Exeter Plantation has a long and storied place in
Loudoun County and Virginia history.
Today, as you stroll along the paths and sidewalks of our community,consider the rich history that surrounds you. Imagine the previous residents of these lands and events that occurred here, and take pride that Exeter is where you live.
Exeter was built in, 1796, on lands owned by Dr. Winston Selden. Many events of note occurred here. The marriage of George Washingtons great-nephew, John Augustine Washington to Eleanor Selden took place at the plantation in 1843. It was during this time the home and plantation became established as one of the social centers for the Leesburg area. It remained that way for the next 100 years.
These lands were also known to have been the site of skirmishes during two wars, the American Revolution and the American Civil War. Revolutionary War troops passed through and bivouacked in the Exeter area.
Dramatic events took place here during the American Civil War. Imagine awakening from sleep, and hearing the sounds of horses hooves, gunfire and men yelling in the middle of the night. Here on the Exeter Plantation those events became common place during the American Civil War. Union forces had planned to use the area near Balls Bluff as access into Virginia. On October, 21, 1861, part of the Battle of Balls Bluff took place here on Exeter lands. Confederate soldiers camouflaged themselves in the cornfields of the farm. They took Union soldiers by surprise and drove them back in retreat across the Potomac River at Balls Bluff, which at that time was part of Exeter. Later in 1864, John Mosbys Rangers encamped and resupplied here after another raid on Union forces in the Leesburg area. The grand stone barn here on the Exeter Plantation was burned in retribution for the assistance offered to Mosby. In July of 1864, General Jubal Early and his troops rested and used Exeter as headquarters during a retreat from Washington, which almost resulted in the Confederate capture of the city.�
After the Civil War, the lifestyle at Exeter returned to farming and bucolic activities for the families that owned the home and lands. One can imagine the parties and events hosted here. Everyday life on the large farm continued as the home and lands changed hands through inheritance or sale. However, the stately Doric columns, original colonial wallpaper, carved doors and intricate woodwork, black marble fireplace and numerous mantles of Exeter were sadly faded by the late 1970s. At that time, the entire plantation was surveyed and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the Virginia State Landmarks Registry, in an effort to save the plantation from purchase by developers. The plantation house had deteriorated and was in need of major restoration. The owners were considering selling, when it burned to the ground in August, 1980. A main remaining building on the property was later restored and reconstructed as the community center once Exeter was sold to developer.
Written solely by Theresa K. Whitcomb
Reference materials used for compiling this article were obtained from files housed at the Thomas Balch Library, including the drawing of the Plantation. Updated clippings from the Loudoun Times Mirror were included in the file.