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Marlbank Farm: A Brief History

Marlbank Farm is a family-oriented community in Yorktown, Virginia. The first York settlers started a village on the northern-most branch of Wormley Creek, now the grounds of the Coast Guard’s Yorktown Training Center, in the 1630’s. York County, one of the original eight counties in America, was created in 1634, and Yorktown was established by the General Assembly as a tobacco port in 1691.

The neighborhoods that are known today as Marlbank Farm and our next door neighbor Marlbank Cove were assembled into “Wormley Creek Plantation” by Charles Carter, perhaps related to Robert “King” Carter of Carter’s Grove in Williamsburg from the land of three previous landowners, one of whom was Lawrence Smith who laid out the Town of York.

In 1770 the 500-acre plantation passed from Carter’s son, David Jameson, who named it “Church FIelds,” and later it was sold to Christopher Stedman who operated a mill there. The remains of the mill dam can be found today in the woods between Marlbank Cove and Old Wormley Creek Drive. On October 19, 1781, a mile or so away at the Yorktown Battlefield, the decisive victory in the American Revolution occurred, assuring American independence. The area now containing the Marlbank Farm and Marlbank Cove neighborhoods saw the foraging of George Washington’s men as they searched for game and other foodstuffs during the seige.

The Garretts of Williamsburg were the next owners of the plantation, which then included about 800 acres. They renamed it “Marlbanks” and in 1837 built a manor house, which still stands today. The term ‘marlbank’ refers to the layer of marl (a conglomerate of mud, shells and clay) that lies below the soil surface along the York River. Early settlers at Yorktown used marl as construction material, as can be seen today at Grace Church in Yorktown village, built in 1697.

Before passing the land to Tom Clark of Delaware prior to the Civil War, the Garrett family had increased the plantation’s size to 1100 acres. In the spring of 1862, the plantation, then known as “Clarks Farm”, was the base for the Union forces under General George McClellan who were establishing another seige of Yorktown, this time against Confederate forces protecting the Peninsula approaches to Richmond. Period maps of the seige show the manor house serving as a Union field hospital, and McClelland’s headquarters standing to the east, near where McClellan Court now lies. When the Marlbank community was developed, it was very common to find artifacts of the Civil War — buttons, belt buckles, and so on. One home site has a large pit believed to have been a field “refrigeration unit”.

After the Civil War, the plantation reverted by default back to the Garrett family. It was sold to William Hughes in 1879, who sold 550 acres to L. R. O’Hara in 1945. Mr. O’Hara restored the manor house, named Marlbank Farm, and developed the Marlbank Farm subdivision beginning in the late 1940’s. The O’Hara’s or their descendants lived in the house until 1988. When the manor house was sold and refurbished in 1988, more homes were built in its immediate vicinity. The neighboring Marlbank Cove subdivision began in 1985 and occupies part of the original plantation area.

Thanks to the original author, Craig Hanson, for permission to use this historical information. 

Marlbank Recreation Association

P.O. Box 278
Yorktown, VA 23690

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