• Blue Ridge Acres (& surrounds) History

    From the Pages of History
    A Short History of Blue Ridge Acres, West Virginia
    by Ruby Browning

    Reprinted with the Permission of the Author


    The Former Sales Office (Now Clubhouse)

    Dear Readers:

    I told Bettie LaMotte that my first retirement project was going to be writing local history for my grandson, Christopher Barnes Robinson.

    She asked me if I would agree to have the history printed in the Blue Ridge Acres News. These first eleven chapters were written between May 1986 and September 1988.

    All of Part I was edited and expanded during April and May of 1989.

    We are very indebted to Ellie Piper Clemons, Robert O. Cronise, Beatrice Everhart, Vanessa Everhart, John Hawk, Mike Jenkins, the late Hilda Piper, Thermon Piper, and Leona Staubs for permitting us to record their remembrances and family traditions.

    Both Leona Staubs and John Hawk were born in 1896 and continue to have surprisingly good recall of their younger years on Loudoun Heights. Our friend, Hilda Piper, died on April 8, 1989.

    We also thank Larry Gaffney for editing this work.
    -Ruby Browning


    CHAPTER I
    By the time the Shenandoah River has reached the banks of the picnic grove of our Blue Ridge Mountain Country Club, the river has flowed northeasterly for about one hundred and fifty miles from its two sources. The river drains an area of about three thousand square miles. The North Fork and South Fork of the Shenandoah River begin in the Appalachian Mountains and join at Front Royal, Virginia. From Front Royal this beautiful Shenandoah River travels to Harpers Ferry. It ends as the water merges with and becomes the Potomac River.

    Several hundred years ago, New York Iroquois tribes, the North Carolina Catawba tribes, as well as more local Senedo, Shawnee,. and Tuscarora Indians, may have hunted and fished by what is now our picnic area. Buffalo, elk, deer, bears, panthers, wolves, wildcats, foxes, beavers, and otters were numerous in those pre-settlement days. Geese and ducks were also bountiful and the river was "alive with fish."

    The Iroquois had a valley trail that went from New York, through Pennsylvania, over the Potomac near Williamsport, Maryland, through West Virginia, to Winchester, and through the Shenandoah Valley into North Carolina, the home of their arch rivals and enemies, the Catawbas.

    It is believed that the Catawbas exterminated the Senedo tribes between 1650 and 1700. The two branches of the Shenandoah and the South branch of the Potomac were the favorite residences or "temporary abodes" of the Senedos.

    The Senedos usually settled in small communities away from the major valley and mountain-top Indian trails. Much of the valley land between present Winchester and Harpers Ferry was a series of prairie tracts. The Indians annually burned the grasses to kill the oak, pine, hickory, and other forest, trees. After the Europeans came, "great forests" grew up in these prairie areas.

    Do not be concerned if you sometimes have to check the spelling of Shenandoah. John W. Wayland discovered twenty-seven spelling variations used by early explorers and visitors when describing these lands. They are: Senedo; Cenuntua; Senantoa; Chanador; Chanedor; Chanithor; Gerando;. Gerundo; Scandar; Schanathor; Shanandoah; Shanando; Shanidore; Shannando; .Shannandoah; Sherundo; Shannondoah; Sharrandoa; Shenandoare; Zynodoa; Shennandoah; Sherandoah; Sherrendo; Sherundore; Thanadore; Tschanator; and Shenandoah.

    Historians have many different definitions of "Shenandoah." All definitions include- something about stars. I personally prefer the meaning given to me by Dr. H. Meredith Smith - "Shenandoah - River of the reflection of the sparkling stars in the sky!"


    CHAPTER II
    In 1609, the King of England granted to "The Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London, for the first colony of Virginia" an extremely large area of land that included our Loudoun Heights section of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The grant included land two hundred miles north of Point Comfort along the coast, two hundred miles south of Point Comfort along the coast, and then all the land throughout to the west and northwest "from Sea to Sea."

    If this grant had not been altered, Virginia might have included what is now North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, most of Pennsylvania, part of New York, and the states of the west and northwest clear to the Pacific Ocean.

    Before the Revolutionary War, another large grant of land was made to several English gentlemen. Loudoun Heights was included in this grant, also. King Charles II granted lands between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers to Lord Culpepper and some other Englishmen. The others' shares were bought by Lord Culpepper.

    Lord Culpepper had a daughter who married the Fifth Lord Fairfax. The Sixth Lord Fairfax petitioned King George II to assert his claims to his father's lands of "The Northern Neck". His petition was a result, in part, of reports from early explorers to these regions. By this time, settlements had already taken place on land described in the grant -- predominately by German settlers.

    The original Culpepper Grant named the Potomac River headwaters as part of the boundary of the grant, Originally "The Hole," later named Harper's Ferry, was believed to be the beginning of the Potomac River. The Potomac River west of the Hole was known as the Cohongoroton River.

    Lord Fairfax disputed The Hole as his boundary and hired a sixteen year old George Washington to survey and determine the northwestern-most "true beginning of the Potomac River."

