because of the school's personal nature
the teachers had a fair amount of leeway in the character and depth of
the courses they taught--as much, in fact, as their students would allow
them.[243] One early teacher found the pupils very apt indeed, with
abilities equal to those of the town children she had previously taught.
Stated Lulah Ferguson:

     So far as the interest was concerned you'd find that maybe those
     children in Falls Church were a little more interested in affairs
     in general, a little better informed generally, than these were,
     but so far as their attitude towards studying or wanting to know,
     you wouldn't find any difference. These country children were
     really just as eager or maybe more so than some of the small

[Illustration: The championship girl's basketball team of Floris
Vocational High School, 1924-1925.]

[Illustration: The "Floris Follies," a minstrel presented at the Floris
school in March, 1939. Such activities were usually staged to benefit a
community activity. Photo courtesy of Louise McNair Ryder.]

[Illustration: The students of Floris Vocational High School, 1924.
Identified in July, 1970, as follows: Top row left to right: Jay Leith,
Warren Rosenburger, Jessie Torreyson, George T. McWhorter, III, Marie
Poland Bonde, Stella Sibley Jones, Eunice Milam Middleton (teacher),
Audrey Barton, Kelsie Hornbaker; Second row: Irving McNair, Louise
Melcher Ritter, Kate Patton Kincheloe, Sarah Patton Middleton, Rebecca
Middleton, Bradley Shear, Gilbert Presgrave; Third row: Amy Rogers
Nixon, Elsie Andrews Brown, Georgeanna Brogden Harrison, Camilla Carson
Harnsburger, Kneeland Leith, Irene Rogers Deuterman, Welby Nalls, Wade
Bennett; Fourth row: Frances Leith Greenwade, Lena Andrews, Gladys Robey
Embrey, Emma Ellmore, Gem Thompson, Alan Allison Fleming, Howard
Armfield, George Harrison, Allan Shear, Edgar Reeves; Fifth row: Sue
Creel, Grafton Utterback, Richard Lee, John Keyes; Sixth row: William
McWhorter, Martha Smith, Harriet Moulthrop Cheek, Erline Bready, Oliver
Keyes, Withers Murphy, Charles Austin, John Hessick, Joseph Beard;
Seventh row: Ruth Higdon, Rosalie Smith, Eleanor Bowers Matthews, Mary
Smith Douglas, Daniel Nalls, Ralph Armfield, Turner Hornbaker, Frank
Kidwell, Carroll Murphy; Eighth row: Bessie Beard Garrett, Ruby Hyatt,
Gladys Utterback, Elma Middleton Nalls, Ned Sutphin; Ninth row:
Katherine Hummer, Bernice West, Lillian Adrian Munday, Ruby Ambler
Bocato, Elizabeth Powell Austin, Mae Blevins, Virginia Presgrave
Harrison, Dora Cox Robey, Kathlene Adrian Presgrave. Photo courtesy of
Emma Ellmore.]

Studious or not, the Floris pupils also had their share of fun at
school. Richard Peck recalled playing several pranks during school
hours, such as catching copperhead snakes and letting them loose in the
classroom, or mixing together soil samples painstakingly collected for
County agent Derr. Much to the mischievous students' hilarity, a puzzled
Derr remarked, "I had no idea the soil was so uniform out here."[245]
Though afternoon farmwork occupied most of the pupils' spare time, some
extra-curricular activities were also offered. Plays were given annually
by the senior class, an example being the 1925 production of "Home
Times" billed as "very attractive" by the _Herndon News-Observer_.[246]
The Floris Vocational High School also boasted highly competitive
athletic teams, especially in basketball and track. For a school of its
size, it showed unusual competence and enthusiasm, winning both boys'
and girls' county basketball championships several years running. In
1928 their track team competed with 800 high schools in the state,
finishing fifth overall and claiming two of the seven records which were
broken.[247] In this, as in the academic standing of the vocational
school, the community's dynamism and interest influenced its high degree
of excellence.

Graduation exercises were also community events. The students worked for
weeks planning a memorable evening for proud parents, friends and
relations. The 1927 graduation from Floris Vocational High School
featured an invocation by Reverend Glenn Cooper of the Floris
Methodist Church, valedictory and salutatory addresses given by Virginia
Presgraves and Joseph Beard, respectively, and a talk on the promising
future for farmers by Professor Walter Newman of VPI which the local
paper described as "worthy of the attention of any farming community in
our state." These formalities were followed by musical selections,
including a duet by Gilbert Presgraves and Joseph Beard, who sang the
school song, "Our Old High." Next came the presentation of diplomas "in
a most pleasing fashion." Wrote the _Herndon News-Observer_: "Each student
was complimented on his success while his classmates were roused to
great hilarity by some well-directed humor."[248]

[Illustration: A maypole dance held at the Floris Elementary School in
1923. Celebrations of this sort were held each May 1. Miss Katie Grok is
the teacher on the right. Photo courtesy of Margaret Mary Lee.]

[Illustration: A 1910 photograph of the Floris Elementary School, built
in 1900. The building was replaced by a two-year high school the next
year. Copy of photo in Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public

Floris Vocational High School graduated its last class in 1930. The
previous year the school board had voted to consolidate the county's
schools. The school consolidation movement was aimed principally at
small one and two-room schoolhouses; by combining these local
institutions, better facilities could be afforded and, consequently,
teachers of high caliber attracted. The county's farm families had
clamoured for just such a reorganization for many years, but the measure
was contingent on the availability of good roads because rural children
would have to travel some distance to the new district schools. The
purpose of the judgment as passed did not really pertain to the Floris
School, yet it came under the school-board's jurisdiction and
consequently the Floris High School pupils were moved with those of
Forestville to join Herndon High School.[249]

Agriculture courses were also offered at Herndon High School, for
example, in 1933, 43 boys were enrolled in farm-oriented programs. Yet,
the closing of the Vocational High School was a decisive loss for
Floris. The school had been built and maintained by local money and
labor and was thus a strong focal point in the neighborhood. It had
encouraged community self-esteem and the area's pride had been reflected
in the strong academic programs the school produced. The district high
schools were less personal in nature and broader in scope; they did not
so accurately fulfill an individual locale's needs. An illustration of
this was the rigid adherence to school attendance regulations at Herndon
High School. Whereas a neighborhood school would often allow a farm boy
or girl to be excused from classes during peak work periods of
harvesting or butchering, the new consolidated schools were less
flexible. In one case a student who persisted in helping his family was
continually kept behind and never did graduate. Like other "progressive"
movements, consolidation of rural schools advanced the quality of life
in only some areas. It made available more modern equipment and a wider
range of teachers and curriculum, but in social relations and community
benefit, the advantages were not so clearcut.[250]

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: The Home Economics and Future Farmer's Club of Floris
Vocational High School in the mid-1920s. Photo courtesy of Emma

The other main institutions which gave character and definition to the
Floris community were the churches. There were three places of worship
there in the 1920s and 1930s, all of them protestant. The old Frying Pan
Baptist Church had been a continuous congregation since the
mid-eighteenth century. They were the least social and most dogmatic in
their religious practice; members of the other churches used adjectives
such as "old school" or "hard-shell" to describe the Baptists. After the
turn of the century and during the Depression, the Baptist Church was
less regenerative than the others in Floris and most of the members were
older people.[251]

