Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Short Trip by Rail

A Short Trip by Rail

In the 19th century, traveling by road in the western part of Virginia meant walking, taking the stagecoach, or riding a horse. Harrisonburg and Rockingham County was primarily rural and agricultural, and the roads were, as described by C. G. Price, “bottomless mud when it rained, impassable when it snowed and in dry weather [were] obscured by billowing clouds of dust.” [1] Local merchants went to major cities as infrequently as possible—often only twice a year.

Politics and economics controlled the railroads prior to the Civil War. Winchester was connected to the B&O by the mid-1830s and Staunton was added as a stop on the Virginia Central (later Chesapeake & Ohio) in 1854. Port Republic and Shenandoah had major iron mines, furnaces and foundries, as well as mills. The railroad followed what is now Rt. 340 from Front Royal to Staunton as early as 1834. Crossing the Blue Ridge was also a major factor. As Ed King pointed out: “A modern locomotive that can pull 1,000 tons on a flat grade can pull only 200 tons on a 0.5% grade.” [2] Competition for a railroad between Charlottesville and Harrisonburg ended with the Blue Ridge, although by the late 1800s, the train followed Rt. 33 and stopped in Elkton.

While the Civil War caused massive damage to existing rails and caused a break in construction, Harrisonburg residents began clamoring for railroad connections as early as 1866. As the northern “carpetbaggers” had no side in the pre-war politics, they began the construction of a railroad from Baltimore to Harrisonburg. The first railroad to come to Harrisonburg opened in 1868 as part of the Manassas Gap Railroad and the inaugural train was pulled by an engine named Shenandoah.
Residents, however, were still unsatisfied—this line provided transportation to Manassas, Orange and Alexandria but did not traverse along the Valley. Robert E. Lee lent his voice to an effort to build such a railroad, the Valley Rail Road Company. While this line was never fully constructed, it paved the way for the Chesapeake & Western Railroad, incorporated in 1895. [3] To this day, there is still no direct link between Harrisonburg and Staunton.

For more information on trains in the valley, please attend our program on November 6th at 7pm at the Main Branch of the library in downtown Harrisonburg. Bob Cohen will present his new book, A Trip by Rail in the Shenandoah Valley on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Southern Railway (2013). Mr. Cohen will have copies of his book available purchase and signing. He invites the public to bring train memorabilia to share.

For more information, contact Cheryl Metz @

By Cheryl Metz and Katie Martin

[1] Price, Charles G. The Crooked & Weedy. Waynesville: Don Mills, 1992.

[2] King, Ed. “Getting Them Up the Grade the Norfolk and Western Way.”  Trains Magazine, April 2004, p. 67.

[3] Price , Chapter 2.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Maplewood: History and Mystery

Maplewood:  History and Mysteries

                Depending on whom or what you read, the date of the building of the original Maplewood varies from 1755 to 1759. On Jan. 12, 1746 James Wood purchased the original 350 acres from King George II for thirty-five shillings. King George was busy fighting Charles James Stuart at the time.  What happened between 1746 and 1755 is a mystery.
                According to deeds, Robert Rollstone purchased “the house, building and orchard” in 1755; thus, the 1755 date seems accurate.  Rollstone did a quick turn-over to William Castleberry who then sold it to Archibald Hopkins for five shillings in 1757.  Why was everyone willing to take a loss on this property? The farm would remain in this Irish family for 122 years.  Although one account states that Archibald passed it to his son William in 1799, then William passed it to his son John Hinton Hopkins in 1841, a different account says that Archibald’s brother,  John, Sr.,  who  lived two miles away, married Jean Gordon and built Maplewood in 1760.  Either way, John Hinton Hopkins ended up with the property in 1841.
                According to “A Chapter of Hopkins Genealogy” by George W. Fetzer dated July 17, 1936, the Hopkins (John and his daughters, and his brothers)  were very wealthy and owned over 3,000 acres among them as late as August  1787.  In contrast, a Daily News Record article printed in 1992 states that the Civil War “nearly bankrupted John; thus, his wife was forced to sell off their land. “  The better story is that John had a son William,(presumably named after his grandfather), who was a VMI cadet and ended up fighting in the Civil War.  He was wounded in battle outside of Richmond, yet was transported back to Maplewood where, within a few days, he died.  Is it his bloody footprint that stains the hardwood floors to this day?   With no male heir, did John decide to sell?
                Either way, in 1879, the estate was broken up, and William Chrisman bought the house.  The Chrismans remained at Maplewood until 1951 when John Myers, Mrs. Shelvie Carr’s grandfather, purchased it.  Mrs. Carr and her husband purchased the home and a few acres at auction in 1981.
                Maplewood stands majestically on a rise before entering Singer’s Glen, which was known as Mountain Valley until 1860.  The original driveway is gone, but the old mounting block remains at the front portico. Double chimneys grace the ends of the front and Flemish bond bedecks the side nearest the road--American bond covers the other side!   The entire house has thirteen fireplaces, each with a different mantle. For more information, and the answers to some of the mysteries, attend the Massanutten Regional Library’s virtual tour of Maplewood on Thursday, Nov.  23rd at 7pm, presented by Mrs. Shelvie Carr and her granddaughter Emily Carr.

