By Sally James
The last stone has been carefully chosen and laid in its place. Now the chimney stands a proud 16 feet tall, an impressive work of art set amidst the green hills of Blackwell’s Hollow.
This chimney is the first part of a memorial being created to honor the families displaced from their homes in order to create Shenandoah National Park. Albemarle Blue Ridge Heritage Project, one of eight grassroots chapters of the BRHP, chose the site at Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve Park to build this county’s memorial. Before the dedication planned for Saturday, November 5, a bronze plaque will be affixed to the chimney that will list the surnames of the Albemarle County families displaced.
Darryl Whidby, master stonemason, and his wife Jackie built the memorial chimney for Madison County, and now for Albemarle, too. They would be honored to build all eight chimneys planned, if needed. When asked why he has this desire to contribute, he replied, “It’s a way I can honor and remember my family [who lived in the mountains]. My grandmother helped to raise me…I like to just feel the rock.” These beautiful stones, indeed, could tell a story: as part of the mountain, gathered and laid up a hundred years or more ago, taken down and moved, and raised up again to remind us of those who were here before us.
The chapter is continuing fundraising efforts to meet its goal of $25,000, which will allow construction of a post-and-beam shelter at the same site with educational panels and with room for cultural events.
The ABRHP had a successful, standing-room-only event at The Lodge at Old Trail September 15. The Silent Auction raised over $2,400, thanks to all the generous donors and buyers. Paul Cantrell, Phil James and Bill Henry shared information and stories about life and culture before the Park. Rosie Mae Garrison Keyton, one of a handful of people who can give a firsthand account of life on the mountaintop, was in attendance.
Save the Date! The chimney and plaque will be unveiled on Saturday, November 5, at 1 p.m. at the memorial site at Byrom Park (eight miles north of White Hall on Route 810). There will be refreshments, mountain music and other activities. Come be a part of marking—and making—a significant chapter of our county’s history!