Secrets of the Blue Ridge: Home Sweet Blue Ridge Home

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The fireplace was a year ‘round source of heat necessary for both cooking and comfort in this mountain home. Their mantle displayed a treasured clock, flower vases and requisite coal oil (kerosene) lamp. This family group lived on Frazier Mountain along the Albemarle/Greene County border during the early 20th century. Courtesy Larry Lamb Collection.

Frances Walker Hill (1919–2011) grew up on Carter Street in the village of Crozet, the ninth of eleven children born to William and Mary (Brown) Walker. Referring to the size of her family, she said, “I thought it was a big group, but when I went to the [Albemarle] Training School, there was a family there named Jackson. The father was a school teacher, Silas Jackson. That family had seventeen children. No twins. One at a time. That’s the truth.

“My father worked for the lumber company in Crozet. My mother worked at home from Monday to Saturday, did laundry work. On Sunday, she worked over there for Mr. Charlie Wayland. They’d have their children and grandchildren come there for dinner. Mother was there all day. Leave home about eight o’clock in the morning; come back it would be every bit of 6:30, quarter-to-seven.

Veenie Barber was born pre-Civil War at the Mirador farm in western Albemarle County. Beginning with C.D. Langhorne’s purchase of that estate in 1892, she was employed by his family and related others. Her home during those later years was this expanded log house on a hillside near Greenwood. Phil James Historical Images Collection.

“My daddy was very fond of lawyer Colonel Henry B. Goodloe, who was the one that signed up for me to get this place. He was a nice man to work with. He liked people regardless of race or color. He liked people. That’s what made a difference. My husband and I hadn’t been married too long. You live with your parents—it’s alright, but my husband and I said we’d like to get a little house of our own. My brother William said, ‘I know a man wants to sell a house, but it only has two rooms.’ I said we can take two rooms to get started. Get a job and add to it.

“In those days, the people I worked for at Farmington had a girl, and they wanted somebody to stay on the place so when they went out at night someone would be there with their daughter. So that’s how most of us poor folks got a home. We stayed on the people’s place, and we’d take that money and you could put it on your loan. Mr. Goodloe fixed it through the National Bank, and all I had to do was go down there every month and pay mine and get my receipt and get on with my business, think about next month. I think he gave us 25 years, paying $15/month. Of course, we always kept a month ahead, in case somebody got sick or something. That’s the way I bought this house in 1945 or ’46. And we added on to it.”

Ethel (Maupin) Via and her daughter Ruby, c.1933, on the doorstep of their mountain home near Doylesville, western Albemarle Co. Ethel, husband Archie and their four children shared their humble home with his aged parents, and occasionally boarded other extended family members. Archie worked out as a farm laborer and operated a steam traction engine. Courtesy Ruby Via Doughtie.

Virginia Wood Sandridge (1917–2013) grew up at Walnut Level in the Brown’s Cove section of western Albemarle, where her father Wilson Wood was farm manager in the 1920s and ’30s. “In my family there were seven boys and three girls,” she said. “I was the youngest girl. We had some good times up there.

Momma said they really didn’t know much about [the Depression.] She said living on the farm things didn’t change that much. We had hogs, cows, chickens.

Sam Garrison, on left, with a family relation visiting from Pennsylvania, paused below the front porch of his weather-boarded log home on the eastern face of Pasture Fence Mountain in western Albemarle, c.1942. Courtesy Sam and Mary Jane Garrison family.

“That old brick house was my home place. Winter time, oh mercy, that was a cold house. Had a King heater in every room. [Across the driveway on a hillside] we had a log icehouse. Dad had his shop on the first level and the icehouse underneath. When it got real cold, they would go down on the river and cut ice and fill that icehouse. In the summer time we had the best ice cream ever.

“They were good old days. I don’t mean to be disrespectful by saying this, but people in those days were close. If one family said they were going to make apple butter, two or three families would come in and help them peel apples, make apple butter the next day. Then the other family would turn in and make apple butter and we’d all just work together.”

Sarah Elizabeth (Garrison) Keyton, with apron donned, at the back door of her home below Wildcat Hollow between Pasture Fence and Cedar Mountains. Mrs. Keyton and husband Scott, a subsistence farmer and laborer, raised eight children. Courtesy Woodrow and Rosie Keyton family.

Emory Harrison Wyant (1911-2001) was born at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Albemarle, the eighth of ten children born to Hiram and Cornelia (James) Wyant. “Old Sugar Hollow has changed since I left there in 1924,” he reminisced. “I was born there, and I was about twelve years old when we left. Daddy did blacksmith work and a little farming.

“The little weather-boarded church where we went up there in the hollow was my Mother’s church. I went to the old frame Sugar Hollow schoolhouse for a year or two, and while I was going, they built the [cement] block school.

The 53-acre farm of Moletus and Sarah Jane (Frazier) Garrison spread out along the summit of the Blue Ridge Mountains south of Brown’s Gap, just above the headwaters of Jones Run in Albemarle County. Two springs emerged from the hillside between this photo site and their house: the upper spring was used for utilitarian purposes, while the lower one provided cool, clear water for drinking. The Garrison’s house was razed in the 1930s during the construction of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive. Courtesy Woodrow and Rosie Keyton family.

“Our neighbor Bernard Carr, how well I remember him. He had a tannery where he tanned hides and made harness and everything for horses. When that [Spanish] flu went around, our whole family was down except Dad and [my sister] Edna. That old fellow would come down with a basket full of food. He’d bring it and set it on the porch. He’d go away and Dad would get it and take it in. Then he’d bring it back out so Mr. Carr could get it and go back. They didn’t know what to do with that flu. But he brought food down there. One of the finest neighbors you ever saw in your life.

“I’d give anything for a picture of my old home. It was a log house. The maple tree is still standing there where the old spring was. They’ve made changes and it doesn’t even look like the homeplace anymore. When we lived there, I never once heard my Mother and Father raise their voice at each other. On Sundays they would sing hymns together at home. It’s been a wonderful life. We came up, poor people. Didn’t have money, but we had love in our family.” 

Follow Secrets of the Blue Ridge on Facebook! Phil James invites contact from those who would share recollections and old photographs of life along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Albemarle County. You may respond to him through his website: www.SecretsoftheBlueRidge.com or at P.O. Box 88, White Hall, VA 22987. Secrets of the Blue Ridge © 2003–2022 Phil James 

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