Three hundred years ago, a river as wide as the Capital Beltway—Great Hunting Creek—emptied into the Potomac River at this spot. In the absence of good roads, this river and its tributaries were vital corridors for travel and trade. Great Hunting Creek linked inland tobacco farms to inspection stations and warehouses where tobacco was monitored and stored before heading to markets overseas. With a lucrative tobacco trade established, settlements soon grew into hamlets and villages, including Cameron—a village that, at one time, had the potential to be the area's most successful tobacco port.
Oceangoing ships were once able to sail up Great Hunting Creek, all the way to the village of Cameron, the original home of some of Alexandria's founding families. Though Great Hunting Creek was considered to be a good location for at tobacco inspection station, West's Point, located along the Potomac River, was selected as a more suitable site for navigation. Despite the setback, Cameron prospered into the 1800s, until siltation reduced the port's usefulness. The West's Point site eventually overshadowed Cameron, and became part of the town of Alexandria, which was founded in 1749.
Tobacco was packed into cylindrical barrels called hogsheads and rolled to the port of Cameron. Several of these "rolling roads" converged on the town, including Back Road today known as Telegraph Road.