Less doctrinaire, the Floris Methodist Church and Floris Presbyterian
Church, were a more active part of the community. The church buildings,
with their large seating capacity, made natural auditoriums for farmers'
meetings, lectures and entertainments. The two churches cooperated in
sponsorship of an Epworth Youth League, which, though it held its Sunday
night meetings in the more centrally located Methodist Church, was
non-denominational in character. The Reverend Glenn Cooper reported in
1927 that "the Floris League, being an independent and a community
organization does not take up any denominational work, but is interested
in local charities and its own entertainment."[252] The Presbyterian and
Methodist churches also worked together in planning holiday programs and
avoided conflicts by considerately scheduling their important festivals
on different dates. At Christmastime, they were especially careful to
plan their carol programs so that the entire community could attend both
services. As there was a great deal of intermarriage between the two
churches, this also reduced family strife.[253] Both groups welcomed
members of other faiths. One Presbyterian recalled an occasion when his
father greeted a new family just moving into the neighborhood and
invited them to attend the local services. "This man said, 'Well, you
know I'm a Roman Catholic.' My Dad said, 'It doesn't make any difference
what you are, we'd sure like to have you come if you can.' This was the
general attitude."[254] Indeed, so ecumenical had the organizations
become that the General Conference of the Methodist Church became
somewhat alarmed. As early as 1905 this body noted that although its
members were leading quiet, orderly lives and attended church services
frequently, still the congregation was "not satisfactory in some very
essential respects." "Our people have been in the past and are now very
negligent and indifferent as to the duty of informing themselves about
our doctrines and church policy," stated the minutes of the church's
quarterly conference. "There must be a more general study of the church
discipline and a larger circulation and a close and careful reading of
our church papers."[255]

The churches were rarely used for political purposes. Instead, the
farmers relied on their farmer's clubs to exert this kind of pressure
and seemed to feel that the religious bodies should concentrate on
paving the spiritual road to heaven rather than the connecting road to
the market. In addition to the regular activities of Sunday school,
Bible classes and regular worship services, however, these institutions
fulfilled a strong need for fellowship and social interaction.

Sunday school picnics and ice cream socials were perennial favorites
sponsored each summer by the churches. The picnics were frequently held
on attractive parts of neighboring farms, or sometimes as far away as
Seneca or Great Falls. Each family would bring a large hamper of food,
but the fried chicken, watermelon and pies were spread out on the tables
to be shared by everyone. While the parents gossiped or talked politics,
the children played and sometimes went swimming. These picnics, like
other community events, were held jointly by the Methodists and
Presbyterians.[256] The ice cream socials, however, were another story.
Here a mild rivalry set in as ladies vied with one another to produce
the most admirable cake, and even a slight competition arose over the
ice cream. An area resident confided that there was some speculation
about which denomination's members owned cows giving the creamiest milk,
thus producing the "most sinfully rich" ice cream.[257] No doubt this
comparison diminished in importance when one was faced with the wide
variety of homemade flavors, using fresh fruits and extracts. Sometimes
in early summer the socials would feature strawberries along with the
ice cream. On a quiet summer evening, with the fireflies flickering like
beacon lights and a whispering breeze lapping at tableclothes and
skirts, these must have been particularly pleasant events.[258]

Significant holidays also brought about special church programs. At
Easter the churches were banked with flowers and a singular rejoicing
occurred, and on Mother's Day an appropriate program was offered. The
1926 service included a suitable sermon and original Mother's Prayer by
the minister and several selections by the choir, among them "When
Mother Sang to Me," "Don't Forget the Old Folks," and "Our Mother."[259]
The year's main celebration was, of course, at Christmas. Each church
had a Christmas tree, cut by an adult, but decorated with "feet and
almost miles" of popcorn strings by the neighborhood's young people,
including those just returning home for the holidays. The warm ambiance
of these services is evident in the following description, recounted by
Joseph Beard:

     They always had the little people from what you consider the
     primary grades on up to sixth or seventh grade recite some little
     poem or some story or something of this kind. You nearly always had
     a chorus or choir, small, of people in the neighborhood that would
     sing Christmas carols. You always had a minister who read or
     recited the Christmas story from the Bible.... The churches were
     lighted with oil lamps, and they would put candles on the Christmas
     tree, wax candles and they would light those wax candles and then
     blow out the lights. It's a wonder we never set the church on
     fire.... But there would be this beautiful tree with all these
     lights on it, and hidden down under the tree somewhere would be a
     great big crate of oranges. Santa Claus usually came in and ... he
     would ring sleigh bells and walk down through the aisle and make
     some kind of remark. He would have a sack on his back. This always
     held tiny little sacks of candy. They started with the smallest
     children and gave each one of them one orange and one sack of hard
     candy. They went on up the line as far as the oranges and the candy
     lasted. If you didn't have a crowd even the adults would get a sack
     of candy and an orange, but if you had a large crowd, why it
     stopped at whatever age it ran out along the line. This was an
     affair at which the program would probably take an hour, an hour
     and fifteen minutes. But it was cold in there you know ... they'd
     have a great big, old pot bellied stove, but it was in one place in
     the church. Everybody couldn't sit around that stove, so you sat
     there in your overcoats sometimes.[260]

[Illustration: Miss Gladys Thompson and the Floris Community Orchestra,
1929. The members at this time included: Front row: Haley Smith, Louise
Cockerill, Louise McNair; Second row: Richard Peck, unidentified, Miss
Gladys Thompson (director), Jack Patton, Mary Peck, Franklin Ellmore;
Back row: Helen Presgraves, Ethel Andrews, Mary Win Nickell, Elizabeth
Ellmore, Helen Peck. The old car in the background is the one in which
Miss Thompson first traveled. Note the old four-room schoolhouse also in
the background. Photo courtesy of Louise McNair Ryder.]

Other groups offered activities to fill the farm family's leisure hours.
An elementary school teacher who taught music as a sideline, Gladys
Thompson, organized an orchestra about 1928. It consisted of her violin
pupils and other musically inclined citizens and was called the Floris
Community Orchestra. Twelve violins, and mandolins, saxophones, piano,
drums and banjo made up the group which played for school plays and
community events. They also put on an annual recital and one year even
gave a vaudeville show. "I remember she used to fill up her small
one-seated roadster with music students going to practices and
performances," fondly wrote a member of the orchestra, Louise McNair
Ryder. "One of my greatest pleasures was clambering into the rumble seat
with my violin."[261]

Musical groups also sprang up spontaneously. One, which Joseph Beard
referred to as a "little old hillybilly band," included besides himself
on fiddle, Virginia Presgraves (piano) and her uncle Austin Wagstaff on
ukulele. Richard Peck played banjo and saxophone for the group. They
played together over a period of several years, using no sheet music,
but becoming so comfortable with each other's playing that they could
anticipate the variations and style of their fellow musicians. They
practiced in the schoolhouse, playing country tunes such as "Camp Town
Races," "Old Black Joe," and "Shortnin' Bread" for their own amusement.
They rarely entertained an audience.[262] Sometimes too the school or an
unofficial group sponsored musical events, a notable one being the
concert by "Al Hopkins and his Buckle-Busters," a celebrated country
band from North Carolina.[263]

In addition, serious organizations like the Farmer's Clubs, Community
League or church-affiliated women's clubs, mixed work and play by
sponsoring picnics, quilting bees, and oyster suppers. The record made
of a pleasant outing by Farmer's Clubs #1 and #4 to the Great Falls in
1913 was typical of many excursions in later years:

     It goes without saying that all present had a very enjoyable day.
     The children spent much time on the swings and Merry-Go-Rounds
     while the older members spent the day in viewing the falls....
     While still others enjoyed fishing.[264]

Home Demonstration Clubs also put on their share of entertainments, with
buffet suppers and skits, rounding off one year with a "husband-calling
contest."[265] Even the business meetings themselves were social
occasions at which dinner and friendly conversation were mixed with more
critical concerns.

