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A dash of education has been added to historic Snickersville Turnpike in western Loudoun

Henry Plaster, chairman of the Snickersville Turnpike Association, stands next to the historical markers along the famed byway. Courtesy Photo
Driving Loudoun’s scenic Snickersville Turnpike just got better.

Six new historical markers, erected by the Snickersville Turnpike Association, have added a sense of history for motorists and bikers who travel the Virginia byway.

“On a 20-minute drive up the Snickersville Turnpike from Aldie to Bluemont, you can get in touch with four centuries of history,” said Henry Plaster, chairman of the Snickersville Turnpike Association.

“The markers tell you stories about what happened here during the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, and the agricultural life of early Loudoun County,” he added.

Over the past four years, the Turnpike association has raised funds and designed, researched and erected the heavy cast-aluminum markers. Their logo depicts a horse-drawn wagon passing through a raised tollgate, a symbol of the first publicly funded toll road in the country.

The historical markers stretch from Aldie, at the southeast end, to Bluemont, at the northwest end. They include:

-Snickersville Turnpike. The marker near Aldie at the southeastern end of the turnpike tells the history of the Turnpike and how it helped settle western Loudoun County.

-Hibbs Bridge. The stone bridge over Beaverdam Creek was built in the early 1800s. In the 1990s the Turnpike Association fought and won a long struggle to save it from a state proposal to replace it with a large contemporary span, while straightening and widening that stretch of the turnpike.

-White Pump Drovers Tavern. The marker at Colchester Road commemorates the site of the tavern, which began operating in the late 1790s. Drovers were workmen who moved groups of animals―sheep or cattle―along a roadway to market.  

-The marker also commemorates an incident in the Civil War. In 1864 Union General Wesley Merritt carried out a raid all along the Turnpike, burning barns and seizing farm animals. Merritt camped near this spot overnight. A local farmer, John Dillon, gave the thirsty Union forces two barrels his own of hard cider. In the morning, Merritt continued the raid down the Turnpike, but left Dillon’s barn alone.

-Bacon Fort. Built in 1755 as a fortified dwelling, Bacon Fort was located just east of Airmont. In 1760 the place became an “ordinary” (tavern and inn). George Washington dined there in 1788.

-Bluemont―A Historic Village. The village was first called Snickers Gap, then Snickersville, and―with the coming of the railroad on July 4, 1900―Bluemont. The marker at the intersection of Clayton Hall Road tells its story from the late 1770s to the 20th Century.

-Snickerville Turnpike. This marker, placed next to the Bluemont Village marker at the intersection of Clayton Hall Road, tells a story. The Snickersville Turnpike follows an ancient Indian game trail, which itself traced the easiest climb up the rolling and rising Loudoun Valley toward that widely visible dip along the top of the Blue Ridge known as Snickers Gap. The gap was named after Edward Snickers who ran the nearby ferry across the Shenandoah River when the young brothers Charles and George Washington were surveying Charles Town.

The road as we know it, however, goes back to the 1809-1810 Virginia General Assembly, which appropriated $20,000 to build this 13.75 mile stretch as part of a system of privately owned toll roads called turnpikes.

Thomas Jefferson―writer of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S.'s third president―praised the Snickers Gap project as a model for accomplishing the road building needed to open up interior lands for settlement of the new country.

“When we started there was only one memorial on the turnpike,” Plaster recalled. “It had been erected in 1888 by Civil War veterans of the First Massachusetts Regiment in honor of those who fell at the 1863 First Battle of Aldie. In 2010 our Turnpike Association took part in a rededication of that monument.”

Plaster looks forward to putting up a seventh marker in Bluemont for the Snickersville Academy, (built in 1825), the village’s first school and church, now being restored by Friends of Bluemont.

“The Snickersville Turnpike is scenic―the lay of the land really hasn’t changed that much over the centuries,” Plaster pointed out. “But our historical markers bring a whole new dimension to the experience of driving it.”


Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Thomas Jefferson was the second president. He was the second vice president and third president of the United States.

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