Ivy Hill Cemetery

Uncovering the Mystery: Does Philip Richard Fendall Rest in Ivy Hill Cemetery? – Part 1

To read part 2 of this blog, click [here].

The Lee-Fendall House: Alexandria’s Historical Beacon

Situated at 614 Oronoco Street in Alexandria, Virginia, the Lee-Fendall House is more than just an architectural marvel. Built-in 1785 by Philip Richard Fendall, this historic tower narrates the tale of a man, his legacy, and the intricate tapestry of his life.

Lee-Fendall House Museum and Gardens, 614 Oronoco Street, Alexandria, Virginia, was built by Phillip Richard Fendall in 1785 – image courtesy of the Lee-Fendall House.

A Discovery That Piqued Curiosity

While delving into the annals of history, David Heiby, a board member and historian at the Lee-Fendall House, chanced upon a captivating assertion. The Family Search Website suggested that Fendall was interred in Ivy Hill Cemetery in 1805. However, a problem emerged: Ivy Hill Cemetery was officially inaugurated only in 1856. This temporal inconsistency beckons a deeper probe.

“Fendall passed away in March 1805 in Alexandria, District of Columbia, United States. He was 70 years old and was buried in Ivy Hill Cemetery, Alexandria, District of Columbia, United States.”

Citation on The Family Search Website

Understanding Philip Richard Fendall I

One must journey back to the man’s life central to it to fathom this enigma.

Born of Noble Lineage

Philip Richard Fendall, born in 1734, was a scion of the illustrious Fendall family, with connections to notable figures like Josias Fendall and Phillip Lee.

A Life of Service, Diplomacy, and Personal Endeavors

Fendall enjoyed a distinguished career that encompassed various roles, ranging from serving as the Clerk of Court for Charles County to making significant contributions during the 1778 Treaty of Alliance negotiations. He provided essential support to his cousin, Arthur Lee, who collaborated with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Dean to secure French assistance for the fledgling United States during the Revolutionary War against Britain. Simultaneously, Fendall’s personal life was punctuated by poignant moments, most notably his marriages:

Second Marriage: By 1780, Fendall’s heart found solace with Elizabeth Steptoe Lee. However, their union was empty of children, and Elizabeth departed in 1789.

Third Marriage: 1791 saw Fendall’s life enriched with the presence of Mary “Mollie” Lee. Their bond bore fruit with the birth of Phillip Richard Fendall II in 1794.

Laying Foundations in Alexandria

1784 marked a significant chapter in Fendall’s life as he acquired land in Alexandria, leading to the construction of the Lee-Fendall House in 1785. This establishment not only symbolized Fendall’s profound connection with the city but also became the nurturing ground for his son, Philip Richard Fendall, Jr. The house witnessed the upbringing of Fendall Jr., embedding itself deeply into the fabric of their family history. To explore more about Phillip Richard Fendall, Jr., including his attempts to manage affairs related to the Arlington House, visit

Piecing Together the Burial Mystery

Reverend James Muir’s diary entry from March 10th, 1805, poignantly documents the sudden passing of Philip Richard Fendall. Muir notes, “Mr. Fendall died this morning. He was in usual health last Lord’s Day and at church service. Taken ill on Monday.” This account highlights the abrupt nature of Fendall’s death. Although his burial site is officially recognized at Christ Church Cemetery, Fendall’s will interestingly suggests the existence of a private cemetery on his family estate, contributing to the intriguing mystery surrounding Ivy Hill Cemetery.

Fendall’s Enduring Legacy

The influence of Fendall’s life continued to echo long after his passing.

Mollie Fendall’s Wise Maneuver

In a savvy move in 1808, Mollie Fendall, Philip’s widow, leased the family estate to the esteemed tavern keeper, John Gadsby. This arrangement inadvertently connected the estate to a significant historical moment: the composition of the U.S. national anthem by Francis Scott Key. However, this partnership was short-lived, as Gadsby relinquished his lease upon relocating to Baltimore.

The Final Act of the Fendall Story

Following Gadsby’s departure in 1808, Mollie Fendall’s connection to the estate began to fade, symbolizing the conclusion of the Fendall family’s historical narrative. However, upon her death in 1827, Mollie was buried in the private cemetery on the farm, ensuring that the Fendall legacy would forever remain tied to this land.

An 1805 map showcasing Philip Richard Fendall’s farm is featured in T. Michael Miller’s book ‘Visitors from the Past: Life at the Lee-Fendall House 1785-1985’.

Contemporary Perspective on the Original Fendall Family Cemetery Site

The location of the original Fendall Family Cemetery is outlined in red. Mullen, J. P. (June 2023). Braddock Gateway – Phase II. Cemetery Investigation. Thunderbird Archeology, p. 2. 5300 Wellington Branch Drive, Suite 100, Gainesville, Virginia 20155.

