Sept. 29, 1983

Poor Farm: Home to the Pauper

People limped through the Depression without the government assistance programs that today ease the life of the poor. There was no Aid to Dependent Children, no food stamps, no general relief, no Medicaid and Medicare, no Supplemental Security Income.

In Rappahannock, they had only the county poor farm. “It was for them that had nothing — nowhere to stay, nobody to look after them — white and colored,” said Charlie Lewis, who as a boy went with his pastor to the poor farm in the F. T. Valley to conduct services Sunday evenings. “Them that was able did things to help. Them that couldn’t were taken care of. But they didn’t fare too well. I do know that.”

Folks didn’t just show up on the doorstep of the Poor Farm looking for shelter. They had to be certified as paupers by the county’s supervisor of the poor. “They always came without anything — not a thing. No clothes except what they had on their backs, no food, no belongings,” said Mrs. Hugh Woodward whose husband was overseer there from 1933 until 1941.

It was a hard life, both for the caregivers and their charges. “We usually had 12 to 15 there on the average,” Mr. Woodward recalled. “Mostly they were the elderly and disabled or handicapped.”

Banks Slow to Foreclose

“I came here in 1930. The stock market broke in 1929. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Giles Miller, who worked with Culpeper’s Central Fidelity Bank for a half century.

“Stocks rally went down. I remember Bethlehem Steel selling for $123 a share before the crash. It went to $7. But compared to other places in the country, Rappahannock people weren’t as affected. They didn’t have as many stocks as others. The wealthy had most of their money invested in land and cattle.”

A few days after President Roosevelt took office in 1933, he ordered all the banks across the country closed. “Those that were in good shape — like two banks in Culpeper and Rappahannock National — I think they were only closed for four days but plenty of others around the country kept their doors shut for 30 days or more until they were declared safe.”

Dec. 31, 1997 

Farm Bureau Discusses Issues At Annual Convention

Agriculture in the classroom and the lottery were the two main issues stressed at the 72nd annual convention of the Virginia Farm Bureau at the Richmond Marriott in December, said Chris Parrish, Rappahannock County Farm Bureau president.

The Farm Bureau is looking to the school classrooms to raise appreciation of family farms which comprise the majority of farms in the U.S., said Parrish. A keynote speaker was Jane Shaw, co-author of “Fact Not Fear: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children About The Environment.” The book cites examples of false environmental claims presented in textbooks and children’s books.

Meanwhile, the lottery was criticized for spending too much money advertising and not sending money back to the counties, said Parris. Instead, profits are placed in Virginia’s general fund, an issue that upset many farmers.

Farmers have been critical of the state Stewardship Act, said Parrish, which accepts anonymous tips against polluting farmers, and does not state a clear standard for pollution. “They are missing the point — farmers should be policing themselves,” he added. “It is a stop gap against increased policing by environmental groups.”

Stewart Willis: An all Around Nice Guy

/When Steve Critzer was asked to comment on the Rappahannock News choice for 1997 Citizen of the Year he knew who it was before he was told.

“Is it Stewart Willis? It is, isn’t it?” he asked. Yes, I answered, it is.

“He’d be my choice for man of the year,” Critzer said. “I know him and I know what he does in and for the community. He’s a leader. People listen to and will follow him.”

Willis, now mayor of the Town of Washington, re-settled in Rappahannock in the early ‘80s. His wife, Eve, was born at Mt. Green, outside Washington, Va., and her family was from the county.


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