Fairfax Stone

Above the Fairfax Stone

Above the Fairfax Stone

Do you think the Potomac River begins at the confluence of its north and south branches, or do you subscribe to the idea that the North Branch is the main stem of the Potomac?  Indeed, many people refer to the North Branch as the Potomac.  I remember having a pretty heated discussion on this topic with a friend from Ridgely, West Virginia, who naturally refers to the river down the street as the Potomac.  However, there are many people in the South Branch valley who would say that the South Branch is an equal contributor to the main river.  Anyway…

The story I have always heard is that the surveyors sent out to settle a land dispute for Lord Fairfax followed the “larger” of the two branches of the river to its source and placed the stone in 1746 as a boundary between Virginia (now West Virginia) and Maryland.   The stone was moved twice, and in 1909 it disappeared completely, and the large rock in place now was dedicated on October 5, 1957.

"This monument, at the headspring of the Potomac River, marks one of the historic spots of America.  Its name is derives from Thomas Lord Fairfax who owned all the land lying between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers.  The sirst Fairfax Stone, marked "FX", was set in 1746 by Thomas Lewis, a surveyor employed by Lord Fairfax.  This is the base point for the western dividing line between Maryland and West Virginia,"

“This monument, at the headspring of the Potomac River, marks one of the historic spots of America. Its name is derives from Thomas Lord Fairfax who owned all the land lying between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. The first Fairfax Stone, marked “FX”, was set in 1746 by Thomas Lewis, a surveyor employed by Lord Fairfax. This is the base point for the western dividing line between Maryland and West Virginia,”

The park itself is just off of Route 219, approximately 12 miles north of Blackwater Falls.  The stone sits in a four-acre field next to a small parking area.  The park is also a short distance from Cathedral State Park, Canaan Valley State Park, and Deep Creek Lake, so it is an interesting side trip, even if there isn’t any real excitement in-and-around the stone.

The small field is well-manicured and looks like a great place for a quiet picnic

The small field is well-manicured and looks like a great place for a quiet picnic

So…

If you have ever been boating or fishing on the Potomac, or watching its waters spill over Great Falls, there is a small trickle at the corner of the Maryland/West Virginia border that marks the spot where it all begins.   George Washington probably didn’t actually toss the legendary silver dollar across our nation’s river, but YOU can jump across the “official” Potomac directly below the Fairfax Stone.  Try doing that down around Washington, DC!

A small spring emerges below the Fairfax Stone

A small spring emerges below the Fairfax Stone

 

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