Jimmy Brown (shown with babe Caleigh-Ruth) is the great-grandson of the postmaster of the now-vanished boondocks of Old Rag, William Austin Brown, aloft right, who was grandfathering to the three girls above.
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Ruins of a above home in Corbin Hollow.
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
A lot can change in three abode of a century. Walk forth the Hughes River in Madison County in a abode alleged Nicholson Hollow, and there’s little trace that this was already a advancing village.
Now heavily wooded, the alveolate was a lot added accessible afresh because copse had been cut back the astern 1700s to body houses, barns, and fences, and the acreage larboard accessible for gardens, orchards, and pastures for beasts and horses. Seventy-five years ago, the alveolate became allotment of the East Coast’s aboriginal civic esplanade back it opened afterwards abundance of controversy.
Jim Lillard’s grandfather, W.A. Woodward, endemic a 154-acre acreage in Nicholson Hollow. Lillard pulls out a blueprint that shows not alone the breadth of the anatomy farmhouse but additionally identifies the owners of adjoining farms, as able-bodied as the sites of the school, church, mill, and road.
“If you attending at that, you could see a association thrived,” says Lillard. “It absolutely was a civilization, not a agglomeration of hillbillies.”
But 75 years ago, the association of Nicholson Alveolate were absolutely portrayed as hillbillies, alike successful, accomplished farmers like Woodward. Photo captions in the Library of Congress acknowledgment a man with a “rude sled” and call one adolescent as a “half wit.”
In the winter, bean chimneys and foundations can be spotted here, but in astern June, unless you’re sharp-eyed, there’s no affirmation that bodies lived actuality for generations. And that’s what the creators of the Shenandoah Civic Esplanade intended.
Just about the alone affair that hasn’t afflicted over the accomplished 75 years– or the accomplished 7,500 years– is the complete of the Hughes River bottomward over rocks bottomward the mountain.
Easterners charge a park
At the alpha of the 20th century, millions of acreage in the American West had been corralled into civic parks, and Secretary of the Interior Hubert Assignment basic one east of the Mississippi in the Appalachians. Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia vied for the honor, “this best bait of political pork,” as historian Andrew H. Myers put it in a 1993 article.
Then as now, Washingtonians couldn’t advice but flavor the abstraction of a esplanade aloof 60 afar from the nation’s capital, and Virginia had boosters who were accommodating to boom up donations to buy abeyant esplanade and afresh accord it to the federal government.
Two leaders of that backpack were Harry Byrd and George Freeman Pollock. Byrd was afresh a accompaniment agent (and later, as U.S. senator, baton of the state’s belled Massive Resistance– and yes, the esplanade initially was segregated). However, it’s Pollock who’s best generally cited as the key instigator by those who absent their acreage to the park.
Not coincidentally, Pollock endemic a mountaintop resort alleged Skyland, where, afore the appearance of the automobile, the flush would arch by horse and buggy to the acknowledgment altitude aloft the Blue Backbone Mountains to absorb a ages or added on holiday. By the aboriginal 20th century, car ability was assuredly alteration America, and yet Pollock’s resort was struggling.
“People had cars and basic to travel,” says Reed Engle, above cultural ability specialist with the Shenandoah Civic Park.
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Gas sales and taxes and the benefaction of added tourism gave the civic esplanade abstraction a thumbs up from businessmen.
“There wouldn’t accept been a esplanade afterwards cars,” says Engle. “It was all about the auto culture.”
President Calvin Coolidge accustomed the esplanade in 1926. But it was his successor, Herbert Hoover, who created the ultimate green ablaze for the arising car culture: a mountaintop road.
Hoover, a trout-fishing fan, had already accustomed a “summer White House” on the headwaters of the Rapidan River on acreage that would become allotment of the park. In 1931, architecture began on the 105-mile Skyline Drive forth the backbone from Front Royal to Rockfish Gap.
“These mountains are fabricated for a road,” Hoover reportedly told a acquaintance as the two rode horseback, “and everybody care to accept a adventitious to get the angle from here.”
Construction began using bounded farmers paid by federal drought-relief funds. In 1933, FDR, acquisitive to put unemployed Americans to work, allotted $10 actor for the Civilian Conservation Corps, and anchored the architecture of the esplanade in the boilerplate of the Depression.
The alone problem? Unlike the sparsely inhabited wildernesses of the west, about 500 families lived on the targeted land, and the animal attendance was a problem in an breadth breadth attributes was declared to be the theme.
At the aforementioned time as Jews were actuality demonized in Nazi Germany, the ancestry movement had taken a abutting ballast in Virginia, a accompaniment that had amorphous antibacterial “immoral” changeable citizens. (Charlottesville now has a actual brand committed to Carrie Buck, one of those sterilization victims.)
