I mentioned a week or two ago that we had some company from New Jersey visiting with us for a week. The lady was a childhood friend of Linda’s. How they ever met is an interesting story in itself, but I will tell you briefly that the lady’s father was a CCC boy and worked on the building of the Skyline Drive during the depression years. The CCC was the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal program that gave work to a lot of folks who needed a hand during those hard times.
So, it seems like the CCC boy met Linda’s grandfather, Ott Welch, somewhere along the way, and Mr. Welch later invited the gentleman and his family to visit his home in Virginia. People kept in touch over the years and the last time we saw any of them was in the mid-1980’s when Linda’s parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Our guests were interested in learning about this area and the gentleman had some interest in Civil War history, so the first place we took them was to Harpers Ferry. We had an interesting day there, but the streets are still steep and the weather was very warm, so our planned full day turned into something a little shorter.
The place I wanted to take them, and did, was to Big Meadows and the wonderful exhibits they have there, particularly the ones dealing with the construction of the Skyline Drive and the tremendous impact that was felt by the families that were displaced by the creation of the Shenandoah National Park.
If you have been there lately you know they have a number of pictures of the CCC boys at work, and I must have had it in the back of my mind that wouldn’t it be something if she saw a picture of her father. Alas, she did not, but it seemed like it was worth a shot.
And I would like to say right now for the record that I will be forever indebted to the good people responsible for placing the new marker just off Route 211 past Sperryville, which is inscribed with the names of the families that were forced to leave their homes in the mountains.
It never fails to impress me and it leaves a huge lump in my throat when I take the time to read carefully the notes and letters written by the people who had to leave their mountain homes. I will not argue with you about the building and creation of the park and whether it was a good idea or a bad one. It doesn’t matter, at this point. Because whichever side you come down on, the impact on those individuals was still the same.
I know that most of them had no title or deed to the land they claimed. So, legally, we can say they didn’t own it. Again, it doesn’t matter. Because if you have lived on a piece of land all your life and your father and mother are buried there, and their fathers and mothers are buried there, and on back through the generations, that place is your home, and the only home many of them ever knew.
Rappahannock County has been blessed with some good, civic minded people who have come here and done their level best to contribute to this community and make it a better place for all. The county is fortunate to have them. I only wish that all our citizens, no matter how long we have lived here, could spend a couple of hours at Big Meadows and open our eyes and hearts and minds to the information provided there.
My hope is that every one of us would have a better understanding of and appreciation for the wellspring of passion that many of us feel for these hills and hollows. And we could each embrace the different circumstances that have brought us every one to be in this special place.