Lord Fairfax

Stewart Bell Jr. Archives Room
Handley Regional Library / Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society

Fairfax Land Records

Proprietorship of Lord Thomas Fairfax (1693-1781):
Northern Neck Land Records Including the Hite-Fairfax Suit

In 1649, land holdings in the New World were granted by King Charles II to some half-dozen noblemen. Almost 100 years later when Lord Fairfax entered the scene, the grants contained 5,282,000 acres. They included the 22 counties of Northumberland, Lancaster, Westmoreland, Stafford, King George, Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun, Fauquier, Rappahannock, Culpeper, Madison, Clarke, Warren, Page, Shenandoah, and Frederick Counties in Virginia; Hardy, Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson Counties in West Virginia.

Roughly speaking, the Northern Neck Land Grants included all the land between the Rappahannock and the Potomac Rivers. First title deed is usually called a "grant" or "patent." "Poles, "rods" or "perches" are all synonyms and equal 16 1/2'. "Processing" is rewalking metes and bounds to reestablish property lines.

The Hite-Fairfax Suit

The Hite-Fairfax Suit was begun in 1749 under the title of JOIST HITE ET AL. vs. LORD FAIRFAX ET AL. The records are contained in two parts. The first part includes the formal record of the case; the second part, original notes upon which this formal draft was based. The suit contains a long list of topics included in the litigation.

Debate began in 1749, and reached a climax in 1771 when the "cause" was fully argued and recorded at Williamsburg.

In summary, Jost Hite first obtained the land in the Valley of Virginia by assignment of 40,000 acres from John and Isaac VanMeter on August 5, 1731. The VanMeters had previously secured their conditional grants by orders of the governor and council, dated June 17, 1730. The John VanMeter grant included 30,000 acres in all, located in the valley, enjoining the settlement of ten families. Broadly interpreted, the territory was a vast tract of uncharted wilderness--exceeding 40,000 acres--and did not require Hite to locate his surveys in a single, wide enclosure. He was allowed to scatter his settlement across the best and most favorably located tracts, leaving large waste areas ungranted. This settlement policy was usual, as such had prevailed previously.

Lord Fairfax, however, considered it a "conspicuous trespass upon his proprietary rights," and the permissive policy of the colonial authorities provided him with grounds for accusing Jost Hite of "gerrymandering" his claim into a "shoestring," frustrating the future growth of the Valley settlements and making himself (Hite) and partners rich at the expense of others.

On the first judgment, Fairfax won the suit, but Hite appealed, and the trial went in his favor in June 1784. In 1786, judgment was returned in favor of the Hites. By the time the final settlement was achieved around 1802, all of the principals to the cause were dead.

Published Books

Brown, Stuart E. Virginia Baron; the Story of Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax. Berryville, Va.: Chesapeake Book Co., 1965.
B Fairfax

Dickenson, Josiah Look. The Fairfax Proprietary; The Northern Neck, The Fairfax Manors, and Beginnings of Warren County in Virginia. Front Royal, VA: Warren Press, 1959. Includes map of Fairfax Manors filed in Map Case 2, Drawer 4m Map #031.
975.52 D564 Rare

Ebert, Rebecca A. and Rebecca H. Good. Finding Your People in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and West Virginia. Winchester, VA: The Rebecca Co., 1984.
929.1 Goo

Gentry, Daphne Sue. Virginia Land Office Inventory. Richmond: Archives and Records Division, 1981.
016.9755 Vir

Gray, Gertrude Entz. Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants (4 vol.). Baltimore, MD: Genealogical
Publishing Co., 1988.
929.3512 Gra

LAND RECORDS OF THE NORTHERN NECK are to be found on microfilm in the blue cabinet: they cover records from 1690 to 1862. They include grants, surveys, and an index.

Groome, Harry Connelly. Fauquier During the Proprietorship: A Chronicle of the Colonization and Organization of a Northern Neck County. Richmond, VA: Old Dominion Press, 1927.
975.58 G89

Joyner, Peggy Shomo. Abstracts of Virginia's Northern Neck Warrants and Surveys. 5 vols., Portsmouth, VA: 1985.
929.351 Joy

Lewis, Thomas. The Fairfax Line: Thomas Lewis's Journal of 1746. New Market, VA: The Henkel Press, 1925.
975.56 L588

McKay, Hunter Branson. Fairfax Land Suit. Belmont, MA: self-published, 1951. Includes transcript of proceedings held in England.
975.59 M19

Morrison, Charles. The Fairfax Line, A Profile in History and Geography. Parsons, WV: McClain
Printing Co., 1970. Reprint of above.
917.552 M835

Smith, Annie Laurie Wright, comp. The Quit Rents of Virginia, 1704. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Co., 1980.
929.35 Smi

Request with call sheet from staff

The Fairfax Collection contains deeds and plats, indentures, and receipts. It consists partly of inventoried deeds drawn up from May 15, 1753 to March 14, 1767; receipts issued by Lord Fairfax from May 15, 1750 to May 7, 1778; and indentures over the period of 1760 to 1779, plus a few miscellaneous items. Inventory included.

Frederick County Proprietor's Office: Fairfax Rental Rolls (copied from Huntington Library)

Robert Barton Collection. Thomas, Lord Fairfax: An Address by R.T. Barton Jr. before the Maryland Society of Colonial Wars. Self-publication. March 1929.
1268 WFCHS THL Box 1

"Hite/Fairfax Suit, Appealed, 1782" (typescript of Manuscript from collection 57).
57 WFCHS, Fairfax Collection Box 4

Leeds Castle: A Brief History of the Castle of the Queens of Medieval England and a Guide to the Rooms. Leeds Castle Foundation, Maidstone, Kent. The home of Thomas 6th Lord Fairfax before he came to America. See pp. 7, 8, 32-41, 43-45.


Virginia Misc. Papers 1748-1942, Section 4, Land Grant Records 1750-1828.
See Misc. Microfilm


Doran, Michael F. Atlas of County Boundary Changes in Virginia: 1634-1895. Athens GA: The Iberian Publishing Company, 1987.
911.755 Dor

Hale, John S. A Historical Atlas of Colonial Virginia. Plate 11: "The Fairfax Proprietary, Originally known as The Northern Neck of Virginia." Verona, VA: McClure Press 1978.
917.55 H13

Stephenson, Richard W., ed. The Cartography of Northern Virginia: Facsimile Reproductions of Maps Dating From 1608 To 1915. Plate 7: "John Warner's map of Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax's land situated between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers...fourth and final edition, issued sometime after 1747." Fairfax County, VA: Office of Comprehensive Planning, History and Archaeology Section, 1981.
911.755 C24

Library of Virginia web site – www.lva.lib.va.us

Virginia Land Office Patents and Grants/Northern Neck Grants and Surveys—database including patents and grants from the crown and commonwealth from 1623 to 1992 and database of grants in the Northern Neck Proprietary from 1692 to 1862 (images available online).

Hammond: Edition of the 1885 Atlas of Frederick County, VA, includes Fairfax Proprietary of the Northern Neck and 11 other maps
975.5 (oversized maps)

Last updated 03/2014

Stewart Bell Jr. Archives Room
Handley Regional Library
Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society
P.O. Box 58, Winchester, VA 22604
(540) 662-9041, ext. 17