Arlington, VA

Once upon a time, there was a community in Arlington called Marceytown. In that quiet village of Marceytown, at the outbreak of the Civil War, someone allegedly buried some treasure.

There is little in Arlington today that marks the vast swaths of land owned by the Marcey family — collectively called Marceytown — except Marcey Road and Marcey Park in North Arlington. But the Marcey family was one of the early settlers in the area, tilling the land near the Potomac River towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th.

In Calvin Marcey’s history of the family from 1986, he noted that many of the lands they farmed and worked on were owned by the more famous George Mason family. The Marcey family also married into the prominent Ball family — they for whom Ballston is named — from central Arlington. One daughter, Catherine married Horatio Ball in 1815, and her younger sister, Elizabeth, married Horatio when the elder sister died.

But you’re here for the story about the buried treasure.

The primary source for the story about the treasure is local historian Eleanor Lee Templeman’s 1959 book Arlington Heritage. In the book, Templeman said the story was told to her by a woman whose father-in-law, James Marcey Jr., was living in Marceytown during the Civil War.

A frightened Union soldier begged him to keep, until the cessation of hostilities, a large sum of money which he was carrying on his person. He feared that other soldiers would take it from him. Mr. Marcey refused the responsibility of either keeping it or of knowing its exact hiding place, but loaned the man a pick to bury it nearby. He never returned to retrieve it.

Templeman said there were no records afterward of the treasure being recovered.

Local historian Jessica Kaplan, who lives across from the rumored treasure house, said the family was impoverished by the Civil War and received little compensation from the government for the damage caused to their lands by military encampments and defenses.

The family survived by subdividing and selling off swathes of their land, turning more and more of Marceytown into neighborhoods and subdivisions. Eventually, the Marceys were unable to afford to live on the land they once owned, and the family largely moved to the outer suburbs or dispersed across the country.

In 1983, even the family log cabin — built in 1843 — was moved log-by-log out to Vienna by a wealthy lawyer after the land it sat on in Arlington was sold.

Today, the cul-de-sac where James Marcey Jr. lived is a suburban residential street. A new house is currently under construction near where the treasure was allegedly buried. ARLnow reached out to the developer but did not receive an answer on whether or not any Civil War treasure was found.

Kaplan said the story of the buried treasure is likely a folk legend, noting that Templeman’s histories somewhat notoriously litter “buried treasure” throughout the area.

“I highly doubt [it’s true],” Kaplan said. “I think it was a little folk legend to get people interested, but who knows?”

Kaplan said there are several Marcey and unmarked Civil War graves nearby, so if there were buried treasure on a Marcey property, the location in Templeman’s notes at least matches a feasible vicinity.

“It’s a total myth,” Kaplan said. “It would be fun to find, but I wouldn’t spend any free time looking for it.”

But then again, isn’t that what a rival treasure hunter would want you to think?

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Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood is now one step closer to changing its name back to Green Valley, thanks to the Arlington County Civic Federation.

The federation approved the Nauck Civic Association’s request to change its name to the Green Valley Civic Association on Tuesday. The vote came after neighbors requested the county nix the name they said obscures the true history of freed slaves who founded the community.

“We’re just very happy that it’s changed and it’s the name that’s always associated with it,” said Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark.

The historically black neighborhood was first built partly by freed slaves Sarah Ann and Levi Jones. They bought 14 acres of land along Four Mile Run and sold parcels to other African Americans during and after the Civil War, according to research from Dr. Alfred O. Taylor Jr., who formerly led the Nauck Civic Association and the local NAACP chapter.

The renaming resolution passed by the Civic Federation notes:

“The residents of the area continually celebrate and honor the heritage of a ‘FREED’ community that reminds us of the many hills our ancestors had to climb, slavery, segregation and racial covenants that have bought us to today with the freedoms that we hold.”

Taylor wrote in a February open letter that his research indicates county officials began calling the area Nauck in the 1970s after Confederate soldier and German immigrant John D. Nauck, who purchased almost 80 acres of land in the area in the 1870s.

“It is inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life,” Taylor wrote. “We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents.”

Tuesday’s vote by the Civic Federation is not the last step in the process. The organization must transmit the matter to the County Board, which will then discuss and vote on the change.

Support for reconsidering the county’s Confederate vestiges has gained steam since the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally in 2017 and amid national conversations about the recent rise of racist hate groups.

In Arlington, leaders waged heated battles to strip Washington-Lee of the second half of its hyphenated name, which referenced Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. They are also poised to remove the “Stratford” in Stratford School, which originated from the name of Lee’s birthplace.

