Drovers’ 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 livestock drovers of Virginia.

“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.”  (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 Drovers’ 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)

Georgetown had a cattle market from its earliest days. The first Georgetown market house opened 1802, and in 1808 an addition was provided for butchers. There is no direct evidence, but an 1821 Georgetown ordinance refers to the market of cows, calves, oxen, hogs, and horses on the north side of Bridge (M) Street, between Potomac and 33rd. (Mathilde D. Williams, “The Life Story of an Old Market,” District of Columbia Appropriations for 1973: Hearings Before a Subcommittee on Appropriations,House of Representatives, Ninety-Second Congress, 1972, pp.659-663)

The establishment of Drovers’ Rest would have come after the 1835 authorization of New Cut Road (now Reservoir Road). “Levy Court of Wash. Co., & the Corp. of Georgetown: Expedient to have a public road laid out from Georgetown, to intersect the landing from the Chain Bridge to Georgetown, which road will commence on Fayette St. at the end of 7th St. and pass through the lands of Jane Cox, Mary Grayson, Georgetown 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 ten years after Drovers’ Rest was up and running––was not essential to its operation; the livestock that moved through Drovers’ 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 Drovers’ 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.)


Between 1854 and 1890, Washington’s livestock market reports usually came under the heading “Georgetown Correspondence.”

“The supply of beef cattle at Drover’s Rest, for the week ending to day, has amounted, in all, to 200 head, 150 of which were taken by District butchers at $2 75 @ $; 37 1/2 per 100 lbs. gross. Sheep scarce and high, selling at 5 cts. per lb. gross. Hogs $6 50 @ $ 7 00.” (“Georgetown Correspondence,” Evening Star, January 7, 1854, p.3)

“The supply of beef cattle at Drovers’ Rest, during the week, has amounted to 400 head––150 of which was purchased by the the District butchers, at $3 57 a 4 for 100 lbs., gross. The balance continued on to Baltimore. Old sheep and lambs $2 a 3 per head.” (“Georgetown Correspondence,” Evening Star, July 22, 1854, p.3)

“The drovers and District butchers have concluded to change the cattle market at the yards from Friday, the day upon which it has heretofore been held, to Monday. This is a good change, as it will do away with the odious practice, which frequently occurs, of taking large droves of cattle through our streets on the sabbath day.” (“Georgetown,” Evening Star, April 2, 1859, p.2)

“230 beef cattle were offered at Drovers’ Rest yesterday, of which all but 25 were sold from 3 1/4 to 4 1/2 cents per pound, gross. There was but a small supply of sheep and lambs, selling at 12 1/2 cents advance on our last quotations.” (“Georgetown,” Evening Star, June 16, 1860, p.2)

“Cattle Market.––At Drover’s Rest, during the week ending Tuesday, 225 cattle were offered, of which number 170 were sold to butchers at the following prices: Best in market at 7 1/2 to 8 1/2: common, 5 to 6 1/2; inferior, 4 to 5. Three hundred sheep were sold at 6 to 8 cts. gross. ” (“Local News,” Evening Star, February 13, 1867, p.3)

“Cattle Market.––The following sales of live stock at Drovers’ rest yesterday are reported: Thirty-eight cattle; all sold. Best, 4 1/2 to 4 3/4c.; good, 4 to 41/4c.; medium, 3 1/2 to 4c.; common, 2 1/4 to 3c. Four hundred and sixty-five sheep and lambs. Lambs, 51/4 to 6 3/4c.; sheep, 3 to 3 1/4c.; calves, 3 3/4 to 4 1/4c. Ten cows and calves, $25 to $40. Market brisk.” (“Georgetown,” Evening Star, July 12, 1890, p.16)

“Removal of the Drove Yard.––The cattle market at Drovers’ Rest will hereafter be located in Virginia near Arlington hill, a short distance from Jackson City. Preparations are now being made for its removal from near the distributing reservoir. The residence of the Messrs. Tavenners will be at the new drove yards.” (“Georgetown,” Evening Star, July 29, 1890, p.8. Two generations of the Tavenner family had been in charge of operations of at Drovers’ Rest.)


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 Drovers’ 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 Drovers’ 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)



There is another Drovers’ Rest from the early 18th century still standing at 8526 Old Georgetown Pike, in McLean, Virginia. (Elizabeth Miles Cooke, The History of The Old Georgetown Pike, 1977)



 Carlton Fletcher

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