Oyster suppers were a regional specialty held all over the county, of
which Floris sponsored its share. They were often money-making events
(as were the ice cream socials) at which dinner cost from twenty-five to
fifty cents and featured stewed and fried oysters. Lottie Schneider
recalled the bustle of preparation for an oyster supper given in
Herndon, involving the setting up of tables and benches and flower
arrangements, and the difficult choice to be made between fried or
stewed oysters and the many different relishes brought by each
lady.[266] The suppers in fact generally held an overabundance of food.
Again, Joseph Beard described the scene:

     There were always a few who didn't like oysters and they always had
     ham for those.... Anything that you would have in a farming
     neighborhood like that, when you sat down to eat it was just like
     having a Thanksgiving dinner. Everything from sweet potatoes to
     scalloped potatoes to macaroni and cheese to string beans to
     corn-on-the-cob to tomatoes [would be served]. Most anything that
     could be raised or produced in a vegetable garden or in a truck
     patch they'd bring. Then we had custard pies and lemon pies and
     apple pies....[267]

The money made at the oyster dinners was used for school projects, to
buy church furnishings or aid in mission work.

       *       *       *       *       *

Professional interest and pleasure were likewise combined at the various
fairs held in the area during the late summer. The county sponsored a
fair at Fairfax Courthouse until 1933 which featured new farm machinery,
exemplary produce and livestock, and a gay carnival atmosphere. The
_Herndon News-Observer_ gave a colorful account of the county festivities
in its September 23, 1926 edition:

     The first day was largely devoted to judging, the second day saw a
     large picnic by Dranesville farmers, the County Chamber of Commerce
     and the 4-H Clubs frolicked on the third day while the visible and
     invisible empire [of the Ku Klux Klan] held sway on the last day.
     Good racing cards filled much of the afternoon. The prizes were
     more substantial and the performances proportionally good. Every
     exhibit building was loaded with all varieties and grades of
     exhibits, while the livestock was as equally interesting in its
     magnitude and diversification.

     The flower department was carried partly out of the building where
     loving hands [had] specially devoted time and energy toward
     perfection. The woman's department, with nearly a thousand entries,
     was a wonder of culinary art. The poultry building with every
     squeek and squawk imaginable, fairly dazzled the farmers and their
     friends, who came to see what Fairfaxians and their friends are
     doing. Certainly no other fair in Virginia presented an arena of
     keener competition and the prize winners deserve to be most highly

     The midway was a swirl of ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds and every
     variety of game by which you might separate yourself from surplus

The region boasted a similar fair held generally in Prince William
County and having the dual purpose of promoting and celebrating the
dairy industry. The Piedmont Dairy Festival, as it was called, was
modeled after the famous Shenandoah Apple Blossom festival and was
jocularly known locally as the "Cow Blossom festival."[269]

Floris itself held a substantial fair in the years following the
decision to stop running a county exhibition. It grew out of the yearly
"Flower and Vegetable Show" which had been sponsored by the 4-H and Home
Demonstration Clubs and took place on the school grounds. The community
divided itself into committees which met year-round to plan the produce
and homemaking judgings, livestock shows and entertainment and the
result was an event of countywide interest. A program from the 1939 fair
lists among the categories "three summer squash," "best adult clothing,"
"best buttonhole," and "best Holstein heifer." Prizes consisted of cash
(usually one to two dollars) or practical items such as five gallons of
fly spray. Ironically the award for the best team of draft horses was
three gallons of oil.[270]

A good deal of pride in everyday achievements resulted from the
contests. Elizabeth Rice, writing of the excitement caused by the fairs,
recalled the year she entered a devil's food cake in the county
exhibition and "received the blue ribbon and a prize from Swann's Down
Company of a cake mold, measuring cups, spoons and a box of Swann's
Down cake flour." "I still feel 'up' over it," she concluded.[271]
Others took their entries a little less seriously. Emma Ellmore
remembered the year her mother simply cut a tangled mass of clematis
from the back trellis, stuck it in a white vase and entered it in the
flower-arranging contest, to win a blue ribbon from judges who admired
its exceptional artistry.[272] The day was concluded with a
"tournament," in which the neighborhood's young manhood vied with one
another for the honor of crowning their lady queen. Lance in hand, "Sir
Lancelot" or "Sir Frying Pan" rode at a gallop on a "steed" (often a
draft horse) attempting to spear a ring suspended above the track. The
winner reigned at the square dance that evening which capped the day's

Blue ribbons and fair championships were respected and admired by the
neighbors and gave the recipient a certain amount of status. In a
community in which no one had much ready money, this evidence of
leadership or skill counted for a great deal. One person suggested that
a large family gave a farmer a certain standing among his peers, and
that homemaking was equally respected with the outdoor work. A clever
manager was perhaps most admired of all. As Joseph Beard remarked:
"There are some people who have very little money, but have the ability
to use it in the right place at the right time and get a great deal more
out of it than others. I suspect that the person that had the highest
standard of living with what they had to do with was respected more than
any one thing."[274]

Farmers from the Floris area also held private entertainments, such as
the Peck family reunion of 1927, or the bridge parties which became so
fashionable in the late 1920s and 1930s.[275] On rare occasions they
travelled to Washington to see a show or to shop. More often they went
to Herndon which had long catered to the farmer's needs. Stores, grain
companies and mills, blacksmith and livery stables built their business
on fulfilling the farmer's everyday requirements, while ice cream
parlors and movie theaters provided pleasant distractions. The latter
was an especially popular form of entertainment for young couples on
dates. Frances Simpson recalled the excitement of going to the movies
and the unique personality of the Herndon theater:

     What a fascination was that theater or 'movie hall' as it was
     called.... It was a real treat to go with our friends to the movies
     at the movie hall, not that we always saw one when we got there.
     Sometimes the reel would break, other times a tremendous storm
     would come up and the electric power would be shut off, leaving the
     player piano to carry on alone in the darkness while we crept home
     with flashlights, and more than once an angry skunk sought refuge
     under the movie hall causing the audience to disperse in three
     minutes flat. Still, it was great fun.[276]

All of these community events--ice cream socials, fairs, Community
League meetings, and school events--were attended by the whole family.
Social activities were less strictly drawn along age lines than they are
today; young and old enjoyed the same amusements. The ladies chatted
while preparing the dinners at Farmer's Club meetings, and the children
came along and played together. Funerals and weddings were also family
events for children were expected to learn of life's joys and sorrows
through participation. This too encouraged community cohesiveness, as
all parts of the society were included in its rituals, and children
learned at an early age that they played an active role in the
neighborhood's well-being; there was a place for them within the
community which would last the length of their life. Strong evidence of
this community identity is seen in the large numbers of Floris young
people who, even in the face of urban opportunities, elected to stay on
the family farm, or chose careers in the agriculture-related fields of
veterinary medicine, extension work or fish and wildlife