Cheryl L. Metz

Friday, October 10, 2014

George W. Rosenberger: Model farmer of Rosendale

George W. Rosenberger
Model Farmer of Rosendale
            George Rosenberger, an immigrant from Zurich, Switzerland, came to colonial Virginia, , established himself in what is now Page County, and served in the Revolutionary War.[i]  His son, George Washington Rosenberger was born in 1778 and died in 1858 in his eightieth year.  In about 1790, this George acquired the land at the present Rosendale location on which he built a two-over-two log house.  Evidence of the senior George Washington Rosenberger’s success can be deduced from the 1850 Census records in which his real property was valued at $24,000.  He also owned two working-age slaves.
In 1802 George W. Rosenberger married Margaret Zirkle (1780-1836) of New Market.  Their fifth child, also named George Washington, was born on February 23, 1823 at Rosendale and is the subject of the following article.   Fifty-five years later he was described as the “model Valley farmer.”  He added what is now the front face of Rosendale in 1870; the original house became the ell.  In the 1870 Census Rosenberger’s real estate was valued at $12,500, about half the value of his father’s real property twenty years before.  The difference could reflect local conditions after the Civil War.
George Washington Rosenberger married Barbara Ann Kagey in 1845.  They had eight children, five of whom died before 1887 when their mother died.  In 1892, George W. Rosenberger married Barbara’s sister, Amelia (Millie) Kagey, who had been living with the family at Rosendale for several decades.  He was sixty-nine years old and she was fifty-two years old when they married.  Of the three surviving children from the first marriage, one was Arthur Russell Rosenberger, a successful local banker and entrepreneur.  Another son, Charles W., oversaw the Rosendale operation after the death of the father and probably for some years before the father’s death.[ii]
Rosendale during the Civil War
            Documents found in the George W. Rosenberger Collection at the VMI Archives provide a glimpse of Rosendale and, by extension, the local the farming experience during the later part of the Civil War.  When the War began Rosenberger was thirty-seven years old.  Instead of serving in the military Rosenberger purchased a substitute.  From March 1862 to April 1863 Abner Canada was the substitute.   An archival document recounted Canada’s capture in Shenandoah County and his escape that returned him to his comrades.  In the Civil War Rolls found in A History of Rockingham County,[iii] Abner Canada does not appear.  The only Abner Canada listed in the 1860 Census was a sixty-one year old farm laborer in Rockingham County.   G.W. Rosenberger was listed as member of the Company H, 10th Va. Cavalry.  There is no record that he actually served in combat.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Gabriel Jones and Bogota

Gabriel Jones of Bogota
On October 9, the second program of the Deyerle Series features Rachel Lilly, the current owner of Bogota, discussing the architecture of the Bogota house built by Jacob Strayer in the1850s.  Few local residents realize an earlier Bogota existed on the current property.  It was built by Gabriel Jones about 1756.  Gabriel Jones, nicknamed the “Valley Lawyer” was energetic, rascally, well-connected, and well-known in early Virginia. 
Bogota in the 18th Century
  On August 8, 1751 Gabriel Jones purchased from Christopher Francisco of Pennsylvania [i]  This parcel was originally part of the 5,000 acres patented to Jacob Stover.  On the same day in 1751, Thomas Lewis, son of John Lewis, purchased 530 acres from Francisco that was across the River opposite Jones.[ii]  The Lewis property, once known as Lewiston, is now known as Lynnwood.[iii]  Jones had married on October 8, 1749 Margaret Strother of King George County.[iv]   Thomas Lewis married Margaret’s sister.  Also near to Bogota and Lynnwood was Madison Hall in the “v” between the North River and the South River at Port Republic.  Madison Hall was the home of John Madison who married another sister of Margaret Strother.[v]  John Madison was a cousin of President Madison.  Madison Hall was the birthplace of another James Madison, the first Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, and served as Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters during the Civil War battle at Port Republic. 
244 acres on the north side of the Shenandoah River opposite the lower end of “Great Island” in the River.
The name “Bogota” is at least as old as the Jones’ ownership of the property.  Bogota derives from the South American Indian word “Bacata,” which means planted fields.  Jones lived here from about 1756 until his death in October1806.  His widow, Margaret, outlived her husband and her children, and remained at Bogota until her death at age 97 in 1822.  The house stayed in the family until it was sold to Jacob Strayer. [vi]
The first Bogota house was a wooden, one and a half story structure with dormer windows.  A not very sharp image of this house is in Isaac Terrell’s Old Houses of Rockingham County. The survey of the property for the National Register of Historic Places suggests that archaeological artifacts found near the intersection of Lawyer Road and Lynnwood Road are consistent with a house and habitation of this period being located at the site.  It is also believed that Gabriel Jones (and perhaps other members of his family) are buried nearby. [vii]   When the Strayers bought the property in 1830 from the Jones family they lived in the Jones house until the present Bogota was completed.  Wainscoting from the Jones house was used in what is now the sitting room on the left side of the front entrance. The current owners of the property do not know when the original house was destroyed. 

