Alonzo Storm, Susannah Crocker Storm, & Family

Alonzo and Susannah Storm were very recent arrivals from New York when he entered into an agreement with Mary Walker Carter Jones to lease the farmland at Sharon from January 1860 to January 1863 on a profit-sharing basis.  Susannah’s brother, John S Crocker, records that they moved in 1858 (and that his sister was an active member of the Methodist church, so Alonzo and Susannah may not have been Lewinsville members, though some of their descendants were). 

The Storm family’s initial years in Virginia were difficult; according to his later testimony before the Southern Claims Commission, Alonzo was forced at some point during the term of the lease to flee the area due to hostility to Union sympathizers.   In addition, livestock and crops in which he had an interest were seized by Union troops for military use.  Alonzo filed a claim for compensation from the federal government, and, after his death in 1870, Susannah brought it to a successful resolution.   

Despite their unpromising introduction to the area, several members of the Storm family became integral parts of the Lewinsville and McLean communities.  Alonzo and Susannah’s son, John Adelbert, married a member of the Magarity family.  He bought land at the center of McLean on which his son, Henry Alonzo, ran a general store and post office beginning in 1910.  Henry Alonzo’s brother, Johnathan Clemons Storm, whose name appears along with that of his wife Susie on a 1952 friendship quilt created by Susie and other ladies of the church (on display in the stairwell adjacent to St Andrews Hall), is shown in a picture included in Frank Gapp’s 1976 history of Lewinsville relaying the 1846 cornerstone as part of the building of the new sanctuary in 1956. 

Francis Crocker, Anna Woodworth Crocker, & Family

Members of the extended Crocker/Woodworth family (whose last names also included Carpenter, Storm, and Ransom) moved from New York to Northern Virginia during the late 1840s and 1850s. They became active members at Lewinsville, making up c. 25% of the congregation by 1852, and playing leadership roles before and after the war.  Members of this family include:

  • Francis Crocker, a Lewinsville trustee who was probably the congregation’s first casualty of the war.  At age 70, he used the strategic location of his home in what is now the Chesterbrook area to gather and pass on intelligence to the US military. Seized from his home after the First Battle of Bull Run and tried for treason against the State of Virginia, he died in Oct. 1861 as a prisoner of war in Culpeper. 
  • Francis’ youngest son James, who narrowly escaped being pressed into Confederate service as a member of Mott Ball’s cavalry. 
  • James’ brothers William Calvin, Jonathan Dorr, Lott Woodworth, and Francis Pratt, all of whom formally enlisted in the Union forces or served as scouts or guides. 
  • Another Crocker brother, John Simpson, who fought with 93rd New York Volunteers, and after the war engaged in land transactions with freedpeople in the Lincolnville (now Chesterbook) area. 
  • Deacon and later Elder William Woodworth, a leader of the church during the 1850s who in October 1865 appeared before the Presbytery of the Potomac expressing the desire of thirteen Lewinsville “members and communicants” to remain connected with the Presbytery. Presbytery’s acceptance of that request confirmed that Lewinsville would remain part of the northern Presbyterian denomination until the two branches reunited in 1983. 

Francis and Anna Woodworth Crocker were among the older members of an extended family that moved from New York to Virginia in the late 1840s.  According to sketches of individual family members written by their son John Simpson Crocker at various times between the close of the Civil War and about 1890, they were seeking a healthier (which seems to have meant warmer) climate. Younger members of the family were probably also attracted by relatively cheap land prices in Fairfax County; one interest that Lewinsville members born in New York and on the Northern Neck of Virginia had in common during the 1850s was the possibility of restoring the fertility of lands exhausted by several centuries of unsustainable agricultural practices.

Crockers had been Presbyterians for generations, and members of the extended family soon became an integral part of the Lewinsville congregation.  Their presence helped substantially increase Lewinsville’s size beyond the 17 founding members.  In 1852, 26 of the 108 names on a friendship quilt listing members and participants in the Sunday School included the last name Crocker, Carpenter, Ransom, or Woodworth.  Family members also participated in the leadership of the church; Francis Crocker is listed as a trustee on an 1857 mortgage agreement between Lewinsville and Ellen Massey, and Anna’s brother William Woodworth served as a deacon and later an elder. 

