Waterford's Pioneering Quakers

An excerpt from the book, When Waterford & I Were Young, by John E. Divine. This book shares the author’s experiences and love of Waterford as he grew up in the early 1900s. About this book

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Map of the Janney Hague property tracts in Waterford VA

Map of the Janney Hague property tracts

Waterford's pioneering Quakers were Amos and Mary Yardley Janney from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia. In the early 1680s the Janney and Yardley families had been among the first to leave England for William Penn's new colony. Fifty years later the grandchildren of those Quaker immigrants were themselves ready to move on, enticed by reports of fertile land newly open to settlement in Virginia. In the early 1730s Amos bought 400 acres on the south fork of Catoctin Creek from John Mead, who had obtained the land in a round-about way from Lord Fairfax, colonial proprietor of most of northern Virginia. [Prince William County Deed Book "C," the book recording the date of transfer to Amos Janney from land agent Catesby Cocke, has been missing since the Civil War. Thus an exact date is not available. Waterford dates its founding to 1733, based on the land transfers of the 703 acres between and among land agents John Mead, Richard Averill and Catesby Cocke.]

The new home must have suited the Janneys. They evidently encouraged friends and relatives to join them from Pennsylvania Among the first to follow were Mary's sister Jane and brother-in-law Francis Hague. In 1743 Hague bought from the same John Mead 303 acres abutting Janney's land on the northeast. Francis settled his large family in a modest stone cottage on a hill above Catoctin Creek. In succeeding years Quakers arrived in growing numbers, drawn like Amos Janney by the promise of good land. Still, the trek from the north was not for the faint of heart. Even a full generation after Amos’s pioneering move, the passage was still difficult as this letter home makes clear.

To William Myers in Kingwood, Heaterdon County, West Jersey

Dear Brother:
I thought proper to let thee know that we are all in good health at present which we have reason to be thankful for. Hoping these lines may find thee and all our dear friends and relations so. I have nothing strange at this time to write. I thought it would he acceptable to thee to have some account of our journey which was really troublesome for we had a great deal of wet weather and exceedingly had roads and high water which was a great hindrance to us in crossing the ferries.
The Seventh day of the Fifth Month we left Kingwood and the seventeenth we crossed the Potomac Rivers twelve miles from our house. I can not give any particular account of how we like the place till further trial, but we find it near as we expected, and live among good neighbors which is a blessing to be esteemed.
So I shall conclude and we whose names are here subscribed do salute you all in true love. Desiring your welfare and that you may be established in truth and perfect peace which is above all things desirable, therefore we shall take our leave of you all at this time.

The 7th day of the 6th Month 1761

Jonathan Myers
Mary Myers

Not everyone was as cautious as the travel-weary Myers in appraising the new neighborhood. In April 1776, Thomas Rankin, a young Methodist preacher, described his ride from Frederick, Maryland, through the Waterford area to Leesburg in terms that would make even a modern-day developer blush.

This was the most pleasant day's ride I have had this spring. It was indeed lovely beyond description in crossing that fine river, the Potomack. The natural flowers on the banks, the large trees hanging over the sides of the river, adorned the green of different shades, while the broad limpid stream glided gently along, joining its murmurs with the tuneful tribes who made the woods vocal with their creator's praise. Here nature sported her virgin fancies and wantoned as in her prime! I could have sat on the banks of this delightful river all the day with the utmost pleasure...

Even Rankin conceded, however, that there were a few problems in this eden. He reported that panthers were numerous in the Waterford area. A local land-owner, Captain William Douglass, presented him with the pelt of one. It "...measured 11 feet; and allowing 4 feet and 1/2 for the length of the tail, the body of the animal was upwards of 6 feet long."

Wolves too were plentiful and a real threat to settlers' livestock. In 1757 local authorities paid Joseph Janney (cousin of Amos) 100 pounds of tobacco for a wolf's head-the standard bounty. [This Joseph Janney-and there were several-was probably the Joseph who married Hannah Jones in Pennsylvania in 1764. He was the son of Abel and Sarah Baker Janney and a great-grandson of Thomas, the original Janney immigrant from England. Joseph died about 1793.]

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