The County Board previously has acknowledged Green Valley’s unique history. In 2013, members approved a historic location designation to the Green Valley Pharmacy in recognition of it being the first store in the county to serve black and white customers, including serving food at an integrated diner inside the shop.

The business closed in 2018, reportedly for renovations, a year after its owner Leonard “Doc” Muse died. Muse had run the shop for 54 years and was a fixture of the community.

Photo (2) via Nauck Civic Association, (3) via Google Maps

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(Updated at 2 p.m) Some community leaders in Nauck are pushing to see the neighborhood’s name changed to “Green Valley,” arguing that an area so rich in African American history shouldn’t be named for a former Confederate soldier.

The historically black South Arlington neighborhood was founded, in part, by freed slaves. Yet it’s come to be known for John D. Nauck, a German immigrant who served in the Confederate Army, then purchased a total of 79 acres of land in the area in 1874 and 1875.

In an open letter to the Nauck community distributed Friday (Feb. 15), longtime civic leader Dr. Alfred Taylor argues that it is “inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life.”

The county has been locked in some contentious debates over Confederate symbols across Arlington ever since the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville in August 2017 sparked a nationwide conversation about the issue. The School Board’s push to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee High School proved to be an especially heated process, but Taylor suggested that other communities in the county should be “taking a page” from the Board’s example on this front.

It’s not yet clear how the process of renaming the neighborhood might proceed — the community’s civic association could look to simply change its own name, though there may be additional county approvals tied up in that process. But Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark is at least circulating Taylor’s letter in a bid to receive feedback on the proposal, particularly given the persistent complaints from residents that the county has failed to listen to their voices.

In the letter, Taylor argues that Nauck residents increasingly support naming the neighborhood “Green Valley/Nauck” or just “Green Valley,” in a bid to honor the area’s original nickname.

The exact origins of the “Green Valley” name are uncertain — Taylor, once the head of the Nauck Civic Association and Arlington’s chapter of the NAACP, wrote that his extensive research into the area’s history suggests the name is linked back to James Green, who owned property on what is now the site of the Army-Navy Country Club.

Yet he writes that “Green Valley” name bears more of a link to the area’s African American history than it does to any one person. Levi and Sarah Ann Jones became famous as the first freed slaves to purchase property in the area back in 1844, and Taylor argues that they helped build up a community in the area and make the “Green Valley” name more widespread.

The area was occupied by the Union Army during the Civil War, and eventually became home to a “Freedmen’s Village” following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Taylor also writes that the Jones family subsequently sold some property to other African American families, helping to establish the area as an enclave for Arlington’s black residents.

As Virginia officials increasingly embraced policies of segregation, the area became home to a large number of businesses owned by black residents, according to the Guide to the African American Heritage of Arlington County, prepared in 2016 as part of the county’s Historic Preservation Program.

Taylor pointed out that the area was “largely excluded from full participation in mainstream American political and social life and commerce” and so residents felt they had to “do for themselves.” Many of the businesses to spring up in the 1900s bore the “Green Valley” name, including the Green Valley Pharmacy, which the County Board designated as a historic district in 2013.

Nonetheless, Taylor argues that the name “Nauck” took hold among the “official Arlington” set in the 1970s — the county’s history of the area suggests that the name “Nauck” first appeared in reference to the area as far back as 1876, and that black residents referred to it as “Nauckville” dating back to the late 19th century.

But Taylor hypothesizes that the destruction of the manor on Green’s original property in 1924 helped contribute to the “Green Valley” name fading away, or perhaps that leaders at the time avoided referring to Green Valley because it was “extensively occupied and used throughout most of the Civil War by the Union Army.” The construction of many Confederate statues and monuments in the early 20th century has often been connected to efforts by white leaders to send a message to black residents, and Taylor suggests some of that could be at play in the decision to embrace a former Confederate soldier like Nauck.

While recounting that John D. Nauck held county positions like Justice of the Peace and “sold considerable property to African Americans,” the county’s heritage guide notes that Nauck fled Arlington in 1891 after his efforts to evict an African American resident were met with resistance.

Taylor also points out that community leaders like the Jones family or William Augustus Rowe (a leader within the “Freedmen’s Village” who later won political office) were passed over in favor of Nauck, and Taylor argues they also deserve consideration.

“We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents,” Taylor wrote. “Look at many of the local, national and international contributions that were made by the residents under the banner of Green Valley… to let that name slip into nothingness would be a travesty to their memory.”

Clark did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the civic association’s next steps for considering Taylor’s proposal.

