Leesburg, VA is the government seat of Loudon county. The town has history going back 300 years. The following is a brief history of the towns foundation and development.
- Early Settlement
In the 1722 Treaty of Albany, the Iroquois left all lands east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Settlers of all ethnicities and backgrounds began populating the area that would become Loudon County. The beginning of Leesburg began sometime before 1755, when Nicholas Minor acquired lands at the crossing of the Old Carolina Road and the Pontomac Bridge Road (present day Route 7).
The town was small at first, consisting only of a tavern and some sparse buildings. In 1757, the Assembly of Virginia chose this location for the Loudon County courthouse. Minor had named the town, which was comprised of 70 acres and 60 lots, “George Town.” The following year, the Assembly of Virginia changed the name to Leesburg.
- Antebellum Leesburg
Leesburg’s population had grown to 1,688 residents by 1850. Slaves were a large part of the town’s history from early on. Unlike other parts of Loudon county, many of the slaves in Leesburg were often skilled artisans, worked in their owner’s house, or worked in shops.
The town’s white residents had mixed views on slavery. Many of the Quakers, Methodists and Presbytarians of Leesburg were involved in the American Colonization Society. This was an organization which sought to send freed slaves to the new colony in Liberia, Africa.
- Leesburg during the Civil War
At the outbreak of the civil war, Leesburg was a prosperous town with a population of about 1,700. It was located near the Potomac river which, at the time, was the border between the United States and the Confederate States. Leesburg County’s two delegates, John Janney and John Armistead Carter, both attended the Ordinance of Secession and voted against it. However, the secession still passed.
The next month, Leesburg men ratified the Ordinance by 400 to 22. Leesburg changed hands about 150 times during the war. The city faced numerous struggles, such as raids in the streets and disintegration of civil authority.
- Reconstruction Until World War II
After the Civil War, Leesburg’s proximity to Washington helped its recovery. Loudon had contributed goods to both sides of the war effort. Local farmers could send their crops to Baltimore and Georgetown at low transportation costs and capitalize from the inflated prices. As the center of Loudon, Leesburg benefited from this recovery.
Leesburg became a main stop for the railroad traveling through Loudon. This allowed Leesburg to become the site of many attractions, including circuses, baseball, and traveling spy Belle Boyd. During World War II, Leesburg’s residents contributed to the war effort in a number of ways, and it was home to governor Westmoreland Davis.
- Post-War until Present
After World War II ended, Leesburg began growing rapidly. Restrictions on fuel and rubber from the war ended and the GI bill was introduced, which allowed veterans to pursue higher education. The community was no longer dependent on the cycle of agriculture.
As Leesburg became more integrated into the Washington area, some residents struggled to maintain the town’s historic character. Leesburg was not as severely wrought with racism as some southern towns. The schools began desegregating in 1962 and were fully integrated by 1968. You can find out much more about the history of Leesburg by visiting one of the great museums in the City.