Legends of the Skyline Drive and the Great Valley of Virginia

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of the

Skyline Drive

and the

Great Valley of Virginia

Carrie Hunter Willis
Etta Belle Walker



The Dietz Press, Publishers


Copyright, 1940


Printed in the United States of America


Tucked away among the hills and valleys in and near the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Valley of Virginia are stories of the beginnings of the white man’s life beyond the comparative ease of early Tidewater Virginia. These stories are true ones and they depict something of the courage and hardihood of the early Virginia pioneer. Perhaps in reading of their lives we may catch something of the majesty and charm of their surroundings which were reflected to a marked degree in their way of living. Surely they must often have said, “I will look unto the hills from whence cometh my strength” or how else may we account for the developments which came as the result of their constant struggle for survival?

Stories of colonial Virginia on the eastern seaboard are numerous and usually exciting but they are quite different from the tales beyond the Piedmont. A combination of them may enable us to know Virginia as a whole in a more appreciative way.

Long before the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe ever set foot in the wilds of Virginia, intrepid explorers had passed through various parts of the Valley country.

In 1654—more than sixty years before the Governor’s expedition—Colonel Abraham Wood received permission to explore beyond the mountains. His purpose was to establish trade relations with the Indians. His journey carried him through the lower Blue Ridge, crossing the range near the Virginia-North Carolina line.

Reference is made elsewhere of the explorations conducted by the one-time monk, John Lederer, whose journal of the trip was first translated from German and published in London in 1672.

Let us plainly understand however that each of these trips was of a migratory nature; not a thought was entertained by any of the participants of remaining in the Virginia mountains. Any white man found in these sections at this time was there because of good hunting grounds, hopes of good trading, the zeal of a missionary spirit or love of adventure and exploration.

The earliest settlers in the Valley in most part came either from Maryland or Pennsylvania. They came in search of rich, cheap land or for economic reasons or in the hope of establishing greater freedom for themselves and their children.

Two nationalities invaded the Great Valley almost simultaneously: the Germans and Scotch-Irish—both fine, sturdy, healthy and thrifty stock which is reflected in marked degree among the present inhabitants of the region. Their real interest in the new settlements may truthfully be said to have begun about 1730 when land grants were obtained. About two years later the actual move into the country and the house building commenced in earnest.

The German settlers located chiefly along the territory extending from Winchester to Staunton. The Scotch-Irish on the other hand selected Staunton and the valley south of the town for their claims. No nice distinction can be made so easily, for we shall find the two groups interspersed all along the entire length of the Valley. But generally speaking their domains may be defined thus.

So much fighting during the wars of our country could not have been fought in this section of the State without leaving in its wake the stories of chivalry, courage and accomplishment, a few of which are included.

It is our desire that the trips along the Skyline Drive and in the Great Valley country may be enriched and the imagination stirred because of the accounts included in this small book.

Table of Contents

Knights of the Golden Horseshoe1
Progress to the Mines2
Adam Miller and His Neighbors5
Joist Hite, the Pioneer7
German Neighbors, Quakers9
The Scotch-Irish in the Valley12
Indian Tales18
The Moore Massacre20
Washington’s Boyhood Friend—Lord Fairfax24
Winchester—The Frontier Town of the Valley26
The Valley Pike31
Front Royal34
Flint Hill36
The Skyline Drive37
Orkney Springs42
Stephens City42
The Story Teller of the Valley—Samuel Kercheval
Pioneer Life44
The Lincoln Family55
New Market56
Endless Caverns57
Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign61
Belle Boyd, the Spy67
Massanutten Caverns73
Grand Caverns73
Massanetta Springs75
Waynesboro and Afton79
Natural Bridge81
The First Academy in the Valley86
Valley Inventions87
Washington College88
The Virginia Military Institute92
Culpeper Minute Men94
Blind Preacher95
Hebron Church96
Hoover’s Camp on the Rapidan River97
Charlottesville and Albemarle County98
Jack Jouett’s Ride104
Lewis and Clark Expedition105
The Mary Washington House115
Rising Sun Tavern117
Draper’s Meadow124
Washington County127
Hungry Mother State Park129
White Top129

List of Illustrations

George Washington’s Headquarters, Winchester, Virginia27
View Along the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park38
“The Cypress Garden”, a Scene in Endless Caverns57
“The Manse”, Woodrow Wilson’s Birthplace, Staunton, Virginia76
Woodrow Wilson’s Bed, Staunton, Virginia78
Natural Bridge81
Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia90
Virginia Military Institute92
“Monticello”, near Charlottesville, Virginia99
Rotunda of University of Virginia102
“Kenmore”, the Home of Fielding Lewis and Betty Washington
  Lewis, Fredericksburg, Virginia
James Monroe’s Law Office109
“The Mary Washington House”, Fredericksburg, Virginia116
“Rising Sun Tavern”, Fredericksburg, Virginia118
Scenic Highway in Southwest Virginia126
Hungry Mother State Park130


Knights of The Golden Horseshoe

Alexander Spotswood was the first Virginia Governor to become interested in the glowing accounts which the hunters and trappers brought back from the hill sections of the colony. He determined to see for himself those distant blue ridges.

And while historians have not told us who guided him to the upper or western boundary of what was then Essex County, we are told that he became enthusiastic over the rich iron ore which he found in the peninsula formed by the Rapidan River. He decided to build iron furnaces at a point near the river. Later he had his agent, Baron de Graffenreid, go to Germany and bring master mechanics and their families to Virginia.

The first German colony came in 1714 to Virginia and journeyed to Germanna, as they called their new home on the bank of the Rapidan River. They were made up of twelve families and numbered forty-two people in all, men, women and children.

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