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History

Eldon Stock Farm is Situated Beneath Thornton Gap, where the Virginia Piedmont meets the Blue Ridge Mountains. The headwaters of the Rappahannock River tumble down the Gap and two tributaries of the Rappahannock bound the Farm on the northeast (the Thornton River) and south (the Hazel River). One of Virginia’s great rivers, the Rappahannock, meaning “quick rising waters” in the native Algonquin tongue, crosses the Piedmont to the Fall Line and flows past Fredericksburg into Chesapeake Bay.

Title to these lands can be traced to a 1731 Crown grant to Francis Thornton II, son of early Virginia settler William Thornton, whose scions form one of the Commonwealth’s great families. The F.T. Valley, named as a reminder of Francis, lies immediately to the Farm’s west.

Settlers were slow to arrive, but a young George Washington received one of his first surveying commissions in 1749 to lay out what became of the Town of Washington, five miles to the northeast of the Farm and the seat of Rappahannock County government. Two generations later the hamlets of Sperryville and Woodville were established.

The Rappahannock and its tributaries featured prominently in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The waters flow fast and deep and fording points are rare forming a natural west to east barrier. The Farm is surrounded by sites of battles and encampments from both eras, with the armies of both North and South pausing near Woodville between 1862 and 1864.

Title to these lands can be traced to a 1731 Crown grant to Francis Thornton II, son of early Virginia settler William Thornton, whose scions form one of the Commonwealth’s great families. The F.T. Valley, named as a reminder of Francis, lies immediately to the Farm’s west.

Settlers were slow to arrive, but a young George Washington received one of his first surveying commissions in 1749 to lay out what became of the Town of Washington, five miles to the northeast of the Farm and the seat of Rappahannock County government. Two generations later the hamlets of Sperryville and Woodville were established.

The Rappahannock and its tributaries featured prominently in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The waters flow fast and deep and fording points are rare forming a natural west to east barrier. The Farm is surrounded by sites of battles and encampments from both eras, with the armies of both North and South pausing near Woodville between 1862 and 1864.

Rappahannock County was formed from the western portion of Culpeper County in 1833. It was and remains an area of cleared meadow and cropland, swift running streams and densely forested mountains. For seventy-five years following the Civil War, fruit trees (primarily apples) dominated local agriculture but changing tastes and the ability to ship apples inexpensively from the Pacific Northwest brought change in the latter half of the 20th century. This century the county is home to grass fed beef cattle and, more recently, viniculture and winemaking. The county website currently lists ten wineries, several breweries and two distilleries and a meadery.

Today, building on the region’s agricultural heritage, there are wonderful farm to table restaurants within minutes of the Farm. Foremost is the Inn at Little Washington, for forty years the epitome of fine French cuisine in the mid-Atlantic – the first five-star, five-diamond restaurant and inn in America.

The Inn, under the founding and continuing guidance of Chef Patrick O’Connell, was awarded a coveted third Michelin Guide star in 2018, the only Coastal restaurant south of New York City to be so honored.

More recently, John and Diane MacPherson established Three Blacksmiths. The Washington Post recently ranked this Sperryville bistro as the Washington area’s fourth best new restaurant for 2019.

Little Washington sign - Eldon Stock Farm

Steeped in nearly 300 years of the Nation’s history.