The Blue Ridge Heritage Project Greene Memorial is one step closer to being finished after the unveiling of interpretive panels on last Saturday in Stanardsville. More than 75 people attended the event.
The memorial, which consists of a stone chimney—found on a farm in Greene County—with a plaque that holds the names of the families that were displaced by the creation of the Shenandoah National Park, is situated on land next to the county administration building.
“To see [Simmons Gap Church and School] unveiled here today has made my 86 years worth it,” said Lily “Peachie” Batten, nee Morris, who was 5 years old when her family was forced off Simmons Gap in 1938 to the Rosebrook resettlement. “That’s where my mother got her education, and that’s where she was married.”
Batten remembers it all clearly.
“Never mistreat a child, they never forget,” Batten said.
Descendants of the families were invited to help unveil the panels.
Kathy Lilly pointed to a photo of her aunt sitting with George Herring, married to Lillie Herring, on a car. George Herring committed suicide a couple years after the park took over. He had run a post office and store at Simmons Gap.
After George Herring killed himself in their new location near Nortonsville, Lillie Herring sent a letter asking for the old homesite back.
In November 1935, Lillie Herring wrote: “When Boss Morris moves out of the house I used to own, will you please give it to me. (sic) My husband, George R. Herring is dead and left me six children and no home and I could get the house of the Park and it would be some help to the children. you all gave the mission people severl buildings and they have moved them out so I would be awfull thankfull if you would help me some. so let me Hear from you all once thank you.”
Unfortunately, that was denied. Lillie Herring married another man, Lilly’s grandfather, but after a violent relationship, Lillie Herring moved to Pennsylvania to find work while children were split up to live with family and others.
Bill Henry, who spearheaded the project for all eight counties that had land taken to create the park, said he is really proud to see the memorial finished in Greene County. It’s the only site that has the two vertical panels finished, one that shows the map of the county with the outline of the park and the other that tells the story of the Blue Ridge Heritage Project, said Greene County committee chair Norm Addington.
“It makes me realize how much pride other people have in it. It’s not my project, it’s for everyone—not just the descendants but the communities themselves,” Henry said. “I think it’s a wonderful gift the committee has put together for the community. Nice location and it’s a great thing.”
Lilly said the project has helped her family heal learning more of the story of the creation of the park and the history of their family. Her mother is the last child of Lillie Herring still living.
“This is a day I thought I’d never see,” Batten said.
Read more about the Blue Ridge Heritage Project at http://www.blueridgeheritageproject.com/.