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Afterglow (Paul McGehee)
Afterglow (Paul McGehee)
Old Fairfax Courthouse (Paul McGehee)

"Old Fairfax Courthouse" by Paul McGehee. Built in 1799 as the seat of government for the growing county of Fairfax, Virginia, the courthouse building has been the scene of many historical occurences. The first court session held in the new building was concerning the recording of the will of George Washington's nephew Corbin Washington. The courthouse was later to hold the wills of both George and Martha Washington. Through the years of the early 19th century, the courthouse grounds saw everything from public hangings to slave auctions, typical of those turbulent days of the young United States. The courthouse grounds also became the town meeting place of businessmen, whose gatherings later became festive occasions known as "court days." On April 12, 1861 a new chapter unfolded for the Fairfax Courthouse and the young nation as Civil War broke out following the attack on Fort Sumter at the Charleston, South Carolina harbor. As tensions quickly mounted in Northern Virginia, a local militia known as the Fairfax Rifles met on the Fairfax Courthouse grounds to map out strategies for defense of Virginia. In the days following the outbreak of war, Virginia (soon to become Confederate) forces occupied the Fairfax Courthouse. In the wee hours of the morning on May 31, 1861 the 210 Virginia troops at the courthouse found themselves engaged in a surprise attack from Union Cavalry forces. The ensuing chaotic skirmish led to the first death of a Confederate officer in the Civil War, Captain John Quincy Marr, who commanded the men of the Warrenton Rifles. The attack on Fairfax Courthouse was to go down in history as the first land battle of the Civil War between northern and southern forces. Although the Union forces retreated after the battle, they were to return a few weeks later. By July, Fairfax Courthouse fell into Union hands and the Confederates abandoned the area, as all eyes and manpower on both sides were focusing on the huge battle yet to come at Manassas, Virginia and Bull Run. During the Union occupation of the courthouse building, many important documents were destroyed...however, the quick thinking of the court clerk saved the will of George Washington, who secretly took it on horseback by night for safekeeping in Richmond. Whereas those historic papers were returned to the courthouse after the end of the war, Martha Washington's will papers were found and taken by a Union soldier who many years later sold the historic documents to J. P. Morgan for a tidy sum of money. Martha's will papers remained in the possession of the Morgan family for many years but was eventually returned to the Fairfax Courthouse, where they are now both on display in the County Clerk's office. Today, the old Fairfax Courthouse has been restored and is one of the oldest and most historic places in northern Virginia. Newer buildings on the grounds still serve as the local Circuit Court and District Court. A cannon is in place to remind passersby of its historic past, and a monument has been erected in memory of Captain Marr. "Old Fairfax Courthouse" is faithfully reproduced as an archival-quality print from McGehee's original color pencil drawing in a limited edition of only 500 pieces, each hand-signed by the artist. Print image size: 10 3/4" x 14 3/4".

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