Elizabeth Catherine “Bettie” Via (1882–1957) was born on her uncle Sam Naylor’s farm near Elkton in Rockingham County. When she was five, her family moved across the mountains close to her father’s roots in western Albemarle’s Sugar Hollow. She preserved her memories of living in the hollow until her marriage there in 1899.
Bettie wrote: “I was visiting Cousin Tom Naylor at Bear Lithia Springs near Elkton in Rockingham County. Minnie Wood would write and tell me about the different boys who came to work at the stave mill back home in Sugar Hollow. This time she was telling me about Mr. Gochenour, and how Georgia, her sister, was so stuck on him and what a nice, quiet fellow he was. That must have been about 1895.
“After I returned home, I was over at Mr. Wood’s, across Moorman’s River from our house, sitting on the porch talking to a couple of fellows who happened to be there, when Mr. Gochenour came in the yard. He had just walked across the Blue Ridge Mountains from Crimora in Augusta County and it was a hot afternoon. He sat down under the locust tree. Pretty soon, he got up and went to his room. He told me later he peeped out of the door at me. I think he must have liked my looks or was listening to what I was talking about. I believe it was something about going home to get supper. Ha! Edna Via came up and they struck up quite an acquaintance and when she went home, she told me to take care of her boyfriend.
“In 1896, he started to go with me. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to us girls if the stave mill had not moved into our neighborhood. Would we have married someone else, or I wonder if we would have met some other place? ‘God has his mysteries to perform. His ways we cannot tell. He hides them deep, like the secret sleep of those he loves so well.’
“We were married April 26, 1899, at my house in Sugar Hollow. That was a busy day for everyone except me. My mother and Aunt Fannie James were busy making preparations and getting the meal all planned, to be served after the wedding ceremony. Dinner was served for fifty people. Aunt Fannie was very artistic in doing things. Of course, preparations had been going on for sometime. They baked cookie dough in strips maybe eight or ten inches long, iced them, and built up three corner pans. In the center of the table, Aunt Fannie took four or five pounds of butter and made it look like a pitcher. She even had flowers made out of butter. Mattie Long baked the wedding cake, iced with white icing, with Bettie Gochenour on one side and Luther Gochenour on the other side, written in pink. Mother reminded her that I was not Bettie Gochenour yet, but Mattie said that I would be when it was cut. When I try to look back, I can’t remember a thing we had to eat, but I am sure there was a big Virginia ham close by.
“I had three bridesmaids and two flower girls. Georgia Wood, Edna Via and Hattie Sandridge were the bridesmaids with Brother John [Via], Lucian Ballard and Mr. Beard as their escorts. Luther’s sister, Edmonia and Martha Sandridge were the flower girls.
“We were to be married at eight o’clock, but the preacher’s horse balked in the river because we had a hard thundershower, so he was late getting there. Father heard him crossing the river and went down to the mill where they usually came, to hitch his horse. Father was down there waiting and the preacher came another way, so Father almost missed seeing his last girl get married.
“Our porch ran two sides of the house and we were married near the corner of the porch where all could see. Our house was too small for all of us to get in one room. I will never forget how Frank Clayton stood back of the preacher making faces at me, but I had heard if you laugh you won’t hold out and I didn’t want that to happen to me, so I wouldn’t crack a smile until it was all over. After the handshakes and kisses, we proceeded to go down in the basement where the big feed was waiting.
“I couldn’t walk down with Luther because that would be bad luck. Lucian Ballard took me and Edna took Luther. We sat opposite at the table. At twelve o’clock Edna came and said it was bedtime and she went with me up to my room. We spent our first night there with Mother and Father.
“The next day we were off for the only honeymoon I ever had. We drove across the Blue Ridge Mountains with horse and buggy, the distance of ten miles. Luther took me to live at his home at Crimora. I didn’t get to see him very much. He was working for Mr. [William R.] Talley in the post office and little store, and he had to stay there at night. Sometimes I would go down and spend the night with him and he came home on Saturday nights.”
Bettie and Luther’s marriage was blessed with seven children, five boys and two girls. Through their years, Luther’s work took them far afield from their Blue Ridge Mountain beginnings, and, eventually to Washington, D.C. Yet, as was the custom for many, as the time for each child’s birth drew near, Bettie would find her way back home to the place of her marriage, and the safety and comforts of her mother’s home in Sugar Hollow.
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