“How often do you enter the Shenandoah National Park and ride Skyline Drive?”
“How often do you think of the families that were forced to move from their generational homes to make way for this national park without any consideration or notice?”
While Shenandoah National Park is a natural treasure, especially at this time of the year with the leaves changing colors along the Blue Ridge Mountains, many people who visit never know the history of those who lived in those mountains.
That is something the Blue Ridge Heritage Project wants to change.
Eight counties surrounding SNP will have a memorial with the family names of those who were made to leave their homes in the creation of the park. Last Thursday, descendants and the public were invited to unveil Greene County’s temporary monument on the site near the County Administration Building in Stanardsville.
“It’s so wonderful to see our families honored and remembered after so long,” said Rockingham resident Teresa Lam, who has connections with more than three-quarters of the names on the Greene monument.
“Some don’t want to talk about it; some think it’s best to leave things alone,” Lam said. “I work hard every day to preserve [the history].”
Jim Lawson, a member of the steering committee whose family was forced out of John Collier Hollow, said the temporary monument with names will remain up until a bronze one is finished, and until they’re sure each surname is represented.
In addition, donations are needed to finish the memorial. A little less than $5,000 has been raised.
“We’re just really, really proud that we’ve been able to show this memorial with the names of the people who were displaced,” Lawson said. “This is part of the Greene County Memorial Project, but it’s part of the Blue Ridge Heritage Project. The steering committee has been a real pleasure to work with.”
Lawson said when the group began seeking the right location in January, he would drive through Stanardsville and think “wouldn’t it be neat if we could put it here? Little did I know what would happen – along came a guy named Alan Yost.”
Yost, director of economic development and tourism for Greene, worked hard to make the site a reality, Lawson said.
“So, the project is in the eight different counties surrounding the park and right now, Albemarle will be dedicated very shortly. Madison has already built theirs. Page has a committee that’s very active. Rappahannock has a very active committee going on right now,” Yost said. “We expect these memorials erected in the next 18 months which is really exciting. We envision a whole driving tour around the park with a map that includes settlement communities and different historic monuments and points of interest.
“As a tourism director I’m very excited about this,” he said. “I’m excited about people from Northern Virginia not just driving Skyline Drive, but also coming down [Route] 810, coming down [Route] 230, coming through Sperryville and all of this. It’s an opportunity to educate people about the sacrifice that was made to create the great resource that is the national park so we’re really excited. It’s moving in almost all of the counties at this point.”
Larry Lamb had family forced off property near South River, and he has designed the monument — a standalone rock chimney that represents what you can still find of the old home sites in the mountains these days. It will contain the plaque.
His family also held the land grant for the property that Albemarle County is using for its monument at the Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve in Crozet. The dedication will be Saturday at 1 p.m.
The descendents in attendance unveiled the memorial, having a chance to see it prior to the rest of the public.
Fundraising is ongoing for the Greene monument. Each dollar donated will be doubled by a Perry Foundation Grant. A “donate now” link is at www.blueridgeheritageproject.com/greene; donations also may be mailed to the Greene County Memorial c/o GCHS, P.O. Box 185, Stanardsville Va. 22973.
For anyone whose name needs to be added to the Greene memorial, visit www.blueridgeheritageproject.com/contact/.