School History

What's in a Name?

Learn about the origin of our school's name in this video produced for Fairfax County Public Schools’ cable television channel Red Apple 21.

A Brief History of the Sangster Family of Fairfax County

In 1777, Thomas Sangster, a blacksmith and farmer, purchased 356 acres of land from William Ellzey.1  This property, named Fairview in subsequent deed records, 2 passed to Thomas’ son James Sangster, a Fairfax County sheriff who fought in the War of 1812.3  Major Sangster and his wife Priscilla Ford Sangster are buried in a small family cemetery located along Chapel Road in Fairfax County on land that was once part of Fairview.4  

Around 1825, Edward Sangster, a son of James Sangster and Priscilla Ford,5  married Mary Kendall Lee, a daughter of Hancock Lee and Sinah Ellen Chichester.6  Mary Kendall Lee Sangster inherited land in Fairfax County close to what would become known as Sangster Branch.7  It is unclear if Edward and Mary ever occupied the property. Land records research indicates that this land was sold to Alfred Moss prior to the American Civil War.8 

During that war, three of Edward and Mary Sangster’s sons,9 James,10 Thomas Randolph,11 and John Hancock Lee Sangster,12 fought in the Confederate Army. Only James survived. After the war, James Sangster returned to Fairfax County where he made a living as a farmer, an attorney, and as a judge on the Fairfax County Circuit Court.13 James Sangster was born on January 14, 1832 and died on April 27, 1906. He was buried at Lee Chapel Cemetery 14 in Fairfax County, Virginia. James Sangster married Elizabeth Frances “Bettie” Smith 15 of Brunswick, Virginia, on June 22, 1854 at Randolph Macon College, Mecklenburg County, Virginia.16 The couple had eleven children, only five of whom were still living in 1900.17

When she died in 1881, James Sangster’s aunt Elizabeth “Betty / Betsy” Lee left her land in Fairfax County to her nephew James Sangster in trust for the benefit of his children until they came of age.18 Sangster Branch flows through this property, which, by 1909, had become known as Sangster Farm.19 James Sangster’s surviving children, who took legal possession of this land around 1896 when the youngest child came of age, were: 20 

  • George Edward Sangster (1858-1910)
  • Thomas Randolph Sangster (1861-1899)
  • Mary Elizabeth “Bessie” Sangster (1865-1925) 
  • John James “Jack” Sangster (1868-1927)
  • Smith Lee Sangster (1871-1931)
  • Charles Maclin Sangster (1875-1942)

Newspaper articles indicate that by the early 20th century James Sangster and several of his children were residing near the village of Burke Station.21 In 1929, one of the elder children, Smith Lee Sangster, who had consolidated the property in his name a decade earlier,22 sold Sangster Farm out of the family,23 but the creek Sangster Branch retained the Sangster family name.

End Notes

  1. Fairfax County Deed Book M-1:252
  2. Fairfax County Deed Book R-3:116
  3. U.S., War of 1812 Service Records, 1812-1815 [database on-line], Roll Box 182, Microfilm Publication M602, Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1999.
  6. Fairfax County Deed Book X-2:296; Fairfax County Chancery Case File 1828-002
  7. Fairfax County Deed Book X-2:296; Fairfax County Chancery Case File 1828-002
  8. Fairfax County Deed Book C-4:393
  9. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Virginia, Alexandria County, Alexandria Post Office, Sheets 699 A-B, June 15, 1860, Dwelling 131, Family 123, Line 40, Lines 1-10.
  10. James Sangster (1832-1906) was a postmaster and a slaveholder at the time of the Civil War. During the war, James Sangster worked in the Confederate Treasury Department. He served as a private in the 3rd Regiment, Virginia Infantry, Local Defense, Company K. Company K was formed in September 1864, and the soldiers were primarily assigned to guard duty in Richmond. James Sangster is said to have assisted with evacuating the gold and silver from the Confederate Treasury as the Union Army advanced on Richmond. Sources: See bibliography, the folder “Military Records (Civil War),” and…;….
  11. Thomas Randolph Sangster (c.1835-1861), a farmer, served as a private in the 17th Virginia Infantry. He was killed early in the war in the fighting at Blackburn’s Ford. Sources: See bibliography (Lee, Sprouse), the folder “Military Records (Civil War),” and…;
  12. John Hancock Lee Sangster (c.1838-1862), an attorney, enlisted as a private and was later promoted to corporal in the 17th Virginia Infantry. He died from wounds received at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Sources: See bibliography (Lee), the folder “Military Records (Civil War),” and….
  13. See “United States Federal Census Records” in the Addendum to the Report on School Names to the Fairfax County School Board.
  16. Virginia, U.S., Select Marriages, 1785-1940 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2014. Original data: Virginia, Marriages, 1785-1940. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.
  17. 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Virginia, Fairfax County, Lee District, SD 8, ED 19, Sheet 114A, June 25, 1900, John J. Sangster, Enumerator, Dwelling 224, Family 224, Lines 8-11.
  18. Fairfax County Will Book D-2:247
  19. See “Chain of Title” in the Addendum to the Report on School Names to the Fairfax County School Board (Fairfax County Deed Book D-7:258).
  20. 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Virginia, Fairfax County, Lee Township, SD 4, ED 35, Sheet 268 C, June 24, 1880, Dwelling 2, Family 2, Lines 13-21.
  21. See “Newspaper Articles” in the Addendum to the Report on School Names to the Fairfax County School Board.
  22. Fairfax County Deed Book N-8:54
  23. Fairfax County Deed Book L-10:206


  • Burke Historical Society. Images of America: Burke. Arcadia Publishing, 2020.
  • Netherton, Nan and Ruth Preston Rose. Memories of Beautiful Burke, Virginia. Burke Historical Society, 1988.
  • Sprouse, Edith Moore. Fairfax County in 1860: A Collective Biography. Fairfax County Circuit Court Historic Records Center.
  • Wallace, Jr., Lee A. 17th Virginia Infantry. H. E. Howard, Inc., 1990.