The Unresolved Mystery: Fendall’s Final Resting Place

Our journey into Philip Richard Fendall’s life and legacy has unveiled myriad facets, yet one enigma lingers in his final resting place. Part 2 of our exploration will traverse Alexandria’s transportation evolution, illuminating how progress might have uprooted Fendall from his initial burial site. Join us as we delve into Ivy Hill Cemetery’s secrets, the potential resting place of Phillip Richard Fendall, and the revelations that await. Stay tuned for an immersive historical and archaeological expedition.

Sources of Information

Hopkins map of Alexandria County, Virginia: Includes the present Arlington County and the City of Alexandria, circa 1878.

Workers of the Writer’s Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Virginia. (1940). Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion. Oxford University Press.

Lee, C. G., Jr. (1957). Lee Chronicle Studies of the Early Generations of the Lees of Virginia. Published for The Society of the Lees of Virginia by Thomson-Shore.

Griffin, W. E., Jr. (1984). One Hundred Fifty Years of History: Along the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad. Whittet & Shepperson.

Hurst, H. W. (1991). Alexandria on the Potomac: The Portrait of an Antebellum Community. University Press.

Hahn, T. S., & Kemp, E. L. (1992). The Alexandria Canal: Its History & Preservation. Institute for the History of Technology & Industrial Archaeology. Volume 1, Number 1, West Virginia University Press.

Thunderbird Archeology. (2007). Documentary Study for the Potomac Yard Property, Landbays #, G, H, I, J, K L, and M, City of Alexandria, Virginia. Gainesville, Virginia.

Bromberg, F. W. (Year unknown). The History of Potomac Yard: A Transportation Corridor through Time. Alexandria Archeology

Dahmann, D. C. (2022). The Roster of Historic Congregational Members of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. Old Presbyterian Meeting House Archivist.

Morgan, M. G. (Year unknown). A Chronological History of Alexandria Canal (Part II). Published by the Arlington Historical Society. Retrieved from [URL] (Accessed May 2023).

Roberts, J. (2015). Jaybird’s Jottings: Rails in the Seaport: A Brief Look at the History of Railroads and Their Tracks in Alexandria. Retrieved from [URL]

Baicy, D. (December 2019). Braddock Gateway: Archeological Investigation and Evaluation (WSSI #21677.03). Thunderbird Archeology. 5300 Wellington Branch Drive, Suite 100, Gainesville, Virginia 20155. Tel: 703-679-5600. Email: Prepared for: Carmel Partners, 1330 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 320, Washington, DC 20036.

Mullen, J. P. (June 2023). Braddock Gateway – Phase II. Cemetery Investigation. Thunderbird Archeology. 5300 Wellington Branch Drive, Suite 100, Gainesville, Virginia 20155. Tel: 703-679-5600. Email: Jaguar Development, LC. 46859 Harry Byrd Hwy, # 202, Sterling, Virginia 20164. 1200 N. Fayette Street.

Files and clippings about the Fendall Family. Alexandria Library Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library’s Local History and Special Collections Division, Alexandria, VA.

The Archives of the Ivy Hill Cemetery were graciously opened to me by their Historian and Archivist, Catherine Weinraub—also, special thanks to Lucy Goddin, President of the Ivy Hill Cemetery Historical Society.

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By David

As a public historian, I am dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of Alexandria, Virginia, and the surrounding region. With a deep passion for bringing the past to life, I serve my community in this meaningful role.

Before this, I enjoyed a fulfilling career as a businessman and entrepreneur. Now retired, I have found a new sense of purpose in my work as a public historian.

Since 2015, I have had the privilege of serving as the Superintendent of the historic Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium, located within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex in Alexandria. This cemetery holds a special place in my family's history, as it was started in the early 1800s by the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, a historic congregation dating back to 1772 that is situated one mile east in the heart of Old Town. The cemetery is the final resting place of my parents, and the Meeting House is where I have worshipped for over 60 years.

As a public historian, I am thrilled to lead tours of the Wilkes Street Cemetery, which has thirteen cemeteries in a complex with over 35,000 interments. It is considered the most historic cluster of cemeteries in the United States. These sacred grounds offer a fascinating glimpse into the story of Alexandria and its people. I also enjoy guiding tours of nearby Civil War battlefields, combining my passion for history with the compelling narratives of those who fought and fell on these hallowed grounds, bringing their stories to life. I primarily lead tours of Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, and the Antietam Battlefields, along with tracing the footsteps of those involved in the Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865. I am also a licensed tour guide in Washington, D.C.

To further engage the community, I manage a blog focused on Alexandria's cemeteries, where the many souls buried across the city are memorialized. I am also an active Board Member of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Lee-Fendall House Museum.

Whether you are a resident or a visitor to the area, I invite you to explore Alexandria's rich history by joining one of my cemetery or battlefield tours, reading my blog, or connecting with me on social media. It is my sincere pleasure to bring the city's captivating past to life and serve my community meaningfully.

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