Friday, December 14, 2012

Woodrow Wilson’s Birthday Celebration – Staunton Honors a Distinguished Son

During December 1912 in Staunton, many children anxiously waited for Christmas and many adults anxiously prepared for the visit of President-elect Woodrow Wilson to begin on December 27. The occasion for Wilson’s visit was to celebrate his 56th birthday on December 28th at the place of his birth in the Presbyterian Manse on Coalter Street.

On Election Day, Tuesday, November 5, 1912, Rockingham County cast 3,195 votes for president of which fifty-five percent went to Wilson. On November 18th the local newspaper reported that plans were well underway for a “mammoth celebration” for Woodrow Wilson in Staunton on December 28th. The visit was planned to be a sentimental and non-political journey. Speculation centered on whether Wilson would come to the Valley by way of Harpers Ferry or Washington. [1]

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Wives of the Prophet

“Businessmen to aid in valley movie” “Eighteen movie stars... will descend upon Harrisonburg” “Headed by Miss Alice Lake, the noted metro star...”[1] 

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Election of 1912

One hundred years ago was the last time Virginia offered one of its own as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856 in the Manse of the First Presbyterian Church in Staunton Virginia. In 1912 he was the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. Though Wilson left Staunton in his first year, the town stayed true to him. Fifty-four years later in 1911 some Staunton citizens launched the first “Wilson for President” club.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Foliage Adventures

This is the time of the year for a walk in the woods and this article recommends an alternative outing to the Appalachian Trail: the Great Eastern Trail (GET).  This 1,800-mile trail has as its northern terminus the Finger Lakes in upstate New York and, when completed, will terminate in the south in Alabama.  The GET trail is a volunteer, cooperative effort by local hiking groups to connect existing foot paths in the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains.

Friday, October 12, 2012

1939 Turkey Festival Queen's Coronation

The coronation of the 1939 Turkey Festival Queen drew an estimated 4, 000 spectators to Wilson Hall on the Madison College campus. The event took place at 4:30 in the afternoon on Monday, September 4, 1939. It was one of the highlights of the festival’s opening day activities.

The ceremony began with musical selections played by Miss Dolly Armentrout and/or sung by a men’s chorus under the direction of Professor Nelson T. Huffman. The procession was led by two trumpeters and the 50 ladies-in-waiting, all of whom were local high school girls. Next came 50 princesses each representing the Virginia county from which she hailed/came. Following the princesses were four flower girls; Miss Natalie Zirkle, Miss Alice Jean Pickett, Miss Elizabeth Switzer, and Miss Anne Switzer. Each flower girl carried a bouquet of fall flowers which she strew along the path. Miss Helen Wine and Miss Cleta Liskey attended the Queen as maids-of-honor. George Grattan IV and William Thomas served as the crown bearer and scepter bearer respectively. The festival queen entered to a burst of applause from the audience.

Miss Ruth Wampler had the honor of being crowned the 1939 Turkey Festival Queen. U.S. Senator Harry Flood Byrd placed the crown of white turkey feathers upon the queen’s head. Bridgewater College President Dr. Paul H. Bowman presented the queen with her scepter. Before the recessional began Reverend Beverly Tucker White offered a prayer and Miss Sibyl Shover sang a solo.

Do you want to know more about the 1939 Turkey Festival Queen’s coronation ceremony? You can read about it on the Daily News-Record microfilm reels at Massanutten Regional Library.

McNeill, J. M. “Queen Rockingham’s Coronation Stately Event of Rare Beauty; Senator Byrd Places Crown.” Daily News-Record [Harrisonburg, VA] 5 September 1939.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Crossword Puzzles


Written word games are probably as old as the first alphabet and stylus which allowed man to scratch a cryptic message in the dirt or sand or on stone. Word squares were found in the ruins of Pompeii (79AD).[1] In the 19th century, word games were included in children’s puzzle books.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Civil War in Virginia Exhibit

The Civil War In Virginia exhibit opens today, Monday August 27, 2012.  Five boxes arrived last Tuesday and we spent Thursday putting the panels together.  There are 5 large two sided panels and 10 small pull up banners.  It was like putting large sleeping bags over frames.  Come and see if you can figure out how we did it.  The panel exhibit has ten themes that go beyond the experience of the soldier.   In addition to the panels there are QR codes on several of the panels that will allow visitors to view additional educational videos, 360-degree renderings of Civil War objects and additional content.    

