On the Boschke map of 1859 there is a place just north of the Distributing Reservoir––at what is now 4759 Reservoir Road––marked Drovers Rest Tavern. Here buyers gathered annually during the 19th century to transact business with the drovers of western Virginia and lower Maryland:
“During the fall great droves of cattle and flocks of sheep from western Virginia were driven through the streets and gathered at Drovers’ Rest, two miles west of town. Some days many thousands filled West (P) Street from morn to eve, and, occasionally, a wild steer ran amuck and then there was great excitement. Also, large flocks of turkeys, hundreds of them, were driven up from lower Maryland and passed through the streets to pens on the outskirts of town, where one could go and pick out his own bird.” (Grace Dunlop Ecker, A Portrait of Old Georgetown, 1951, p.93)
Just below “H. Barnes heirs” on the map, a cluster of pens can be seen, where animals were kept before being driven to the buyer’s property to be fattened for slaughter, or moved on to Baltimore and other cities. The volume of cattle that changed hands at Drover’s Rest is estimated at six thousand head per year. While no record has been found of the founding of this livestock market, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that it could go back to the days when Georgetown was in Maryland. (Boschke map, 1859: Hopkins, 1887; Journal of the Columbia Historical Society. 20:135; Mary Mitchell, Chronicles of Georgetown Life 1865-1900, 1986)
Drovers’ Rest.––The sales at this mart yesterday were well attended with the following sales:––700 head of cattle at $3.00a3.75 per 100 pounds gross; 1,500 sheep and lambs at $1.50a5.00; cows and calves at $25a$50. (“Affairs in Georgetown”, Star, September 25, 1869)
The inn called Drover’s Rest stood on 25 acres, originally out of Whitehaven, and later part of General Lingan’s farm Harlem. Somewhere between 1838 and 1841 this land passed, by sale or inheritance, to Horatio Barnes (1806-1845). Horatio Barnes’ wife was Mary Ann (Baker) Barnes (1810-1896), whose second husband was Henry Weaver (1816-1893). It was by this second marriage, in 1848, that the Weaver family came into possession of land at the eastern end of Whitehaven. (Weaver land at the western end was bought, circa 1843, by Joseph and Charles Weaver from W.D.C. Murdock, a descendent of the original owner of Whitehaven.)
Conduit Road––which bisected the property around 1864––was not essential to its operation; the livestock that moved through Drover’s Rest came by way of Chain Bridge, Canal Road, and Reservoir Road.
The Distributing Reservoir, which began operating as early as 1858, lay in disquieting proximity to the stockyard. and this state of affairs persisted until 1890, when the officer in charge of Washington Aqueduct, Col. George H. Elliott, recommended that the United States buy Drover’s Rest, and thereby remove any potential threat to the city’s water supply. (Star, January 8, 1890)
Within a year of Elliot’s recommendation the problem was solved when Drover’s Rest was included in the parcels being assembled by the developers of “Palisades of the Potomac”, a new subdivision which was described as “embracing the additions to Washington of Drovers Rest, White Haven, Toronto Heights, and River View”.
The site of the former inn was chosen by developer Jacob P. Clark, for the house he built for himself in about 1893––now the Lab School of Washington. The sellers were the surviving children of Horatio Barnes: Angeline Barnes Drinkhouse, William H. Barnes, and Theodore Barnes, and Henry Weaver and Mary Ann Weaver.
“I especially desire and request that my said children and their heirs shall faithfully see that the family graveyards on Drover’s Rest and on Harlem Farm be kept enclosed by a good fence, and that they be cleaned out once every year.” (Mary Ann Weaver, will filed 1899, District of Columbia Archives)
At some point after that the Barnes family graves at Drover’s Rest––which are remembered to have been where Saint Patrick’s Church now stands, on Whitehaven Parkway––were removed to Oak Hill Cemetery.
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