Archive for September, 2014


Beautiful Fairfield

Posted on Sep 28 2014 | By

Fauquier County manor house celebrates 200th anniversary

Virginia history is replete with scenic properties graced by memorable personages. One of the lesser known—but richly historical homes–is Fairfield, located in western Fauquier County.

There have only been 12 owners of the property since 1600; the property has not been flipped for quick profits over the ensuing centuries. Like the Commonwealth itself, stability is highly prized when it comes to Virginia legend and history.

Sunrise at Fairfield

Sunrise at Fairfield

The first owner of the property was Charles I of England, who held control over vast areas of land in the New World. In 1649, his son Charles II granted all the land between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers to Lord Culpeper and six other supporters. The grants included Fairfield.

Today, the current owner is Marriott International and the property has resized itself from hundreds of thousands of acres down to 4,200; a shadow of its former size but impressive nonetheless.

Story line
The land encompassing Fairfield is an artist’s palette of rolling pastureland. Seemingly it would have been the colonials who leveled the original dense forests to plant a variety of crops, most notably tobacco. But not so.

Centuries ago, Indian tribes of the Five Nations periodically burned off land in the area to create pasturage for deer, elk, buffalo and more. These natives were the Nation’s first land managers.

In 1608, Captain John Smith of Pocahontas fame traveled the interior of Virginia to where Fairfield is located. He was the first of numerous historical figures who walked, hunted or lived on the property in the ensuing four centuries.

George Washington fox hunted on the land, “The Gray Ghost”, Confederate John Mosby, periodically resupplied his rangers there, and at times the Quartermaster General of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was headquartered on the property.

Robert Ford—“that dirty little coward that shot down Mr. Howard”—or Jesse James as he is more accurately remembered, was born in a log cabin not far from the manor house. The cabin’s stone chimney stands today as a silent reminder of the bucolic-to-violent times of the mid-to-late 1800s.

Marriott & Reagan

Marriott & Reagan

Fast forwarding to the 20th Century, presidents, governors, and statesmen were frequent guests of J. Willard Marriott. Marriott and President Reagan became fast friends and spent many weekends at the ranch horseback riding and enjoying their mutual love of the out-of-doors.

The house
The manor house at Fairfield was built in 1814 by James Markham Marshall, brother of the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall. John Marshall was the “Babe Ruth of the Supreme Court” having written or co-written over 1000 decisions.

The Marshall brothers, along with Raleigh Colston, paid $70,000 for 220,000 acres encompassing Fairfield after the Revolutionary War and divided the property into three separate ownerships with James taking possession of 80,000 acres.

The house was built in the Federal-style except for the roof. The hip roof reflects an Italian influence most likely due to the period that Marshall and his wife Hester spent in Europe. An east wing was added in the 1820s but the west wing was never built.

Bricks used in the home were a combination of ballast from ships coming from England and transported overland from Alexandria and those kilned on the property. Marriott Ranch General Manager, Lanier Cate said, “There is a huge carved out section of clay bank on the property that looks like it would have been the source to make the bricks.”

The rooms in the Manor House are twenty-five feet square, sixteen feet high with eighteen inch thick walls, making the house comfortably cool in an era predating air conditioning.

In September, the Marriott Ranch celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Fairfield manor house with a corporate celebration. Given the loving restoration devoted to the historic home, the celebration will commemorate its storied past and assured future. 


   J. Willard Marriott 

MarriottIn 1951, J. Willard Marriott and his wife Alice were seeking a getaway for the busy executive. At 53, he had already met with considerable success with more to come. The couple came upon Fairfield while driving the back roads of Fauquier County.

It was love at first gaze. Fairfield immediately reminded Marriott of his youth in rural Utah where as a young lad he herded sheep. At  age 14, his father entrusted him to take 3,000 head of sheep via railcar to the San Francisco market. The young entrepreneur never looked back.

Until he saw Fairfield.

