Stories and Legends of Blue Ridge & Shenandoah Told at East Rock
Everyone enjoys stories and legends, and for the 20 members, three volunteers and six guests in attendance at the at the East Rockingham Senior Center on January 16, Elkton historian and JMU Lifelong Learning Program instructor, Jim Lawson, offered more than 60 minutes of very interesting and entertaining discussion during his program entitled, “Legends and Stories of the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah.”
Mr. Lawson mentioned a story about the Reverend Jollett and a Mr. Utz. The reverend sold a horse for $150 to Mr. Utz, who needed a good workhorse. Unfortunately, the horse refused to work, so Mr. Utz refused to pay the money due the reverend. The eventual lawsuit went on for years! Nobody knows how it was settled, as the court lost the papers.
Also, Mr. Lawson recounted the Indian legend of how the Shenandoah Valley was formed, which fits pretty well with the actual geologic evidence. The Valley used to be a huge lake or inland sea, and fossils have been found in the limestone areas here, proving that sea creatures were present in that water. Thomas Jefferson stood at Harper’s Ferry where the Shenandoah meets the Potomac River, and said that it was worth a trip across the Atlantic Ocean to see the sight.
During the Civil War, many of the mountain people wouldn’t fight, but not for any cowardice on their part. This point caused one ERSC member to disclose that one of her ancestors said that his grandfathers had fought in the American Revolution and the War of 1812 to create this country, so they didn’t want to be responsible for splitting the country in two. Mr. Lawson went on to explain that one mountain family was split up when several sons fought for the Confederacy and other sons fought for the Union, which caused hard feelings in that family for many years to come.
Governor Alexander Spotswood and his “Knights of the Golden Horseshoe” supposedly came over the Blue Ridge Mountains at Swift Run Gap and traveled down to the Shenandoah River. The governor named the mountain now known as High Top after King George (“Mount George”) and another mountain “Mount Alexander” after himself. After the expedition returned to Williamsburg, the Governor had small golden horseshoes created to give to the members of the exploring party as souvenirs. Some people claim that this was a legend, but there was someone who had actually seen one of the horseshoes belonging to a person who had gone to Georgia.
Mr. Lawson also shared that one of the earliest Revolutionary War patriots in our area was Jacob Smith, who is buried in a hilltop cemetery in Jollett Hollow near Elkton. He was a young man who fought with George Washington at Valley Forge and several other important battles. Jacob was of German descent, and he is known to have petitioned the government to publish in the German language any laws being enacted, as many people hereabouts couldn’t read English. He also signed a petition to have a road built over Swift Run Gap to enable an easier way to take products to be sold over the mountain.
Mr. Lawson also mentioned that recently, someone depended on GPS in their car to travel over the mountain. It took them to Simmons Gap Road in Beldor, which is no longer a publicly traveled road! Therefore, they had to turn around and head back to Route 33 to travel over the Blue Ridge.
For the members, volunteers and the half dozen guests who came especially for this presentation, which was advertised in local newspapers, Mr. Lawson pledged to pay us a return visit for a continuation of the many stories and legends of the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah.