The original Fairfax Station was built by Irish immigrants who responded to ads placed by the Orange & Alexandria Railroad Company in the 1850s. Many were hired by the company shortly after their arrival in the U.S. and ultimately settled in the area around Fairfax Station, helping to establish the small community. The resulting influx of Catholics meant that a church needed to be built as Mass was being held on boxcars. Land had been donated by two families, the Hamill and Cunninghams, and the cornerstone was laid for St. Mary of Sorrows Catholic Church on September 19, 1858. The church was dedicated September 23, 1860. It was at this church and the hill leading to the railroad tracks that Clara Barton and her assistants nursed the wounded from the Battles of Second Manassas and Chantilly. They were then sent by train to Washington and Alexandria hospitals.
The Fairfax Station served the county seat of Fairfax, then known as Fairfax Court House. It was located 2 ½ miles outside of town because the residents did not want to be so close to the noise and smoke of the trains. The Sangsters and many other families in the area donated some of their property for the railroad right-of-way.
Prominent families in the village of Fairfax Station and surrounding area played a very important role in businesses, politics, and served in all the wars. During the Civil War many families were divided in their allegiance but some of them joined the 17th Regiment of Virginia Infantry, Company D, known at the “Fairfax Rifles” and were mustered into service at Fairfax Station. In a photograph displayed in the museum, the World War I recruits are seen wearing suits and hats as they left by train in 1917. So many Fairfax Station families sent their boys overseas during World War II that it would be difficult to name them all.
Fairfax Station’s name was changed to “Swetnam” postal village on August 21, 1897 and then in 1918 it was changed to Faircroft. It finally became Fairfax Station in 1921 for good!
A young man, James Clarence Wyckoff, assumed the loan for the Burke general store when he graduated from high school in 1927 at age 16. Two years later he bought the Swetnam Store in Fairfax Station. While Jim Wyckoff was running the post office out of their general store, Lena was teaching at the local school, Fairview. It opened as a one room schoolhouse in 1899, and kept expanding as the population grew. Twice each year the students were escorted to the Fairfax Station to be weighed on the baggage scales. Jim passed away in 1947 and Lena served as postmaster until retiring in 1971. Click on The Life of Lena Wyckoff
The heyday of train travel was from approximately 1850-1950. As people began to travel more by automobile and airplane, trains were not as popular. There was still a demand for trains to deliver mail and packages by rail but that was soon on the decline as well. Southern Railway was closing their stations. Fairfax Station, the last passenger station in Fairfax County, would close in 1973. See the Fairfax Station: All Aboard! book for more interesting history.