Farmwell Makes Its Mark(er) on History

Come next spring an underappreciated historic location in Loudoun County could have a state historical marker thanks to the efforts of seventh grade social science students at Farmwell Station Middle School.

Last year, social science teacher Jay Dodson received a $1,500 grant from the Loudoun Education Foundation (LEF) to conduct a One to the World project through which students would research a person, event or location associated with the civil rights movement in Loudoun County; write the wording for a Virginia Historical Highway Marker describing this person, event or place; apply to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to approve the marker; and, finally, have a marker erected.
One to the World projects seek to make learning more authentic for students by creating a product or service that can be shared with the community.
Sixty-three teams of seventh-graders put forth proposed markers after conducting research and composing a presentation on their neglected moment in history. On Wednesday, November 2nd, nine of the teams presented their work to a panel of judges – Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Supervisor of Social Science and Global Studies Bill Brazier; LCPS Public Information Officer Wayde Byard; Laura Christiansen, curator of manuscripts at Thomas Balch Library; technology resource teacher Carol Wenger; and social sciences teacher Erik Sassak. (Thomas Balch library served as a source for primary research for many of the students.) The judges were tasked with narrowing the projects down to two, which will be submitted to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources by December 1st.
While the projects were underway, Dodson said they morphed into a personalized learning experience. Many students found other areas of history they thought had been neglected and designed projects reflecting their research.
The following projects were considered by the judges:

  • Three teams researched the Ashburn Colored School, which educated African-American students from 1892 until the late 1950s. The former school was recently vandalized and became the object of a community renovation effort.
  • The Leesburg Firemen’s Pool, which was filled in during the 1960s when it was faced with desegregating.
  • A marker to commemorate the 1930 drought, which devastated crops and caused three major rivers (the Potomac, Rappahannock and Rapidan) to virtually dry up. The team suggested their marker be placed near the Point of Rocks Bridge to give it maximum visibility. 
  • The Goose Greek Bridge; one of the last stone-arch bridges in Virginia. During the Civil War Battle of Upperville in 1863, the bridge was a key strategic point.
  • The Second Street School in Waterford was a school for African-American students, a house of worship and an alleged stop on the Underground Railroad that took runaway slaves to freedom. 
  • A prisoner of war camp just outside of Hamilton housed German prisoners who helped harvest crops during the manpower shortage near the end of World War II.
  • Nichols Hardware in Purcellville, a business founded in 1914 and run uninterrupted since. This store is emblematic of Loudoun’s mercantile past.



The judges decided the two projects that would be submitted to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for consideration would be the Ashburn Colored School and Leesburg Firemen’s Pool. (The three teams that researched the Ashburn Colored School will be merged into one for their presentation.) Dodson said the LEF Grant, supplemented by funds from Farmwell’s PTA, has provided the $1,830 necessary to cast and place one historic marker.

Teachers are considering a project that could raise funds for two markers if both are accepted by the Department of Historic Resources. Students will find out if their marker(s) has been approved February 1st. Dodson said the hope is to install the new marker in May.