    After Washington's explorations were completed and the title to his father's land was conceded by the English Privy Council, Lord Fairfax the Sixth established a permanent home near Winchester, Virginia. This Sixth Lord Fairfax never married and was always a loyal Englishman. It was reported that the outcome of the American Revolution "hurried his death."

    Fairfax's land was inherited by a relative named Denny Martin. Because of a condition of the inheritance, Denny Martin assumed the title of Lord Fairfax. In 1794, the Virginia District Court upheld Martin's claim to the Fairfax lands.

    In 1820, Fernando Fairfax recorded a deed of Loudoun Heights land at the Court House. When the National Park Service began land title searches for land on Loudoun Heights, overlooking Harper's Ferry, it found no subsequent land deed recordings; however, there were recordings of timber rights.


    CHAPTER III
    When Robert Harper came through "The Hole" in 1747, he had been hired to supervise some building in the Shenandoah Valley. Mr. Harper, seeing the possibility for a milling operation at this beautiful site, bought the cabin, cornpatch, and ferry equipment of "Peter-in-the-Hole",

    Since Peter Stephens and his Indian friend, "Gutterman Tom," were technically "squatters" while operating their one-boat ferry service, wise Robert Harper also acquired this property from Lord Thomas Fairfax, the legal English Proprietor of the Northern Neck of Virginia.

    Forty-eight years later, in 1795, the Hole, by then known as Harpers Ferry, was selected to be site of a U.S. arsenal. An earlier arsenal had been built in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1777. George Washington approved both the Springfield and Harpers Ferry locations. As general, Washington approved Springfield, When he was President, Washington selected the-Harpers Ferry site.

    One of the reasons for the selection of Harpers Ferry was the availability of wood. The government purchased timber rights on Loudoun Heights from Fernando Fairfax in 1813. I do not know how previous timber rights were resolved.

    Charcoal operations were centered around "Bear Pond." Until very recently, Bear Pond could be reached by a trail that went from near the present Keyes Ferry Acres entrance to the Appalachian Trail. From Bear Pond, logs too big to be hauled to Harpers-Ferry were "pitched" over the side of the mountain and floated across the Shenandoah River to the armory.

    When the government officials hired the first woodcutters for Loudoun Heights, cabins were built for the workers on the mountain. A caretaker or overseer was hired by the armory officials to watch over the federal forest.

    A Wood Ranger reported to the armory superintendent in 1854 that many "trespassers" were residing on government land. The trespassers list included several families named Piper.

    Pipertown, Silver Grove, and Chestnut Hill .were originally settled by early federal woodcutters and these "squatters".

    The trees growing today on Loudoun Heights are mostly second growth hardwood. Fortunately for present residents, nature has reclaimed much of the burnt and cut mountain land.

    John Brown executed his attempted capture of the Harpers Ferry armory and arsenal in 1859. The fire-engine building where John Brown fought Colonel Robert E. Lee's federal troops was taken apart and sent to the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

    After this exposition, the building was sold and was to have been used as a stable. A group of predominately black citizens bought back the historic building and had it rebuilt on Storer College grounds. Today it may be viewed on Shenandoah Street, its present location in Harpers Ferry. (The building's original site is marked by a historic plaque on a low hill nearby.)

    The original bell is no longer in the tower of this famous and often-moved structure. The history of the bell became known to us after Mr. Bill Kidd sent the Club (Blue Ridge Acres) a newspaper article from a Marlborough Massachusetts newspaper.

    During the Civil War days, a group of Union soldiers from Marlborough "requisitioned" some hogs and lots of whiskey from Harpers Ferry residents. During the feasting, some soldiers decided the bell should be in the fire hall in their home town.The bell was carried to Williamsport Maryland, where it was stored for many years. After Federal government approval, the bell was moved to Marlborough and placed in the fire hall.

    Later, the fire hall burned and the bell was transferred to the town park where visitors may view the "Civil War Trophy." Efforts to have the bell returned to its original .location have so far proved to be unsuccessful.


    CHAPTER IV

    Although the Wood Rangers, who were the overseers and caretakers of the Loudoun Heights federal forest, considered early settlers to be trespassers, "squattinq" was historically a legitimate practice. Many early settlers legally established their rights to purchase land by building homes and growing crops.

    Some present land titles along Route 32 have their origins in "Squatters' Rights." Mr. Charlie Grove had such a land title. It was his wife, Annie, who told her daughters, Hilda Piper, Vanessa Everhart, and Beatrice Everhart of their great-grandmother baking fresh bread daily for the soldiers during the Civil War.

    The U. S. Armory, Hall's Rifle works, the B & O Railroad, and the C&O Canal made Harpers Ferry a valued prize of war. The control of the town changed eleven times during the first three years of the war, 1861-1863.

    During September 1862, General Lafayette McLaws placed artillery on Maryland Heights while General "Stonewall" Jackson sent General J.G. Walker's division onto Loudoun Heights to set up five, long-range cannons. The battle was a short one and hopeless for the Union forces stationed in Harpers Ferry. The Union commander, a Colonel Miles, surrendered 12,000 troops early in the morning after the shooting began.

    During the various battles around Harpers Ferry, General Jackson is known to have crossed the Shenandoah River, at Keyes Ferry, on three separate occasions. Bob Cronise pointed out the white marker designating where the old Keyes Ferry operated to us. Unfortunately, this location is now entirely on private fenced land. No one should visit without obtaining the present landowner's permission.

    Later in the war, "a deeply wooded glen at the foot of Loudoun Heights near (present-day) Blue Ridge Acres" became a favorite meeting and hiding place for John Singleton Mosby and the men from Loudoun County and others who rode with "The Gray Ghost." One battle took place between Mosby's men and Union forces near the mountain ridge top. (It seems-to have been from this incident that the local legends of blood that never washes from the rocks arose! One such rock is on the Mountain just opposite the dirt road that goes to the Piper graveyard. The second rock is located near Bear Pond. The legends are explained in Chapter X.)

    Even though the Union placed stone fortifications along the crest of the mountain in 1863, Mosby and other Confederate sympathizers managed to destroy the B & O bridge nine times. Men would also pile and burn rail ties before wrapping rails around trees, thus making the heated rails bent and useless. The railroad was kept busy trying to keep on hand duplicates of every rail, tie, bridge timber, and brace. Both armies recognized the importance of the B & O railroad in linking Baltimore and Washington with the West.


    CHAPTER V

    The part of Loudoun Heights where Blue Ridge Acres is located was originally in Berkeley County, Virginia, Later, this and other sections of Berkeley County were included in the new Jefferson County of Virginia. During the Civil War, Jefferson became one of the fifty-five counties of the new State of West Virginia.

    Even before 1800, some landholders were anxious to separate from Berkeley County. It is believed that Charles and Samuel Washington intended to sell the land that Lawrence Washington had purchased from Lord Fairfax only if this area was separated from Berkeley County.

    There was a stipulation in deeds of land parcels that were offered for sale in 1778 (in the Charles Town area) that withdrawal from Berkeley County and the formation of a new county would "validate" the land sales. In 1801 a portion of Berkeley County, including the western slope of Loudoun Heights, became a new county - Jefferson County. Only then were the Charles Town land sales from 1778 fully "validated.".

    As recently as 1986, Loudoun County, Virginia, officials petitioned the Jefferson County Commission for agreement that there was a need to officially survey the Loudoun County and Jefferson County boundary. No such survey has ever been made. The Jefferson County Commissioners agreed that a need does exist and both the Virginia and West Virginia legislatures have before them bills to authorize a survey. No such.survey was made at the time of Jefferson County's secession from Virginia in 1863.

    The vote of Jefferson County residents to become West Virginians was proclaimed by one government official as a "full and free expression of the people." In actuality, the vote was neither "full" nor "free." Under the supervision of Union Army soldiers, only 250 Jefferson County voters of "proven loyalty" were permitted to vote at the two polling stations located in Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry. Two hundred forty-eight voters expressed their desire to become part of the new state.

    Anyone who had served in the Confederate Army was not permitted to vote. It was not until the West Virginia Constitution was repealed in 1871 and a new constitution adopted in 1872 that the more than 15,000 Confederate Army veterans residing in West Virginia regained their voting rights.

    Residents of the new state still had to pay their share of Virginia's Civil War debt. Such repayment was ordered by the Supreme Court in 1915. The final debt payment was made to Virginia in 1939.

    That all Jefferson Countians were not pleased with this secession from Virginia is well-documented. West Virginia became a state in 1863. Thirty-four years later, Richard Henderson, the president of the Jefferson County School Board, appeared before the County Court "to solicit that in the appointment of gentlemen who are to select the books that are to be used in the 'free schools' that no one will be appointed who will favor books of a sectional character." (It seems that old loyalties did not easily die, even among educators!).

    Any industry remaining in Harpers Ferry after the Civil War "desolation" was wiped out when the 1870 flood of the Shenandoah -- but not the Potomac -- River destroyed all milling operations on Virginius Island. Another flood destroyed the bridges linking Loudoun Heights residents with Harpers Ferry and Maryland Heights in 1936.

    The stone pilings in the river are all that remain today of the Shenandoah River Bridge that originally linked Loudoun Heights (present-day Route 340) with Harpers Ferry. These pilings may be seen from present-day Route 340 when near the entrance to Route 32.

    The old public bridge from Harpers Ferry to the Maryland side of the Potomac was constructed along side the railroad tracks used by trains traveling to Winchester and other towns in the Shenandoah Valley. The public section of. the bridge was a toll bridge. The toll just before the 1936 flood was ten cents. The speed limit was eight miles an hour. (The 1985 National Park Service pedestrian bridge that connects Harpers Ferry with the C & O Canal was built where the old combination railroad and public bridge used to be.)

    The 1936 flood left Loudoun Heights residents very isolated from the rest of Jefferson County. Trips to Charles Town, Harpers Ferry, or Millville involved fording the Shenandoah River or using ferries.

    Fortunately, several local residents remember this isolation period that lasted from 1936 until new "car bridges" were constructed, in the late 1940s, over the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.


    CHAPTER VI

    Early in this century, Mr. Becker, a tobacco exporter from Baltimore, bought Loudoun Heights land from "Harpers Ferry to the present Cronise land" on Chestnut Hill. This purchase included the Dailey fields. One field was located within the area bounded by the present Crestview Drive in Blue Ridge Acres. Hilltop Drive now goes through what was the other Dailey field.

    Mr. Becker grew tobacco, grapes, plums, peaches, and pears. Tobacco required many laborers in addition to local people. Workers were recruited and brought to this area from Ohio. The workers were permitted to build houses on Becker land but were never given land titles. This additional labor force enabled Mr. Becker to operate all three tobacco barns to cure tobacco.

    There were three Becker sons: Charlie, Lou ;and Milton. Near the Becker house in present Keyes Ferry Acres were two springs. The Beckers bottled spring water and labeled the containers "Silver Grove Water Company."


    was sold in Baltimore. When necessary, extra water was bottled at what was called the "Tub Spring." This Tub Spring, containing the same minerals, is still flowing in Silver Grove on Route 32 and is used today by many residents.

    Lou Becker, when grown, raised sheep. Mr. Becker also kept doves in the barn. Mr. Hawk remembers Lou Becker having a cave (or dirt cellar) in which he stored peaches. During thunderstorms Lou ran to the "cave" and closed the door. For some time before this section became Keyes Ferry Acres, the land was rented to a family named Matheney.

    Charlie Becker farmed the land that became Blue Ridge Acres. Bob Cronise remembers that at one time there were eight thousand pear trees on the property. The pears were Kieffer and LaConte. The LaConte pear trees were planted as the seventh tree in each row. These LaConte pears pollinated the Kieffer pears. Mr. Cronise worked in the orchards during the 1920s.

    After the Fierros came in possession of the orchard, the pears were shipped to Inwood, West Virginia. From Inwood, the pears were sent to a Welsh factory where pear marmalade was made.

    Charlie Becker also had a sawmill down by the river. The building housing Blue Ridge Acres offices is sided with lumber prepared at the river sawmill. The siding is poplar wood. The posts on the porch are cedar. The narrow maple boards used on the floors in the house were bought from Montgomery Ward, delivered to Charles Town, and transported to the mountain in a wagon. The wagon forded the Shenandoah River at the "Braddock Road" crossing.

    Milton Becker's widow inherited approximately 800 acres of the original Becker land which was later obtained by Mr. Werner, who developed Blue Ridge Reserve. Several houses have been built in Blue Ridge Reserve, situated between Route 32 and the Appalachian Trail, directly across from Blue Ridge Acres.

    Because developers have built so many new roads, it becomes more and more difficult to discover the "old roads." There used to be a road from the upper Chestnut Hill area to the Becker farm entrance. Near this same Becker farm entrance originated a road that went over the mountain to "Bear Pond."

    The local area of the "Braddock Road" is thought by some Chestnut Hill residents to have been originally cleared by some of Edward Braddock's men as they marched to Fort Duquesne on the Ohio River in 1775. The road includes the present Chestnut Hill Road (Route 32) from Route 9 to Chestnut Hill, the present road past the Blue Ridge Fire House, and private Keyes Ferry Acres roads to the Shenandoah River.

    The lower portion of Braddock Road forded the Shenandoah River and is now private property. The ford was near (just beyond) the site where the Keyes Ferry operated. During the days when the Beckers were farming, local residents used the lower road frequently. This was the "short cut" to Millville and Charles Town.

    One reached Harpers Ferry by descending what is now Route 32 and taking a ferry. The Shenandoah River ferries operated flat-bottomed boats called "skiffs."

    One Harpers Ferry-Loudoun Heights operator was named "Snapper" Roderick. He was so named because of how he looked -- wrapped in quilts in a packing box. It was reported that when Snapper's asthma was bad, customers had to wait until he could down a bottle of beer that he said cured his asthma!


    CHAPTER VII

    Along with "perpetual timber rights," the U.S. Government also purchased the ferry crossing the Shenandoah River, and Fairfax land bordering the river. The idea of piping water from a spring near the bottom of Loudoun Heights to Harpers Ferry was discarded when the flow of water from the spring was judged to be inadequate to justify the costs of piping across the river.

    To facilitate movement of goods from Harpers Ferry to the Washington, D.C. area, a toll road was constructed from Hillsboro Virginia, to the U.S. ferry at Harpers Ferry. One can trace the toll road by taking Route 9 from Hillsboro to Route 671 and driving Route 671 to the Shenandoah River.

    Bear Pond Road, very important during the days when timber was cut by the federal government, is the present boundary between the Westridge Hills and Blue Ridge Reserve subdivisions.

    Another road, "The Annie Piper Road," also crossed over to the eastern slope of Loudoun Heights, paralleling Bear Pond Road, and is now part of Blue Ridge Reserve.

