What’s in a name? Refining the Historical Record of Catlett’s Station

Catlett Station

Catlett’s Station, August, 1862. Note Federal troops on boxcar roofs. Library of Congress. Photographer, Timothy O”Sullivan.

Today,  the Village of Catlett is located on Route 28, roughly three miles from the Prince William County line, and some two and a half miles east of the Village of Calverton. In fact, it has so long been historically known as Catlett, it may be hard for latter day Catlett residents and researchers to imagine that it was not always known as Catlett; in fact, it began as a humble railroad station first known as Colvin Station, operated by Richard Colvin, Jr., its first depot agent and was part of a tract of land Richard owned and subsequently sold. Thus, a refinement to the historical record is in order.

Catlett was allegedly named in honor of Col. John Catlett, who took out the first land grant near there in 1715. However, Fauquier County land records show it was Samuel G. Catlett, John’s 6th  great-grandson who, on April 9, 1853, purchased for $3,000 dollars from Richard Colvin, Jr.  the tract which contained the train station.[2] The deed’s legal description reads:

Beginning at a rock and Cox oak by a road thence S89.9E270 15 poles to a stake and stone set thence S1.25N 45 poles to another stone thence S50 W 219 poles to another stone thence N26W 184 poles to the beginning containing by estimation one hundred and sixty three acres more or less.

Curiously, there is an extant myth implying that Samuel’s acquisition of the land from


Richard Colvin to Samuel Catlett deed p. 1 of 2. Photographer, Alex Colvin

Richard was by way of a “trade,” rather than outright sale.[3] However, the deed record clearly contraindicates this. Certainly a trade would have been possible; the lands of the Catletts and Colvins were, after all, adjacent and the families had been neighbors for at least two generations by the time Samuel Catlett acquired the parcel.[4]  Certainly trading and bartering commodities among friends and neighbors was customary. It would certainly not be odd had such a transaction occurred given that the head of one family had been homesteading in the area since 1807. [5]  And while it’s clear Richard never traded his land, a review of his father’s holdings and how Colvin Station came into his son’s possession is worth a review.

1807 is the year Richard Colvin, Sr. first appears in Fauquier County land tax records where he is listed as being in possession of a 101-acre parcel, along Cedar Run which he is leasing, from “Singer.” [6] Owing to lax period recording customs, it appears Singer did not immediately record whatever lease he had with Richard; period Fauquier County deed books for the years 1801-1810, for example, contain no surname Singer or variant; neither does it appear in the indices of these three separate volumes.[7]  It bears mentioning that no landlord or property owner was compelled by law to record his deed; its recordation value was measured in how it proved ownership in legal disputes.

In 1812, Richard improved his landholding by an additional 202 acres, which he likewise leased in two 101-acre lots.[8] His landholdings remained at this level through 1817; the clerk in the 1816 entry used the term “lease” to account for how Richard held his then 304 acres.[9] In 1818, Richard purchased his first additional parcel of 187 acres, while continuing to lease his other 304 acres.[10] The following year, in 1819, Richard increased his landholdings again by purchasing a 328-acre tract. He likewise continued to lease the 304 acres.

The 1824 Fauquier land tax records show Richard was being taxed on three separate tracts of land: the first, consisting of the 304 acres already noted which was adjacent to the Foote family property line; the second, containing 209 acres was located along the waters of Cedar Run and the third, contained 328 ¼  acres was located near the “Walnut Branch” of the same waterway.[11] Richard was assessed $7.03 at a rate of .08 cents per $100.00 of value. These lands were listed by the commissioners as being sixteen miles “NE” of the courthouse in Warrington.[12] These land descriptions correspond, as one would expect, to several portions of the lands described in the plat of Richard’s lands which was provided during his estate probate in 1828.[13]

Clearly the records show that,  like many pioneering settlers of the area, it was by incremental means of acquiring land,  Richard Colvin managed to accumulate over 1,500 acres in similar fashion by the time he died in 1825.

As to Richard Colvin, Jr., he acquired his land – a lot of some 227 acres which included Colvin’s Station — by means of an award from the court-ordered division of his father’s estate because his father left no will. The land division proceedings (surveys, etc.,) were begun by Richard Colvin Jr. on October 23, 1826,  through Richard was rather young at the time for the task.[14]  But the story doesn’t end here.