Rev. C.B. McKee notes in his 1857 diary that the Woodworths were one of the families that sent a “team” (presumably of horses or oxen) to help with moving his family’s household goods when they arrived in Washington. In addition, “Mrs. Deacon Woodward [which he corrects elsewhere to Woodworth] and Mrs. Bell had a fine supper waiting for all hands.”  The Woodworth’s son Malcom, then a licentiate, preached at Lewinsville the first Sunday after the McKees’ arrival, giving a “fatigued” Rev. McKee a few days to settle in before he prepared to do the same. 

References to “Deacon Woodworth” and his family appear frequently in the diary.  William Woodworth seems to have been McKee’s primary point of contact with the congregation regarding financial matters. Perhaps because they lived very close to the church, on a 145-acre farm south of what is now the intersection of Great Falls St. and Magarity Rd., the Woodworths also served as a source of practical help, loaning tools and a horse and helping the McKees obtain food and eventually buy a cow.  Daughter Harriet helped McKee unpack his books and was a frequent caller. 

The Crockers also make regular appearances in McKee’s diary.  “Young Mr. Crocker brought the balance of our goods, all and safely,” McKee notes a few days after their arrival.  McKee records visits to “Old Mr. Crocker” (presumably Francis) and [Jonathan] Dorr Crocker.  “Mrs. J.D. Crocker,” Jonathan Dorr’s wife Sarah, gives Rev. McKee a ride on one occasion, and calls at the parsonage several times. 

Rev. McKee also records several attempts to counsel the older Crockers and another son, Lott, who lives with them, about Lott’s habit of drinking to excess.  Lott eventually seems to have found better balance in his life; writing several decades later, after his brother’s death, John S. Crocker remembered that Lott “admired fine horses” and “aimed to get his share of enjoyment as he passed through life but not at the expense of others.” He also recalled Lott’s “sound judgment” and “excellent morals” and writes of his service during the war and his participation in civic endeavors.  John writes that, although Lott “never formally united with a church,” he was “a Presbyterian in faith, but rather inclined to be liberal in his views.” John’s portrait of his brother’s final hours sums up Lott’s approach to life: realizing in 1876 that he would soon die, Lott invited John to smoke one last cigar with him while they talked over the good times they’d had together.  “He had acted well and faithfully his part in life,” John writes; “why should he not hope in God for a blissful condition in the future life.”

Overall, the Crockers’ experience in Virginia during the 1850s seem to have been relatively satisfactory.   They did experience at least one major loss: their 36-year-old daughter, Asenath, died in Dec. 1860, just before the beginning of the war.  Her family buried her in the Lewinsville cemetery.  Asenath was married to another New Yorker, Ansom Ransom. According to John S. Crocker, the couple moved to Virginia in 1854.  Anson taught both school and singing, and McKee (who also took on students to earn extra money) mentions sharing blackboard blacking with him and attending his singing school one Saturday night, as well as receiving food  – butter, a custard, and some corn – from and visiting with “Mrs. Ransom.”  A Union supporter like his in-laws, Anson fled to Washington, D.C., during the war, where he worked in the Quartermaster General’s office.  He was buried with Asenath when he died in 1875. 

Once Virginia seceded from the Union, it became a less pleasant and more dangerous place for the Crockers and others who wanted to preserve the Union.  Most members of the family who lived in Virginia fled to D.C. early in the war, and many made the move permanent.  The Crockers’ open support of the Union brought hostility from their neighbors, especially since they were willing to share their knowledge of the local terrain (and, probably, other local residents’ opinions and movements) with the US military. 