    When "Loudoun Heights Federal Timber Land" was mapped by the government in 1853, the Silver Grove school was shown on the map. Permission was granted for the construction of a school in 1849, provided that (1) the school be built of stone, and (2) that no government trees be cut.

    The ruins of this old stone school, built before 1853, can still be seen off Route 32, toward the Appalachian Trail, near the Tub Spring. (All the windows have been removed.) Silver Grove School continued to operate until 1940, when Blue Ridge Elementary School opened.

    After the school closed, a writer, Laurence Green and his wife, used the school as a residence. Mr. Green wrote a book, The Raid.

    Ninety-one year old Mrs. Leona Staubs attended Silver Grove school, as did her grandfather and many present Route 32 residents.

    Mr. Robert Cronise and Mr. John Hawk, who gave us most of the information in the previous chapter, attended school at Chestnut Hill. This wooden structure was purchased by the Chestnut Hill Methodist Church, after Blue Ridge Elementary School was built, and the Chestnut Hill School building was renamed The Wesley House.


    CHAPTER VIII

    The Becker home, numbered 5 on the map, has previously been discussed. Although Mr. Conklyn's present office structure has a tin roof, this house used to be referred to as the "slate roof house..". Across the road from the house was a corn crib, numbered 6, and a pear "packing house", numbered 7.




    Number 3 designates a barn, currently our Clubhouse, and number 4 is the approximate location of the Becker garden. The swimming pool was constructed on the old garden site.

    Cows once grazed where we. now play softfball. Sheep roamed to the fence beside the church.

    Road A-A entered Mr. Becker's farm from the side of Silver Grove Methodist Church (number 8) and continued past the berry patch and through the pear orchards to the adjoining farm of Charlie Becker's brother, Lou Becker.

    Within the pear orchard (near the DD original Blue Ridge Acres entrance road) was a spring. Workers in the pear orchards often stopped there for a drink. Beltram and Anna Phillips built their home (now owned by Glenn and Debbie Walton) over this spring and watched deer drink from the pond nearby.

    Below the garden and chicken area was another spring with a large spring house (SpH).

    In a gully in the woodlands bordering Lou Becker's farm was a sawmill. There was another sawmill off the road (A-C) that ran from the church back to the "bluff". A footpath ran from the bluff down to the river and "Long Rock Hollow."

    Road (B-B) ran past the grape field, through the woods to the two fields at the Dailey place. There was a footpath from the Dailey place to the Shenandoah River. Both houses burned but the chimneys were still standing in 1954 when Blue Ridge Acres, Inc., purchased the farm and both are standing today. Glen.and Marion Wellman (Blue Ridge Drive) restored and thus preserved one of the chimneys. It looks very attractive in their yard. The second chimney (Country Club and Crestview Drives) deteriorates almost daily.

    In addition to the Daileys, several other families lived in houses 1 or 2. Some of the residents were the Gones, John and Daisy Nick, Barnes and Mildred Speed, and Luther Probst.

    The Daileys helped, financially, to build Silver Grove Methodist Church. Edward and Emmie Grove, owners of land bordering the Charlie.Becker farm, donated the building and graveyard sites. The church was completed in 1893. The Daileys must have been a very prominent family in our area since the official name for the Bloomery Bridge is the Dailey Bridge.

    We are indebted to Mrs. Harriet Ellie Piper-Clemons, who first mapped this land for us, and to the late Hilda Piper, Vanessa Everhart, and Beatrice Everhart, grand nieces of Edward and Emmie Grove, who helped place the roads and give us background material.

    As new homes and new roads are constructed, it becomes almost impossible to remember exactly how things really were. The road directions and pear orchard size are at best an estimate, but it seems important to try to record and preserve this information.


    CHAPTER IX

    When Charlie and Louis Becker were farming the land that was to become Blue Ridge Acres and Keyes Ferry Acres, many local people worked on the two adjoining farms. Therman "Buck" Piper, Cecil Everhart, and Howard "Huck" Everhart used to help plant and harvest corn and make hay for Charlie Becker. Nannie Hawks Piper used to work in the tobacco barns of Lou Becker. We are most fortunate that that families of these workers are willing to tell us of life in Piper Town, Silver Grove, and Chestnut Hill during the early and middle twentieth century times.

    As you drive up Route 32 from Route 340, you can now see a chain across the driveway to the first house on your right. The United States Park Service has boarded up the house in which Pastor and Mrs. Wilson lived when Marvin and I first found Blue Ridge Acres. During the turn of the century (1901-1902), a hotel - possibly called "Green Hill Hotel" - was situated on this site. At that time, there were at least three residences between the hotel and the foot of the mountain. Now that the leaves are not fully out, you can still see some of the old stone foundations remaining in the woodlands.

    There were two major ways to earn money in addition to farming. Mr. John Hawk and Charlie Grove used to walk to Millville to work at the stone quarry. Both men would ride the skiffs across the Shenandoah River, almost daily. Mr. Hawk remembers one bitter cold morning when they walked across the solid ice.

