1727 – A survey of the northern neck of Virginia

Map courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Map

In 1664 and 1681, King Charles II granted the region between  the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers – known as the Northern Neck – to Lord Culpeper, the maternal grandfather of Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax (1693-1781). By 1719, Lord Fairfax had inherited the land. While the exact boundaries of the grant were unknown, it contained hundreds of thousands of acres stretching from the Chesapeake Bay well into the Shenandoah Valley.

Lord Fairfax did not visit Virginia until 1735, and in his absence, the Colony began issuing land patents within the Northern Neck. Lord Fairfax protested to the King. In 1733, a commission was appointed to survey the boundaries of the land. Two teams of surveyors – one representing the Colony, the other Lord Fairfax – were assigned to find and map the headwaters of the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. Lord Fairfax refused to accept the map produced by the Colony and asked John Warner to produce a rival map.

Three other additional surveys, including one by Peter Jefferson and Joshua Fry, were undertaken in the following years. Finally, in 1745, the Virginia Colony accepted Lord Fairfax’s claims to an area of more than five million acres in return for his accepting the preexisting patents granted by the Colony. This map, published following the settlement, represents the final accommodation between the Colony and Lord Fairfax.

One of those patents was given to Thomas Shepherd, the founder of Shepherdstown. He received a grant of 222 acres from Virginia Governor William Gooch in 1734. A subsequent grant by Lord Fairfax in 1751 increased Shepherd’s holdings to 457 acres.

The Map Maker

Little is known of the life of John Warner. Appointed surveyor of King George County, Virginia, in 1727 this “noted surveyor,” according to Lord Fairfax’s commissioners, also laid out the town of Falmouth, Virginia in that same year and drew up several other local maps.