Who built this Farmhouse? Uncovering the Mystery of Bushrod Lynn
Visitors to East Lynn Farm often admire the stately brick farmhouse and wonder about its origins. The building was designed in a classic Tidewater style that includes a curved main mahogany staircase, heart pine floors, handsome woodwork and three working fireplaces. Despite the farmhouse’s charm, until very recently, almost nothing was known about the remarkable man who built it.
It took an exhaustive search by state archivists in Richmond and researchers at the Thomas Balch Library in Leesburg to uncover the identity of East Lynn Farm’s founder. Early clues included an 1869 deed showing that the house was registered to one “Bushrod Lynn,” and a map indicating that the farm had once been known as “East Lynn.”
Beyond that, research revealed that Lynn was an ordinance sergeant for the Confederacy in the Civil War, in which he had been wounded. Senator Lynn’s brother was one of Mosby’s Rangers, a battalion of partisan cavalry in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. Noted for their lightning strikes on Union targets and their ability to consistently elude pursuit, the Rangers disrupted Union communications and supply lines.
But aside from the military history of the Lynn brothers, was it possible to learn anything else about the founder of East Lynn Farm? Luckily, it was! By sorting through old news clippings, records, and a cache of Lynn’s papers in the state treasury’s unclaimed property division, researchers were able to reconstruct a figure of an extraordinary 19th-century politician and reformer.
After the Civil War ended in 1891, Bushrod Lynn was elected Superintendent of the Virginia Penitentiary. In an era that put little emphasis on rehabilitating prisoners, Lynn abolished work camps and moved prisoners out of overcrowded quarters to a state-owned farm. In 1905, Lynn was elected to the Virginia State Senate, representing both Loudoun and Fauquier counties.
In combing history for details about the life of Senator Lynn, researchers encountered some false leads. One was a Richmond Times article saying that Lynn had died in Los Angeles and was buried in Hollywood. In fact, Lynn is buried in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery, and there is no evidence that the Virginian ever travelled to the west coast. According to U.S. Census records, Bushrod Lynn owned East Lynn Farm until seven years before his death in 1917.
In 2010, the Advisory Board of the Virginia Department of Historical Resources approved a marker noting Lynn’s contributions to the Commonwealth. Kelly Spradley-Kurowski, a supervisory historian for the State, told the Washington Post, “It’s exciting to see someone who clearly had an impact on a lot of Virginia history become more well known.”
Today, the marker stands proudly next to a sign restoring the original name of the farm to East Lynn. The farmhouse, now known as the Inn at East Lynn, has been lovingly restored and furnished, and beautifully appointed with period antiques to complete the picture of what the home would have looked like in the era when Senator Lynn resided there.
You can experience the beauty of the Inn at East Lynn by renting it for special events, including weddings, rehearsal dinners, private parties, and working farm stays. More information about the history of East Lynn Farm is available here.