With that sociological backdrop, it was no abundant bound to portray the folks living in the mountains as astern hillbillies. Not alone that, but those who basic the park, like resort buyer Pollock, fabricated it arise that demography the residents’ acreage and banishment them to move from their homes was accomplishing them a big favor.
Even Edgar Allan Poe played a acknowledging role by accidental to the adumbration of mountaineers as “fierce and uncouth” in his 1845 story, “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.” Added anathema to the abundance citizenry was a 1933 book alleged Alveolate Folk. The book banal Appalachian Virginians as real-life examples of the characters in the L’il Abner banana strip, accidental yokels who eked out a affluence actuality with archaic agronomics in their own little Dogpatch.
The book portrayed the association of Nicholson, Weakley, and Corbin hollows as accepting no community, government, organized religion, or any amusing alignment alfresco family– not absolutely associates of the 20th century, according to historian Audrey J. Horning.
“It was a alternation of sociological studies arty Dogpatch history on the Shenandoah Civic Esplanade region,” Horning writes, “that succeeded in adopting boundless abutment for the abatement and able disenfranchising of residents.”
For visuals, the government beatific a columnist to Virginia in October 1935 to certificate the action of the bodies who would be relocated. Afore he larboard Washington, the photographer, Arthur Rothstein, met with the authors of Alveolate Folk, says Richard Knox Robinson, who has fabricated a blur documentary alleged Rothstein’s Aboriginal Assignment.
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“It seemed bright Rothstein best the atomic abundance families to be photographed,” says the filmmaker. “It’s broadly believed his images were acclimated to absolve affective bodies out of the park.”
Robinson says that one Corbin Alveolate ancestors on whom Rothstein focused became appealing abundant the affiche accouchement for Alveolate Folk– and for the ancestry movement. Ancestry purveyors had a addiction to analyze a botheration family, explains Robinson, and a ample cardinal of Corbin accouchement concluded up antibacterial and institutionalized in the Virginia Colony for the Epileptic and Feebleminded in Lynchburg.
“The Corbins had a cardinal of things adjoin them,” explains Robinson. “They were poor, had adulterine children, a cardinal of them were cross-eyed, and they had a audible accent,” he says. (One ancestors affiliate had pellagra, a comestible ache afresh construed by eugenicists as affirmation of bad genes.)
In pre-park canicule afore he basic them gone, Skyland freeholder George Pollock featured the Corbins as an archetype of the abundance ability in a brochure, says Robinson.
“Then he said they had to be saved, and he acclimated Corbin Alveolate as an archetype of their poverty,” says Robinson.
Those portrayals still agitated Nancy Martin-Perdue, who with her astern husband, Chuck Perdue, accurate the history of the bodies displaced by the Shenandoah Civic Park. And she puts the accusation absolutely on the tourism industry.
“They were active a activity that was accepted in the aboriginal allotment of the century,” she says. “To booty acreage from bodies advised lower class– it was a affluence angle put adjoin the boilerplate chic who basic to get out in nature.
“These bodies already were active in nature,” continues Martin-Perdue. “Yet it angry into, ‘We accept the appropriate to accomplish decisions for them.’ Bodies justified demography their acreage and gave them actual little for it.”
Just because the abundance association lived afterwards calm accouterments or electricity, or washed clothes by hand, doesn’t beggarly they should be portrayed as backward, says Martin-Perdue.
Government accounts frequently referred to some of the displaced bodies as “squatters” because they couldn’t aftermath acceptable annal assuming their appropriate to the property, alike admitting families had been on the acreage for ancestors and had congenital houses and barns. Best were paid for their improvements, but some were forcibly removed with no advantage for the structures they lost.
Martin-Perdue aboriginal became acquainted of the affliction of the departure back she lived in Rappahannock County in the 1970s and heard neighbors annual belief of bodies pushed off acreage their families had farmed for generations.
“Some bodies died of heartbreak,” she says. “They aloof pined away. Some never recovered and were absinthian the blow of their lives.”
Albemarle wants in
In Albemarle, the 1920s brought attractions like Fry’s Bounce Beach Club and the accessible aperture of Monticello and Michie Tavern, and Charlottesville’s arch citizens leapt aloft the abstraction of accepting a allotment of a civic esplanade and its afterwards day-tripper dollars, according to Andrew H. Myers’ 1993 article, “Creation of Shenandoah Civic Park: Albemarle County Cultures in Conflict” in the Magazine of Albemarle County History.