While the landscape of pastoral Fairfield was stunning, the historic manor house was not. It had been unoccupied for over 30 years and was in severe disrepair with a badly leaking roof and the first floor serving as a grain silo. The grande dame was slowly slipping away.

But Marriott was not wearing his executive cowboy hat when he purchased the 4,200 acres and manor house. He called the property Marriott Ranch and for almost thirty years offered its hospitality to his many friends and associates. It was a family farm.

Marriott and his sons never attempted to turn the estate into a resort but have lovingly restored the historic home and maintained the property as a sheep and later cattle ranch. It’s been an investment of over a million dollars.

In the late 90s, the manor house was opened as a seven room bed and breakfast permitting the general public to enjoy its history and beauty.

Lanier Cate, general manager of the ranch says, “Fairfield is a working cattle farm and a historic home that J. Willard saved from decay and destruction.” Another owner could well have subdivided the land and razed the old home. But stewardship prevailed.

Today, Fairfield is a legacy of the Marriott family, a gift to Fauquier County and a treasure for the Nation.

Fairfield Manor House

Fairfield Manor House


Published in the Fall 2014 edition of inFauquier magazine.


Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Take a hike!

Posted on Sep 25 2014 | By

Boots ‘n Beer: Rescuing overworked men one hike at a time 

Twice a month the hard-charging owner of a Warrenton land-use consulting firm takes to the mountains with a bunch of guys in tow.

“A few hours of walking in the woods are the greatest form of stress relief I know of. It’s therapeutic and the quickest way to get out of your own head and relax,” said Jim Carson, owner of Carson/Ashley. The firm specializes in land planning, civil engineering and land surveying.

Given the moribund economy of the last several years, stress relief is in high demand among working men in Fauquier County. The proof? The five-year-old club has over 100 members. A typical hike will see 10 to 20 men navigating the trails of the Shenandoah National Park and other mountain venues.

But is it all heart pounding, sweat inducing physical labor that eases a worried mind? Not at all. Each hike is followed by a rehydration stop at a local tavern for a burger and beer. The club frequently descends on Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill to enjoy its varied selection of microbrews and tasty menu offerings.

Boots-n-Beer-Logo-Updated-e1388253792240 (1)The club’s motto states its charter succinctly: “A drinking club with a hiking problem”. Its whimsical logo depicts a pair of hiking boots, one with a mug handle and foaming beer head, and the other lying on its side in dreamy beer-induced repose.

Nobody’s taking anything serious here; except physical and mental health.

In the beginning
So how did it all start? “Over 15 years ago, my wife Kim and I would go out on mountain hikes. We laughed about how out of shape I was. I don’t think I would have gotten out on my own and started this journey if she wasn’t the type of person who loves being out in the woods,” said Carson.

Carson, 52, further explains that for years he was just, “grinding it out, building my business, paying the bills and tending to all the responsibilities and obligations of life”. He realized he wasn’t taking time out for himself. He thought lots of other men might be in the same trap.

And he was right.

After a few years of the idea incubating in his head, Carson gathered his first 10 club members and headed out to climb Mary’s Rock in the Shenandoah National Park in December 2009. Word soon spread that anyone could join the club. The only criteria? You had to be male.

In the politically correct world of today, a male-only anything tends to bring cries of outrage. But Carson stands firm. “The club allows men the freedom to be men. Guys being guys are not always what the ladies enjoy. But a non-judgmental environment builds esprit de corps and is unifying.” It’s also lots of fun.

“Truth be told, the wives are the best endorser of our club. They see their husbands more relaxed and healthy and they appreciate it,” he explains.

The ladies are welcomed participants at the club’s annual dinner held at a local restaurant or club.

Any “well-oiled” organization needs a set of by-laws to operate by. In keeping with the simple Boots ‘n Beer philosophy, there are only two:

  • No business can be conducted on an outing. Men can share what they do but no actual work is permitted.
  • All hikes must end with a post-hydration stop.

