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This spring provided water for the 250-acre dairy farm of Captain Harmon L. Salsbury (1838-1913). A white officer in a Black unit, Salsbury was a captain of the US Colored Troop Company D, 26th Regiment from New York in the American Civil War. He later relocated to Virginia and built relationships with the Black community in the town of Vienna, where he lived, farmed, and taught. In the twentieth century, the spring became a vital community resource; during the drought of 1930, it provided water when many area wells dried up. The area is now preserved as a park and native plant habitat.

Salsbury Spring Marker by Craig Swain on, 2009 (reproduced under Fair Use)

Salsbury Spring Marker by Craig Swain on, 2009 (reproduced under Fair Use)

Born in New York, Harmon LeRoy Salsbury enlisted in the 151st New York State Volunteers and was later appointed to sergeant. In 1864, he was promoted again to captain in Company D of the 26th U.S. Colored Infantry -- a white officer in a Black unit. During the Civil War he fought at John's Island in South Carolina, the Battle of Bloody Bridge, and McKay's Point in the latter half of 1864. After his discharge from the Army in 1865, he moved to Vienna, Virginia. With his brother George he bought land near downtown and started a farm and orchard.

The Salsbury home no longer stands; near the lost home was the burial place of Salsbury's first wife, Sarah Danby, and their child. He later married Susanna Freeman. In addition to running a farm, he taught at the Vienna School for White Children in 1870-1871.

Salsbury sold land to Black freedmen under favorable terms and in 1884, he donated land for a burial ground for people of color, which became West End Cemetery. He also sold land to several trustees for the Sons and Daughters Cemetery, where some soldiers who served under Salsbury are among those buried. Several extant historic homes in Vienna on Walnut Lane, Nutley Street, and Windover Avenue were built on land acquired from Salsbury. Salsbury himself and his second wife Susanna are buried together at Merrifield Cemetery.

Captain Salsbury's third wife Lucia survived him; she and Salsbury's children donated the quarter-acre of land for the park to the town of Vienna in 1938. A "passive" park, it features mature trees and access to the stream. The National Wildlife Federation designated the park as a Certified Native Habitat. Among the native plants growing there are river birches, service berry, button bushes, and golden ragwort.

The Louise Archer School (formerly known as the Vienna Colored School), built in 1939, was near the spring on Nutley Street and students carried water from there to the school.

Ayr Hill Garden Club. Gardens, Ayr Hill Garden Club. Accessed January 6th 2020.

Fairfax County Public Schools. School History, Vienna Elementary School. Accessed January 6th 2020.

Historic Vienna, Inc. "Register of Vienna Historic Structures, Sites, and Places" Accessed January 6th 2020.

Poivre. Capt Harmon LeRoy Salsbury, Find a Grave. July 27th 2008. Accessed January 6th 2020.

Swain, Craig. Salsbury Spring, Historical Marker Database. June 16th 2016. Accessed January 6th 2020.

Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910 (NARA microfilm publication T624, 1,178 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Accessed Janaury 6th, 2020.

Town of Vienna, Virginia. Salsbury Spring Park, Facilities. Accessed January 6th 2020.

West End Cemetery, Find a Grave. May 26th 2008. Accessed January 6th 2020.

Image Sources(Click to expand)