John S. Crocker relates that his brothers Jonathan Dorr and Lott Woodworth both served as scouts or guides for US forces during the early days of the war.  John himself, who did not make a permanent move to the D.C. area until after the war, served as a Colonel in the 93rd New York Volunteers.  His younger brother William Calvin served as Quartermaster of the same regiment.  Another brother, Francis Platt, served in the 71st Pennsylvania Infantry (aka the 1st California) under Col. Baker.  When “severely wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff,” Francis used his “knowledge of the country” to escape, swim the Potomac, and rejoin his regiment (but was eventually forced to resign due to the lingering effects of his injuries). 

John Crocker also relates that his younger brother, James, barely escaped being “pressed into the Rebel service.”  A few years before the war, James, an artist born in 1834 who was living with his parents in the late 1850s, had joined a Virginia State Militia cavalry unit organized by Mottrom “Mott” Ball (son of Lewinsville land donor Spencer M. Ball and grandson of Martha Corbin Turberville Ball). The day after Virginia seceded, the unit was called into service, and James, seeing no immediate alternative, rendezvoused with them in Alexandria, Virginia.  “The next day finding an opportune moment,” John writes, James “fled from Alexandria to Washington forcing the rebel guards at the Virginia side of the long bridge who fired a volley at him as he rode safely through them and over the bridge to the city.”  Concerned that, if captured by CSA forces, he would be treated as a deserter, James did not join the US  forces, but remained in D.C. and, like Anson Ransom, worked in the Quartermaster General’s office. 

Crocker patriarch Francis, who was 70 years old in 1861, remained on his property in what is now the Chesterbrook area during the early months of the war. As John Crocker writes, his father’s “residence on the Virginia side of the Potomac enabled him to gather useful information and impart it to the military and civil authorities at Washington.”  These intelligence-gathering activities apparently attracted attention from CS as well as US forces.  John Crocker relates that on the day after the first Battle of Bull Run, Francis “was taken prisoner from his own house by a detachment of rebel cavalry and taken to Fairfax Court House where he was tried the following day on a charge of treason against the State of Virginia and Loyalty to the Union.”  He was then “turned over to the Rebel Guard with orders to take him to Culpeper Court House.”  While the accounts of exactly what happened on that journey vary, it seems likely that Francis suffered some combination of exposure due to being deprived of clothes his family had provided for him and direct physical violence, and eventually was paralyzed by a blow to the head and/or a stroke.  He died on October 11, 1861 at the age of 70 in Culpeper Court House.

It may have taken Francis’ family some time to learn what had happened to him.  Their ability to perform some of the rituals of mourning was certainly delayed.  As John (speaking in the third person) relates, Francis’ “burial place was discovered by his son, General John S. Crocker, in March 1864.”  John “had the body exhumed and taken to Washington D.C. and buried in Glenwood Cemetery with appropriate services.” 

Settling the estate of a man who died while a prisoner of war, whose real estate holdings were now located in territory under military occupation, must have been complicated.  When after the war’s end John and James Crocker took on the task of selling some of the land their family owned in Fairfax County, their approaches included offering small lots on credit to freedpeople. This seems to have been a business rather than (or at least in addition to) a political or charitable endeavor, and OSB Wall, a Freedman’s Bureau agent who mentioned the arrangement in a Nov. 27, 1868 report on the school at what he called Lincoln Village (more widely known as Lincolnville), was doubtful that the land was fertile enough to allow the buyers to service their debts.  Still, at a time when many Virginians were reluctant to sell land to formerly enslaved people, the Crockers’ lot sales offered an opportunity. 

Members of the Lincolnville community seem to have made the most of this opportunity despite the poor quality of the land, in part by raising dairy cows as well as well as farming.   A set of 1981 Fairfax County maps on which Beth Mitchell and Edith Moore Sprouse superimposed 1860 landowners’ property boundaries shows that the boundaries of a farm Francis S. Crocker owned in 1860 coincide with the outer boundaries of the lots along Cottonwood St., an historically African American enclave on the site of a dairy farm founded by Christopher Columbus Hall and his wife Maria in the 1860s.   Fairfax County Deed book records record a land transfer between the Crockers and the Halls in 1865, but a 1996 Washington Post article which includes interviews with family members dates the beginning of the Hall farm to 1860.  It’s possible that the Halls worked the land on some sort of lease arrangement for a few years before buying it. 

