Alexandria, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
The Alexanders & Agriculture
City of Alexandria Est. 1749
—Potomac Yard —
Potomac Yard was once part of a vast, wooded landscape overlooking the Potomac River. The original 6,000-acre tract (about 9 square miles) was passed down through generations of the John Alexander family and divided among surviving spouses and children, each time creating smaller parcels. The Alexanders owned hundreds of acres of land and the majority of their holdings were farmed by tenants who paid rent to live on and work the property. It is highly likely that tobacco and wheat, the area's two primary crops, were grown on the land that would become Potomac Yard.
The fact that the agricultural use of the site spanned three centuries is a testament to the one-time importance of farming to the region. Alexandria and families such as the Alexanders grew wealthy from growing and shipping agricultural products internationally. However, as the country expanded and an abundance of fertile farmland became available to the west, the landscape would eventually prove more valuable as a transportation hub than for its ability to grow crops.
Local and regional farmers shipped many of their goods from Alexandria.
When Potomac Yard opened in 1906, its tracks and buildings covered much of the farmland east of Route 1 effectively ending agriculture in Alexandria.
The Alexander Family
People of African descent played a major role in agricultural practices in the area. The local economy—as well as the wealth of the planters such as the Alexanders—benefited greatly from slave labor.
Historical records show that slaves were often considered part of an inheritance, similar to land and other property. When Robert Alexander died in 1704, his estate was divided among his two sons, Robert and Charles, who received furniture, goods, tobacco, corn, livestock, money, and a number of slaves. By the time this will was codified, transfer of individuals as property was codified as Virginia Law.
"I give & bequeath unto my son Robert Alexander these Negro foll g. (viz.) Mulatto Grace, Cate, Dego, Nanny his wife Caesar, Mulatto Moll, Sarah, Papa Jack & Negro Robin in Number 9, Them & their increase forever to my said son Robert & his heirs forever."
Excerpt from the 1704 will of Robert Alexander
Erected by City of Alexandria.
Location. 38° 49.963′ N, 77° 2.844′ W. Marker is in Alexandria, Virginia. Marker is on Potomac Avenue north of East Glebe Road, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2501 Potomac Avenue, Alexandria VA 22305, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Virginia's First Highways (within shouting distance of this marker); Building Potomac Yard (approx. 0.2 miles away); The People of Potomac Yard (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Bluemont Line (approx. half a mile away); Corporal Charles William Hill (approx. 0.6 miles away); The Triangle Site (approx. 0.7 miles away); Crossroads of Transportation (approx. 0.7 miles away); Potomac Yard History (approx. 0.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Alexandria.
Categories. • African Americans • Agriculture • Colonial Era • Railroads & Streetcars • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on April 1, 2018. This page originally submitted on March 30, 2018, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 45 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on March 30, 2018, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.