It was a run-down log cabin that attracted Larry Lamb, 67, to the site of his homestead “View of the Past” in Crozet. Even though the chimney was cracking and the building was leaning, Lamb could see the gem that Carter Cabin would become. With that vision, he and his wife, Debbie, built their own log home in 1989 to the west of Carter Cabin, setting down roots for their two children and now five grandchildren. But they did more than set down roots for their immediate family—they’ve managed to transport some from other descendants, especially from Greene County, to their Albemarle County home.
In the 1930s, Lamb’s family was forced off the Blue Ridge Mountains to make way for Shenandoah National Park. Until he began researching his family tree, he believed he only had family in Greene County, but really he had family in Page, Madison and Albemarle counties who were forced to make way for the East Coast national park. Lamb’s connection to Greene County goes way back, as one of his family members even signed the petition to break Greene from Orange County in late 1830s.
Lamb reconstructed an old log outbuilding from Pocosan Mountain into a beautiful one-room log cabin to the west of his home. The most recent addition is the one-room Gibson Cabin from the Gibson Hollow area of Albemarle County.
Since retirement 10 years ago, Lamb has delved deep into the stories of his ancestors, discovering hundreds of old photographs of family from Greene County, but also not far over the county line into Albemarle’s Boonesville and Blackwell’s Hollow.
Lamb noted Kristie Kendall, the historic preservation manager for the Piedmont Environmental Council, has helped him learn more about his families in the park. Kendall also wrote “These Hills Were Home,” a book that tells the stories about the families and the areas of the park where they lived.
“Larry has painstakingly restored several buildings that would have otherwise been lost to time and has furnished the inside of each building with a particular theme,” she said. “As so many of the vestiges of mountain life were lost with the creation of Shenandoah National Park, it’s that much more important to have some of these buildings remain as reminders of this important history and culture.”
It’s been a labor of love for Lamb, and he’s furnished his home and cabins with items from his family, as well as old photographs, and each cabin is a special story onto themselves.
Once you walk into Lamb’s reconstructed Pocosan Cabin, it’s hard to remember that less than three miles away is the heavily developed Old Trail Village in Crozet. With a stone fireplace and a roaring fire, you’re transported to another time. The walls are decorated with family photos and throughout the one-room structure are special pieces of significance from his family.
“This was the cabin my great-grandfather George Lamb and his sons moved out of the park, probably in the mid-1930s, before the government took the land,” he said. “It was going to be taken, so he moved it further down Pocosan.”
Adorning the walls of this cabin are photos of family. Over the fireplace is a photo of his greatgreat grandparents, The Meadows, who had a beautiful homesite within the park. Along the west wall is a photo of their daughter, Emma, and her husband, George, his great-grandparents, who moved the cabin to the “upper Lamb house,” on Pocosan.
“The lower Lamb house was surveyed by the park to be taken, but the depression came along” and the park boundaries shrunk, Lamb noted. “All the people around them were gone and they were left.”
A photo of his grandmother, Rosetta Taylor Lamb, is framed with two ribbons from a Greene County Fair from years gone by.
“My dad fixed that up and had it hanging in his bedroom,” Lamb said. Her grandparents’ place, the Will and Mary Lamb home, is still up in the park.
“Some of the buildings—the shells—are still standing,” he said. “The Will and Mary Lamb cemetery is there.”
Her home — the Rosser Lamb House — is preserved in Pocosan Hollow by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and that’s where his father, Thurman Lamb grew up.
Rosetta Lamb’s meal chest is along the east wall of Lamb’s Pocosan Cabin and next to it is her old coffee grinder. Rosser Lamb’s cherry seeder is displayed in the cabin, as well.
“The meal chest was sitting on the porch,” he said. “It had buckwheat, flour and cornmeal and it has three different compartments.”
A framed photo of a wood-cutting crew hangs on another wall. “This was found in the Rosser Lamb house,” he said. “That’s my great-grandfather George’s picture over here. This was probably a bark-peeling crew where they would peel the bark and take it to the tanneries. It has my Uncle Cal’s name on the back of it.”
Lamb’s uncle was a skilled basket maker and Lamb has some of the baskets his uncle made in his home.
“He used to sit outside this little building right here and whittle on his white oak and make baskets,” Lamb said.
Next to the photo of the wood crew is a photo of Rosetta Lamb outside a building in Elkton.
“She worked at the old Casey Jones overall factory in Elkton,” he said.
Frederick Neve, also known as the Archdeacon of the Blue Ridge, came to Virginia from England to serve as a rector for a church in Greenwood. In 1890, he began building Episcopal mission churches throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, the first of which was in the Ragged Mountains of Albemarle County. He created several missions in Greene County, including: Gibson Memorial Chapel at Blue Ridge School; Mission Home with a chapel, a hospital and a school near Simmons Gap in Free Union; Simmons Gap with a school and chapel right next to where Skyline Drive came through; Upper and Lower Pocosan mission churches and schools; Middle River Mission, Cecil Mission near Lydia; Grace Church in Stanardsville; Lydia Mission with St. James Mission House and a hospital; High Top Christ’s Church mission; and St. David’s Wyatt Mountain mission near Bacon Hollow Road in Dyke. He’s responsible for much more throughout the area.
