Origins of Lake Accotink

LAke Accotink

Lake Accotink Dam is in the background. The railroad bridge is overhead.

From Historical Marker Database.

Indigenous People. The original inhabitants of the lands around Accotink Creek lived as semi-sedentary hunters and gatherers who moved seasonally to fallow game. These peoples spoke varying forms of the Algonquin language. The river system provided them with a wealth of resources as well as a means of transportation. The waters teemed with fish and deer and other animals were drawn to its banks. Gathering and farming were also important lifeways. Corn and beans were combined as “succotash” making up half their diet, which was also supplemented with wild berries and nuts. Early peoples were also drawn to the area due to the prolific amount of quartz and other materials from which they could make tools, including projectile points and stone scrapers. With European advancement along the waterways beginning in the early 17th century, the Native Americans were slowly pushed off their lands.

Bridging the Gap. The railroad trestle was built as part of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad in 1851. The line connected the port city of Alexandria with the interior of the state, which allowed for a more efficient exchange of raw materials and imported goods. During his 28 December 1862 raid on nearby Burke’s Station, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart dispatched 12 men under the command of Fitz Lee to burn the railroad bridge over Accotink Creek. Stuart also tore up the rails and cut telegraph lines before withdrawing. The trestle was later rebuilt and continued carrying Union supplies for the duration of the war. In 1917 it was rebuilt out of wrought iron and again from concrete and steel.

Camp A. A. Humphreys. In 1912, the War Department purchased a plot of land that had once been part of the Belvoir estate built by William Fairfax in 1741. The land was meant to serve as a summer camp and rifle range for the engineering corps stationed at nearby Washington Barracks in Washington, DC. With the outbreak of WWI, the camp was turned into a more permanent establishment and named Camp A. A. Humphreys, after a distinguished Civil War engineer. With plans to permanently move the Army Corps of Engineers there in 1919, a water source was needed.

Springfield Dam. Originally known as the Springfield Dam, when it was first built in 1918, the dam created Lake Accotink as a safe, stable water source. The dam originally cost $100,000 to build and was contracted to the Amburson Construction Company. The reservois it created covered 110 acres and was 23 feet deep. Because of siltation from storm water runoff, the lake has now shrunk in size. Today Camp A. A. Humphreys is known as Fort Belvoir.

With the development of Springfield during the 1950s, Fort Belvoir opted to move its water source to the Alexandria Water Company. With Lake Accotink no longer needed for a water source, military officers used it as a retreat until the Fairfax County Park Authority leased in in 1960. The part Authority purchased the land for half price in 1965 under the federal “Land to Parks” program.

The Orange and Alexandria Railroad Trestle

By J. J. Prats, August 13, 2005

The original bridge crossing Accotink Creek was built in 1851 as part of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. During the Civil War the wooden trestle was an attractive target for Confederate soldiers. In his 28 Dec. 1862 raid on Burke's Station, Confederate Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart sent twelve men under the command of Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee to burn the trestle. Although termed an "inconsiderable structure" by the Union press, the raid was alarming to many because of its close proximity to Alexandria. The trestle was quickly rebuilt, allowing the Union to continue transporting vital supplies along the line for the remainder of the war. Erected 2003 by Fairfax County History Commission. Marker series. This marker is included in the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and the Virginia, Fairfax County History Commission marker series. Location. 38° 47.553′ N, 77° 13.067′ W. Marker is in Springfield, Virginia, in Fairfax County. Marker is on Accotink Park Road, on the left when traveling east. Click for map. It is in Accotink Park in the main parking lot that sits in front of the Accotink Lake dam and the current railroad bridge. Marker is in this post office area: Springfield VA 22151, United States of America. 

Norfolk's Southern Bridge

The picture is taken from the parking lot looking north. The lip of the dam is visible behind and below the marker. Lake Accotink Road—with the yellow curbs—goes under the bridge and turns right.

Within 3 miles of this marker, as the crow flies. Orange and Alexandria RR (here, next to this marker); The Origins of Lake Accotink (within shouting distance of this marker); The Civilian Conservation Corps (approx. 0.4 miles away); Orange and Alexandria Railroad (approx. 0.6 miles away); Ravensworth (approx. 1.2 miles away); Springfield Station (approx. 1.8 miles away); Keene’s Mill (approx. 2.1 miles away); Price’s Ordinary (approx. 2.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Springfield. Regarding The Orange And Alexandria Railroad Trestle. The current railroad bridge is on a different alignment from the old trestle.

Orange and Alexandria Railroad

September 15, 2007

Inscription. The Lake Accotink access road here lies atop the original road bed of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, chartered in 1849 to link the port city of Alexandria with Gordonsville in central Virginia. After the war began in 1861, railroads became strategically important for the transportation of troops and supplies. Since this part of the Orange and Alexandria fell under Union control early in the war, the Confederates targeted it to disrupt the movement of Federal forces. During Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s December 28, 1862, raid on nearby Burke Station, he tore up rails and cut telegraph lines. He also dispatched twelve men under Gen. Fitzhugh Lee (Robert E. Lee’s nephew) to burn the wooden trestle over Accotink Creek. The trestle was repaired and carried Union supplies for the duration of the war. Maj. John S. Mosby’s Rangers and Confederate civilians continued to make nighttime raids, however, tearing up tracks and attempting to derail trains. The raiders often concealed themselves in drainage culverts beneath the rail bed while waiting to sabotage passing trains. After a derailment attempt failed on July 26, 1863, Union Gen. George G. Meade ordered civilian saboteurs severely punished. To protect the railroad, the 155th New York and 4th Delaware Regiments camped along the tracks here. 

(Sidebar) The longest continuous stretch of surviving Orange and Alexandria Railroad bed in Fairfax County runs through Lake Accotink Park. The park occupies land that was originally part of the 22,000-acre Ravensworth tract that William Fitzhugh purchased in 1685. The Fitzhugh’s were related to the Lees, who often visited Ravensworth. In 1829, Robert E. Lee’s mother died there. Two years later, Robert E. Lee married Mary Randolph Custis, and the couple honeymooned at Ravensworth. Mary Custis Lee inherited Ravensworth after the war and moved there after Robert E. Lee died in 1870. The Lees’ second son, William Henry Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee, inherited the tract on her death in 1874. The house, built about 1796, burned in 1926.

From the Historical Marker Database -