Led by Skyland’s Pollock, an alignment alleged Shenandoah Civic Esplanade Association was formed to accession the banknote bare to buy the acreage for the park, and bounded agent Hollis Rinehart was its treasurer.
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Rinehart was abutting in the fundraising accomplishment by adolescent allotment associates of the then-new Farmington Country Club, Percy H. Faulconer, a architecture magnate, and James H. Lindsay, administrator and editor of the the Daily Progress. Chamber of Commerce admiral Thomas Farrar and UVA admiral Edwin Alderman additionally helped accession Albemarle’s ambition of $61,000, according to Myers.
Myers contends that the acumen of the abundance bodies as “backwoods squatters” was perpetuated by the Daily Progress, and the bi-weekly featured them in accessories not alone as impoverished, but as murderers and moonshiners.
In the hollows of western Albemarle, abundant like Madison, there were poor people, but there were also some flush farmers. Because of amid ridges including Cedar and Pasture Fence mountains, Bucks Elbow, and Cherry, Currant and Pigeon Top mountains, it was easier for association of Browns Gap, Via’s Gap, and Blackwell’s Alveolate to buy their food and booty their beasts west to Augusta County.
“The cartography served to abstract them somewhat from the avant-garde apple of the 1920s,” writes Myers– and from the movers and shakers in Charlottesville.
Thirty-nine Albemarle acreage owners– including the City of Charlottesville– saw their acreage condemned. And admitting the assuming of mountaineers as benighted and inept, at atomic one had the adequacy to sue.
Business-minded orchardist Robert H. Via filed clothing in 1934 to stop the eminent breadth seizure, arguing that the accompaniment of Virginia had no built-in appropriate to booty his 152 acreage in the Moormans River Valley and accord it to the federal government. Via was the alone actuality to sue, and he did not prevail.
However, as agog as the state’s esplanade boosters were, they were clumsy to accession the banknote bare to buy the 521,000 acreage originally envisioned, and the admeasurement of the esplanade was bargain twice. The esplanade opened in 1936 with 176,429 acreage and now comprises about 197,000 acres.
It was the amount agency that kept places such as Bucks Elbow Abundance and Charlottesville’s Amoroso Alveolate Reservoir out of the Shenandoah Civic Park.
“The added abundant lowland tracts amount an boilerplate of $5 per acre and had little breathtaking value,” writes Myers. “The added amazing cliffs, on the added hand, amount $1 per acre.”
Cost additionally was the acumen that the Scott ancestors enclave, Royal Orchard, abhorred acceptable allotment of the park. But in that case, admission helped as well.
According to legend, Royal Orchard produced the Albemarle Pippin apples beloved by Queen Victoria, appropriately the “royal” moniker. Alpha in 1903, according to Reed Engle’s account, Frederic W. and Elisabeth Strother Scott of Scott Stadium and Scott & Stringfellow banal allowance fame, bought the orchard, congenital a castle, and broadcast the acreage to 4,000 acres.
So arresting were the Scotts and so all-inclusive was their amplitude that Skyline Drive was destined to end at Jarmans Gap rather than its accepted southern abuttals at Rockfish Gap. But in 1933, Admiral Roosevelt accustomed addition ridge-hugging road, the Blue Backbone Parkway, and he basic the two to connect.
“One of the beautiful belief has to do with the breadth of Skyline Drive,” recalls Frederic Scott’s grandson, Buford Scott. “Grandfather begin it was to appear bottomward on the east ancillary of Afton Mountain– about 50 yards from our house. He arrive [Secretary of the Interior] Harold Ickes to break at Royal Orchard. Mr. Ickes asked breadth Skyline would go.”
Before long, the aisle of alley was confused to the west and out of Royal Orchard’s viewshed, and in acknowledgment grandfathering Scott donated a breathtaking alleviation of 400 anxiety on either ancillary of the Drive.
“Ink is absolutely cheap,” chuckles Scott about the redrawn map.
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Less flush park-bordering landowners didn’t book as well. The esplanade and Skyline Drive blocked celebrated paths– such as Jarmans Gap Road– that had continued affiliated Albemarle farmers to the markets and abuse curve of the Shenandoah Valley.
“Rather than bringing acculturation to an abandoned enclave,” writes Myers, “the esplanade had cut basic links to Augusta County and disrupted the bounded economy.”
Litigant Bob Via larboard Virginia and confused to a acreage abreast Hershey, Pennsylvania. Via never alternate to Virginia, and according to historian Robert A. Yingst, he never cashed the $3,230 analysis he accustomed for Via Mountain, because it not alike abutting to compensating for the accident of his family’s land.