    Prior to the flooding and destruction of the bridge to Harpers Ferry in 1936, local men would cut wood and take it by wagon or truck to the pulp mill in Harpers Ferry. Vanessa (Grove) Everhart can remember helping Charlie Grove, her dad, load wood on an old truck. Charlie could coast and "brake" the truck going downhill. But travels across the bridge and up the mountain necessitated pushing the truck all the way.

    Almost all men did a little "moonshining." According to Les Brewer, John Wilbin Nick ("and his father before him") was a distiller of "mountain spirits." His nickname was reported, to be "Midnight Man of Loudoun Mountain" and he was also a male midwife.

    Annie (Wilt) Grove worked at a button factory in Harpers Ferry. The factory was located near the present Eackles Funeral Home in Bolivar. She would walk to work and in the evenings Charlie and their children would meet her at the top of the "big hill" and walk home with her.

    Mrs. Grove and her daughter also earned money by picking blackberries. The berries would bring fifty cents at Walsh's store in Harpers Ferry. Sometimes they would treat themselves to ten cents worth of cheese and crackers before returning to the mountain to pick more blackberries.

    On Memorial Day weekends, ferns and wild flowers were picked by the girls and sold in Harpers Ferry. Sometimes, though, a certain lady named Higgins would chase the children away from the wooden rails that bordered her property!

    Before Harpers Ferry became a national park, there were several stores in town. Some of those, in addition to Walsh's, were Dittmire's, Nichols', Old Harpers Ferry Bank, Kastle's, Connor's Hotel, Whitehair's Movie Theatre, and Courtney's Bar, The Crumm brothers ran a soda factory.

    On our mountain, almost every family had a garden. Apple slices, sweet corn, tomatoes, beans, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds were dried. Cabbage, carrots, and fresh apples were buried in dirt and covered with straw through the winter. Hogs were raised and butchered when the weather got cold, usually around Thanksgiving. Neighbors "went together" during butchering times.

    Cows were raised for beef and milk. It was not until the late 1910s that electricity was run to this side of Loudoun Heights, so "milk sheds" were built in springs.

    There was a big cherry tree by the store that was located where Mrs. Beatrice Everhart now lives. When the gypsies arrived in their wagon, the children were told not to tell about the buckets of cherries that had been picked - but it seems the gypsies left with the cherries anyway. The gypsies also were reputed to "trade" horses that were kickers and to "take stuff."


    CHAPTER X
    Some cabbage would be preserved as sauerkraut and cucumbers were pickled. Both the sauerkraut and pickles required the use of salt brine. When the salted water would float an egg, the brine was ready.

    After cars became commonplace, some men made yearly trips to Great Falls, Virginia, when the herring were running. The tubloads of fish netted would be cleaned, split, and stored in salt brine.

    In the early 1930s, after the creation of the WPA {Works Progress Administration), food would be periodically distributed by WPA workers at Harpers Ferry. Local men and women would hitch horses to the wagons and pick up these "commodities." The food varied but usually included rice, flour, butter, and slabs of bacon.

    The earliest Spring days found women searching orchards and corn fields for the narrow-leafed land cress. This cress was gathered and boiled. Because.of the strongness of this green, the cress was boiled twice - the first water being discarded. Wild mustard and dandelion greens were cooked the same way. Sometimes other greens such as poke, sorrel, plantain, lamb's quarter, and purslane were cooked with the mustard greens. These greens and "heavy bread" were real Spring treats. Heavy bread was a delicious biscuit dough that was fried in a skillet.

    The appearance of the wild mustard signaled that conditions were right for planting beans in the garden. This was also the time when families began searching the woods for two types of edible mushrooms. I think both were morels. The earliest to appear had a head that was salmon colored while the one appearing slightly later was all white. The mushrooms were cut, soaked in salt water, and then fried in an egg batter.

    Then, as now, Spring was especially welcome after harsh winters. Hilda Piper remembers one winter when her father's wood supply was depleted. They wrapped gunny sacks around the horse's feet, pulled a felled tree to the house with chains, and used a double-handled cross-cut saw to cut the tree.

    Deep snows sometimes posed a problem for the mail carrier. Buck and Hilda Piper remember one carrier who used a sleigh and horse during very snowy weather and though delivery might not be made until midnight, the mail "did get through!"

    A Susan Sticker, who lived in a hollow behind Bob Cronise's house, was thought to be a witch. The home in which Susan lived is important to local residents. It is believed that during the Civil War days, at a spring near the house, John Mosby made bullets for his men.

    John Hawk told of men who witnessed Susan's four black cats twisting and dancing on a sheet on the floor. It was Susan who "unhexed" a neighbor's horse so that the braids in the horse's mane could be undone.

    It was difficult for parents to obtain medical care and many children died while very young. Mrs. Leona Staubs lost several children who were ill with influenza. One year, three children from Silver Grove died with Spinal Meningitis. When Edna and Ira Piper lost an infant boy, the school children formed a procession behind the parents and dead child enroute to the Piper graveyard.

