Virginia Department of Historic Resources
PIF Resource Information Sheet, DHR ID #: 030-15140, Auburn Civil War Battlefield District
via Citizens for Fauquier.org
By the mid-18th century, George Neavil opened an ordinary at the crossing of the Dumfries Road and Carolina Road, spurring the development of the small crossroads settlement of Auburn. According to Fairfax Harrison’s seminal work Landmarks of Old Prince William, George Neavil had a land grant on the upper side of Cedar Run adjoining the Carter Kettle Run tract at the modern village of Auburn by 1731 and voted in Prince William County in 1741. When Fauquier County was organized in 1759 [[George Neavil]] was surveyor of the road “from his house to Turkey Run Church.” His house stood “at the crossing of the Carolina road and the 'Rappahannock' branch of the Dumfries road which lead by Turkey Run Church” (Harrison, 491). i
George William Fairfax and George Washington spent a night at this house in March 1748 on a journey to the Shenandoah Valley from Belvoir. While no evidence exists that Neavil operated a tavern at Auburn in 1748, he was licensed by the Fauquier Court “in 1759, 1761, and 1770 to keep and ordinary 'at his house’” (Harrison, .492).
Andrew Burnaby wrote in May 1760, “I left Fredericksburg and having ferried over the Rappahannock at the falls, travelled that night to Neville's Ordinary, about thirty-four miles” (Burnaby, 71).ii According to Harrison, writing in 1924, the route to Auburn from “Fredericksburg on the Falmouth and Quantico roads, via Elk Run Church, and Catlett's,” was the main route travelled circa 1760, was about 34 miles (Harrison, .492).
According to Harrison, “Nevill’s plantation” is noted on Anburey’s route map of 1779; and Bishop Reichel mentions it as Nevill's Ordinary in 1780. Harrison wrote that Neavil’s Tavern “stood on the Carolina road 10 miles south of Red House (Haymarket) and 6 miles north of Germantown, which are approximately the actual road distances from Auburn” (page 492).
During a journey from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, Bishop John Frederick Reichel of the Moravian Church passed through Auburn on the Carolina / Rogues Road, having remarked in his diary. “We soon reached Nevill’s Tavern, which is ten miles from Redhouse [Haymarket], and six miles further passed through Germantown.” The road was substantial enough to accommodate wagons drawn by teams of six horses. He remarked that they only travelled 14 miles that day because “of the hilly, rough, and marshy road” that caused one wagon to break down and another to become so “stuck in a deep hole” that it required ten horses to pull it out (Mereness, 593).iii
Whether or not Neavil’s Tavern was still operational, the structure apparently survived through the Civil War. The first edition of the Fauquier Historical Society Bulletin noted in 1921 that “tradition identifies a very old house at Auburn which has been deserted for many years, as the original tavern” (Groom, page 69).
Harrison wrote in 1924, “This old house, probably as old as any now surviving in Fauquier, is still standing, but in ruins, on the green at Auburn. It reveals the foundation of the full length porch which was, as we have seen, the characteristic of the eighteenth century ordinary. In other respects it is in the strict tradition of ‘improvement’ construction ‘after the manner of Virginia building.’” It had not been occupied for many years looking “today more like the palace of the Sleeping Beauty than a caravansary where, for the asking, all the world might have news, ham and eggs and a toddy” (Harrison, .492).
Alice Maude Ewell wrote that she “had not heard so far of the old Inn at Auburn, in Fauquier, being meddled with” before 1931 in her book A Virginia Scene or Life in Old Prince William (page 212). While noting that Neavil’s was one of three early ordinaries built along this section of the Carolina Road, Ewell bemoaned the fact that the ordinary at Leesburg had “lately been pulled down” writing “Efforts were made to save it, but in vain. Why is there not a law against such things? How long is every clod-pate who owns a piece of ground to be allowed to destroy what alone makes it interesting to the public at large” (page 211)
- Library of Virginia Fauquier Chancery, FAUQUIER CO 1796-031 JAMES HATHAWAY V AMBROSE BARNETT ( cached plat)