Children of the Shenandoah
In the 1990s, 60 years afterwards their parents and grandparents had been kicked off their land, some of the birth had had abundant of seeing their bodies portrayed as slack-jawed yokels. One affair that absolutely added insult to abrasion was the 20-minute blur apparent at the Byrd Visitors Center alleged The Gift.
Not alone did the appellation of the the 1960s-era documentary advance that the above association had absitively to abundantly accord their ancestors acreage to the Civic Esplanade Service, but back it did acknowledgment the residents, says above cultural ability specialist Engle (under whose administration The Gift was retired), “They were all advised like Snuffy Smith with a continued burglarize and a canteen of moonshine.”
Engle additionally addendum that aboriginal esplanade planners generally austere bottomward barrio or let them abatement afar due to neglect.
“Shenandoah was advised a accustomed park,” says Engle. “There was no faculty there was a cultural element. We ripped bottomward things that are irreplaceable: taverns, mills. It was atrocious.”
Yet in some means today, that accustomed acquittal from burghal drape aloof 60 afar from Washington has acquired new value. In 1935, Engle notes, that there were hardly any deer and no bear.
The esplanade is a huge abode for brief birds. “It serves as a ancestry ground,” says Engle. “It’s a analytical accessible space– an abundantly important corridor.”
One curiosity that hasn’t afflicted abundant back aperture day is the 105-mile drive congenital forth the top of the Blue Backbone Mountains.
“I don’t see how environmentally that would anytime appear today,” says Engle. “I’m not abiding economically it would anytime happen.”
Jimmy Brown is one of the founders of Accouchement of the Shenandoah; his great-grandfather was Old Rag postmaster William Austin Brown.
“The esplanade did not do a acceptable job of accessible relations,” says Brown. “In 1933, there was a concerted accomplishment to account the association as unwashed, benighted heathens that bare to be saved.”
Stories of bodies actuality abject from their homes or affected to watch their houses bake linger. Best conspicuously was the account of a abundant woman called Lessie Cave Jenkins hauled off by two assembly because she and bedmate Walker Jenkins, accounted squatters, banned to leave afterwards advantage for the house, barn, fences, and added improvements on their farm.
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Could it appear again? Could the government booty acreage it desires application eminent breadth and portray the association as abundant bigger off removed from their homes?
Ask addition who acclimated to alive in Vinegar Hill. A abundantly African-American association in Charlottesville, Vinegar Hill was bedfast in the 1960s in the name of burghal face-lifting and is now accepted for a array of parking lots and suburban-style barrio including a Wendy’s, a McDonald’s, and a Staples.
“It still happens today,” says Nancy Martin-Perdue, acquainted sarcastically that places like Vinegar Hill get redeveloped “for the account of a accumulation of bodies who accept above needs and above claims.”
It-could-have-been-handled-better is a affect that has been again bidding by the Accouchement of the Shenandoah, a now-defunct accumulation of evictee birth that affiliated calm to actual the actual record. Because the adventure of their predecessors’ adjournment no best bears the taint of government spin, the accumulation hasn’t met in about bristles years.
“Many of the [Children of the Shenandoah] I met adulation the park,” says Engle. “They apprehend it would be ski resorts and condos like in West Virginia with no accessible admission at all.”
‘I adulation the park,” echoes Accouchement allotment affiliate Brown. “I aloof ambition it could accept been formed in a altered manner.”
Brown still allotment to his family’s old homeplace and cleans the spring. He keeps clue of the abounding bare cemeteries throughout the area, and says the hiking aisle to Old Rag Abundance goes through one of them. Brown, 55, speaks nostalgically about a activity he never experienced, but about which he’s generally heard.
“No one anytime talked about actuality hungry. No one anytime talked about actuality cold,” says Brown. “They didn’t accept a lot of cash, but they didn’t charge a lot of cash.
“They may accept been poor people, but analyze them to the bodies in the soup curve in the Depression,” continues Brown. “They grew aggregate they bare except coffee and sugar.
“Everyone talks about how they admired active up there– how affable it was. It was air-conditioned in the summer. Anybody knew anybody and helped anniversary added out. No one bound their doors.”
He pauses. “When you move out, you consistently bethink the best parts.”
Walking beneath a blubbery awning of balk copse forth the bouldered Hughes River as the baptize gurgles and the temperature seems to be at atomic ten degrees acknowledgment than in Charlottesville, it seems like this has consistently been a accustomed preserve.
“Unless you know… ” says Brown. “Thousands of bodies backpack through and don’t apperceive what was there.”
Correction 7/31/2013: U.S. Agent Harry Byrd’s appointment during massive attrition was afield articular in the aboriginal version.
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