    Sometimes Lyle Eackles, the undertaker, would come to a home with his water bucket and hose and embalm and "lay out" a body in a home. When this occurred, the family members and friends would stay up all night until the funeral was held.

    "Bellsnickling," the German custom of disguising one self and "stopping in" for Christmas refreshments, was practiced in Silver Grove and Piper Town. It was after such a Christmas visit to Frank Piper's place that the Grove girls saw "lights" around the rock with blood on it. (Mr. Cronise says that old wood on the mountain does sometimes have foxfire!) The warm air around the rock was thought to indicate the presence of "spooks".

    There is another rock believed to be blood-spotted on the Virginia side (near the "Old Schneider home") of Loudoun Heights. John Hawk told us, "when my daddy was just a small child on his mother's lap, two of his brothers who were in the (Confederate) Army came home to visit their parents but some (Union) soldiers spotted them and shot at them. Warner fell on a rock and died. There's blood on the rock yet."

    A house near Mark Cogle's was supposedly haunted because log chains could be heard on the roof. On a full moon night "when the moon was almost as bright as the sun," John Hawk heard the "clip-clop" of a horse team and felt the house being jarred but never saw anything.


    CHAPTER XI

    Of his school days, John (Hawk) remembers "the worse switching" he ever had. After running a twig over the shingles as he ran around Chestnut Hill School, his teacher met him with her switch.

    Mrs. Leona Staubs, born in 1896, remembers her first two teachers at the Silver Grove School. They were Belle Smithson from Brunswick, Maryland, and Tommy Coleman from Berryville, Virginia. She studied spelling, reading, mathematics, geography, and health.

    Hilda Piper's cousin, Pauline, taught at Silver Grove school when Hilda attended. Christmas was an exciting time at the school. Greens were gathered from the woods and the piano was moved from the church to their school for their Christmas program.

    "Socials" were held several times during the school year. After walking around and "socializing," the students would sit and eat. The food was prepared at home, put in shoe boxes, and the packages tied with ribbons. Vanessa Everhart told a funny anecdote about a surprise package her grandmother prepared. Grandmother Grove had told Vanessa she would pack a really nice lunch for her. All morning Vanessa wondered what "really fine food" was in her box - was it ham, fried chicken, deviled eggs, cake, pie, or candy? When she opened her nicely wrapped box, she beheld sandwiches of heavy bread and fried port fat-back! After the shock wore off, Vanessa and her friend discussed grandmothers as they giggled and ate their heavy bread sandwiches.

    The school was heated with a wood stove. One teacher would combine and heat, on the stove, food the children had brought with them from their homes. Then she served this "stew" or "soup" to the students at lunch time.

    It was just before she started school, in 1924, that Hilda Piper's parents had moved to their "own home" above Tub Spring. Hilda remembered her parents putting their goods on the horse-drawn sled. Her sister, Mary, was born a few years after the move.

    Larry Jacobs bought the log home Charlie Grove built. It has been enlarged and improved.

    I asked Mr. Hawk what is very different about his life today. He remarked that you see a whole lot more people and you don't hear whippoorwills singing anymore.

    Comments 12 Comments
    1. PurpleCowEatingCake's Avatar
      PurpleCowEatingCake -
      An excellent read, thank you so much for sharing this great recall of the areas history.
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      Thanks, purplecow, but the kudos should be directed to Ruby Browning. And there are so many tales yet to be discovered. Sadly, many of those folks that Ruby interviewed have shuffled off this mortal coil. I'm tendering, again, a place to showcase family memories of those who want to share. I can help, but it'll be up to you guys to interview your forebears. You do NOT have to be a Ken Burns or Shelby Foote. Oft times, recollections in the words of the "rememberer" carry much more weight and verisimilitude than s slick presentation.

      There is also a lot of material in the newspaper morgue at Shepherd U. I'd encourage users to scan thru the microfilm records of some of Jefferson County's older newspapers. They stretch back to the early 1800's & the facilities of S.U.'s Scarborough Library are 1st class.
    1. Miss Midget's Avatar
      Miss Midget -
      Thank You Willis for converting all this History! I live in Blue Ridge Acres, so that's my first read but I'm interested in ALL the local history as well...
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      Thanks, Miss Midget. There's so much more to do, but at least some history has been saved for the future. S&B will help anyone who wants to pursue the task of collecting more before it's lost to time
    1. Miss Midget's Avatar
      Miss Midget -
      Is there something I can do to help with the conversion using my computer? I was laid-off for the 2nd time this year(!) late October so have time on my hands.

      Let me know and thanks.
    1. Miss Midget's Avatar
      Miss Midget -
      Here is an Obit. from Journal-News today (gosh I hate that right-wing rag!), about a Harpers Ferry lady who died and who's original name was Everhart. Just wondering if she, perhaps, hailed from the Mountain originally as it seems the Everharts were pivotal in the Mountain history? Maybe not...

