Drover’s Rest


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 Street [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.  (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)

While it is likely that Georgetown had some form of cattle market from its earliest days, Drover’s Rest is more likely to have been established after the 1835 authorization of New Cut Road (now Reservoir Road). “Levy Court of Wash. Co., & the Corp. of Gtn.: Expedient to have a public road laid out from Gtn., to intersect the landing from the Chain Bridge to Gtn., which road will commence on Fayette St. at the end of 7th St. and pass through the lands of Jane Cox, Mary Grayson, Gtn. College, John Murdock, the heirs of Robert Slye, the heirs of John Baker, and the heirs of Abner Cloud. Notice is given to the owners to apply for compensation.” (National Intelligencer, February 12, 1835)

(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––and, as Ecker’s account suggests, by way of P Street.)

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.)


The Distributing Reservoir, which began operating circa 1858, lay in disquieting proximity to the stockyard at Drover’s Rest. 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 (“A Menace to the City, Slaughter Yards Contaminate the Water in the Reservoir”, Washington Post, January 8, 1890).

The press and the authorities appear to have been urging the butchers to do what they were already contemplating: that very year, 1890, Theodore Barnes, William H. Barnes, and Angeline Barnes Drinkhouse, only heirs of Horatio Barnes, and Henry and Mary Ann Weaver, sold Drover’s Rest to developers, to be included in the parcels being assembled into a new subdivision called Palisades of the Potomac, “embracing the additions to Washington of Drovers Rest, White Haven, Toronto Heights, and River View”.  Henceforth those members of the Georgetown Heights syndicate still in the meat trade would transact their business at the Washington Cattle Market, at Queenstown, a station on the Metropolitan Branch of the B.& O. Railroad, northeast of what is now Brookland Metro Station (Evening Star, April 15, 1885); or at the Union Stock Yard, on Benning Road.  (Cadastral map, Palisades of the Potomac Land and Improvement Co.’s subdivision no. 1, being part of “White Haven”, June 23rd 1890, Library of Congress; Real estate map of the Metropolitan Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company between Washington, D.C., and Rockville, Md., and adjacent land holdings, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, 1890, Library of Congress)

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.” 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 later removed to Oak Hill Cemetery.  (Mary Ann Weaver, will filed 1899, District of Columbia Archives)

The site of the former inn was chosen by developer Jacob P. Clark, for the house he built for himself in about 1893; it is now the Lab School of Washington. Between 1923 and 1982 the Clark house was a Crittenton Home for Girls. The Florence Crittenton Association had homes in 47 cities that charged $1000 for stays during the last two months of pregnancy of unwed mothers.  (Susan Gervasi, “Wayward Past: Before single motherhood and Roe vs. Wade, unwed women rode out their pregnancies at a Northwest D.C. mansion”, Washington City Paper, March 19, 1999. See also, Alice Fales Stewart, The Palisades of Washington, 2005)



 Carlton Fletcher

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