Gum Springs, Virginia - West Ford - Known as the Founder and Father of Gum Springs

Historic Black communities are a symbolic monument to the perseverance and enduring spirit of the African American people. The state of Virginia, commonly called the "gateway to history," houses one such community.

Gum Springs was established in 1833 and named after a gum tree that once marked its location near historic Mount Vernon. The community was founded by patriarchal freeman, West Ford, who allowed the land he inherited from the George Washington Plantation to become a refuge for the freed and runaway enslaved before, during, and after the Civil War. The location became a depot where many newly freed slaves came to be reunited with their separated families, or to settle as newly emancipated people. Gum Springs ultimately became the final destination for many more Black families after the U.S. government stilted on its promise of "forty acres and a mule" in reparation to former slaves.

The African Americans of Gum Springs began erecting homes and developing the life of their independent community. With the help of the Freedmen's Bureau and the Quaker community, Gum Springs residents established means of economic survival through farming, in the lumber industry, and in trades they first learned as estate enslaved. The small community prospered and grew. Today, Gum Springs has over 2,500 residents, many whom are descendants of the original folk who lived there. The proud history of Gum Springs is preserved through its community, through the Gum Springs Historical Society, the New Gum Springs Civic Association and the Gum Springs Museum.  

Suggested Further Reading about West Ford and Gum Springs History: "I Cannot Tell a Lie: The True Story of George Washington's African American Descendants."