Secrets of the Blue Ridge: Some News From Home: April 1935

Boonesville native and longtime carnival showman “Jim Henry” Bruce (1884–1935), stands on the footboard of his three-abreast Herschell-Spillman carousel. The ride’s accompanying Rudolph Wurlitzer band organ is seen gleaming in the background. Courtesy of Larry Lamb.

The daily news is much more than just the daily news. For local communities, it is the very stuff of life—the pleasant and the ugliness—and sometimes, sadly, of death. Those who picked up a copy of the newspaper during the month of April 1935 didn’t have to search between the lines of print to ascertain that a good many changes were in the offing.

Dateline CROZET, Va., April 3. — Dr. Andrew J. Clark, “widely known pharmacist of Crozet,” died in Richmond, where he had been visiting his mother. All businesses in Crozet were suspended during the funeral services due to the throng of friends attending. Crozet Pharmacy was opened in the Goodall Building on the Main Street corner of The Square in 1909, dividing the ground floor’s footage with M.P. Sadler’s Crozet Hardware business. Crozet’s postmaster Ellis Harris operated the Crozet Hotel on that building’s second floor.

Dateline BOONESVILLE, Va., April 12. — James H. “Jim Henry” Bruce, owner and manger of Bruce Greater Shows, passed away in a Charlottesville hospital following an unsuccessful surgery. He was “raised on the sawdust trail” of his parents’ Boonesville-based Bruce’s Carnival that began business in the central Virginia region with “one set of hobby horses,” setting up their modest entertainment at locations including Crozet, Gordonsville and the Shenandoah Valley. Beginning in 1926, Jim Henry Bruce modernized and expanded the organization into a widely respected show business, employing hundreds. The “bigger and better than ever” carnival was transported by the railroad, and operated at major fairs from upstate New York to Georgia. Without the big personality and driving force of Mr. Bruce, the business was sold within a few years following his death.

Jewel Chapel at St. James’ Mission, Lydia, Greene Co., VA. Built with seating for 200, when the chapel was consecrated in 1912, “fully 500 persons crowded onto the Mission grounds for the ceremony.” Its faithful workers also administered a mission house and hospital for the appreciative mountain community. Courtesy of Larry Lamb

Dateline LYDIA, and SIMMONS GAP, GREENE COUNTY, Va., April 26. — Two mountain mission stations in Greene County, established by the Episcopal Archdeaconry of the Blue Ridge, were required to be dismantled and moved “because of the [forced] migration of the people from and near the Shenandoah Park area.” The Jewel Chapel, located at Lydia (off of Rt. 33) was relocated to the community of Alberene in southern Albemarle. The Church of the Holy Innocents, at Simmons Gap (Skyline Drive milepost 73.2), was moved to Cross Roads, between Free Union and Boonesville in Albemarle. The benevolent work on the mountaintop at Simmons Gap had begun in 1900.

Dateline RICHMOND, and BLACKSBURG, Va., April 23. — The headline stated, “Educator Urges Birth Control As Aid In Solving Va. [‘rural areas’] Problems.” A professor of Virginia Polytechnic Institute “today recommended extension of the sterilization law and encouragement of birth control among the poor… as ways of dealing with Virginia’s ‘excessive marginal population’ … in which he placed tenants, hired laborers and marginal owners—described as those paying less than $1 taxes annually on real estate and personal property.” This mindset of social control harkened back to Eugenics Laws advocated in 1923, calling for sterilization of the “socially inadequate… to include paupers, ne’r-do-wells, orphans, cripples and the blind… and the additional thousands of near morons for whom there is no place in present-day society.” — Most unfortunately, in 1935, such preposterous ideas were being picked up and advocated by the media (and, deplorably, put to the test in some instances) to justify the forced removal of mountain residents living peacefully “in the way” of the establishment of Shenandoah National Park.

Families residing on the heights of the Blue Ridge Mountains, similar to this group living in community on Frazier Mountain on the Albemarle/Greene County border, suffered many indignities from elected officials, special interest groups and news media. Hundreds upon hundreds of similar families living in the eight counties surrounding the proposed Shenandoah National Park during the 1920s and ‘30s suffered likewise. During eight years of Federal and State administration turnovers, and subsequent Park policy changes, these mountain households were little more than an unwanted hindrance to the national parks movement. Phil James Historical Images.

Dateline MOUNTFAIR, Va., April 25. — Mae Elizabeth Maupin was the happy eleven-year-old daughter of Ernest and Bertha (Colvin) Maupin. On a Friday afternoon in the spring of 1935, while walking home from her third grade classes at Mountfair School, her companions recalled that she was singing, “when suddenly she threw up her hands and exclaimed, ‘Oh! me,’” before collapsing to the ground. Dr. L.G. Roberts of White Hall concluded that young Mae died from acute cardiac failure. She was buried in Sugar Hollow on the following Sunday.

Dateline CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. April 29. — SPORTS: The Crozet Nine, playing in Charlottesville’s Junior Baseball City League, were led by catcher Harold “Red” Grimes who went four-for-six at the plate and scored four times in a 22–6 shellacking of the boys from Belmont Park.

At Mountfair School in April 1935, the student body was saddened to learn of the unexpected passing of their third grade classmate Mae Elizabeth Maupin (1923-1935), who died suddenly while walking home from school. Courtesy of Earline Garrison.

Dateline CROZET, Va., Sept. 4. — “J.C. Phillips, who for 25 years has conducted a barber shop and job printing establishment, sold his barber equipment, etc., to Vivian McCauley. For several years Mr. McCauley was associated with Mr. Phillips, but for two years has been conducting the Modern Barber Shop in Crozet. Mr. Phillips will continue the job printing.”

When the ugliness of the world is bearing down, remember the words of scripture in Philippians 4:8: “… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

And don’t forget to sing along your life’s paths, just like eleven- year-old Mae Elizabeth. 

Crozet Pharmacy was renamed Crozet Drug Company following the death of its longtime pharmacist Andrew J. Clark (1888–1935) and the business’s subsequent acquisition by Dr. E.D. Davis Jr. and C.H. Clark. The new owners modernized the facility and updated its stock. Dr. Warner T. Wood (pictured on the left) was hired as manager and druggist. Courtesy of the Ray P. “Pete” McCauley Collection.

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: or at P.O. Box 88, White Hall, VA 22987. Secrets of the Blue Ridge © 2003–2023 Phil James 


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