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A new visitor center is celebrating its grand opening Saturday (March 31) at Woodmont’s Fort C.F. Smith with free activities.

The center will focus on “Civil War life at Fort C.F. Smith and across Arlington County,” according to an county event page.

During the event, park staff will take community members through fort tours and Civil War museum exhibits. Union Army historic reenactors will perform demonstrations and drilling activities.

Activities will run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Fort C.F. Smith Park (2411 24th Street N.) Kids can don Civil War era uniforms, learn about camp life, and check out archaeological artifacts on display.

The fort is home to the Hendry House event venue, as well as preserved ruins, and ornamental peace garden, wildlife observation points and garden trails.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Social Media Threats Against Arlington Schools — “There is an increased police presence at a middle school and high school in Arlington Friday after authorities say they were the targets of social media threats Thursday night. Arlington County Police say ‘threats of violence’ were made to Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School… police have identified a person in connection with the incident.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Cannonball Found Near the Run — “A remnant of the most turbulent period in Arlington’s history was unearthed during the recent renovation of the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s warehouse space in the Four Mile Run corridor. A 24-pound spherical shell was found during the construction period.” [InsideNova]

Snow Showers Dust Area — Winter is not over yet. A brief period of snow showers left some white patches on lawns this morning. Meanwhile, a potential snowstorm looms for next week. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

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Arlington County officials have removed a Confederate plaque marking the location of a lookout during the Civil War after discovering the stone memorial was placed without the county’s permission.

The bicentennial marker and a red oak tree were placed by the Arlington chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at the intersection of N. Arlington Mill Drive and Wilson Boulevard near the Bluemont Park’s parking lot.

“There are no records that it was placed with our permission,” said Katie Cristol, chairwoman of the Arlington County Board. “Now, county government is trying to get in touch with the owners.”

In August last year, following violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, an Arlington resident petitioned the Board to remove the memorial, to challenge individuals and organizations that seek to “make statues and symbols their battlefields.” Officials then discovered it was placed without county permission.

The marker read:

This Red Oak and stone were placed here as a Bicentennial Memorial to the men in gray who served on Upton Hill

County staff said it’s unclear when the memorial was erected. A Washington Post article published in 1979 indicates it was placed in 1976 to commemorate a Confederate outpost.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy declined a request for comment on Thursday.

Another historical marker, about a clash between Confederate and Union soldiers near the removed marker, was damaged in a car accident, Cristol said.

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A sign near the Arlington Mill Community Center marking one of the early skirmishes in the Civil War will be unveiled this weekend.

The ceremony is set for Saturday, November 11 from 11 a.m. to noon at the center at 909 S. Dinwiddie Street. Members of the Army of the Potomac Living History Society portraying Union soldiers will provide a color guard, and a short video will be shown to show the Civil War history in the area.

“On June 1, 1861 one of the early skirmishes of the Civil War occurred near Arlington Mill when Union pickets were attacked by a handful of Confederate soldiers,” an announcement reads. “After a brief fight, the Confederates fell back. One Union soldier was killed.”

Courtesy image

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The Democrats running for Arlington County Board and the Virginia House of Delegates say they are united with the Board in its desire to rename Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway.

Arlington County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and incumbent House of Delegates candidates Mark Levine, Patrick Hope, Richard “Rip” Sullivan and Alfonso Lopez praised the County Board’s stand. In a statement, an excerpt of which is below, all five applauded what they described as “a powerful statement from the Arlington County Board rejecting racism and bigotry.”

The county will need to first obtain the legal authority to rename both stretches of state highway within its borders, an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. But the incumbents pledged to try to do so, so the county can choose “who in our history we want to honor and celebrate.”

Erik Gutshall, Democratic nominee for Arlington County Board, said “I am proud to live in a community that has long shared the values of diversity and inclusion. I fully embrace the County Board’s determination to garner local control of the names of our roadways, as I know Arlington’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly do.”

“It’s long past time for us to rename highways that were labeled to send a hateful and divisive message to people of color in our community,” said Delegate Alfonso Lopez (49th District), House Democratic Whip. “I look forward to working with the Arlington County Board to make sure they have the necessary authority from the General Assembly to make these important changes.”

Delegate Patrick Hope (47th District) said, “I have long-supported the renaming of Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway in Arlington and commend the Arlington County Board for this bold statement of leadership. I look forward to supporting legislation to grant Arlington and all localities the freedom to rename buildings, roads, and to remove monuments that do not reflect our values.”

