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The town of Dumfries is the oldest continuously chartered town in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Beginning its history as the site of a grist mill in 1690, the town was named for the Scottish community of Dumfrieshire, Scotland, home of poet Robert Burns, and founding father John Graham. Once a major transshipment point for tobacco from the uplands, by 1763 Dumfries actually rivalled New York, Boston, and Philadelphia in terms of the number of ships handled by its port. Subsequent erosion and siltation ultimately destroyed this business, closing Quantico Creek to deep draft craft.
The town is also noteworthy for two colonial era residents, the Rev. Mason Locke Weems, biographer of George Washington; and Benjamin Bott, one of the lawyers who successfully defended Aaron Burr during his famous trial for conspiracy and treason.