Visitors are encouraged to enter a drawing for the box set The Civil War Experience which contains the following set of books:

Hardtack and Coffee by John D. Billings
Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant
Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee by his son Captain Robert E. Lee
From Manassas to Appomattox by James Longstreet

The winner will be drawn September 10th.  Visit and enter as many times as you like.   

We will also have a picture from our local photograph collection of a Confederate Reunion held in Harrisonburg in 1933.  Come and see if you can identify anyone!

We hope to see you soon at the library.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mr. Hotchkiss Rambles Part 3

Part 3

We saw a thunder storm below us, in the Valley, that evening, and looked over the fog, that wound through every nook in the morning. The sun rises here long before it does in the valley. The good housewife assured us that the frosts were often visible below when they had none, and the early vegetables were rarely injured by the “Spring frosts.” What charming summer homes might be found in these elevated regions for the dwellers in the cities and the lowlands of the South; the pure, dry atmosphere, invigorating with its ever breath; the sparkling, lively water; the glorious scenery; the abundance of sport for the angler, the hunter, and the student of nature; the soil, that under the hand of industry, would yield abundantly; and, above all, its nearness to the great lines of travel, (as it is not more than 15 or 20 miles to the Manassas Gap Railroad,) make this an inviting region to those looking for country summer houses. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mr. Hotchkiss Rambles Part 2

Part 2

It was arranged to start a deer, on the Pendleton mountain the next morning, for the benefit of my friend R__, as “no flocks that range the valley free, to slaughter I condemn,” so I took no part in the matter. We were up betimes, and after breakfast rode up to the mountain top, while two boys of our host (manly little fellows, by the way) went to start up the game with a dog. Our hunters waited at the stands for some time, but no deer came to hand, so said good morning to our host and his boys, and followed our guide along the top of the mountain. In passing, I might as well say that we went to look over the domain known as the Waterman Survey,[i] occupying nearly all the north-western end of Rockingham County, and formerly containing 93,000 acres of land, as surveyed by Alexander Herring, in 1795, he being county surveyor at that time. We can form an idea of the size of such a body of land, when we state that the bounding lines stretch about 60 miles, one of them being eleven miles long, in one direction. We found a good bridge path along the top of the mountain, and had a very fine view of the valleys of Pendleton; across the chains of the Alleghenies the view is bounded by Cheat mountain in the distance.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mr. Hotchkiss Rambles Part 1

On Tuesday, August 17, 1858, Jedediah Hotchkiss,[i] a skilled draftsman and geologist on assignment for the Rockingham Register, set out on a tour the northwestern section of Rockingham County. The Hotchkiss letter to the newspaper (and another [ii]) that follows was also appended to The Waterman Lands brochure, published in 1859 by W. H. Ruffner. This brochure advertised the sale of “75,000 acres of Mountain Land in Virginia with an Essay on the Best Uses of Virginia Mountain Land.” Many of the parties cited in this pamphlet and the letters are worthy of a dissertation.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Ramadan honors the night in 610 A.D. when the Koran descended into the soul of the Prophet Muhammad. The last ten days of Ramadan are particularly holy as they include Laylat al-Qadr, night of power, which is the night when the Angel Gabriel first spoke to Muhammad and revealed the Koran (Glasse 276). Muslims celebrate this occasion with fasting, which is an important part of their religion as it is one of the five pillars or key practices of Islam.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Daniel Boone: His Valley Connections

Did you know that Daniel Boone has connections to the Shenandoah Valley?