Gabriel Jones – Early Life
            Gabriel Jones was born on 14 May 1724 in York County near Williamsburg.  His parents, John (b. 1668) and Elizabeth Bates Jones (b. 1688), were from Montgomeryshire in northern Wales.[viii]  When the parents came to Virginia is not known.  Gabriel Jones claimed he was his parent’s fourth son and fifth child, but only mentioned two living siblings: an older sister, Elizabeth (b. 1721) and a younger brother, John (b.1725).  The father, a weaver of noble descent, did not do well in the colony.  He died before 1727.  A baptismal record from early 1727 showed the mother and children were in England.            In April 1732, at the age of seven, Jones was sent to the “Blue Coat School, Christ Church Hospital London, where he studied for seven years.  He was removed from the school in 1739 to start a six year apprenticeship under John Houghton, Solicitor, in the High Court of Chancery.  About the time Jones was admitted to the bar in 1745, his mother died.  The family was “of gentle blood,” but in “reduced circumstances.”[ix]  A descendent of Gabriel Jones preserved an old coin in wrapping paper on which Jones had written: “This is the patrimony I received from my mother.  From my father I received nothing.”[x]  As early as 1750 Jones used the same crest and coat of arms as the recently deceased mathematician William Jones indicating a relationship with that man.[xi]
            Free of his indenture, admitted to the bar, and reaching his majority, Jones returned to America about a year after his mother’s death.  Probably Thomas, Lord Fairfax, owner of the Northern Neck Proprietary, or, a friend, Hugh Mercer, influenced his decision to return.[xii]  The close relationship between Fairfax and Jones is evidenced by Fairfax’s appointment of Jones to legislative and judicial positions relating to the proprietorship and Fairfax’s appointment of Jones as an executor of his will.  Fairfax died in 1781.
Public Servant
Gabriel Jones truly served the Valley.  To help to fully understand the geographical extent of his service, the reader should recall the territorial vastness of the early Virginia counties.  In 1743 Frederick County was carved from Orange County, the mother of western Virginia Counties.  Frederick included Shenandoah, Clarke, and Warren Counties in Virginia, and, in present day West Virginia, Hardy, Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan and Hampshire Counties.  Hampshire County was created from Frederick County in 1754.  Also, from Orange County, Augusta County was created in 1738, which had infinite western territory.  In October 1777, Rockingham County was carved from the northeast portion of Augusta County.
On his return from England to the Virginia colony, Jones first stopped in Fredericksburg, but soon relocated to Frederick County.  In March 1747 he purchased 172 acres along the Opequon Creek near the present day Kernstown and not far from the Joist Hite properties.   Here Jones served as a private secretary to Lord Fairfax.  In April 1746, at the age of 22 years, Jones was appointed the King’s Attorney for Augusta County, but he continued to reside in Frederick County from where he represented the County in the House of Burgesses.
Colonial Period: Legislative Representative in the House of Burgesses and Continental Congress
            As a representative from Frederick County he was elected to the Burgesses in 1748, 1749, and 1752.  He resigned from the House in 1753 to serve as the Frederick County Coroner.  When Hampshire County was created in 1754, Jones was its representative to the House of Burgesses in 1754 and 1755.  About 1756, Jones moved to Bogota, from where he served as an Augusta County Burgess in 1757, 1758, and 1771.  In 1774, at the age of fifty, Jones was elected to the Continental Congress but did not attend.   Jones carried out assignments for the Congress to ascertain conditions and defenses in the western areas around Fort Pitt.