“Giving localities the authority to rename highways — like Jefferson Davis Highway — is long overdue,” said Delegate Rip Sullivan (48th District), “This is not about erasing or trying to change history — indeed, we must never forget the evil that led to our Civil War. Rather, this is about a community choosing who in our history we want to honor and celebrate. Arlington County should have that choice. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ This matters, and I applaud the County Board for choosing not to be silent on this important issue.”

“I’m very pleased that the Arlington County Board is committed to renaming the Jefferson Davis Highway, ” said Delegate Mark Levine (45th District). “Changing those street signs will no longer honor the Mississippi traitor (with little or no connection to Arlington) who was President of a rebellious group of states that seceded from the union to enforce and protect their cruel and odious institution of slavery. Street signs bearing the current name of this highway do a gross injustice to Arlingtonians who are loyal to their nation and who abhor slavery. I know the vast majority of us are looking forward to seeing these signs no more.”

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Morning Notes

Metro Delays Due to Disabled Train — A 7000-series Metro train reportedly lost power between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, just before 9 a.m., leading to delays on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines. [Twitter, Twitter]

Confederate Monument at Arlington Nat’l — On the western edge of Arlington National Cemetery there is a monument to Confederate war dead. Writes the Post: “A soaring testament to Southern pride, placed in Arlington nearly 50 years after the Civil War ended, the monument features a frieze depicting Rebels shouldering rifles, a black slave following his master and an enslaved woman… cradling a Confederate officer’s infant.” [Washington Post]

ACFD Rescues Bird — Members of an Arlington County Fire Department rescue company successfully managed to rescue a blue and yellow macaw from a tree. [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Commonwealth Joe Gets $2.5 Million — Local nitro cold brew coffee purveyor and Pentagon City cafe operator Commonwealth Joe has landed a $2.5 million round of funding. The Arlington-based firm says it plans to use the investment to expand its cold brew business, which includes distributing kegs of the sweet, smooth chilled coffee to offices. [Washington Business Journal]

Local Holocaust Survivor Reunited — An Arlington man was reunited with a Dutch couple that hid him and his sister, who are both Jewish, from the Nazis in 1945. The reunion took place at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and happened thanks to a high school project undertaken by the couple’s grandson. [NBC Washington]

Raise for Arlington County Board Members? — There is renewed discussion of a significant raise for Arlington County Board members, in recognition that their job, rather than being part time as originally envisioned, now involves full-time hours. There are even “whispers” that Board salaries could be nearly doubled, to reach six-figures, according to one report. [InsideNova, InsideNova]

Tax Delinquency Rate Hits Historic Low — Arlington County’s 2017 tax delinquency rate has hit a record low of 0.226 percent, County Treasurer Carla de la Pava announced. That’s the lowest rate in Virginia and the lowest rate ever in Arlington, she said, touting it as “good for the county” and “good for taxpayers.” The news led Del. Patrick Hope to declare de la Pava the “best treasurer in the Commonwealth.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Remembering the Ballston Mall’s Past — First known as Parkington, then Ballston Common Mall, and soon (next year) to be reopened as Ballston Quarter, following extensive renovations, Ballston’s shopping mall has a long history that dates back to the early 1950s. [WETA]

Nearby: Legislation on Confederate Monument — State Sen. Adam Ebbin says he will introduce legislation “to give Alexandria the authority to relocate the Confederate statue in Old Town” Alexandria. “It is past time that we address the impact that lionizing the Confederacy has had on the character of our Commonwealth,” Ebbin said. [Twitter, Twitter]

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Soldiers spent four years in Arlington during the Civil War, and county residents can get a small taste of what they went through next weekend.

The re-enactment event Civil War Camp Day will show how soldiers lived by walking through encampment displays, practicing military drills and trying on Civil War uniforms. It takes place May 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center and Park (2909 16th Street S.)

Union troops arrived in Arlington in 1861 on the orders of President Abraham Lincoln. For the next four years, tens of thousands of northern soldiers manned the Arlington Line, a series of fortifications and camps that stretched from Rosslyn to the Pentagon.

A schedule of the day’s events is below:

  • 10 a.m. – The camp is open to visitors, with displays on how soldiers lived in camp, what gear they used and the music they listened to.
  • 11 a.m. – A presentation on Arlington’s role during the Civil War, especially as a center for training.
  • Noon – Cooking and a presentation on what soldiers ate.
  • 1 p.m. – A presentation on Arlington’s role during the Civil War, especially as a center for training.
  • 2-4 p.m. – The camp is open to visitors, with displays on how soldiers lived in camp, what gear they used and the music they listened to.
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