Pulled From the Stacks: What's in a Name?

Written by: Kiera E. Nolan, DAR Library Reference Librarian
November 4, 2015

Loudoun County, Virginia is an interesting county full of people who love their history and their genealogy. The seat of Loudoun, the Town of Leesburg, even has its own public history and genealogy research library, the beautiful Thomas Balch Library. An interesting part of Loudoun’s history is the naming of not only their county, but of Leesburg as well.

Loudoun County was formed in 1757, out of Fairfax County which had just come into existence 15 years earlier. When the people of the new county thought about what to call their county they vacillated between honoring the two biggest land owning families in the area, the Carters or the Lees.  As we know, they ended up with the name Loudoun. This name was in honor of John Campbell, Fourth Earl of Loudoun, who was also Governor of Virginia from 1756-1759. The Earl was not exactly known for his heroic feats, but as the French and Indian War was still raging on, the folks of the newly established county named the county for the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in the Colonies at the time. Perhaps with a slight hope it might boost his ego, and his war efforts.   

With a county name settled, the next name dilemma the citizens of Loudoun faced was what to call the new county seat, at that time called Georgetown. It was named after King George II, but it was felt by some a different name might be better suited. In 1758 the small town was officially recognized as “Leesburg.” Some say in honor of Francis Lightfoot Lee, one of the first trustees of the town, and the first county lieutenant. A more accepted theory was that since Francis Lightfoot Lee’s brother, Philip Ludwell Lee was the patron of the bill that proposed the new town’s name, the town was really named in honor of Thomas Lee. Thomas Lee was the two younger Lees’ father, and former governor of the growing Virginia Colony. Either way, when getting a new town named it seems to help that your son or brother is spearheading the bill, or that the two Lee brothers were both among the first trustees of the town.

This is just a snippet of the engaging history of Loudoun County, Virginia. All this information and more can be found in the list of books below all pulled from the stacks of the DAR Library.

Books Pulled:
Legends of Loudoun Valley, by Joseph V. Nichols
From Frontier to Suburbia, by Charles P. Poland Jr.
Loudoun Discovered: Leesburg & the Old Carolina Road, by Eugene M. Scheel
Legends of Loudoun, by Harrison Williams

All materials were found in the Virginia state section of the DAR National Library, under the call word:
VA
COUNTIES
LOUDOUN

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