William Holland

William Holland Original Deed

Original Deed of William Holland's land, 1856

William Holland was an African American landowner who lived in the Fairfax area. This exhibit will piece together the evidence found from William and his children’s lives, starting from 1856 to 1920, to construct a brief biographical entry as part of the Black Lives Next Door initiative at George Mason University, sponsored by the Center for Mason Legacies.

It is very important to document these landowners’ experience in order to construct a more complete description of life in Fairfax in the nineteenth century. These landowners’ lives have largely been looked over, and it is crucial to bring their stories to light so we can not only look back, but also look towards the future. Writing about landowners allows us to place experiences to geography in order to decolonize the history of the county we live in.

Researching William Holland’s case was challenging as he was a landowner beginning in the late 1850s, a period earlier than other researchers in the project. The methods used for tracing the deed of land were especially challenging and required a strategic approach using a variety of tactics. Ancestry DNA was a useful resource in tracking William Holland’s family tree, due to the collaborative nature of other researchers. Using resources such as the Fairfax County Circuit Court’s Historic Records Center digitized records, the researcher was able to find the deed of land granted in December of 1856 to William Holland and his wife. In the deed, he bought twenty acres, more or less, in the Woodlawn area by Mount Vernon in Virginia. The researcher was also able to learn more about him through the Fairfax 1860 Biography Project. It was said that he registered as a free African American in June of 1947 and that he was born free. He was described as five-foot eleven man with a scar on his face.



William Holland Fairfax 1860 Biography Project

This image is from the Fairfax 1860 Biography Project, page 949, and shows a brief biography about William Holland.

1894 Land Tax Mt. Vernon Holland

Land Tax Booklet 1894, Colored, H-Q

The information on the property of William Holland was first found through the 1894 land tax book. As seen in the land tax book, William Holland was listed first on the page. However, upon speaking with the archivists at the courthouse, it was found that the land tax entry was his estate, and not the original land of solely William Holland himself. As the land had already been in his family for nearly forty years, there was still a lot of time left to cover and fill in, in between 1856 and 1894. I found that during these years, there were lots of appearances in land tax records and documents about the property. Additionally in that time, the twenty acres decreased to 18 acres in the Woodlawn area. It is very possible that land was sold or auctioned off to a member of the Holland family, or that the city of Fairfax took some of that land. 

Researched by: Kate Trebra

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