First of all, there was a brief period of time when Daniel Boone lived in the Shenandoah Valley. Around 1750 Daniel Boone’s father Squire Boone moved his family from Oley, Pennsylvania through the Shenandoah Valley to the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina.[1] They would have traveled west on the Allegheny Trail and south along the Virginia Road/Great Wagon Road (Interstate 81 now roughly follows the same route).[2] The Boone family stayed in the Linville Creek area for two years planting a crop there in 1750 and 1751 before moving on to their final destination.[3]

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Festival Overture for Independence

In the spangled twilight, on the West Lawn of the Capitol, the conductor points the baton. Cellos and violas create a pastoral scene that is interrupted by horns competing with cymbals. The culmination is an explosion of percussive sound, sound that descends into ringing victory bells. With the dying of the final thundering victory sounds, a counter point appears in the sky, first as a hissing sound that becomes a sprinkling of lights, and then a whizzing sound that becomes a light splay of multi-colored clusters, and finally a thundering as the crowd below “ah”s at the dome of light. This is a “Capitol Fourth” enjoyed on the Mall of our Nation’s capital city.

Friday, June 15, 2012

War of 1812 Continued

The Militia from Rockingham County

Rockingham County was assigned the 58th and 116th Regiments. Many companies in the Regiments were designated “Riflemen.” The commanders along the Chesapeake often desired riflemen from the mountain areas of Virginia for their weaponry skills. The local Regimental leaders of the 58th were Lt. Col. George Huston and Majors St. Clair Kirtley, William Beard, and Isaac Pleasants. The Regimental leaders of the 116th were initially led by Lt. Col. John Koontz and Majors William Bryan and Archibald Rutherford. Lt. Col. John Koontz (April 1814)[1] and Lt. Col. George Huston (August-September 1814) were assigned to the 4th Virginia Regiment. Only the County companies captained by Daniel Matthews (116th) and Joseph Mauzy (58th) served along side their local leaders. The 4th Virginia Regiment was station in the Norfolk area.

Friday, June 8, 2012

War of 1812

An Overview

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed the war bill and the “Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights War” or “War of 1812” against the British began. The War lasted two years and eight months, ending February 17, 1815 with the Treaty of Ghent in which the parties in the conflict agreed to the status quo antebellum.

In this article, we begin with an abbreviated overview of some of the interesting events and outcomes of the war for the United States. We conclude with an effort to describe the participation of the Rockingham County militia in the War. Scholars of the War debate the cause or causes of the War. There is no denying that British Government’s treatment of American seamen and its interference with American merchant ships irked the United States Government. The fact that British seaman often preferred the conditions on American ships over the conditions on their own ships contributed to the tensions. The Federal law that American ship owners provide medical services for sailors appealed to British sailors. Also, the British Navy had been at War with France since the French Revolution 20 years ago. The parties in “The Great War” on the European continent viewed the American issues as pesky nuisances.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Civil War @ Your Library

To help celebrate the Sesquicentennial (150th) Anniversary of the American Civil War, Massanutten Regional Library is hosting several events at some of our branches this summer. First up, come see a Civil War Camp at our North River Library in Bridgewater on Saturday June 2nd from 1 pm. to 3 pm. Next, bring any original family documents to the Main Library in Harrisonburg on Monday June 4th from 9:30 am to 5 pm.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Florigraphy: The Language of Flowers

A few months ago I read Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s novel The Language of Flowers. I was entranced. Emotionally dark in many places, the light and grace of the floral communication kept me clinging to the story. All is not a “rose garden” in the end, but the novel scattered many seeds of thought. To express the book in florigraphy, I would carry a tussie-mussie, a word posy, of an outer ring of vetch, a ring of pansies, coriander sprinkled throughout, and a clematis in the center. To translate: clinging to the thoughts of hidden worth of mental beauty. Close enough—florigraphy, the study of flower meaning, is not an exact science, nor was it intended to describe a book.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Foxhall Alexander Daingerfield in Virginia Part II

The Kentucky Years – A Summary

In Kentucky, Daingerfield bred for Keene a “galaxy” of great racers who wore the white and blue spots of Castleton Farm. Many of the horses earned over $100,000. A few of their hall-of-fame horses were Domino, Colin, Commando, and Sysonby. Daingerfield’s reputation was such, that in 1902 a “sensational” three year-old black colt owned by McLewee & Co. bore the name Major Daingerfield.[1] The Governor appointed the Major a member of the Kentucky State Racing Commission. In 1907, Keene’s total winnings were more than $397,000, which at the time was the greatest amount ever won by any one man in the world history of racing. Just before his death, Daingerfield compiled statistics that in the years 1905 through 1910, Keene’s winnings from his Kentucky horses aggregated over $1.2 million.[2]

