The History of Farmer's Delight Plantation

Three of the farm buildings at Farmer's Delight PlantationFarmer's Delight Plantation is located just 45 miles west of Washington, D.C. near Middleburg, Loudoun County, in the heart of Virginia's hunt country. The Plantation is part of the Mosby Heritage Area and is in the middle of the Journey through Hallowed Ground Corridor that stretches along U.S. Route 15 from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate near Charlottesville, Virginia. Nearby historic sites include Aldie Mill, Dodona Manor, Harpers Ferry, Manassas National Battlefield, Morven Park, Mt. Zion Church, and Oatlands Plantation. For over two centuries Farmer's Delight has served as a working plantation, horse farm, country retreat, and home to several families, veterans, and statesmen. It has stood witness to the unfolding of American history and to this day remains a rural treasure, a true delight.

Farmer's Delight Plantation originated from the large tract of land owned by Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax. In the 1740s Lord Fairfax conveyed thousands of acres, including 2000 acres on Goose Creek, to Reverend Dr. Charles Green, the first pastor of Truro Parish. Rev. Green had ties to George Washington, and he and his wife Margaret often dined with Washington. Washington served as a trustee of Green's estate, as the original land grant from Lord Fairfax was divided and sold. After several subsequent land divisions and owners, Joseph Flavius Lane bought 496 acres in 1791 and built a two-story Georgian brick house reminiscent of the plantation houses of the Tidewater region.

Joesph Flavius Lane (1753 - 1803)Originally from Westmoreland County, Joseph Flavius Lane was the son of James Lane, sheriff of Loudoun County. The Diaries of George Washington indicate that James Lane and his brothers Joseph and William, who owned a small tavern at Newgate, were also acquaintances of the Washingtons before migrating west to the newly-founded Loudoun County. The younger Joseph Lane was a Princeton graduate who went on to serve as a member of the Virginia Assembly and the Virginia Militia. Records indicate that he was a junior officer, probably a captain, in the American Revolution. Lane later commanded the 56th Loudoun Militia as a colonel and led a small contingent of soldiers in the expedition to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion. With Levin Powell, he was instrumental in the creation of the town of Centreville, Virginia, and purchased a lot in Middleburg. In 1791 he purchased part of the Charles Green property, expanding the Plantation's operations and naming it "Farmer's Delight."

Colonel Lane and his wife Katharine raised eight children on the plantation, which operated on slave labor. Lane's wife Katharine inherited the Plantation by right of dower upon his death intestate in 1803, and Lane's property, which totaled over 1000 acres at one point, was divided among his surviving children when they came of age. Sadly, Colonel Lane's sons did not long outlive their father, and so in 1823 the Plantation devolved to the youngest son, Epaminondas, even though Katharine Lane was still alive. However, Epaminondas's will of 1824 stipulated that his mother could reside there for the remainder of her life. It is believed that Katharine and her daughter Elizabeth both died around 1828, at which time Elizabeth's children, Emily Crain Gregg and Joseph Crain, inherited Farmer's Delight according to Epaminondas's will. Within a year Joseph sold his half to his sister and her husband, Peter; over the next twenty-five years the Greggs continued to enlarge the size and operations of the Plantation. Here they raised their nine children and cared for Emily's orphaned niece and nephew.

In the spring of 1855, a typhoid outbreak struck the farm, claiming the lives of Peter Gregg, two of his children, a nephew, and several slaves. After the tragic deaths of her husband and children, Emily Gregg sold Farmer's Delight to William G. Leith, the patriarch of a large, boisterous local family of five sons and two daughters. Leith gave the farm to his son, Randolph Howard Leith, and his new bride, Martha Catherine Leith, Emily Gregg's daughter and thus a great-granddaughter of Colonel Joseph Flavius Lane. Emily retired to the farm of her brother, Philo R. Crain, just behind Farmer's Delight.

Randolph remained at home to tend to the family's plantations while his four brothers fought for the Confederacy. "The Gregg Farm" (as it was still known) emerged from the Civil War unscathed, surviving the fighting at Pot House in June 1863 to become a vital part of the area around Pot House known as "Leithton" (also "Leithtown"). The official transfer of ownership from Randolph Leith to his wife Martha in 1895 ensured that the descendents of Colonel Lane retained ownership of the farm until 1919. Randolph and Martha died within three months of each other (December 1902 and February 1903, respectively), and so their four children inherited the property. After the deaths of their brother and sister, in 1919 the two surviving sons sold Farmer's Delight to Henry W. Frost Jr. of South Carolina.

The new owners, Henry and Dorothy ("Dora") Frost, renovated and enlarged the brick Manor House, including the addition of a north wing with a two-story sleeping porch, and a portico at the front entrance. Renaming the farm "Frostfields," they also increased the number of farm buildings and established a horse farm; their son Henry became a successful steeplechase rider, winning the Maryland Hunt Cup (1936) and the Grand National Steeplechase twice (1936 and 1937). Mrs. Frost was a riding companion of Foxcroft School’s Charlotte Noland, and family legend has it that Eleanor Roosevelt was also a close friend and sometime visitor to Frostfields.

After Mrs. Frost's death, the family sold the estate to Ambassador George C. McGhee in 1948. The Ambassador renovated the Manor House and added another wing on the south side. He created the extensive gardens and arboretum, and repurposed the outbuildings as small museum spaces. Like the Frosts, the McGhees kept horses and ponies for their six children; the main riding ring is now one of the parks. The Ambassador also added other amenities such as a swimming pool, a tennis court, and a boxwood maze.

Thanks to his efforts, Farmer’s Delight Plantation was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. While Ambassador McGhee and others conducted a great deal of research into the extensive history of the Plantation, more work remains to be done. If you have any additional information on Farmer's Delight Plantation or any of the families who lived here, please contact us at info@farmersdelight.org.