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Aden’s origins remain a true mystery

Was Aden ever more than a Country Store?

Traveling on the back roads toward Nokesville from Route 234, there is a four-way stop at the crossroads of Aden Road and Fleetwood Drive.

There one finds a few vintage homes, a large dairy field full of dark brown cows, and the Aden Grocery. The yellow house on the corner has a white storage container in the back with Uncle Sam pointing his finger at passing cars.

Also at the corner, just inside the fence for the farm is a billboard for the Asbury Methodist Church, usually with an inspirational verse or funny quote.

Aden Grocery is always busy, with cars parked in front or to the side of it. Inside one may purchase the usual food, snack or beverage, plus a few things like live fishing bait, or one of the great deli sandwiches. While inside, one may hear some of the old timers tell their tales of the town they remember.

The massive Brent Town Tract

Everyone knows everyone, as far as the locals go. Inviting and kind, Aden is a “great place,” loved by its residence. But, Aden and its history remain a bit of a mystery. Was it always a crossroads of businesses and homes? Or was it more?

According to some, Aden was named after one of the area’s founders. Others recall it being called “Jersey Town” before the Civil War. It may be speculative, but with a large number of immigrants from Scotland in and around Dumfries during the Colonial Period, it could have been named for the area of Aden (Mintlaw), in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where the Russell Clan’s seat is historically listed.

Perhaps it was named by one of the original landlords of the Brent Town Tract, a massive acreage of land owned by four partners, three from London and one resident from Stafford County – Richard Foote, Nicholas Hayward, Robert Bristow, and George Brent. The tract of 30,000 acres was granted in January, circa 1686 to the four, and extended from in or near the county of Stafford, between two rivers, the Rappahannock and Potowmack, “backwards at least six miles Distant from the said Main River and from any Land already seated and inhabited, and upon and between the Southwest and Northeast Branches of Ocaquan Creek and from thence towards the Mountains.”

The land, mostly frontier land at that time, was given by James II, the last Roman Catholic King of England, for two reasons – commercialism and as a religious sanctuary for all faiths. The area attracted Catholics, Huguenots, and Puritan colonialists. Most of the area never prospered commercially and the descendants of the four owners divided and sold parts of the land years later.

Original Aden Grocery more of a general store

According to some, Aden was named after one of the area’s founders.
According to some, Aden was named after one of the area’s founders.
According to some, Aden was named after one of the area’s founders.
According to some, Aden was named after one of the area’s founders.
According to some, Aden was named after one of the area’s founders.

Still, from all accounts not much has changed over the years in Aden. In Prince William, The Story of Its People and Its Places, Aden is described as “a small cluster of neatly painted frame buildings – two stories, a Dunkard [German Baptists] church, a two-room school, and a few houses”, with the entrance of the Effingham estate only a mile down the road. The historic store is the second for the town, with the original once sitting across the road from the current location.

The original Aden Grocery was more of a general store, selling trade goods like pants, boots and feed, and there was also a post office. On the right side of Fleetwood from the grocery remains the school house, now an apartment.

Aden School

Built between 1908 and 1909, the Aden Sub-center School combined students from Allendale and Hazelwood schools. Serving the community for seven years, the student population outgrew it and by 1916, the School Board had to rent “the hall at Aden” for seven months to make room for a third classroom.

By the mid-1930s additions to the main building turned it into a four room schoolhouse, each room with the seating capacity of 42 students, with pine wood floors, a water pump, four chimneys and tin roof. The school remained active until 1946 when Aden School was consolidated after the Brentsville District High School acquired new building additions.

Remains of many Civil War soldiers

Approximately a half a mile east on Fleetwood from Aden Grocery is the Asbury Methodist Church. It is one of the few remaining 19th Century churches in the county. Built between 1893 and 1894, the small one story wood frame church stands, with a cemetery to the left containing the remains of many Civil War soldiers.

Land to build the church was donated by Civil War veteran, Newton Sayers, and his wife Annie Allen Sayers. North of the crossroads one may see the Effingham Estate nestled against a development of slightly less grand, modern homes. Built circa 1777, the large two story mansion with its double chimneys was part of a large Colonial plantation owned by Colonel William Alexander, the same family for whom the city of Alexandria was named. Along with the house, a few of the original outbuildings, including a slave quarters, a smoke house and well house, plus a family cemetery still stand. Currently, Effingham is privately owned and will become a winery and reception center.

Aden Road historic route markers

Along Aden Road there are historic route markers for both the second Prince William County Courthouse and the Colonial Road. Built in 1743, this second courthouse was built along Cedar Run, replacing the first county courthouse in Woodbridge.

The Cedar Run location, owned by Philemon Waters, became the center of Prince William County until about 1759 when it was moved Dumfries. Part of the road bed that Aden Road follows is the south branch of the Dumfries Road. This road, used before 1740, connected the Port of Dumfries with Red Store, present day Warrenton, as well as other interior settlements.

Although surrounded by and containing a varied and vast history from pre-Independence to the late Victorian era, Aden’s origins remain something of a true mystery. Through all of this change, Aden has retained its charming and welcoming identity.

I suspect that for the residents who live near and around the crossroad, they don’t mind that the area hasn’t changed much or that it hasn’t attracted too much modern development. The beauty of the landscape dotted by homes, dairy farms, and historic structures, along with the inviting, hometown residents, makes Aden a special place.

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