St. Mary's Catholic Church in Fairfax, Virginia was always one of my favorite local sites. It wasn't until reading Cindy Jones historical post on the church that I realized the significance of the church. It is where Clara Barton first conceived of the Red Cross.
Please leave your comments on Cindy's original post.
We see signs all around Virginia that say "George Washington Slept Here" but unless you take a step often the beaten path you won't find some of the other signs and sties that helped shape our nation. One of those signs is hidden in Fairfax Station at the St. Mary of Sorrows Church just off of Route 123.
St Mary of Sorrows Church was built from 1858-1860 with lumber milled locally by railroad workers living in the area. The only item that was purchased to complete the church was the bell installed in the tower. In 1862 one of the worst battles of the Civil War, The Second Battle of Manassas, had thousands of Union and Confederate soliders battling for control of the area. With the Fairfax Railroad Depot only a few miles down the road, soldiers from the Second Battle of Manassas were transported to the area and then transferred to the church for treatment.
One of the volunteers who came to St. Mary of Sorrows to care for the wounded was Clara Barton, who made the church her headquarters in 1862. During the worst days of battle over 8000 soldiers are believed to have passed through the area and Clara Barton stayed at the church until the last soldier was evacuated to Washington.
During her time caring for the woulded at the church she conceived the plans for a "civilian society" that would later become known as the American Red Cross.
Today the church is used 6 days a week for mass and is the sight of numerous weddings. Every year the church grounds are the site of a Labor Day picnic attended by thousands and thought to be the longest running event in the Fairfax County.
The next time you drive through the Fairfax Station area take a few minutes to look at St Mary of Sorrows Church. It is amazing to consider that such as small unassuming white church is the birthplace of an organization that millions of people today depend on whenever a disaster strikes.
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