       *       *       *       *       *

Floris and the other closely knit agricultural villages of Fairfax
County were exceptionally unified and supportive. Yet even these
communities had fringe groups, which were not entirely fulfilled within
the neighborhood or accepted by the majority of farmers. In some cases,
this was caused by under-stimulation and exasperation at the slow
patterns of rural movement. "We were bored to tears," wrote one Floris
resident of the long Sunday afternoons spent discussing nothing but
politics.[278] More frequently an individual was ignored or shunned by
the society because of personal problems which had become a community
nuisance: drinking, drugs or sexual indiscretions. The families of such
social deviants were pitied and aided, but the offending individuals
were avoided--"To whatever extent we could we would ostracize them." In
one extreme case the neighborhood took the law into its own hands and
lynched a man suspected of rape. "This man may have been innocent as you
look back on it now but they thought he did it and they got rid of him
right then," related one local citizen. "They just wouldn't put up with
that. It just wasn't tolerated, that's all."[279]

The largest group outside the community's mainstream was the black
agricultural workers. Except in the realm of employer/employee relations
they had little social intercourse with their neighbors. Floris
Vocational High School was not open to Negro students and the schools
that were available to blacks were much inferior to those which taught
white children. No high school existed at all for the blacks and the
one-to three-room schools that existed were "in the most dilapidated
condition," with no water, heat or adequate toilet facilities.[280]
Edith Rogers made a revealing comment about the quality of the teachers
when she stated that she knew of one that had a degree.[281] In
extension activities blacks were also often overlooked. The first black
4-H club was organized in 1934 without the help of the county agent's
office, and it was only after two years of exceptional work that he
belatedly recognized its existence. "The colored club at the Vienna
School was organized, but we did not expect much from it," Derr reported
in 1936.

     A few days ago we were considerably surprised to have the Principal
     of the School send in her report ... Nearly every colored boy and
     girl nine years up to eighteen did some work ... Taking it in we
     feel it is a credible showing for a colored school that has not
     received its full share of assistance in club work.[282]

Black activities in churches and farmer's clubs were similarly ignored.

Some black families appear to have been respected for their industry or
farming ability. The George Coates family near Floris was one. White
neighbors exchanged work and admired the Coates progressive techniques,
but still "never went so far as to sit down to dinner with them."[283]
Blacks were excluded from the area's fairs, socials and concerts, except
in rare cases when a rope kept the audience segregated.[284] Among
themselves they, of course, had their own entertainments, but in general
the broader opportunities and amusements of the county were closed to
the blacks.

In the inter-war period another group was increasingly on the fringe of
the established community. These were the urban migrants who came along
the new roads and railroad lines, seeking an escape from city stresses.
The earliest to arrive were summer residents, then came the part-time
farmers who wanted country air but city pay. Finally the unabashed
suburbanite who looked only for a quiet place to rest between bouts of
urban employment moved in. Nearly all came seeking how they could
benefit by living in the country, not what they could contribute to it.
At first county residents welcomed this influx with open arms; they saw
the expansion as a boon to employment and markets. Only later did they
begin to realize that, in small ways and large, the forces of economic
expansion would alter the shape of their community.[285]

Those who migrated chiefly in order to farm were welcomed by the county
farm families, but those who were unaccustomed to country ways caused
some problems for the rural folk. An editorial in the _Fairfax Herald_ for
April 23, 1926, bemoaned the loss of many of the county's lovely
wildflowers, for the suburban residents frequently ignored trespass
rules to pick the flowers.[286] Also alarming were the differing habits
and manners of the city migrants and threat of an infiltration of
"unusual and often undesirable" people. Hearing rumors that a nudist
colony was to be established in the county's Dranesville District, the
_Herndon News-Observer_ declared stoutly

     We have a lot of objectionable people in the county, who have
     spilled over from Washington, but we will at least require that
     they bring their 'duds' along before they can hope to experience a
     cordial reception.[287]

A more critical matter was the importation and propagation of insects
from the city, such as the oriental fruit moth, which thrived in the
carelessly kept backyard plantings of suburbanites and then wreaked
havoc in commercial orchards. County agents Derr and Beard spent
considerable time advising these newcomers and helping them plant their

Aside from these minor alarms, the urban influx had really serious
consequences for the farmers of Fairfax County. As the numbers of
non-farm residents grew, political interest lines began to be drawn and
in some cases the farmers began losing control over local governing
policies. This did not happen in all areas; for example, the County
Board of Supervisors consisted solely of farmers well into the 1940s.
However, in some vicinities there were definite political repercussions
from the suburban population, such as in Herndon, which although
commercially oriented, had always been sympathetic to the farmer's
views. In the years after the arrival of the electric trolley, city
workers and farmers battled at the polls over mayoral candidates and
council representatives; by the 1920s the town council was dominated by
businessmen and professionals.[289]

This growing tendency towards political alienation for the farmer was
foreshadowed in a letter of complaint written by the Farmer's Club #1 to
the Governor of Virginia in October, 1909:

     The attention of the Fairfax Farmer's Club No. 1 has been called to
     the fact that the delegates from this county to the Farmer's
     National Congress are not farmers, one being Sheriff of the County,
     the other a merchant--both reputable citizens but neither
     interested directly in agriculture.[290]

Like the other changes shaking the farmers' world, the loss of
government influence created a disturbing sense of impermanence and
estrangement. This, coupled with the previously mentioned tax rise
(which was exacerbated by the influx of people, all purchasing land and
creating a rise in prices due to demand) indicated to the farmer that he
was losing control over a world which had for generations remained
secure and settled. Ultimately, these forces crowded him out altogether,
and simultaneously destroyed most of the pastoral communities to which
the suburbanites had hoped to escape.



[222] For an extensive study of community relations, see Kolb and
Brunner, _A Study of Rural Society_, 75-139.

[223] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[224] Schneider, _Memoirs of Herndon, Virginia_, 35.

[225] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[226] Derr Report, 1930, 16.

[227] Ellmore/Netherton, March 2, 1978.

[228] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[229] _Ibid._

[230] _Ibid._

[231] Andrew M. D. Wolf, "Country Medicine in Fairfax County, Virginia,
at the Turn of the Twentieth Century," unpublished monograph, January
23, 1976, copy in Virginiana, 5-6.

[232] Frances Darlington Simpson quoted in _Out of Frying Pan_, 26.

[233] Louise Ryder, "Some Thoughts about Frying Pan Baptist Church,"
unpublished monograph, June, 1972; and "How Frying Pan Park Got Its
Name," _Fairfax Herald_, n.d. (clipping), and miscellaneous notes on
Frying Pan by Louise Ryder, June, 1977, courtesy of Louise Ryder.

[234] John Davis quoted in Ryder, "Some Thoughts about Frying Pan
Baptist Church," 4; Schneider, _Memoirs of Herndon, Virginia_; and Ryder

[235] Derr Reports, 1919 and 1925; and Beard/Pryor, February 27, 1979.

[236] _14th Census of the United States_, 1920, National Archives and
Records Service.

[237] Fairfax County Deed Books, Liber E-6, 48-51; and Liber H-5,

[238] Nickell and Randolph, _An Economic and Social Survey of Fairfax
County_, 70-71.

[239] _Ibid._; Beard/Pryor, February 27, 1979; "Floris Home Demonstration
Club," _Herndon News-Observer_, March 10, 1932; Howard Simmons, "History
of Floris Vocational High School," unpublished monograph, n.d., copy
courtesy of Elizabeth and Emma Ellmore; Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March
8, 1979; and Gladys T. Spencer to Mrs. Ernest Ryder, February 15, 1979,
copy courtesy of Louise Ryder.

