Our orchard is part of land originally owned by Lord Fairfax who came to America in 1736 as the Proprietor of the British Crown lands in Northern Virginia, comprising some five million acres within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
From that expanse, Lord Fairfax carved out for himself the choicest acreage, which he called the “Manor of Leeds” after his ancestral Leeds Castle in Kent, England.
The Manor of Leeds encompassed some 160,000 acres. Lord Fairfax hunted on part of it and leased out 100 acre lots to leaseholders. A requirement of each lease was that the lessee plant an orchard of 100 apple trees thirty feet apart.
The orchards planted by the original settlors grew and expanded over time. By the early 1900’s, nearly every farm in the area had an apple orchard.
With the extension of the railway to Markham at the time of the Civil War and the invention of refrigeration, large commercial orchards developed in the area, including the Manor of Leeds Orchard, which became the largest and most prominent of the orchards.
Our orchard today is located on land that was part of the original Manor of Leeds Orchard.
Apples grown at the Manor of Leeds Orchard were shipped from Markham in train cars far and wide. By autumn of 1928, the orchard was shipping three rail cars daily, mainly for export to England, Germany, Scandinavia, and South America.
The orchard was said to be the largest single-owned orchard in the country with 3,000 acres and 60,000 bearing apple trees. The varieties grown included York Imperial, Winesap, Bonum, Ben Davis, Red Delicious, and Stayman. Investors from New York, Boston, Cleveland, and other cities bought 5-acre blocks in the orchard.
In the 1930’s, the Manor of Leeds Orchard became known as Apple Manor Orchard. Sometime thereafter, the orchard was broken up and sold into smaller parcels. The part of it located on Blue Mountain became completely overgrown with forest and now is within the Thompson Wildlife Management Area, formerly called the Apple Manor Wildlife Management Area. Part of it was converted to pasture for cattle grazing.
We acquired our land in the early part of this century. In 2009, we decided to carry on the tradition begun by Lord Fairfax and plant an apple orchard.
Our orchard is only a fraction of the size of the original Manor of Leeds Orchard, but we like to think that the same soils that produced its world renowned apples will give us bounteous fruit of comparable flavor and quality.
Lord Fairfax, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Baron Fairfax of Cameron (1693-1781), was the original owner of the land that is now Apple Manor Farm. He encouraged the planting of orchards on the land, then known as the "Manor of Leeds."
Lord Fairfax required each homesteader to pay for a survey, construct a house 20 x 16 feet with a stone or brick chimney, and plant an orchard with 100 trees spaced 30 feet apart. Lord Fairfax planned to build a large manor house within the Manor of Leeds but never did, perhaps because he never married and had no family of his own. Leeds Manor Road—called “His Lordship’s Road”—originally was built to accommodate Lord Fairfax’s travels from his Falmouth home to the lodge at Greenway Court on the other side of Blue Mountain near the Shenandoah River in what is now Clarke County where he mainly resided.
Young George Washington was a surveyor for Lord Fairfax and may have surveyed some of the leaseholds in the Manor of Leeds, along with Thomas Marshall, father of John Marshall. Both Washington and Marshall acquired land for themselves in the area.
Thomas Marshall settled not far from Orchard Hill Mountain in "The Hollow" near Markham where he raised his family. His son, John, served under Washington at Valley Forge and became Chief Justice of the United States.
After the American Revolution and lengthy legal proceedings concerning the Manor of Leeds, Chief Justice John Marshall and his brothers acquired the entirety of the Manor of Leeds in 1806.
We like to imagine both George Washington and John Marshall standing atop Orchard Hill Mountain, overlooking the orchards in the Manor of Leeds. Given the prominenance of the summit, it is not unlikely that they might have done so.