Friday, April 27, 2012

Foxhall Alexander Daingerfield in Virginia

This is the second article in our occasional series on the horse in Rockingham County (the first one was The Sport of Kings, The Beast of Burden). We again return to this subject as a token notice of the spring horseracing ritual known as the Triple Crown for three-year old thoroughbred horses. The following provides a brief biographic sketch of a world renowned judge and breeder of horses - Foxhall Alexander Daingerfield. He was born in Rockingham County and was, for a time, a prominent personage in Harrisonburg. As we delved into the sources, the materials clearly revealed to us not only one person, but a family who was very capable and active in the horse world.

The Daingerfield Family

The Daingerfields were among the first families of Virginia. During the colonial period, kinships were established with other first Virginia families. As was common then, the relationships often included the marrying of cousins and the naming of children after relatives. The first American Daingerfield family arrived in Virginia in the mid-1600s. One noted ancestor, Col. William Daingerfield (d. 1769), lived at Greenfield, Essex County and served in the House of Burgess from 1747-1751.[1] A son, also William Daingerfield, was one of the first eight colonels commissioned in Washington’s army.[2] The first distinguished colonial ancestors included writers, civil servants, and warriors – interests and talents that Foxhall and his siblings also exhibited.

Friday, April 13, 2012

April is National Poetry Month

The Academy of American Poets selected April as National Poetry Month in 1996 to broaden our understanding of and gain our attention to poetry, which for many seems to be fading from our literary culture. To celebrate poetry month, the Academy suggests carrying poems in your pockets, attending poetry readings, and promoting public support for poetry across the country, which is exactly what the Poet Laureate is supposed to do.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Cleaning—Not an April Fools’ Tale

Yes, a history of spring cleaning exists.  Dating back about 3,000 years ago in Persia, spring cleaning began as a ritual of the Persian New Year which was usually March 21st, the first day of Spring.  The traditions and rituals continue today, but it is now known as the Iranian Norouz.  The practice of “Khooneh tekouni,” which means “shaking the house” is the first Spring Cleaning ritual. Everything that can be is taken outside and shaken and cleaned.  Inside, the floors and walls are all washed.  Fresh flowers are brought in for good fortune for the new year.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Virginia Women Writers at Home #4

Rita Mae Brown (1944 - )

Our fifth Virginia author brings us to the late 20th century as into the past. Though born in the Hanover, Pa horse country, Rita Mae Brown, through her father, claims Virginia roots, all the way back to “when the earth was cooling.”[i] Currently she owns a farm in Nelson County where she writes about Virginia history and indulges in her animals and in the very Virginian sport of fox hunting. Both appear in her novels, especially a cat, “Sneaky Pie Brown,” who co-authored nineteen “cozy” mysteries. Another mystery series centers on Brown’s foxhunting club.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Virginia Women Writers at Home #3

Ellen Glasgow (1873-1945)

Ellen Glasgow, like Johnston, was sickly and also had a reputation for resisting conformist strictures. Her father was an industrialist in the new south. She lived in Richmond and spent summers at plantations in the area. Her works followed romanticism to realism writing styles, Virginia plantation life to urban life, and pretty feminism to active feminism.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Virginia Women Writers at Home #2

Amélie Rives (1863-1945)

Amélie Rives traced her American ancestry back to colonial Virginia. Her great-grandfather Dr. Thomas Walker was a friend of Peter Jefferson. After Jefferson’s death his son, Thomas Jefferson, became Dr. Walker’s ward. Her grandfather, William Cabell Rives, was a senator and an ambassador to France. Robert E. Lee was Amélie’s godfather. Her home was Castle Hill (begun in the mid-1700s) in Albemarle County. Here famous founders and shapers of the young United States were frequent visitors. Unlike many other Virginia plantations, Castle Hill was not touched during the Civil War.[i] 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Virginia Women Writers at Home

