Historic Valley View Farm History
The property is part of a historically important land tract, known as historic Valley View Farm, which dates back to 1649, when it was within the king’s Northern Neck Proprietary. The Proprietary was inherited in the early eighteenth century by Thomas, sixth Baron Fairfax of Cameron. The Strother Family, the owners of Valley View Farm, trace their lineage to the Virginia Fairfaxes and are the direct descendents of Lord Fairfax’s land agent, Robert “King” Carter, through his son Landon Carter.
In the 1740s, the Valley View tract was first settled by one of several pioneer families who moved into the region. Water on the property that ran a grist mill was the impetus not only for occupation but also the reason for sitting the farm’s first buildings some distance to the west of the more picturesque site that would be selected in the twentieth-century for a new manor house. The first farmhouse survives in part beneath a nineteenth-century enlargement. The early barn also stands, alongside other support buildings. The barn is evidence that not only were crops cultivated on the new farm but livestock also was raised there. Iron mines were uncovered on the summit of the tract at some point during the first occupation.
In the mid-nineteenth century, after a succession of owners, the Valley View Farm was purchased by a Quaker pastor named Henry Simpers, who enlarged the existing farmhouse into a fancy structure with Italianite detailing. The pastor played a dramatic role in the emancipation movement: his farm served as a stopover point for the Underground Railroad. At the same time that the pastor hid runaway slaves on his property, he openly housed free African Americans. By oral history, we know of one former slave who in the 1850s took up residence there with her child. Following the creed of tolerance and non-violence, the pastor opened his farm to both armies during the Civil War. In 1862, across the expanses of the Valley View tract, Stonewall Jackson marched his troops southward to the railroad at nearby Delaplane, on his way to the battle of Second Manassas. The army camped on the flat lands east of the Simpers house. Such Civil War artifacts as bullets, cannon balls, stirrups, and bayonets have been unearthed from the fields there. Simpers owned the Valley View tract until his death in the 1920s. The farm was then purchased by George Thomas Strother, grandfather of the present owner.
Thomas Strother lived in nearby Markam and farmed all of his life. He purchased the Valley View tract to give it to his son. Ed Strother, who worked this property for the remarkable span of sixty-one years, from 1926 until 1987, developed most of the operation visible today. He primarily bought and sold cattle but also raised sheep, hogs, and horses. He reinvented the farm, no doubt with his father’s advice, by building a new house and a new barn east of the old ones. Standing on the high ground above the new structures, and looking in their direction, one sees the view of Crooked Run Valley that gave the farm its name. Strother built the manor house with stones taken from the land and from the abandoned eighteenth-century grist mill that had brought the first settlement to the tract.
The best of the horses raised at Valley View Farm served as mounts for foxhunting, an entertainment that Strother enjoyed with his neighbor and friend George S. Patton, soon to become a famous general. The military provided a market for most of the horses before the introduction of armored units at the start of World War II. That market was critical, because the Depression so severely impacted Fauquier County that it forced Ed Strother to relinquish full ownership of Valley View Farm and enter into a ten-year partnership with a colleague, Louis A. Keidel. Ed worked several farms in the vicinity as part of the bargain. By mid-century he won back clear title to the farm.
Valley View Farm was inherited in 1997 by Charles E. Strother, who had run the operation for his father for the preceding decade. He continued to raise cattle, and he reintroduced sheep. The problem of running a deficit, which thwarted Ed Strother, an experienced cattleman, persists today, to the detriment of the small farm of 500 acres. Only two of these still operate in the vicinity of Valley View.