One of the nice things about living in Northern Virginia is all of the history that you can find throughout the area. There are the well known sites such as Mount Vernon and Gunston Hall and then some smaller sites that if you didn’t know the history of our area you might just pass them by. Today we are going to take a look at two historic churches in Fairfax Station just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Burke Center and downtown Fairfax.
The first church, St Mary of Sorrows was started in 1858 and dedicated in 1860 by the Bishop of Richmond. Built primarily by the Irish railroad workers who were working nearby, the church is built from lumber from the forests that surround the area and the only item that was purchased for the building was the church bell.
During the civil war the church was used as a field hospital for casualties awaiting transportation out of the area on the railroad and it is here that Clara Barton is said to have started the plan that would later become the Red Cross. After the war St. Mary’s continued to be a drawing place for the growing Fairfax Station and Clifton communities and today the church is a popular place for weddings and masses because of its location and history.
The second historic church in Fairfax Station is Jerusalem Baptist Church originally formed in 1840. The congregation first met in what was then known as Paynes Church which had been constructed in the mid 1700’s as an Episcopal Church.
After the civil war when all Church of England structures were forfeited to the states the congregation of Jerusalem Baptist Church was able to buy the building for their own use.
The original church had been the first brick church built in Fairfax County but during the Civil War the building was torn down to use the bricks to build fireplaces in homes used by the for Union Soldiers over the winter. After the war the congregation began to rebuild and in 1866 built the white clapboard church that stands today.
What is interesting about both of these churches is their contribution to Fairfax Station during the civil war and beyond. Changing from places of worship to hospitals, their cemeteries being used by both Union and Confederate soldiers (later most of these graves were moved to Arlington National Cemetery) and the fact that the buildings remain today as places of worship and celebration despite the development of the area.
So if you are out driving around and you see these two small white churches on Route 123 (Ox Road), take a moment to stop and check them out. They are a big part of the local history and something you might just pass by without a second thought.