boundaries of the "Northern Neck land grant" (later called
the "Fairfax Grant") had been undetermined since it was
first contrived in 1649 by the then exiled King Charles
II. John Savage and his survey party had located the site
of the source of the North Branch Potomac River (the
northern boundary of the tract) in 1736, but had made no
attempt to establish the western boundaries.
A 1746 survey by Colonel Peter Jefferson and Thomas Lewis
resulted in both the placement of the Fairfax Stone as
well as the establishment of a line of demarcation known
as the "Fairfax Line", extending from the Stone to the
south-east and ending at the source of the Rappahannock
River, a distance of 77 miles.
Because of bends in the North Branch Potomac River, the
Stone is only a county corner of West Virginia counties
rather than part of the border with Maryland. This issue
was only resolved when the Supreme Court ruled against
Maryland in determining that Maryland would only go up the
Potomac far enough to meet a point where a North line from
the Fairfax Stone would cross the branch of the Potomac.
Without the ruling, the boundary of Maryland was
indeterminate. West Virginia counties - Tucker County and
Preston County - share the boundary marked by the Fairfax
Stone (West Virginia having seceded from Virginia during
the American Civil War).
Fate of the original stone
The original Fairfax Stone,
in accordance with common surveying practices of the era,
was most likely simply a natural, unmarked rock selected
from among the outcroppings in the area. Legal boundary
disputes between Maryland and Virginia caused the latter
to relocate the stone in 1833 after the site had been lost
The stone was still intact in 1859 when one Lieutenant
Melcher found it again and ran the "Fairfax Line" on
behalf of the two states. The Stone was gone by 1909,
however, having been carried away by vandals.
The present Fairfax Stone is at least the second replica
to be placed on the site; it was dedicated on October 5,
Fairfax Stone [Historical Marker]
Inscription: The Fairfax Stone (1/2 Mi.
E.), marking the Potomac's headwaters, was a corner of
Lord Fairfax's vast estate. The line of 1736 was checked
in 1746 by a survey on which Peter Jefferson, father of
Thomas Jefferson, was engaged.
US 219, north of Thomas, one mile south of County Route 9
(Kempton Road) and one mile north of junction with WV 90