“A Night at Greenway Court” is our story this month for the Willa Cather Short Story Project.
In “A Night at Greenway Court,” Cather returns to Northern Virginia, the land of her birth. This short piece of historical fiction was first published in Nebraska Literary Magazine in June 1896.
You can read the story at the Willa Cather Archive: https://cather.unl.edu/writings/shortfiction/ss027
The narrator, Richard Morgan, tells a story from October 1752. He was a boy then, and Lord Fairfax summons young Richard to Greenway Court.
Greenway Court was the seat of Lord Fairfax who owned 5 million acres inherited from his mother, Catherine Colepeper, who had been gifted the land by Charles II. Fairfax hired young George Washington to survey his land between 1749-1751. His house, pictured below, was built in 1748. Fairfax grew his wealth through the buying and selling of enslaved Africans, and the output of the thirty farms on his property. He died in 1781 and the original house was razed in 1834 after the roof collapsed.
A replacement brick home and the original stone land office survive and are on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Have you ever read a NRHP nomination form? They can be quite interesting as they provide background history meant to show why the place is worth preserving. George Washington’s association with Greenway Court probably sealed the approval of this site. You can read its nomination form here.
Lord Fairfax’s tomb is on the grounds of Christ Episcopal Church in Winchester, VA, which Cather family members attended. I was fortunate to attend a special event and service at the church as part of the 17th International Willa Cather Conference in 2019.
Read “A Night at Greenway Court” sometime this month and then come back to discuss it on the response post I’ll share on October 27th, the fourth Wednesday of the month. Or, feel free to read it now and comment here if you can’t wait until then!
New to this blog? Learn more about the Willa Cather Short Story Project here. In a nutshell, we’re reading one Cather short story a month. I remind everyone of what story we’re reading on the second Wednesday of the month and then share a response on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Jump in anytime!