Two years later, on October 25, 1828, the young Richard Colvin’s division of his father’s estate was executed. It was not recorded, however, until after the final degree on June 28, 1832, which also ended a concurrent friendly chancery suit initiated by his mother, Lydia Colvin [nee’ George.] Richard Colvin Jr.’s allotment to his father’s heirs, (including himself and the railroad station,) was also executed and recorded the same day: July 28,  1832. [15] In that allotment, Richard received “Lot No. 1”,  which consisted of 127 acres, 29 and 67/100 of a pole. No rail line was yet extant. However, when it arrives in 1852 as the Orange & Alexandria, not surprisingly, Richard Colvin Jr. was its first depot agent.[16] After the sale, the name of the station changed from Colvin’s Station to Catlett’s Station The railroad was built in 1852 which was later named Virginia Midland and then, finally, The Southern Railroad.

But there was no “trade,” despite the obstinacy of the myth.

The hefty price Samuel Catlett paid is an obvious reflection of  the land’s value because of the station, not insignificant considering the role the station ultimately played in the development of the village overall.

For modern-day descendants and researchers of Charles Colvin, Sr and his heirs., however, Catlett’s early development may be of less significance than the role it  played in the lives of their ancestors who lived in the vicinity. Two examples will suffice: both Civil War-related.

Firstly, it  was Catlett Station which Union officers used as a Fauquier County-area depot and staging area during the early years of the conflict. Because of his proximity to the area landmark, likely explains why, for example, Union soldiers encamped on the nearby farm of William Colvin., Richard Colvin, Jr’s younger brother.  The decimation of William’s farm is detailed in a previous post. As noted in that essay, it was, in fact, timber used from William’s first-growth forests that was used rebuild the Confederate-destroyed Cedar Run Bridge and the Orange and Alexander railroad tracks which ran across it.

As another example, it was a nephew of that same William, George Marian Colvin,  (1840-1862 — George’s father was George Colvin [1802-1873] another of William’s older brothers,)  who served in the Confederate Cavalry as a scout under Commander,  J.E.B. Stuart. That George who was mortally wounded during Stuart’s famous Battle of Catlett’s Station.[17]

George Marion’s military index record card shows he enlisted at Brentsville in Fauquier County on April 23, 1861,  as a private to serve the requisite one year of service.  However, a year later, on April 23, 1862 he was elected 2nd  Lieutenant, and finally, on September 13, 1863, he died of Typhoid Fever in Culpeper,  a common cause of death at the time both among the military and civilian populations.[18] He was  buried in the family plot at his homestead, Hazelwood in neighboring, Prince William County.[19]

This refinement of the Catlett Station record is offered in the spirit of  strengthening the cultural and hereditary ties between modern-day descendants and their ancestors who lived near today’s Catlett’s Station in the interest of cultural preservation. However, those ties can only be maintained when family historians and preservationists understand those ties correctly, and leave myth where it rightfully belongs.



[1] Fauquier County Government website, Community Development page, Sec. 2 Catlett http://www.fauquiercounty.gov/government/departments/commdev/index.cfm?action=ccmtoc

[2] Colvin, Richard and Fanny to Samuel G. Catlett, deed, executed  April 9, 1853,  recorded  April 9 1853, deed book 53 (1853-1854) pp 278-279, reel 23, Library of Virginia. The designations, “Jr.” or “Sr. “never appear in historical records, but they are necessary post nominals to assist researchers in distinguishing this individual from his father, Richard Colvin who d. 1825 and is buried in the Colvin Cemetery in Catlett next to his wife, Lydia.

[3] M.D. Gore, digitized original WPA Report # 269, Teneriffe, Works Progress Administration of Virginia Historical Inventory, 13 July 1937, Historical Inventory online database. Library of Virginia http://www.lva.lib.va.us/index.htm  Unfortunately, Gore did not record from whom she acquired the data concerning the pedigree chart included in her report or whether she composed it herself based upon her interviews. At the time of her visit, she noted that the home was owned by Dr. Ernest Colvin, (Earnest Melvin Colvin,) great-grandson of Richard Colvin, Sr., Both he or his wife, appear to have been the primary interviewees. It is in this report that Richard Colvin, Jr. is identified as Colvin Station’s “first depot agent.”

[4] Photocopy of microfilm of plat and survey of estate division of Richard Colvin, dec’d. Surveyor, Zachery Cox, executed, 4 September 1828; recorded 1832, Fauquier County Will Bk 12, 1831-1832, Reel 35, pp 407-411, Library of Virginia. In the 1850 U.S. Federal census for Turners District, Fauquier County, Samuel Catlett and Richard Colvin are six enumerations apart. Digitized original  of Samuel Catlett and Richard Colvin households, 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Turners, Fauquier County, VA, lines 7, hh 605; 34, 611 respectfully, www.ancestry.com .

