Claudius Crozet and His Emblem
The name Crozet traces as far back as the 13-century in French records and a town bearing the name lies in the French Alps just west of Geneva. The desolate rocks in the south Indian Ocean called the Crozet Islands are named for Jules Crozet, an explorer during the 18th century.
Claudius Crozet, engineer of the Blue Ridge Tunnel and the town’s namesake, was born in Villefranche, in the Rhone, in 1790. An artillery officer under Napoleon, he came to America in 1816 after Waterloo and taught engineering at West Point. He is credited with the introduction of slate boards and chalk to classrooms. Thomas Jefferson said he was the best mathematician in the U.S.
As engineer for Virginia he surveyed the routes of many roads in the west of the state including Rt. 250 across what is now West Virginia and Rt. 11 through the Valley of Virginia. He championed railroads and supervised the construction of the Blue Ridge Tunnel under Rockfish Gap from 1850 to 1858. When the shafts dug from each side of the mountain by hand by immigrant Irishmen and rented slaves finally met underground, they were only six inches off alignment. When the bigger tunnel now in use was built in 1944, the shafts met four feet off center.
Crozet was the leading founder and first president of the Virginia Military Institute.
The depot the town grew around was named for Crozet in 1875 at the insistence of the C&O Railroad as part of an agreement to establish a freight landing sought by local farmers and necessary to the construction of Miller School.
The Crozet Community Association began promoting the Crozet family crest as a symbol for the town in 1996.
Which Angle is Right?
In 1996, looking for symbol for the Crozet community, the Crozet Community Association investigated the family heraldry of the town namesake. Three emblems for the name were discovered in old French heraldry books at the University of Virginia Library, but all were depicted in black and white. For one, the least complex coat-of-arms, there was a description of the emblem’s colors and therefore it was officially adopted by the CCA and stickers and a handful of flags were made. The colors are happily compatible with the American flag. The emblem dates from the 1300s.
When presented formally as heraldry, the Crozet crest is shown with the white sash with roses descending from left to right in an N shape. If flown as a flag, the top of the sash should be at the top of the pole. Because the crest does not have rotational symmetry—the sash would slant in opposite directions if seen from opposite sides of a flag pole—either angle is right when mounting the emblem as a bumper sticker.
The crest does not explain itself. You’re either in the know or not. Look for the free stickers on store counters around town or pick one up at a Crozet Community Association meeting. Magnets are available rom the CCA or from Crozet Hardware for a $3 suggested donation.