American Indians occupied the region at least 13,000 years ago. They hunted game and gathered nature's bounty while residing in temporary seasonal camps. Approximately 3,000 years ago, they began to grow crops and establish permanent villages.
Captain John Smith explored the Upper Potomac River in 1608 and encountered many American Indians. In 1653-54, Captain Giles Brent received a land patent which included the area around Fort Hunt Park, then known as "Piscataway Neck." In 1730, William Clifton obtained this property through marriage and the land became known as "Clifton's Neck."
George Washington purchased Clifton's Neck at auction in Alexandria in 1760. This land later became known as "River Farm." Washington made significant contributions to 18th-century agriculture, developing better fertilizers and experimenting with over 60 different crops. His agricultural endeavors relied heavily upon the institution of slavery. Yet, as owner of one of the largest populations of enslaved people in Virginia, Washington decreed in his will that upon his wife's death the enslaved people he owned outright (not gained by marriage) would be free.
In 1855, the Linton Family, one of approximately 200 "Yankee" farmers who moved south to Fairfax County before the Civil War, bought the land. After a secession of owners, the federal government purchased the property in 1893 to establish a fort. Fort Hunt was used for various military and civilian purposes over the next century. Today, the National Park Service preserves this historically-rich area as part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.