Thomas Shepherd Survey Plat, 1734

Map courtesy of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

The Map

Robert Brooke surveyed the 222 acres of the Thomas Shepherd land grant in April of 1734. Brooke measured the parcel starting on the southwest side of the “Cohongoloo” (today’s Potomac) River, where a white oak tree on a hill was marked with six notches and inscribed TS. The boundaries were measured in poles, approximately 16.5 feet in length. Other notations indicate the number of poles and the direction of the boundary line. The Falling Spring Branch of the Potomac River, which traverses the area, would eventually power mills on the Shepherd lands. The survey is signed Robert Brooke, SEC (Surveyor Essex County). In October of that same year, Shepherd received his land grant from the British Crown. The written description of his land, along with the hand-drawn map, was recorded in the Spotsylvania and Orange Counties Survey book, 1732 November 23 — 1734 December 31.

The Map Maker

  • Robert Brooke

    Robert Brooke, was born in Essex County, Virginia. In the summer of 1716, he accompanied Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood and other prominent Virginians over the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Shenandoah Valley, which Spotswood then claimed for King George and England. The expedition was an initial step in the settling of the then unexplored western frontier. It was also the beginning of Brooke’s career traveling throughout the frontier and wilderness of colonial Virginia, and exploring, surveying, and mapping lands both for the Crown and early speculators.

    In the dispute between Lord Fairfax and the British Crown over land patents, the boundary commission appointed Brooke, along with another surveyor, William Mayo, to trace the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers to their headsprings. Brooke died in 1744, a year before his son, also named Robert, was chosen along with Peter Jefferson, to map the Fairfax line, the western boundary of the Fairfax land grant.