That’s it. In fact, no club-wide meetings have been conducted since its creation. Simple is as simple does.

The club conducts two hikes a month; always on a weekday to assure members book time off from work. One hike is dubbed “Pilsner” and is an easy five to seven mile jaunt. The second is called “Stout” and involves higher climbs and longer distances of eight to 12 miles.

Another key person who has contributed to club’s success is Andreas Keller, a reverse mortgage specialist based in Warrenton. Keller is the group’s official photographer and publishes a glossy, picture-filled yearbook replete with landscape views, trails scenes, and smiling men carrying day packs and hiking poles.

Keller also worked with Bob Moe, owner of Moetec, a Warrenton website design firm and a fellow club member, to fund and build the club’s website and create its Meetup page.

The enthusiastic Keller is a charter member of the club and has been on 55 of the club’s 60 hikes. “We have at our doorstep beautiful mountains, forests, streams and prepared trails. We can connect with nature while working up a good sweat. In the process you can resolve problems and come home tired and happy,” said a smiling Keller.

So it’s decision time guys. Interested in free emotional and physical therapy while having a great time? Oh, and tasting craft beers? Then visit boots ‘n and sign up today.


Jim Carson: Man on the move 

IMG_7168Jim Carson smiles. A lot. And it’s not the thoughtless smile of a man covering up a lack of interest in the person at hand.

It’s a smile—often a heartfelt laugh—that connects directly to the person he is talking to.  The man has charisma but would be first to disclaim such a trait. It’s his ability “to connect” that has enhanced his professional and personal success.

But for all of his sincerity and interest in others, it belies the heartache he has experienced in life. Within the last several years, Carson lost his six-year-old son, Devin, to leukemia; his business development manager, Les Nichols, to pancreatic cancer; and his planning department manager, Bob Counts, to a massive stroke.

And yet he still smiles. And still seeks to serve. Within a few years of his son’s death he joined Team In Training, a national fundraising organization dedicated to finding a cure for blood cancers. The organization sponsors hikes, marathons and century bike rides that task participants to raise money for cancer cures.

In the last few years, Carson has personally raised $50,390 for the organization.

He is now expanding Boots ‘n Beer to embrace charitable causes. A blood drive has already been held and other charity events will follow, perhaps Habit for Humanity, Rappahannock Rough Ride (helps fund the Fauquier and Rappahannock County free clinics) and more.

“We have a resource of over a 100 men in the club. We can use that resource for good. I would like to see a Boots ‘n Beer chapter in every city in the country. My goal is to keep spreading the word and changing lives,” said Carson.

And there’s no doubt Mr. Can Do will work hard to make it happen.


Clymb and Wyne answers Boots ‘n Beer  

So is it only the guys that have fun roaming the Blue Ridge Mountains? Of course not. A group of Fauquier County ladies got wind of what Boots ‘n Beer had created and launched their own hiking club for gals in January 2014.

It’s a diverse group of women focused on healthy living and camaraderie. The group was inspired by the men’s club but established a bit different model. The ladies hike the second Sunday of the month starting in the morning and conclude with a stop at a local winery or restaurant to rehydrate.

Leslie Keller said, “I recently joined Clymb and Wyne and have gone on the last two hikes, which were beautiful ones along rushing spring waters in the Shenandoah National Park.

“We all enjoyed hiking the trail, chatting with new friends and then wrapping up the hike with a glass of wine and a bite to eat. It was fun, happy and healthy!”

A late spring Facebook post read: “Beautiful Morning for a hike in White Oak; the falls were gorgeous! Shelly, Leslie, Gloria and Marianne enjoyed the day and topped it off with brunch at Griffin Tavern!”

Interested ladies need only visit their Facebook page Clymb and Wyne and post a message to join the club.  



Published in the Fall 2014 edition of inFauquier magazine. 

Categories : HAGARTY TALES