Lamb’s two aunts— Nellie Walton Ford and Ruby Walton Knight— taught at the missions in the area. A lot of his photos came through them.
“That’s how I really became interested in the Episcopal missions,” he said. “My aunts were really helpful.”
Ford met her husband while teaching near Corbin Hollow in Madison County; he was one of the Civilian Conservation Corps that helped build Shenandoah National Park. After, Knight taught at High Top School and Ford taught at Wyatt Mountain near Stone Mountain Vineyards in Dyke.
“They were working in those missions about the same time,” he said. “They’d have church at Wyatt Mountain in the morning and at High Top in the afternoon.”
Lamb remembers as a child his family would visit his grandparents on Pocosan Mountain on Sundays.
“My dad went to the Lower Mission school, as did all the folks on Pocosan then,” he said. “My grandfather probably went to the Upper Pocosan Mission School because I have a photo of him in the choir up there. All of these photos came from my aunts who were mission workers. It’s amazing how many photographs I’ve found, and my family has been so generous in sharing them.”
One photo shows his grandfather, great-grandfather, grandmother, father, his sisters and aunts at the outdoor alter of the Lower Pocosan Mission.
The Upper Pocosan Mission Church in the park boundary was made from stone, similar to the Simmons Gap one that now serves as an office for park rangers, and a log cabin for the workers to live. All that remains are the steps and a few stones and a leaning wooden building. The cemetery is quite primitive with stones that if they had any carvings they are gone now. Trees are growing throughout, but you can tell it was a cemetery.
“It’s good the cemetery is preserved because my descendants are buried there. When you go to a family cemetery, it’s a really weird feeling you get walking on the land that was taken from your family and then they’re all buried there. It’s a little emotional the first time you go,” Lamb said. “You get a little feeling of sadness but you’re also happy you discovered it. The sites were beautiful where the families had their homes (in the park). It’s pretty special.”
Fanny Carter lived in this circa-1820s cabin years and years prior to Lamb’s purchase of the property. It was a one-and-a-half story home with the loft above a living area and a kitchen that had completed fallen in when Lamb purchased the property. He finished an eating area with boards from an old cabin in Nelson County and a bedroom addition with the Will Lamb Cabin that came off the land where he lived in Greene. There is a framed photo of Carter that Lamb found in an old trunk in the cabin. He also found her tombstone and a photo of it along with a copy of her death certificate are attached behind the photo.
On the opposite wall is a photo of James Ruebush, Lamb’s great-grandfather who looks strikingly like him. Photos of other family members dot the walls throughout the entire cabin.
“We had to totally dismantle the cabin,” he said. “We kept the interior stuff and built it back on the same foundation—though we redid the stone work. Most of the people in the neighborhood thought it was the same house.”
He used stone for the foundation from his grandfather’s place on Pocosan Mountain in Greene, he added.
In the living area is an old pie chest that comes from the Parrot family of Greene County.
A “Cross and Bible” wooden door stands at the entry to the Will Lamb addition. As you look at the door the top has a cross and below it appears to have an opened book, Lamb said, hence the name Cross and Bible.
“This bureau belonged to my great-great-great grandfather Hiram Jackson Lamb,” he said. “Everything is so meaningful.”
On the nightstand by the bed are several beautiful arrowheads given to Lamb by a family member, Binky Walton. They were Lamb’s Uncle Dick Walton’s arrowheads.
“He came for a tour of the place,” he said. “He also brought some photos and then he gave me the arrowheads. He said he wanted me to have them. I tried to talk him out of giving them to me but he said he thought this is where they ought to be. It’s very humbling when someone gives you a gift like that.”
This one-room cabin— the one most recently completed—with its tall ceiling was actually a crumbling barn from Gibson Hollow.
“It was really just a shell sitting there,” he said.
He found reclaimed floors from an 1820s cabin in Nelson County, and used some boards for it from the Will Lamb Cabin in Greene County for an addition to the Carter Cabin. And he used what was left over to create the Gibson Cabin.
For Lamb it’s not a falling down building, it’s a diamond in the rough.
“It’s kind of cool to be able to (see the finished product) because most people will ride by there and see an old building,” Lamb said. “For me, I can see something special. It’s like rocks when I go hiking; I’m always looking at the rocks and say that’s a beautiful cornice over there. That’s just how I think.”
Lamb said he never heard a bad word from his family about the creation of Shenandoah National Park, but he does wish they’d talked about it more. The
family began holding the Lamb-Meadows reunion at the South River picnic area on Skyline Drive in Greene right away and he attended from the time he was a very young boy.
“The park wasn’t really all that old when I started going,” he said.
His grandmother, Rosetta Lamb, did talk about growing up in Devil’s Ditch, which is now located in the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area of Greene County.
“She talked about catching trout with gunny sacks and I’ve hiked out there,” he said.
When Lamb began locating cabins onto his property he spent time deciding where they’d go.
“We didn’t just put them up. We put tall stakes in the ground first,” he said. “I’d read a lot of architecture books about old plantations and tried to lay it out that way. For each project there was a lot of running around, scrounging for old materials and that takes time.”
Sometimes, Lamb takes a book into one of the cabins and lights a fire in the stone fireplace and sits surrounded by his family, helping him to feel “close” to them. “
I did this is to preserve the history,” he said. “That’s important to me. Today, it doesn’t seem like history is as important."