Ivy Hill Cemetery

Uncovering the Mystery: Does Phillip 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 Phillip 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 Phillip Richard Fendall I

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

Born of Noble Lineage

Phillip 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 as Fendall acquired land in Alexandria. The Lee-Fendall House arose a year later, symbolizing Fendall’s deep-rooted bond with the city.

Piecing Together the Burial Mystery

Reverend James Muir’s 1805 diary chronicles the sad demise of Phillip Richard Fendall. While records earmark a burial site for Fendall at Christ Church Cemetery, his will intriguingly alludes to a private cemetery on his familial estate, adding layers to the Ivy Hill Cemetery enigma.

Echoes of Fendall’s Legacy

Fendall’s legacy resonated even posthumously.

Mollie Lee’s Strategic Move

In 1808, Mollie Fendall, Phillip’s widow, astutely leased the family estate to John Gadsby, a renowned tavern keeper. This alliance would serendipitously intertwine with a monumental event: the penning of the U.S. national anthem by Francis Scott Key.

The Closing of a Chapter

Post-1808, Mollie’s direct ties with the farm waned, heralding the end of the Fendall era.

An 1805 map showcasing Phillip 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 Phillip 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

Hello. My journey has taken me through various paths, from owning businesses to delving deep into the annals of history. For many years, I dedicated myself to researching and leading tours of Civil War Battlefields, bringing the past to life for those eager to learn.

In 2015, I assumed the role of Superintendent of the Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex in Alexandria, Virginia. This cemetery holds a profoundly special place in my heart. It's owned by the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, where I was baptized and raised, and my parents are laid to rest. It's also the place where I will one day be buried. This responsibility allowed me to assist families during pivotal moments and opened a unique avenue for me. Most Saturdays, I lead tours within the complex, combining my passion for teaching history with the stories of the 35,000 souls resting there. To further share these narratives, I established this blog focusing on the lives and tales of those buried in Alexandria.

In addition to my work at the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex, I am honored to serve as a dedicated Board member of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Lee-Fendall House Museum. I am a Northern Virginia Cemetery Consortium member dedicated to preserving endangered cemeteries throughout the region, representing the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex.

If you're intrigued by history or curious about the stories that shaped Alexandria, I invite you to join me on my tours, read my writings, or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.

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