Men of the Grange

Great Falls Historical Society

Map of Great Falls

History of Great Falls

In the 1800s, a town and three villages destined to become parts of the current Great Falls Community were settled. Dranesville was chartered as a town on 30 acres of land in 1840. The town had a church, five taverns, two doctors, three blacksmiths and several stores. Colvin Run had a post office beginning in 1878. It had a doctor, the Colvin Run Mill, several blacksmith shops and a school. Springvale was a village at Georgetown Pike and Springvale Road. It had a post office beginning in 1844. There were several stores, and, for two years, the Fairfax County School Board records show a school located in Springvale.

Forestville was a village at Georgetown Pike and Walker Road. Forestville had two churches, a grist mill and sawmill, a store and a school. Forestville was served by the first Great Falls Post Office beginning in 1878. The post office could not bear the village name since a Forestville Post Office existed in Shenandoah County.

When the community fire department was formed in 1942, it was natural to name it ‘Forestville,’ since it was sited in that village. In June 1945 a member of the Fire Department proposed that the department change its name to Great Falls and encourage other Forestville organizations to follow suit, so that the community and the desired post office could bear the same name. No action was taken at the time but in November 1955, the department name was changed to Great Falls.

On November 15, 1959, the second Great Falls Post Office opened in the Forestville School House, which is preserved on the Grange grounds. The new post office provided service to Dranesville, Colvin Run, Springvale and Forestville, merging these mini-communities into the Great Falls Community we know today.

Adapted from “A Brief History of Great Falls” by Milburn P. Sanders ~ August 11, 2005

Bank and Post Office

McKay Store Bookmobile

Colvin Run

The Great Falls Historical Society

The Great Falls Historical Society (GFHS) was founded in 1977 by Milburn Saunders, who served as the Society’s first president. Referred to as “Mr. Great Falls History”, he also served as Chairman of the Fairfax History Commission from 1994-1996. Other early leaders of the Society included Karen Washburn, Bill Brittain, Bill Chadwick, and Jean Tibbetts.

Over the years, the Society hosted events with several notable speakers while also collecting and cataloging countless items related to Great Falls history, especially photos and oral histories. Upon its dissolution in 2021, the society donated these items to the Virginia Room of the City of Fairfax Regional Library which maintains a collection rich in regional history. The Virginia Room is on the second floor of the Library at 10360 North Street, Fairfax, VA.

Riverbend School

Nalls Dairy Farm

The Great Falls Grange

Tibbets Award

The Great Falls Historical Society established the Jean Tibbetts History Award in memory of former Society president, historian, and author, Jean Tibbetts. The annual award honored outstanding contributions to the research, articulation, dissemination and preservation of community history. The award winners’ names have been placed on the Society’s Great Falls Historian’s Plaque that is displayed in The Old Brogue, 760 Walker Road.

Tibbetts Award Honorees:
Mike Kearney (2021)
Mike Henry (2020)
Jacque Olin (2019)
Carole Herrick (2018)
Doris Carpenter (2017)
Betty Nalls Swartz (2016)
John J. Adams (2015)
Carolyn Cornwell Miller (2014)
Dave Bettwy (2013)
Marjorie Lundegard (2012)
Connie and Mayo Stuntz (2011)
Bill Garrett (2010)
Naomi Whetzel (2009)
Tanya Edwards Beauchamp (2008)
Karen Washburn (2007)
Milburn Sanders (2006)

Thelma's Ice Cream

Fitzgeralds Store

Great Falls Fire Department