[5] Richard Colvin entries, 1807, Fauquier County land tax records, Reels 95, 1789-1807 & 1809-1815; reel 96, 1816-1834,  Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research (CLCGR). [A review of land tax records from 1805-1823, shows Richard first appears on the tax ledgers in 1807. In 1812 he was in possession of  three parcels, two of which were 101 acre tracts and one of which was 102 acres – all being “of Singer.” In the 1815 entry, the clerk used the term “lease” to describe how Richard held his 304 acres. In subsequent years, Richard began purchasing land. Typical of the period, Richard was liable for the land taxes, even while a leaseholder. Further, no taxes were collected in Fauquier in 1808 which accounts for the ledgers absence during that year.

[6] See endnote  5.

[7] Microfilms of Fauquier County, Virginia Deed Books: 15 &16 (1801-1804, 1804-1807), Reel 8; Deed Bk. 17 (1807-1810), Reel 9, ] Library of Virginia.

[8] Richard Colvin entry, 1812, Fauquier County land tax records, Reels 95, (1789-1807 & 1809-1815; 1816-1834), Book. A, no page,  CLCGR.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Richard Colvin entry, 1818, Fauquier County land tax records, 1789-1807 & 1809-1815; 1816-1834 (Reels 95, Bk. A, no page, CLCGR. In this entry, the clerk used the notation “fee” to indicate that Richard held his 209 acres in fee simple.

[11] Richard Sommers, ed., “Map of Northeastern Virginia and Vicinity of Washington, in The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War, Fairfax Press, N.Y. 1983, Plate VIII, CLCGR. This branch is clearly discernable in Sommers’s atlas by which one can easily deduce the vicinity in Fauquier where Richard’s land was located.

[12] Richard Colvin, Sr. entries, Fauquier County, Virginia Land tax records, 1816-1834, (Reel 96), Bk. 3 of 3, pp 3,  CLCGR.

[13] Photocopy of microfilm of plat and survey of estate division of Richard Colvin, dec’d. Surveyor, Zachery Cox, executed, 4 September 1828; recorded 28 July 1832, Fauquier County Will Bk 12, (1831-1832), Reel 35, pp 407-411, Library of Virginia. Researcher’s should note a period transcribed version of this same document exits at the Fauquier County Circuit Court at Warrington under Chancery Case, 1832-056, Colvin, Lydia &c vs. Colvin,  Lawson &c

[14] John K. Gott, “Fauquier County, Virginia Guardian Bonds 1759-1871,”  Heritage Books, 1990, pp 54.  In this bond, Richard Colvin, Jr. is named as one of his father’s orphans, implying, as previously noted, he was under the age of 21. Nevertheless, in many states, Common Law held that Executors of Wills — who if male — could be as young as 14.

[15] “Colvin, Richard, estate division,” executed October 25, 1828, recorded  July 28,  1832, Fauquier County Will Bk 12, (1831-1832), Reel 35, pp 406.  Library of Virginia.

[16]  M.D. Gore, digitized original of WPA Report # 269, Teneriffe, Works Progress Administration of Virginia Historical Inventory, July 13, 1937, Historical Inventory online database. Library of Virginia,  http://www.lva.lib.va.us/index.htm  See also: Zachery Cox, surveyor, “Plat and survey of estate division of Richard Colvin, dec’d,”  executed, September 4, 1828; recorded 1832, Fauquier County Will Bk 12, 1831-1832, (Reel 35), pp 407-411,  Library of Virginia.

[17] George M. Colvin, digitized original of his Index Record Card, www.footnote.com  (explain IRCs)

[18] Ibid. Interestingly, the digitized index record cards of George M. Colvin’ lists his death date as September 1, 1863. Two separate sources — including his headstone engraving — list it as September 13, 1863.

[19] Ron Turner, surveyor, Hazelwood Cemetery, 2001, www.pwcvirginia.com/Cemeteries1.htm  The tombstone engraving  reads: “ In Memory of George Marion s/o George & Mary A. Colvin September 13, 1862,” See also, T. Triplett Russell,  “’Hazelwood’ and ‘Truro’”, Fauquier Heritage and Preservation News, August 2004, wherein the author gives an extensive history of Hazelwood, (formerly known as Truro when built and owned by the Foote family,) and the Colvin family which took possession of it in the early 1830s. George Colvin, George Marion’s father, was Hazelwood’s first Colvin owner. It remained in the Colvin family for nearly a century and a half.


About Alex Colvin

Senior, History, minoring in Anthropology, University of Houston. Charter President, Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society, (Webb UH Main 2014-2015) University of Houston. Additional credentials can be found in the CV / Services tab.
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