[240] Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979; Nickell and Randolph, _An
Economic and Social Survey of Fairfax County_, 71; Peck/Netherton,
February 23, 1978; Greear/Netherton, March 23, 1978.

[241] Simmons; Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979; Beard/Pryor,
February 28, 1979; and Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[242] Simmons; Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[243] Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[244] Interview with Lulah Ferguson by Steve Matthews, Falls Church,
Virginia, August 16, 1971.

[245] Peck/Netherton, February 23, 1978.

[246] _Herndon News-Observer_, March 12, 1925.

[247] Simmons, "Floris Retains High Rating at Blacksburg," _Herndon
News-Observer_, April 20, 1928.

[248] "Commencement Exercises in Our County High Schools," _Herndon
News-Observer_, June 16, 1927.

[249] Simmons; Minutes of Farmer's Club #1, June 6, 1910; and
Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[250] Rogers/Corbat, et al., June 12, 1970.

[251] Ryder, "Some Thoughts About Frying Pan Baptist Church";
Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979; Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979; and
Schneider, _Memoirs of Herndon, Virginia_, 8.

[252] _Floris United Methodist Church: An Historical Account, 1891-1974_,
(Herndon, Virginia, 1975), 40.

[253] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[254] _Ibid._

[255] _Floris Methodist Church_, 23.

[256] Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979; Beard/Pryor, January 23,
1979; Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979; Peck/Netherton, January 23,

[257] Telephone conversation with Louise Ryder, January 25, 1979.

[258] _Ibid._; R. Middleton/Netherton, February 24, 1978;
Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979; Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[259] Ellmore/Netherton, March 2, 1978; and _Herndon News-Observer_, May
13, 1926.

[260] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[261] Gladys Spencer to Louise Ryder, February 15, 1979; and note to
author by Louise McNair Ryder, n.d., (spring, 1979).

[262] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979 (notes taken after interview); and
Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979.

[263] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979; and Peck/Netherton, February 23,

[264] Farmer's Club #1, Minutes, August 21, 1913.

[265] Lucy Steptoe Report, 1924.

[266] Schneider, _Memoirs of Herndon, Virginia_, 27-28.

[267] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[268] "Fairfax County Fair," _Herndon News-Observer_, September 23, 1926.

[269] Derr Report, 1931; and Peck/Netherton, February 23, 1978.

[270] Program, Fifth Annual Floris Community Fair, Thursday, August 24,
1939, copy in Beard Report, 1939.

[271] Rice to author, January 30, 1979.

[272] Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[273] Nearly everyone spoke enthusiastically of the Floris fair. See
especially Harrison/Pryor, February 5, 1979; Beard/Pryor, January 23,
1979; Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[274] Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979; and Beard/Pryor, January
23, 1979.

[275] "Family Reunion at Floris," _Herndon News-Observer_, May 5, 1927;
"Events in Floris," _Herndon News-Observer_, March 21, 1935.

[276] Simpson, _Virginia Country Life and Cooking_, 52.

[277] Among those who chose such careers were Joseph Beard and John
Beard (county extension agents); Franklin Ellmore, on the staff of
Virginia Polytechnic Institute; Chester McLaren, head of agricultural
education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute; and Jack Patton, of the
Fish and Wildlife Commission in North Carolina; see
Ellmore/Middleton/Pryor, March 8, 1979.

[278] Peck/Netherton, February 23, 1978.

[279] Beard/Pryor, January 23, 1979.

[280] E. B. Henderson and Edith Hussey, _History of the Fairfax County
Branch of the NAACP_, October, 1965, 7-8.

[281] Rogers/Corbat, et al., June 12, 1970.

[282] Derr Report, 1936.

[283] Beard/Harrison/Pryor, March 6, 1979; and Beard/Pryor, February 27,

[284] Peck/Netherton, February 23, 1978.

[285] See, for example, "The Future of Fairfax County," _Herndon
News-Observer_, October 20, 1927.

[286] Editorial, _Fairfax Herald_, April 23, 1926; and Beard/Pryor,
January 23, 1979.

[287] "The Nudist Camp," _Herndon News-Observer_, October 8, 1933.

[288] Derr Report, 1937; and Louis A. Stearns, "The Present State of the
Oriental Fruit Moth in Northern Virginia," _Virginia Agricultural
Extension Bulletin 234_.

[289] Netherton, et al., _Fairfax County_, 483.

[290] Farmer's Club #1, Minutes, October 21, 1909.


_Frying Pan Park_

The population boom of the post-World War II period (with the consequent
demand for land), the huge jump in land taxes, and competition from
larger, more efficient farms, spelled doom for the family farm in
Fairfax County. The county's farmers had spent much of the inter-war
period adjusting to the new agricultural modes, but they could not adapt
to the burgeoning metropolitan area's desire for expansion. The
construction of Dulles International Airport in the late 1950s further
depleted the county's agricultural areas, wiping out both the Willard
community and much of the farmland around Floris. Even those farmers who
had noticed the trends of twenty years felt a nagging sense of loss and
resentment at the passing of their traditional way of life.[291]

Frying Pan Park is an attempt to give citizens a glimpse of their
heritage by recreating the familiar patterns of family farming. Its
location (near the corner of West Ox and Centreville Roads) in the
still-quiet Floris center makes it ideal for interpretation of the more
tranquil past. The park's purpose is primarily educational and
historical, however it also offers recreational activities. These
include equestrian facilities, bridle paths and nature walks, as well as
the model farm.

The idea for such a park began in 1957 when Joseph Beard, then the
county agent, began proposing uses for the old Floris School property
which was no longer needed by the county schoolboard. He advised the
Fairfax County government that the land and school buildings be
established as a youth center. As such, it would be available to the
Future Farmers of America, the 4-H Club, scouting groups, and similar
organizations to stage fairs, hold meetings and provide recreation.[292]
This proposal was accepted and in 1960 the land was deeded to the
Fairfax County Park Authority whose powers of police protection and
maintenance were superior to those of the individual young people's
organizations. An independent citizen board was also established at this
time and the Park has been continually administered by the Park
Authority and Frying Pan Park Supervisory Board.[293] The latter
consists of representatives of agricultural, homemaking and youth
organizations such as the Agricultural Extension Advisory Board, the
Fairfax County Granges and the Future Homemakers of America. Under their
direction, the 4-H not only began to clean the grounds, but staged a few
tentative activities. The early success of the events, coupled with a
growing interest in the park by equestrian groups, led the Fairfax
County Park Authority to acquire bits and pieces of adjoining property
throughout the 1960s and 1970s, enlarging the original holding of 4.39
acres to 87.6 acres. They also constructed several buildings for use in
livestock exhibitions and horse shows.[294] A model farm, strongly
advocated by the county agent, Grange and other farm-oriented groups was
also proposed in this first decade. A dearth of development money and
popular pressure to expand the equestrian facilities combined to delay
its inception.[295]

[Illustration: Master plan of Frying Pan Park showing ideal arrangement
of the model farm, exhibition halls, and equestrian facilities. Fairfax
County Park Authority, 1974.]