The Halls were among the founding members of the First Baptist Church of Chesterbrook (which housed the school at Lincolnville in its early days).  The Crockers also had business dealings with Rev. Cyrus Carter, founder of that church and three others in the area (Shiloh Baptist in McLean/Odrick’s Corner, First Baptist in Vienna, and Mount Zion Baptist in Arlington).  Here, too, it is hard to tell whether these interactions were strictly business – perhaps even a way for the Crockers to dispose of land that may have had traumatic associations for them — or whether John and James had a genuine desire to help freedpeople buy land and build their own institutions.  

We do know that John Crocker gave a speech after the election of Ulysses S. Grant to the presidency that supported full civic, educational, and professional equality for African Americans (he didn’t mention social equality).  There is also some evidence that Carter and the Crockers managed to do business in a mutually beneficial way.  As his granddaughter Ruby Coleman recalled in a 1975 interview with Andrew M.D. Wolf, Carter had a contract to supply the D.C. jail, of which John S. Crocker served as warden after the war, with vegetables.  That arrangement that would have given Crocker a reliable supply of food for the prisoners held in the jail and Carter a reliable market for his produce.   

Wolf and others looking at the history of John S. Crocker’s land transactions with local African American families have generally concluded that they reflect a mix of business (Crocker probably made a profit) and at least a willingness and perhaps even a desire to support formerly enslaved people in building independent lives and communities.  As is clear from his conclusions about his brother Lott’s life and death, John Crocker, a lifelong Presbyterian, embraced the Reformed belief that it is possible to participate in God’s purposes by playing a constructive part in the secular work of the world. His transactions with the Halls, Carters, and others may reflect that belief. 

Undoubtedly there is more to learn about the intermingled stories of the Crockers, Carters, and Halls and the congregations they helped to build.  I and other members of Lewinsville look forward to exploring what is probably a complicated history with members of neighboring congregations.  

While formerly enslaved people were founding their own churches, Lewinsville began rebuilding.  Although many older members of the Crocker/Woodworth family remained in D.C., at least one retained or resumed his leadership role in the Lewinsville congregation.  According to Rev. Franklin Gillespie’s 1946 history, on October 2, 1865 Elder William Woodworth appeared before the Presbytery of the Potomac, representing thirteen other “communicants and members” of Lewinsville Presbyterian Church (the list of names has unfortunately been lost).  The message Woodworth presented to Presbytery expressed a continued desire on the part of its signatories for affiliation with what would become known as the northern Presbyterian denomination (a second Presbyterian denomination, which would become known as the “southern” Presbyterian church, had formed in the Confederate states after secession). 

The Presbytery affirmed the request and did what they could to support the congregation in rebuilding after the war.  As a result, Lewinsville became and remained a member of the “northern” Presbyterian denomination until the two groups reunited and formed the national body with which the congregation is currently affiliated, the PCUSA, in 1983. 

In the remaining decades of the 19th century and into the 20th, some of Francis and Anna Crocker’s younger descendants made their homes in Northern Virginia. They continued to intermarry with each other and with other local families, and some played active roles at Lewinsville and in other local Presbyterian congregations.  As related on the page devoted to the Storm family, in the mid-20th century Francis and Anna’s great-grandson, Johnathan Clemons Storm, and his wife Susie were active members of Lewinsville Presbyterian Church.  Susie hosted the ladies’ quilting group (mostly a fundraising endeavor) which created the 1952 friendship quilt, and Johnathan re-laid the 1846 cornerstone when construction of the new sanctuary began in 1956.  There are also several Carpenters listed on the 1956 quilt, but I haven’t yet traced their connection, if any, to the Carpenters active at Lewinsville in the 1850s. 

A great-granddaughter of Francis and Anna, Hattie Bell Crocker, granddaughter of John S. Crocker, married Leon Freeman, one of the proprieters of the Freeman/Lydecker store in Vienna, in 1894.  They and their family were members of Vienna Presbyterian Church.