Updated: Feb 25, 2020
On the banks of the Rappahannock River, about as far south in Stafford County as you can get, sits a slice of heaven. The land - spanning 216 acres and including a working farm, ecologically valuable wetlands and bottomland hardwood forest - is one of the last pieces of private property of its size left in the county that hasn’t been carved up or considered for development. This is Snowden Farm, and now, thanks to a donation of a conservation easement from the Goodloe family to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, their legacy on the land will be preserved forever.
“What the landowners have done in protecting this amazing place for all time is truly inspiring. NVCT is proud to be their partner and the long-term steward of the land, which speaks for itself as a truly unique natural and historic property,” said Alan Rowsome, NVCT Executive Director.
Situated directly on the Rappahannock with just over a mile of river frontage, Snowden Farm provides a buffer to the river and is a key part of its protection. Preserving that buffer keeps the amazing views that river-goers have always enjoyed intact forever and ensures that the fish, birds, and other wildlife who rely on the river will be healthy. The site also includes freshwater emergent wetlands that are valuable to the ecosystems they support. The Rappahannock, as a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay, is vital to everyone who lives or plays on or near its banks.
A large portion of the property is made up of some of the best farming soils in Virginia. Roughly half of the property contains ground designated as Prime Soils and Soils of Statewide Importance. This means that the land is more suitable than most others for successful agriculture.
Beyond the ecological value of the property, what truly makes it so special is its history, and that’s one of the biggest reasons the Goodloe family wanted to respect the past. “It’s a point of pride, conserving it, and it honors the history of the property,” said Lucy Harman, on behalf of the Goodloe family. Because this isn’t just any property – this land has been a major part of Stafford County history, and indeed U.S. history, for more than 200 years.
The Field at Snowden Farm is just the most recent occupant of the land the Goodloe family now owns. It’s been a single parcel from as far back as the 1600’s and once held one of the two largest homes in Stafford County. During the Civil War, it was the home of James Seddon, the brother of the Secretary of War for the Confederacy, John Seddon. Due to a bit of mistaken ownership, Union troops passing through the area burned the homestead believing it to belong to John. James and his family were able to escape and watched the house burn to the ground from their adjacent laundry building. Recently, the University of Mary Washington’s Historical Preservation Department also found relics of the Algonquin tribe of Native Americans on the property’s riverbank.
After being passed down through generations, the land’s former owner, Katherine Gouldin Woods, wrote in her will that she wanted the land donated to a nonprofit organization and left undeveloped. However, despite her wishes, the land did eventually go up for sale and could have become just a fleeting memory of times past. Enter Lucy Harman and her sisters, who once they heard Ms. Woods’ story, began to think about honoring her request.
“The more I was there, the more I felt like we needed to preserve it,” Lucy explained. So, while the family did not originally plan to conserve the property, they eventually decided to do so because, as Lucy puts it, “it was the right thing to do.” However, the family wanted the process to move quickly. “NVCT got right back to us. I was so impressed, and still am, because though we were doing it no matter what, it really helped to finish the process quickly.”
Now the cultural, historic, and natural values of this incredible place will be protected for all time, and Snowden Farm has a lasting legacy that honors those who came before them.
Who We Are NVCT is your local, nonprofit land trust saving nearby nature by forever preserving and caring for the natural areas that define our Northern Virginia communities. From forests and streams to battlefields and cultural sites, our region’s lands and waters are more precious than ever before in the face of a changing climate and growing pressure to develop. Founded in 1994, we have restored and protected more than 7,000 acres of clean water sources, key wildlife habitat, and historic places in one of the fastest growing regions in the country. We’ve done this by working collaboratively with local governments, private landowners, and other valued partners to improve the quality of life for all residents.