Leesburg Freight Depot | Orion Anderson

The freight station that later stood where Orion Anderson was hanged. The original station in Leesburg burned before any photos were taken. Anderson was hanged in 1889.

Years before lynching was outlawed in Virginia, a black teenager in Loudoun County was a target of the gruesome act for allegedly scaring a white, teenaged girl.

But before Orion Anderson's day in court, researchers say a small group broke into his jail cell, dragged him to the Leesburg freight depot in southeast Leesburg, hanged him and shot him.

This Wednesday, in the same area where Anderson was lynched, the first of three markers remembering those lynched will be memorialized. Community members and elected officials will join the Loudoun County NAACP, Loudoun Freedom Center and NOVA Parks to honor Anderson in the first of a series called Loudoun Remembrance and Reconciliation.

“When I first proposed this back in 2015 or 2016, I really thought I was going to run into a ton of opposition, but I have to admit I’m real surprised at the local governments and NOVA Parks of how cooperative they’ve been on this process, and I’m real happy with that,” Loudoun County NAACP member Phillip Thompson, the organization's previous president, said.

Anderson was one of three black men lynched in Loudoun County between 1880 and 1902, according to Thompson. Anderson was lynched in 1889, Page Wallace in 1880 for an alleged rape and Charles Craven in 1902 for an alleged murder. Thompson said the other lynchings occurred along Route 15 near Point of Rocks and in the former Potter’s Field at the corner of East Market and Catoctin Circle in Leesburg.

All the lynching victims were believed to be between the ages of 18 and 25 until further research concluded that Anderson was 14 years old, prompting researchers to begin a search for all of the victims’ descendants. Previous records showed Anderson to be around 19 and 20.

"To continue to say he was ‘around a certain age’ did not sit well with me, not only because it was disrespectful, but because it doesn’t give him the decency of a human birth and death,” Loudoun Freedom Center and Loudoun County NAACP President Michelle Thomas said. “I questioned the age, and then once I realized the age was wrong, then we started to dig a little deeper to find his descendants.”

Shortly after Thompson announced efforts to establish the markers last summer, the Remembrance and Reconciliation Initiative began with a group of researchers investigating the descendants of those lynched. The goal was to extend the research shortly after an April panel discussion addressed the need for the memorial markers. The panel was facilitated by George Mason University graduate students from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

Lynching Memorial Discussion

Thoughts on display at the Douglass School in Leesburg during the March 14 discussion on establishing lynching markers and Virginia's history.

As part of the reconciliation process, organizers are inviting descendants of Anderson and the white teenager, May Leith, originally from the Hamilton area, to Wednesday's event.

“If our only and exclusive purpose is to remember the victim without adding the component of reconciliation, then we have shortchanged progress,” Thomas said.

The project moved forward in September when Leesburg Town Council unanimously approved a memorial marker at the former Potter’s Cemetery, now the intersection of East Market Street and Catoctin Circle, to remember the lynching of Craven.

Thompson said he is still working to establish the remaining two markers and encourages anyone with additional information about the project to reach out to the members of the Loudoun Freedom Center or Loudoun County NAACP.

Once the project is completed, the soil from each site — like many across the country — will be collected and sent to the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also known as the National Lynching Memorial, in Alabama. The memorial, which was created to honor the victims of lynching, was founded by the Equal Justice Initiative and opened in April 2018.

Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution for the commonwealth to acknowledge “with profound regret” the existence and acceptance of lynching. The resolution was introduced by Democratic Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan from Richmond and co-patroned by local Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33rd). Democratic Del. Delores McQuinn (D-70th) introduced a similar resolution in the House.

Wednesday's event will begin where Anderson was held at the old jailhouse, now a parking lot, and end where he was hung in southeast Leesburg.

Attendees are invited to gather at 5 p.m. in the nearby parking lot at the intersection of Edwards Ferry Road and Church Street in northeast Leesburg. Orion Anderson’s story will be told from 5:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The group will then travel to the intersection of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail and Harrison Street in southeast Leesburg to begin the ceremony at 6 p.m.

"I like to say that the many historic parks that are owned and operated by NOVA Parks tell the story of America," NOVA Parks Executive Director Paul Gilbert said. "We have Native American sites, Colonial sites, many locations that saw fighting during the Civil War. We also have civil rights and voting rights sights. But the era of Jim Crow and the lynchings that were part of that time is also part of the story of America. We have to be willing to see both the good and the bad that is part of our history."

(32) comments

amerigirl

Workhard, no you can’t tell ‘your version’ of the truth to libs because it’s just not true, doesn’t make sense, and is incoherent. Your retaliatory remarks show that you are the one that is offended and snapping back with childish remarks that you think are degrading. So, you think about the soldiers on Omaha Beach but did you know that the number of gun-related deaths in 2019 were higher by March 7th than on D-DAY? What are you saying about a delegation going to a funeral, because you’re right about people having no clue since you made an incomplete statement? Do you actually have any facts or is this just something you heard about? Who can’t take a MS-13 comment? What are you talking about? Most of all, what does any of this rant have to do with this article?

