Rose Hill Farm - The Early Days
by Carl Sell
In 1723, Daniel French Sr. bought 903 acres that encompasses what today is known as Rose Hill. From the front lawn, he could see the Potomac River seven miles away and into Maryland near Indian Head. That same view exists today from the back yards of houses on the ridgeline in the vicinity of the original manor house on a high point at the end of what is now May Boulevard.
Daniel French Jr. inherited the land from his father in 1736. The younger French was a contemporary of George Washington and George Mason and was involved in the construction of Pohick Church on land French sold to the church. French died at age 48, before the church was finished. George Mason oversaw completion of the building, using plans prepared by Washington.
After Daniel Jr. died, the farm went to his wife Penelope and then to their daughter, Elizabeth, who married Benjamin Dulaney of Shooters Hill in Alexandria. Apparently Mr. and Mrs. French were not too happy with Elizabeths choice because the daughter eloped with him after sneaking out a dressing room window. Historians described the union as stormy, yet it produced 12 children some of whose ancestors would figure in a Civil War raid on the property.
The manor house was reached via a dirt road from what is now the intersection of Telegraph Road and Rose Hill Drive. The entrance road ran parallel to an apple orchard, which if it existed today would run along Rose Hill Drive and Apple Tree Drive. The house itself was located approximately 50 yards from the edge of the hill, looking toward the Potomac. A large sundial was purported to be on the lawn between the house and the edge of the hill.
There were large terraces of roses planted on the hillside near the house and they could be seen from what is now Telegraph Road. The property was named Rose Hill Farm by the French family. As was the custom in those days, the Frenches were buried on the site. The remains were moved to Pohick Church after the farm was sold for development in the early 1950s.
After the Dulaneys sold Rose Hill in the early 1800s, the property had numerous owners between 1810 and 1868. Many of the sales were advertised in the Alexandria Gazette including this interesting description from 1814:
"Henry Toler as for Rose Hill. 350 acres with very strong framed two story dwelling with four rooms and a passage on each floor, two rooms in the garrett, two in the cellar. Well underpinned with brick. Two brick chimneys and fireplaces other useful houses, large garden, very good kitchen and laundry with two brick chimneys. With a remarkable healthfulness and beauty and a fine distant prospect of the Potomac, it charms all those who reside in it. Sale on Dec. 15th." Alexandria Gazette, November 23, 1814. (Additional Rose Hill Newspaper Notices)
Records show that then Colonel John Singleton Mosby and his Confederate Partisan Rangers raided Rose Hill in 1863 and captured Col. Daniel F. Dulaney, a descendent of the original owners and an aide to Gov. Pierpoint of the Preferred State Government by Abraham Lincoln and the Union. One of Mosbys five rangers involved in the raid was Col. Dulaneys son, French, apparently named for his grandfather and great grandfather.
The original house burned down due to an overheated chimney in January 1895.
Please let me know if you have any information to contribute to the history of Rose Hill. Carl Sell
Birth of a Community
The USGS map shown above was surveyed by the US Coast & Geodetic Survey in 1885-86 and 1895-97, engraved in 1897, and printed in 1900. It shows the location of the original Rose Hill farm house as well as other houses in the area. It is interesting that the name of Franconia Road during this period was Old Fairfax Road, Franconia Station was a stop on the Penn and Washington Southern Railroad, and "Back Lick" Road was two words.
The tombstone for Daniel French Jr. is located adjacent to Pohick Church. The "old English" inscription reads:
To the memory of DanL French who Died
the 25 May Anno Domin 1771 aged 48 years.
Beneath this Stone my Hond parent lies.
Whom fate snatched from me to the pity skief.
How great his losf you to grieve how vain.
We part but once foon to meet again.
Where joyf are endless where no grief is known.
Where peace content and happinesf are o one.
Yet take these tears mortalitief relief.
And till we share your joy forgive our grief.
Thefe little rites stone a verfe receive.
Tif all a kindsman, all a friend can give.
RHCA Home Page