The Great Falls And Alexandria

The Potomac continues its picturesque course below Harper’s Ferry, and passes the Point of Rocks, a promontory of the Catoctin Mountain, a prolongation of the Blue Ridge. There were battles fought all about, the most noted being at South Mountain and Antietam, to the northward, in September, 1862; while it was at Frederick, fifteen miles away, during this campaign, that Barbara Frietchie was said to have waved the flag as Stonewall Jackson marched through the town, immortalized in Whittier’s poem. Here is buried Francis Scott Key, author of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” who died in 1843, and a handsome monument was erected to his memory in 1898. The Potomac reaches its Great Falls about fifteen miles above Washington, where it descends eighty feet in about two miles, including a fine cataract thirty-five feet high. Below this is the ” Cabin John Bridge,” with one of the largest stone arches in the world, of two hundred and twenty feet span, built for the Washington Aqueduct, carrying the city water supply from the Great Falls. On Wesley Heights, to the northward, the new American University of the Methodist Church is being constructed.

Below Washington, the river passes the ancient city of Alexandria, a quaint old Virginian town, which was formerly of considerable commercial importance, but is now quiet and restful, and cherishing chiefly the memory of George Washington, who lived at Mount Vernon, a few miles below, and was its almost daily visitor to transact his business and go to church and entertainments. The tradition is that Madison, who was chairman of the Committee of Congress, selected Alexandria for the “Federal City,” intending to erect the Capitol on Shooters’ Hill, a mile out of town, as grand an elevation as the hill in Washington;- but he was overruled by the President because the latter hesitated to thus favor his native State. Had Madison had his way, the town probably would not now be so sleepy. The modest little steeple of Christ Church, where Washington was a vestry-man, rises back of the town, and his pew, No. 5, is still shown, for which, when the church was built and consecrated in 1773, the records show that he paid thirty-six pounds, ten shillings. To construct this church and another at the Falls, the vestry of Fairfax parish, in 1766, levied an assessment of 31,185 pounds of tobacco, and the rector’s salary was also paid in tobacco. After the Revolution, to help support the church, Washington and seven others signed an agreement in the vestry-book to each pay five pounds annual rental for the pews they owned. Robert E. Lee was baptized and confirmed and at-tended Sunday-school in this old church, and tablets in memory of Washington and Lee were inserted in the church wall in 1870. At the Carey House, near the river, Washington, in 1755, received from General Braddock, who had come up there from Hampton Roads, his first commission as an aide to that commander, with the rank of Major, just before starting on the ill-starred expedition into Western Pennsylvania. Alexandria has probably fifteen thousand people, and on the outskirts is another mournful relie of the Civil War, a Soldiers’ Cemetery, with four thousand graves. Below Alexandria, the Hunting Creek flows into the Potomac, this stream having given Washington’s home its original name of the ” Hunting Creek Estate.”