In 1965 the Park Authority bought the Floyd Kidwell farm next to the
original school tract which consisted of some 40 acres with several farm
buildings. The Kidwells had owned the property since 1934; their farm
being the very sort of family operation that proponents of the model
farm project hoped to show.[296] Money was still scarce for the farm's
development, however; therefore, most of the land was earmarked for
equestrian use--only a third was set aside for the model farm.
Additional acreage, purchased in 1974 (and again in 1977) and the
acquisition of the Kidwell farm buildings made more extensive and
authentic cultivation possible; the farm was finally established in
1974.[297] Because the land was pieced together from numerous sources,
the farm is presented as a representation of small-scale farming in the
county, not an exact recreation of the Kidwell farm. In its patchwork
composition, it echoes the trends of the county for few farms stayed
intact during the fluctuations of the 1920s and 1930s, but were added to
or diminished depending on the cash flow.

Model farms originated in Scandinavia, where entire villages were
preserved during the late 19th century in order to save the folkways
which were rapidly eroding in the wake of industrial development. In
this country the earliest efforts at such preservation took place in the
1940s. They had only scanty growth until a thoughtful article by Marion
Clawson was published in _Agricultural History_ in April, 1965. This piece
alerted preservationists and historians to the possibility of such
projects and influenced the establishment of nearly one hundred such
"open-air museums," among them the National Park Service's Turkey Run
Farm near McLean, Virginia.[298]

Frying Pan Farm differs from most of these restorations in its portrayal
of 20th century farming, a time and way of working that many older
people can still recall. Rather than show the slow and hand-operated
life of a pre-mechanization farmer, Frying Pan Farm shows the farm in a
dynamic transition. In the words of the supervisory board, it recreates
a time that "had not given up the idea of home-cured meats, home
vegetable gardens, home orchards, apple butter, sorghum molasses ... but
it was considering the use of farm tractors, milking machines, and
tractor-drawn equipment...."[299] The farm thus portrays crop and
pasturage rotation, and some mechanized activity with a 1940 tractor,
yet the farmer harvests his grain with a horse-drawn binder. Most of the
equipment is from the pre-World War II period and animals have been
chosen or bred to conform to those available in the 1930s. A volunteer
program, established in 1976, aids the farmer in tending the large
vegetable garden, and the livestock which consists of poultry, hogs,
rabbits, goats, sheep, dairy cows and draft horses. Frying Pan Farm
cultivates corn, wheat and hay crops and includes a late-19th century
farmstead, a frame barn, shed, henhouse, and rabbit hutch and a machine
and separator shed. An orchard and additional crop acreage and fencing
are planned. Far from being a zoo or a site of isolated craft or
mechanical demonstrations, the farm is operated daily as if agriculture
were its only aim. Crops are grown not merely for show but to feed the
animal stock and manure is used to fertilize garden and grain fields.
The visitor who stops by the farm does not see a prearranged
interpretive display, but chances on the farmer performing that day's
necessary work: milking, haying, repairing fences, or plowing.[300]

[Illustration: Laura Parham and Kim Stanton work in the vegetable garden
at Frying Pan Farm. Volunteers do much of the garden work at the site.
Photo, Fairfax County Park Authority.]

[Illustration: This early threshing machine is one of the pieces of
period equipment owned by Frying Pan Farm. Photo, Virginiana Collection,
Fairfax County Public Library.]

[Illustration: The farmyard at Frying Pan Farm in early fall. The barn
houses livestock such as horses, pigs, sheep, goats, and dairy cows.
Photo, Fairfax County Park Authority.]

The farm boasts one structure not properly belonging to it, but
nonetheless most relevant to the interpretation of early 20th century
farm life: the Moffett Blacksmith Shop. The shop was owned by Henry
Moffett and stood in Herndon for 70 years, from 1904 until the Frying
Pan Park Supervisory Board bought it in 1974. At this time the shop was
torn down and reassembled near the model farm as a memorial to their
former chairman (and donor of the funds to save the Moffett Shop),
Hatcher Ankers. Henry Moffett, realizing that the advent of the tractor
and automobile would eliminate the need for his business, displayed
considerable foresight by collecting blacksmithing tools all over the
Washington area. His shop now houses some of this equipment and another
portion is in the Smithsonian Institution, though Moffett no longer does
any smithing. The park offers courses in ornamental iron working at the

The presence of the Moffett Blacksmith Shop at Frying Pan Park
emphasizes the interdependence of farmer and smith. The machinist of his
day, the blacksmith repaired wagon tongues, and mended heavy plows and
other farm equipment. As late as the 20th century, the smith produced
tools, and ornamental items in addition to his steady business of
shoeing horses. His work required a sensitive understanding of farming
and the quirks and habits of the farmer and his animals. Henry Moffett
himself owned a farm, giving him special insight into the
agriculturalist's needs, a factor which may have been partially
responsible for the comparative success and longevity of his business.
"I had more trade than any man around here," Moffett admitted. "During
the Depression we showed more profit per man than any other business."
Blacksmithing was a trade which required skill, but also courage, to
wield heavy instruments, work with molten metals and face stiff
competition and the sometimes ugly customers. Henry Moffett seems to
have combined these qualities with a rare integrity. When competition
became keen among the many Herndon forges, Moffett refused to resort to
the accepted practice of defaming the other smiths to build up his own
business. Stated Moffett, "I figured if I can't make it without bringing
somebody else down I shouldn't bother."[302]

[Illustration: The farmer's house at Frying Pan Farm. Photo, Fairfax
County Park Authority.]

[Illustration: Two young girls meet two young goats at an exhibition at
Frying Pan Park. Photo, Fairfax County Park Authority.]

[Illustration: John Hopkins, a park employee, demonstrates the use of
period blacksmithing tools in the Moffett Blacksmith Shop. Photo,
Fairfax County Park Authority.]

[Illustration: Pat Middleton, a contestant in a 4-H Club fair, held at
Frying Pan Park. Copy of photo in Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County
Public Library.]

[Illustration: A cattle judging on the grounds of the Floris school,
1950. The shed, built in 1918, was used continually in the early
twentieth century to house exhibits and fairs. Copy of photo in
Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.]

The continuance of farming and limited blacksmithing in the Floris area
provides a continuity with earlier eras that is also reflected in the
equestrian and youth activities of the park. The site of the old Floris
School was used during the 1930s for the Floris Community Fair and has
for several decades been the site of the 4-H fair, which features many
of the same activities as earlier exhibitions. A description of the 4-H
fair of 1976 reads much as the accounts of 40 years previous:

     Highlight of the opening ceremonies on Thursday evening, August 5,
     will be a goat-milking contest.... The program will open 7:30 p.m.
     with the posting of the colors by twenty 4-H members on
     horseback.... Projects on exhibit will include everything from
     animals to a rocketry display.... Six performances of local dance
     and instrumental groups have been scheduled and square dancing will
     take place at 2 p.m. Saturday. Horse shows will run continuously in
     the park's two rings during both days.... In addition the Extension
     Homemakers Club will present more than 20 working crafts exhibits
     on how to make everything from cottage cheese to doll-house

In addition, several minor judgings are held each year. During 1970 for
example, events at the park included a poultry judging, four dog shows,
four sewing club events and one rabbit show.[304] Agriculturally
oriented youth groups are also encouraged to meet at the park, and the
master plan for development of Frying Pan Park calls for space for home
economics and mechanical shops, areas for crafts instruction, an
agriculture library, and dormitory rooms. In all of these pursuits,
Frying Pan Park carries on the traditions of professional training in
the field of agriculture established by the Floris Vocational High