We are saluting Women’s History Month with a series on women authors whose temperament and writing characterize Virginia women We will “snapshot” five authors and one work by each of them to illustrate how writers reflected in their lives and in the themes and settings of their works a distinctive “Virginia-ness.” Our last criteria: the works had to be a “good read.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Uniform Monday Holiday Act

In 1880 the United States Congress declared February 22nd, George Washington’s birthday, a federal holiday for all government employees working in the District of Columbia. In 1885 that federal holiday was expanded to include those working in government offices in the entire United States. [1] Public Law 90-363, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, was signed into law on June 28, 1968 and took effect on January 1, 1971. [2] This act is responsible for moving the federal holiday celebration of George Washington’s birthday from February 22nd to what we commonly refer to as Presidents’ Day. Presidents’ Day is now celebrated on the third Monday in February, which will never be the 22nd of February as it can only fall on February 15th - 21st. [3]

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valley Traditions Part II: Festivals & Faschnachts


Harkening back to our Christmas blog on Belsnickling in the Valley we continue to explore the origins of local customs associated with the darkest days of the year. With the approach of spring the last of the three traditional winter celebrations is upon us - the period before Ash Wednesday and the forty days of Lent. As with All Souls Day and Christmas the religious observance is preceded by “eves” of gaiety and eating. In some cultures frivolities may last a week, but most frequently they are observed on the two days before the beginning of Lent - Rose Monday and Shrove Tuesday. The name used for the Tuesday depends on whether one is in Latin Europe or in Teutonic Europe. In the southern European tradition, celebrations last for several days and are called carnival (derived from carne levare, which is translated as ‘taking away the flesh”). In the English language, shrove (the past tense of shrive) means to hear confession. So, prior to the salvation of body and soul, society dedicated a time to indulge in food, masquerade, and parades.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What's a Lyceum?

Massanutten Regional Library Presents:
Lunchtime Lyceum Begins Jan. 23rd
—but what’s a lyceum?

ly·ce·um (lahy-see-uh m) n.
1. A hall in which public lectures, concerts, and similar programs are presented.
2. An organization sponsoring public programs and entertainment.

chautauqua (SHəˈtôkwə) n.
(Social Science / Education) (in the US, formerly) a summer school or educational meeting held in the summer named after Chautauqua, the Iroquois name of a lake in New York near which such a school was first held.[i]

Throughout history, from Plato to our modern Think Tanks, people have shared their love of learning. Aristotle is attributed with the first “lyceum” --the gymnasium where he held his lectures.

In America, the lyceum venue began with the Transcendentalists in New England. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau endorsed the movement and often gave speeches in Massachusetts. As the Civil War dawned, the movement faded, but the name has remained synonymous with intellectual exchanges.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Glimpse into the Life of the Slave and Indentured Servant

As we approach the annual observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday and Black History month, we might not recognize these events are rooted in American societal practices begun four centuries ago. The Virginia Center for the Digital History’s project on the Geography of Slavery in Virginia has assembled a rich resource of documents, mostly from contemporary newspaper advertisements, about runaways and indentured servants.

Using this resource, eleven advertisements describe slaves and indentured servants who ran away from their owners in Rockingham County between June 1778 and August 1795.[i] As the advertisements were submitted by the owners, they represented perhaps a one-sided view of the runaways.

Friday, January 6, 2012

You Think It's Cold Now?

Headline in the Harrisonburg Daily News January 15, 1912
The predicted cold weather from the upper mid-west arrived on winds of 45-50 miles per hour. The cold spread southward and eastward and sent temperatures to the zero mark. Lewis J. Heatwole, the weather observer at the Dale Enterprise station, reported that on Thursday evening, January 4, temperatures dropped from 32º F to - 2ºF. Temperatures may have been a little warmer in Harrisonburg, but were cold enough to frost plate-glass windows nearly an inch and to require merchants on Court Square to keep their electric lights burning during the day. Plumbers experienced increasing demand for their services.