The Paxton Family
Rachel A. Paxton was born in 1826 in New York. Little is known about her early life. She was married to Charles Rupert Paxton, a wealthy industrialist in Pennsylvania. Paxton was a civil engineer on the Erie Railroad as a young man, and later bought land in Alleghany County NY which he farmed. From there he moved to Bloomsburg, PA where he amassed a considerable fortune starting Bloomsburg Iron Company and serving as its president. He was also president of Bloomsburg’s First National Bank, a position he retained after he left the iron company and moved to Loudoun County, VA.
In 1869, the Paxtons came to Leesburg to purchase land on which to build a summer house. They bought a 765-acre piece of land at auction from Abner Trundle, paying $50,000. The 32-room house, called Carlheim, featured decorative interior details such as silver hardware and elaborate plasterwork. The exterior reflected the influence of Second Empire and Italian Villa styles, and is considered an unusual example of Victorian architecture in northern VA. Additional structures on the property included a peacock house, barn and smokehouse made of sandstone.
The Paxtons had one daughter, Margaret. She married Bolivar Christian, a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate Army and a lawyer in Greenville, VA. They had one child, Charles Paxton Christian, born 8 May 1876, who died of diphtheria in 1881. Margaret and Bolivar separated, although it is not possible to ascertain when; census records for 1880 show her residing with her parents in Leesburg.
After Charles Paxton died in 1899, Rachel Paxton continued to live at Carlheim. Towards the end of her life she devoted her time to the creation of the Margaret Paxton Memorial Trust for Convalescent Children, a memorial to her daughter. The trust called for the house and 50 acres of land to be used to care for poor children, and established a $30,000.00 endowment to support it. A three-person board of trustees and advisory board of visitors was named and given an additional $5,000.00 to help institute the facility. Following Rachel Paxton’s death in 1921, the process to shift Carlheim from residence to convalescent home began.