Sunday, October 16, 2011

Local photos from some time ago...

Given the genealogical research I've been doing lately I thought these were interesting...

A mountaineer family poses in front of a cabin, Dark Hollow, Shenandoah National Park

Families were forced from the Blue Ridge so that the National Park could be established.  "Forced" is not too strong a word as some families or certain members of some families had to be physically removed.  Although farm life on the rocky slopes of the Blue Ridge could be hardscrabble and daunting to the extreme, many, perhaps most, residents were very reluctant to surrender title to land for the much tenuous life in the lowlands on either side of the park.  Many families today continue to harbor resentment over the removal.

Much of the building of the infrastructure was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps, sometimes with former residents of the park lands.  They had no choice, it was work or starve now that they had been removed from their land.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Shenandoah National Park in 1936, a novel experiment in public land use was begun. At the time, most national parks were being set aside to protect already-existing natural beauty, wildlife, and wilderness. Shenandoah National Park was an attempt to determine if 196,466 acres of damaged mountain land would revert to a pristine state if set aside and protected from further human alteration.

The land-use experiment would run counter to the traditional precept that land was to be used in ways most beneficial to man and that nature and wilderness were little more than impediments to be conquered. Long, narrow Shenandoah National Park—100 miles in length and ranging from 13.2 miles to less than 1 mile in width—was formed from mountain land that had been the subject of hard human use since the first settlers began trickling into the area in the early to mid-1700s.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, farmers had established agriculture, orchards, and grazing land. Loggers increased the cutting of the mighty oaks and chestnuts and dragged them off the mountains. Sheep and cattle grazed where bear, elk, and wolves once roamed. The thin soil was wearing out along the crest of the Blue Ridge range where Shenandoah National Park was to be located.

Weary of the hard scrabble life in the mountains, people were beginning to move out. More than half the residents had left by the mid-1920s. The rest sold their land for establishment of the park, or they were relocated with federal assistance.

Not everyone was ready to leave the mountains. The people whose farms and homesteads were condemned fought the legal seizure by the Commonwealth of Virginia for a dozen years. Though the federal government permitted a few residents to live in their homes for the remainder of their lives, among the descendants of the mountain families, resentment still simmers in little towns such as Elkton, Luray, Sperryville, and Stanardsville in the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont Virginia.

Land acquisition for the park would take years. But a 100-foot right-of-way for the Skyline Drive was acquired quicker through gifts and special purchases. The highway along the ridge was planned as the park's outstanding feature. President Herbert Hoover, who had a vacation cabin on the nearby Rapidan River, urged the approval of funding for road construction. Local crews began work in 1931, and on August 29, 1939, Skyline Drive was opened.

By Deane and Garvey Winegar

- The Taking of Via Mountain
- Shenandoah secrets: Pork, propaganda, and the creation of a COOL national park

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Commonwealth of Virginia under Governor Harry F. Byrd, Sr., lobbied long and hard to have the first Eastern national park established on the Blue Ridge.

The Commonwealth determined the price of lands and purchased those lands - mostly from absentee land owners whose titles went back to the Colonial period.

Most people who lived and worked the mountains and hollows were tenants and did not own their land. What happened to them was, in many cases, tragic. But the Commonwealth of Virginia left it to the federal government to remove the mountaineers; the federal government received the land from the state.