CindyLou

This article and comments needs to be removed. It's embarrassing for anyone in the State to see all these these racist right bully's in our country for the MS13 remark guy, your disgusting.

workhardgetahead

I know, you cant tell the truth to a lib. They get so offended and have to retreat to a safe space and pet puppies. I think about the soldiers who stormed Omaha beach in June of 1944 and think of how our society has become. Those guys gave it all and someone cant take a MS13 comment GROW UP!

chrisnich

It's funny CindyLou. I just checked the latest Webster's International Dictionary and found a new, alternative definition of "racist." It says, "Anybody who disagrees with me, especially if they are to my political right." So I guess you are correct!

amerigirl

No reason to be nasty. I guess you thought that was a smart comeback but it just makes you look like a bully, Go by the guidelines below, Be Nice.

ace10

In a hundred years, will people memorial the sites of MS13 murders. Knowing that we could have prevented them by enforcing immigration laws.

amerigirl

[offtopic][offtopic][thumbdown][thumbdown]

More Cowbell

In 50-100 years, all this will be torn down and replaced with something else. Really no need to study history. I'm sure a lot of innocent people died 100+ years ago.

Thebroof

Black teens charged with lynching in Manassas. Where's that memorial?

amerigirl

Virginia Code defines as “any act of violence by a mob upon the body of any person, which shall result in the death of such person.” The victim was actually shot. Those were stupid teens who's main objective was robbery.

MAGA Morons Are Governing America

This is wrongheaded. Are we commemorating Jim Crow? Are we reminding future generations that black Americans have a history we always want to remember. I'm afraid this sort of thing perpetuates the ideas that different races are separate and somehow not equal.

workhardgetahead

Loudoundad should be ashamed of himself for what he typed on here. Basically accusing Dick Black, Corey Stewart and the others of being racist is totally uncalled for. You should be ashamed of yourself. You sir, are a race baiting hack. No wonder our country is so divided. Because of people like you!

Loudoundad

Everyone I mentioned is on record against removing Confederate memorials for "history" and "heritage." When they show respect for this side of "their" history, I will commend them. Let's hopefully see them at this historical dedication.

workhardgetahead

So are many Americans. It doesnt make us racist. You know what racist is? Sending a government delegation to a funeral of a person who tried to kill a police officer. That's racist but I bet you have no idea who I'm talking about.

Concerned

Piggins' daughter lives steps away from where slaves were sold in Waterford. He is a faithful member of the Waterford Gentrification Foundation doling out barrels of cash. Why not, it is only ToT money? WGF extracted multiple properties from the African American community then wish to pretend they are preserving history. Not. They, at a minimum, should give back the Methodist Church (the most recent "acquisition") and certainly the Second Street schoolhouse. Shame on them.

Lawman

Get to stepping Roundhilldude. The confederate participation trophy sitting in front of the courthouse in Leesburg is not a civil war artifact. Get your facts straight. That was erected in 1908 by white supremacist who were lynching and terrorizing black people. That relic is part of Virginia’s evil past. Don’t you dare try to tie that clump of metal in with a Lynching Memorial. Learn the real history of this state not that sponged down nonsense they taught as part of Virginia’s white supremacy protection symbolism. The South lost because their cause was built on the protection of an abomination, slavery.

Chris McHale

Simple question, who is paying for this?

chrisnich

So what was Orion Anderson charged with? The article says he was incarcerated and awaiting his day in court, but "scaring a white girl" is not a crime. It sounds like there is a lot more to this story.

Levrier

"...for an alleged attempted "assault" of a fifteen-year-old white girl. In fact, the black youth, a friend of the girl, had merely donned a sack on his head and frightened her while she walked to school." -Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930 By William Fitzhugh Brundage

Loudoun4Trump

History is always good (unless trying to reinvent it)….its sad these events took place, but hopefully the governor of VA has leaned from his past mistakes...he should tell the truth so people can move forward and thankfully he is out after a 4 year term no matter what....

CindyLou

Seriously Roundhillguy? This is not the time or place for your political hogwash at liberals. If you want to get technical, keeping those civil war artifacts up shows support for slavery, crimes to humanity and other atrocities of that era. Can you please find a different time and place to support your "artifacts" and respect the people that were so brutalized by this horrible time in history

RoundHillGuy

I'm sure you will all be there to admonish the black face wearing Democrat Governor and Attorney General with the same fervor. The Hypocrisy of the left is deafening.

Loudoundad

Will Geary Higgins be in attendance?

RoundHillGuy

This is good, we need to embrace All of our History. that includes keeping all of our civil war historical artifacts in place even if some liberals can't handle being offended by what happened in the past.

DavisB

"offended by what happened in the past?" Get a life - we should be offended by so much of what happened in the past - this is why we need to remember. But, so much of what is display around this state and this country celebrates more than reminds.

ChucklesTheClown

No, we should not celebrate the racist Jim Crow era. The South lost, get over it.

Loudoundad

Absolutely, and when Cory Stewart, Geary Higgins, George Allen, and Dick Black, show up at this dedication, and give a few meaningful words, we can talk. But, until they recognize the damage that was caused by slavery and the Civil War, both as a society and individually (for generations), for the Black population, we can not take their word seriously on the one-sided "heritage" argument.

RoundHill_also

You've got a lot of nerve using this article to promote keeping that treasonous trash in front of the courtyard. No offended liberal here, real patriots know who the losers and bigots were...tear them all down.

RoundHill_also

*COURTHOUSE

Duncan Idaho

What happened in the past is these confederate racists banded together to keep slavery legal. They are underserving of veneration and honor, which a prominently placed statue gives them. Take them down and put them in a museum.

amerigirl

Any other enemies of the US you would like to keep memorials to?

amerigirl

Most of your so called "artifacts" were mass produced statues donated by the DAR to defend their bias for the south. It has nothing to do with being liberal, it has everything to do with respecting those who were mistreated, enslaved, and killed by slave owners in the south. It is about respecting their ancestors.

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