The use of park space for equestrian activities likewise mirrors the
county citizens' continued interest in rural pleasures. The horse shows
and facilities are the park's most popular feature, drawing over a
thousand people per day for some events. Fifty-five equestrian events
were staged in 1976, and the schedule now includes three Class "A"
weekend shows sponsored by the American Quarterhorse Association, and
judging for points in dressage, jumping, and other standard events. The
construction of an indoor show ring was begun in the summer of 1979, and
is expected to further expand the park's activities, especially
providing space for winter shows. The park also expects to continue its
program of week-long camps for pony clubs, and its extensive network of
bridle paths.[306]

Frying Pan Park is unique both in its attempt to interpret a style of
living which has not yet completely vanished, and in its combination of
educational and recreational facilities. Its aim is not merely to
display old-fashioned implements or provide for the enjoyment of a
special interest group. Rather it seeks to maintain a tradition of
interest in rural life and culture by continuing to pursue it actively.
The trials, hopes, and quiet pleasures of the countryside can be best
appreciated where the farm is a living entity. The richness of the
farmer's achievement is evident to the park's visitors through fairs,
horse shows, and simply in gazing at a lushly billowing field of corn.

[Illustration: Dressage competition at Frying Pan Park, 1978. Equestrian
activities have proved to be among the most popular events at the park.
Photo, Fairfax County Public Library.]


_Frying Pan Park_

[291] Netherton, et al., _Fairfax County_, 544-568; and Beard/Pryor,
February 27, 1979.

[292] Joseph Beard to W. T. Woodson, Fairfax, Virginia, March 26, 1957,
copy in Frying Pan Farm files, Fairfax County Park Authority (hereafter
cited as FCPA).

[293] Copy of deed, December 6, 1960, in Land Acquisitions files, Frying
Pan Farm, FCPA; and telephone conversation with Joseph Beard, April 26,

[294] Additional land was acquired as follows: .9726 acre on
condemnation award from Floyd Lee, July 5, 1962 (cost $1,250); 38 acres
bought from Floyd Kidwell, June 26, 1965 (cost $1,500 per acre); 5.2771
acres on condemnation award from Emma Neal Lee, January 29, 1965 (cost
$3,958); 3.5684 acres (including house and outbuildings) bought from
Floyd Kidwell, March 26, 1970 (cost $34,275); 19.0766 acres bought from
Annie May Poole Whittier, September, 1974 (cost $80,121.72); and
21.63898 acres on condemnation award from Robert E. Clark, May 31, 1977
(cost $173,000). It is interesting to note the rise in land prices
during these years. See Land Acquisitions records, FCPA.

[295] Beard/Pryor, February 27, 1979.

[296] See deed between Asa E. Bradshaw and Floyd Kidwell, in Fairfax
County Deed Books, Liber L-11, 297.

[297] Memorandum from Frying Pan Park Supervisory Board, April, 1972;
notes from Farm Committee, June, 1972; and "Proposed Plan for Kidwell
Farm," Frying Pan Park, January, 1974, all in Frying Pan Park files,

[298] John Schlebecker, _Living Historical Farms: A Walk into the Past_
(Washington, D.C., 1968), 5-16.

[299] Memorandum, April, 1972.

[300] Interview with John Hopkins, farm manager, March 6, 1979.

[301] "Henry Moffett: 'A Mighty Man,'" _Washington Star_, April 18, 1976;
notes on interview with Henry Moffett by Nan Netherton, Herndon,
Virginia, n.d., (1978).

[302] _Ibid._

[303] "4-H Bicentennial Fair at Frying Pan Farm," _Fairfax Journal_,
August 6, 1976.

[304] 1970 Annual Report, Frying Pan Farm files, FCPA.

[305] Master Plan, Frying Pan Farm, 1977, copy in files, FCPA.

[306] Annual Report, 1976, Frying Pan Park; untitled memorandum, May 3,
1974, both in files, FCPA; and Hopkins, March 6, 1979.


Manuscripts and Interviews

All transcripts and notes from interviews are in the Virginiana
Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.

Bailey, Neal. Interview by Nan Netherton. Herndon, Virginia, December
12, 1978.

Beard, Joseph. Interview by Nan Netherton and Patrick Reed. Fairfax,
Virginia, November, 1974.

Beard, Joseph. Interview by Elizabeth Pryor. Fairfax, Virginia, January
23, 1979, and February 2, 1979.

Beard, Joseph and Holden Harrison. Interview by Elizabeth Pryor. Floris,
Virginia. March 6, 1979.

Carey, Patricia M. _A Selected Bibliography of Resources on the History
of Fairfax County, Virginia._ Unpublished monograph, Catholic University,

Deed Books, Fairfax County, Libers E-6, H-5 and L-11. Fairfax, Virginia,
Fairfax County Courthouse.

Derr, H. B. and Joseph Beard. Annual Reports of County Extension Agents,
1918-1940, in Virginiana Collection, Fairfax County Public Library.

Ellmore, Elizabeth and Emma. Interview by Nan Netherton, Herndon,
Virginia, March 2, 1978.

Ellmore, Elizabeth and Emma and Rebecca Middleton. Interview by
Elizabeth Pryor. Herndon, Virginia. March 6, 1979.

Ferguson, Lulah. Interview by Steve Mathews. August 16, 1971.

Greear, Virginia. Interview by Nan Netherton. Herndon, Virginia, March
23, 1978.

Harrison, Holden and Ray, and Virginia Presgraves Harrison. Interview by
Elizabeth Pryor. Chantilly, Virginia, February 5, 1979.

Land Books, Fairfax County 1930-1931 in Virginiana Collection, Fairfax
County Public Library.

Lee, Margaret Mary. Interview by Nan Netherton. Oakton, Virginia, March
28, 1978.

McNair, Wilson D. "What I Remember." Unpublished manuscript in
possession of Mrs. Louise Ryder.

Middleton, John and Edna. Interview by Nan Netherton. Herndon, Virginia,
February 24, 1978.

Millard, Emma. Interview by Dana Gumb. November 15, 1972.

Minutes of Meetings, Farmer's Club #1. Herndon, Virginia, October 1,
1909 to January 13, 1935, in possession of Rebecca Middleton, Herndon,

Peck, Richard. Interview by Nan Netherton. Herndon, Virginia, February
23, 1978.

Publicity Committee of Herndon Chamber of Commerce. "Facts Regarding
Bond Issue Every Voter Should Know." Fairfax, Virginia, 1924. Copy in
possession of Holden Harrison.

Rice, Elizabeth. Letters to author, January and February, 1979.

Rogers, Edith. Interview by Patty Corbat, Craig Smith and Phyllis
Hirshman. Herndon, Virginia, June 12, 1970.

Rogers, Edith. Interview by Nan Netherton. Herndon, Virginia, n.d. (c.,
spring, 1978).

Ryder, Louise. "Some Thoughts About Frying Pan Baptist Church."
Unpublished monograph, June, 1972.

Scott Collection. Letters, Herd Record Books and Memorabilia of C. T.
Rice. Oakton, Virginia.

Shug, Rita. "The Town of Herndon." Unpublished monograph, George Mason
University, May, 1973.

Simmons, Howard. "History of Floris Vocational High School." Unpublished
monograph, n.d. Copy in possession of Elizabeth and Emma Ellmore.

