Most people think Old Town Alexandria is Virginia's oldest charted town but they would be wrong. As you drive down Route 1 between Woodbridge and Quantico you pass through an area known as Dumfries. For many local folks it is an unforgettable area that often is referred to as "dumb-fries".
However chartered one day before Old Town on May 11, 1749, Dumfries was a thriving cultural and commerce center in its time. Founded by Scottish merchants, the town had large tobacco warehouses and was the second largest port in the colonies only surpassed by Boston. Dumfries was also known as a cultural center with theaters, race tracks and artisans.
When historians talk about thriving port cities of the 1700's they mention Boston, Charleston and Alexandria but not Dumfries. Perhaps part of the reason is because today there is no port. Try as hard as you would like but you won't find any remnants of the port and in fact as you are driving on Route 1 you are actually driving where the port used to be. For reasons that are still unclear in the early nineteenth century silt began filling the port making it unusable.
There are plenty of new waterfront developments being built close to the Dumfries area in eastern Prince William County so perhaps in a 21st century way the town will regain some of the glory of the past.
For more information on a few of the new neighborhoods in the area:
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