      Sad, another older person dies and with them dies a lot of information about local history! I haven't lived here that long, but wish I had some means of talking to these older folk and gathering more info.

      http://www.journal-news.net/page/con....html?nav=5007

      ps. Only look at the Journal to read about local crimes... Have you ever read their Letters to the Editor? Don't bother, nor their "Editorials"!!! Frederick Post not much better as to their views on politics...
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      Quote Originally Posted by Miss Midget View Post
      Here is an Obit. from Journal-News today (gosh I hate that right-wing rag!), about a Harpers Ferry lady who died and who's original name was Everhart. Just wondering if she, perhaps, hailed from the Mountain originally as it seems the Everharts were pivotal in the Mountain history?
      I dunno, Miss M. When my folks moved here, you could list about 6-7 surnames to include about 90% of the families on the Blue Ridge. That was when BRA had about 1 road and the same # in S'dale. The fact that contribution are requested for the Friendship VFD would lead me to believe she lived across the Shenandoah. But she may have moved there from the Mt. We are losing oldtimers at an alarming rate and unless someone chronicles their stories, the history is lost to time. Maybe one of our more knowledgeable users will add a comment.
    1. SMF5381's Avatar
      SMF5381 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Miss Midget View Post
      Here is an Obit. from Journal-News today (gosh I hate that right-wing rag!), about a Harpers Ferry lady who died and who's original name was Everhart. Just wondering if she, perhaps, hailed from the Mountain originally as it seems the Everharts were pivotal in the Mountain history? Maybe not...

      Sad, another older person dies and with them dies a lot of information about local history! I haven't lived here that long, but wish I had some means of talking to these older folk and gathering more info.

      http://www.journal-news.net/page/con....html?nav=5007
      Miss Midget,

      Yes, Elma Jean Everhart grew up on the mountain. Her mother was Vanessa Everhart, who contributed stories to this local history collection. I knew her as I grew up in Silver Grove. My great-grandmother was Leona Staubs, who was mentioned a few times in this collection. It was nice to read about her and it made me feel closer to her, as she died when I was in elementary school. Thank you to whoever compiled the information. Many of my family members enjoyed reading it also.

      SMF5381
    1. chipgallo's Avatar
      chipgallo -
      Ruby Browning created it and the BRA Community Club (then called the Blue Ridge Mountain Country Club) sold it and other club paraphernalia for a few dollars at events. Ruby may have also written a BRA column for the SPIRIT back in the 1970's but I speculate on that. There was a newspaper column about our comings and goings which Betty LaMotte wrote and I think she told me that Ruby was her predecessor.
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      Quote Originally Posted by SMF5381 View Post
      ...Thank you to whoever compiled the information. Many of my family members enjoyed reading it also.
      SMF5381
      SMF5381- I'm still interested in family histories of Silver Grove and all the communities on the mountain. Ruby Browning graciously gave our website permission to use her article. Many of the "oldsters" she interviewed are gone. Only a few remain. But there must be family tales that great granddad and grandma passed along before going on to their rewards. I'm willing to help as best I can. Stories and old photos would be gratefully accepted for inclusion in an expanded or in separate articles about the Mountain. Some have already shown interest. I'm guilty of not following up on the offers Too many things to do and not enough ME. But I'm willing to assist anyone who wants to help. This is really YOUR website.

      Quote Originally Posted by cgallo View Post
      Ruby Browning created it and the BRA Community Club (then called the Blue Ridge Mountain Country Club) sold it and other club paraphernalia for a few dollars at events. Ruby may have also written a BRA column for the SPIRIT back in the 1970's but I speculate on that. There was a newspaper column about our comings and goings which Betty LaMotte wrote and I think she told me that Ruby was her predecessor.
      Chip, I can't find a record of a column by Ruby in the Spirit, but I haven't read every back issue. I'll do a search and look. I think I recall a column by "Faith B. Cone"? One thing in which I'm very interested is a project to photograph the sites about which Ruby wrote. I have one poor image of the Silver Grove School

      scanned from a mimeographed Jefferson County School newsletter. I'm told that only a foundation now remains. That newsletter included the following notation about the school:
      The Silver Grove School, built sometime prior to 1889, still stands today in Pipertown on Hostler Road. The one-room school served students in grades 1-8 and did not close its doors until 1940. One interesting item of business concerning Silver Grove was handled by the Harpers Ferry District Board of Education in 1920, The parents of students of Silver Grove wrote a letter to the Board protesting the employment of a Catholic teacher on the grounds that the teacher "might not read the Bible and have the Lord's prayer in the morning exercises." The Board refused to dismiss the teacher, but she resigned at the end of the school year.
      More about Blue Ridge schools can be found
      HERE.
      but there is so much more to document in writing and images. I'd ask you two, cgallo & SMF5381, to talk to your neighbor and the old-timers still remaining to preserve our mountain's history.
    1. chipgallo's Avatar
      chipgallo -
      You're right about Faith Cone. I have Bettie's e-mail address and could ask her who else may have published on local events. There was a middle school student who did a poster board presentation on local schools and we could probably get his name.
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      Boyoboy, Chip, that would be great! I'll see if I can post some of the BRA articles.