Spencer, Gladys T. to Mrs. Ernest Ryder. February 15, 1979. Copy in
possession of Louise Ryder.

Will Books, Fairfax County, 1928. Fairfax Virginia, Fairfax County

Published Works

Agee, James and Walker Evans. _Let Us Now Praise Famous Men._ New York:
Dodd, Mead and Company, 1960.

Bailey, Thomas A. _The American Pageant._ Boston: D.C. Heath, 1966.

Barger, Harold and Hans M. Lansburg. _American Agriculture, 1899-1939._
New York: The Arno Press, 1975.

Beitzeel, Edwin W. _Life on the Potomac River._ Washington, D.C.:
privately published, 1968.

Corson, Juliet. _Miss Corson's Practical American Cookery._ New York:
Dodd, Mead and Company, 1886.

_Country Gentleman._ February and March, 1935.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. _Historic Progressive Fairfax County
in Old Virginia._ Alexandria, Virginia: Newell-Cole Company, 1928.

"Fairfax Farmer Threw Away His Plow in 1928 and Amazing Results Have
Been Revolutionary." _Richmond Times-Dispatch._ September 17, 1951.

_Fairfax Herald._ Fairfax, Virginia, 1925-1935.

Federal Crop Reporting Service. _Virginia Farm Statistics, 1935-1936._
Richmond, Virginia, 1936.

_Fifteenth Census of the United States: Agricultural Summary, 1929-1930._
Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1930.

_Floris United Methodist Church: An Historical Account, 1891-1974._
Herndon, Virginia, privately published, 1975.

Funk, W. C. "An Economic Study of Small Farms Near Washington, D.C."
_United States Department of Agriculture Bulletin 848._ June 22, 1920.

Garnett, William Edward. "Rural Organization in Relation to Rural Life
in Virginia." _Virginia Agricultural Extension Station Bulletin 256._
Blacksburg, Virginia, May, 1927.

Garnett, William Edward and John W. Ellison "Negro Life in Rural
Virginia, 1865-1934." _Virginia Polytechnical Institute Bulletin 295._
June, 1934.

Gilliam, Sara K. _Virginia People, A Study of the Growth and Distribution
of the Population of Virginia from 1607-1943._ Richmond: Virginia State
Planning Board, 1944.

Glasgow, Ellen. _Barren Ground._ Richmond: Hill and Wang, 1933.

Goessling, Adeline. _The Farm and Home Cookbook._ Chicago: Phelps, 1919.

Gumb, Dana. "Pioneer Recalls McLean." _Echoes of History._ March and May

Hawkes, Robert T., Jr. "The Emergence of a Leader: Harry Flood Byrd,
Governor of Virginia, 1926-1930." _Virginia Magazine of History and
Biography._ Volume 82, Number 3, July, 1974.

Henderson, E. B. and Edith Hussey. _History of Fairfax County Branch of
the NAACP._ Privately published, 1965.

_Herndon News-Observer._ Herndon, Virginia, 1925-1940.

_Hill's Southern Almanac._ Richmond: Virginia Fire and Marine Insurance
Company, 1929.

Kolb, J. H. and Edmund S. de Brunner. _A Study of Rural Society._ Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1935.

Lord, Russell. _Men of Earth._ New York: Longman's Green and Company,

Martin, Oliver. _On and Off the Concrete in Maryland, Virginia and West
Virginia._ Washington, D.C.: privately published, 1930.

Miller, John C. _The Federalist Era._ New York: Harper and Row, 1968.

Murphy, Arthur Morton. _The Agricultural Depression: A Proposed Measure
for Its Relief._ Washington, D.C.: Catholic University, 1926.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. _Proceedings of the Long
Range Study Committee I-III._ Washington, D.C.: Government Printing
Office, November 1967-March 1968.

Netherton, Nan, and Donald Sweig, Janice Artemel, Patricia Hickin,
Patrick Reed. _Fairfax County, Virginia: A History._ Fairfax, Virginia:
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, 1978.

Nickell, Lehman and Cary J. Randolph. _An Economic and Social Survey of
Fairfax County._ Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia, 1924.

_Out of Frying Pan._ Herndon, Virginia: privately published, 1964.

Rasmussen, Wayne D. and Gladys L. Baker. _Price-Support and Adjustment
Programs from 1933-1978: A Short History._ Washington, D.C.: United
States Department of Agriculture, 1979.

_Report of the Commission to Study the Condition of the Farmers of
Virginia to the General Assembly of Virginia._ Richmond: State Department
of Agriculture, 1930.

Richmond and Danville Railroad. _Country Homes Near the Nation's Capital._
Washington, D.C.: 1888.

Rothery, Agnes. _Virginia: The New Dominion._ New York: D.
Appleton--Century Company, 1940.

_Rural Electric Fact Book._ Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office,

Schaefer, Joseph. _The Social History of American Agriculture._ New York:
McMillan Company, 1936.

Schlebecker, John. _Living Historical Farms: A Walk into the Past._
Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1968.

Schneider, Lottie Dyer. _Memoirs of Herndon, Virginia._ Marion, Virginia:
privately published, 1962.

Sears, Roebuck and Company. _Catalogue._ Chicago, 1927-28.

Simpson, Frances Darlington. _Virginia Country Life and Cooking._
Washington, D.C.: privately published, 1963.

_Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940 Agriculture. Statistics for
Counties._ Volume I. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1942.

Stearns, Louis A. "The Present State of the Oriental Fruit Moth in
Northern Virginia." _Virginia Agricultural Extension Bulletin 234._

Thompson, E. P. _The Making of the English Working Class._ London: Penguin
Books, 1966.

_United States Census of Agriculture, 1925: Statistics for Virginia._
Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1928.

_United States Congressional Records_, 1914, 1916, 1917.

United States Department of Agriculture. _Abandoned or Idle Farms:
Statistics for Counties and Summary for the United States._ Washington,
D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1943.

_Virginia Agriculture, 1900-1958. Handbook of Information._ Blacksburg:
Virginia Polytechnical Institute, 1960.

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Development of Virginia's Agriculture._ Richmond: State Department of
Agriculture, 1923.

_Virginia Farm Statistics._ Richmond: Virginia Department of Agriculture
and United States Department of Agriculture, 1936.

Virginia Polytechnical Institute. _The Housing of Virginia's Rural Folk._
Blacksburg, Virginia, 1930.

_Washington Evening Star._ Washington, D.C., 1929, 1932, 1935.

Wilkinson, Charles Kirk. "Reminiscences of Sherwood Farm and the
Surrounding Area." _Yearbook of Historical Society of Fairfax County,
Virginia, Inc._ Volume 9, 1964-1965.

Work Progress Administration of Virginia. _Part Time Farming in Virginia._
Richmond: Division of Rural Research, 1938.

Transcriber's Notes:

Underlined passages are indicated by _underline_.

Punctuation has been corrected without note.

The following misprints have been corrected:
  "buildings" corrected to "building" (page 1)
  "acomplishing" corrected to "accomplishing" (page 28)
  missing "¢" added (page 29)
  "for" corrected to "from" (page 58)
  "commuity" corrected to "community" (page 69)
  "Febrary" corrected to "February" (page 80)
  "mongraph" corrected to "monograph" (page 80)
  "innnocent" corrected to "innocent" (page 108)
  "familes" corrected to "families" (page 109)
  "politlcal" corrected to "political" (page 110)
  "alientation" corrected to "alienation" (page 110)

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+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.