Over 100 people gathered Saturday afternoon, October 13, 2018, for the ceremonial ribbon cutting of the Blue Ridge Heritage Project memorial stone chimney. With completion of phase one of a three-phased memorial project Front Royal and Warren County became the seventh of the eight communities to erect the characteristic stone chimney monument – only Augusta County remains to establish its chimney monument.
The Blue Ridge Heritage Project was established to commemorate the sacrifice of an estimated 500 mountain families displaced in the 1930’s to facilitate creation of Shenandoah National Park.
Many of those present were descendants of one or more of the 68 family names emblazoned on a plaque in the center of the stone chimney monument central to the Blue Ridge Heritage Project theme of remembrance of the upheaval and sometimes involuntary sacrifice of those mountain families of the 1930’s.
While the ribbon cutting ceremony went from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., informational displays, including a Shenandoah National Park table and refreshments were available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The event provided a cross-town juxtaposition to Front Royal’s annual Festival of Leaves celebration of the onset of the fall tourist season held in Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District.
The memorial site is along the town walking trail at Happy Creek near Criser Road and the nearing-completion Criser Road Bridge project, just east of Burrell Brooks Park on the town’s south side. The Town of Front Royal donated the land for the memorial and Mayor Hollis Tharpe was present to help celebrate the ribbon cutting.
As noted by local project committee Chairman Darryl Merchant, phase two of the project will add a 16 x 22-foot concrete patio and phase three, two benches, a flagpole and informational kiosk.
Pointing to the outline of the planned patio area marked out toward the crowd from the chimney memorial, Merchant noted that many of the old family homesteads began with cabins no larger than the planned patio and sitting area. Also a descendant, Merchant acknowledged a hurtful and negative pseudo-science stereotyping utilized to justify removal of mountain families from their homesteads.
As Merchant has pointed out periodically over the three-year run up to the day’s events, those with legal title to their land were the lucky ones, receiving either valley land or financial compensation for their property. Those who rented or were unable to provide legal title to the land they had settled received no such compensation and were largely left to fend for themselves, some after seeing their homes burned to assure their departure.
The bottom line assessment of the process, a process that stretched from 1924 to 1938, was: “The FORCED RESETTLEMENT represents a classic case of bureaucratic ineptitude.” See a history of the process involving local, state and federal officials, as well as members of the private sector, toward the end of this linked story. See Related Story
Project organizers have pointed to the park service’s embracement of the goal of shedding light on a previously ignored, yet fundamentally important part of the Shenandoah National Park story. In fact, the park service had a display table at Saturday’s event.
It is to acknowledge the lifestyle, culture, rugged individualism and self-reliance of those mountain people that the Blue Ridge Heritage Project was established. Merchant introduced project founder Bill Henry of Greene County.
The Blue Ridge Heritage Project is a non-profit, 501-c 3 founded by Henry. The project’s organizational literature states its purpose: “To establish a memorial site in each of the eight counties where land was acquired for Shenandoah National Park (Albermarle, Augusta, Greene, Madison, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham and Warren) to acknowledge the sacrifice of involved families in those communities.
“In order to recognize their contributions and their losses, each site will contain a memorial to the people from that county whose land was acquired for the park. Through educational displays, cultural displays and demonstrations the project hopes to accurately depict the people’s lives and to help preserve their lifestyle, crafts, music, and traditions,” project literature states.
“The ultimate goal, as of the broad study of history itself, is to give visitors to this particular series of memorials a greater appreciation for the impact the park had on individual lives in general and for that particular community. – Altogether, the eight sites will create an understanding of life in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Merchant, Henry, Lion’s Club member Darryl Funk and Front Royal Mayor Tharpe addressed the crowd Saturday in celebration of those 68 county families whose names will join the estimated total of 500 families in those eight counties whose land was taken for what was seen as a greater national good. That good was creation of a national park designed to preserve a slice of the natural beauty of the eastern United States for generations to come, as had been previously done in the western portion of the country.
Eighty years later Shenandoah National Park continues to stand as an important tourism and economic-engine for the region. And now those uprooted to create what has become a worldwide tourist attraction will be remembered for their sacrifice in facilitating that creation.
Total cost of all three phases is estimated at $25,000, with phase one priced at $12,000, including $9,000 for the stone chimney and $3,000 for the bronze plaque bearing the displaced family names. Merchant acknowledged stonemason Richard Morris, present in the crowd, for his work in constructing the chimney memorial.
As reported last week, almost $13,000 has been raised to fund the project. And Saturday there was some playful one-upsmanship between local civic groups in keeping that fundraising going. Addressing the crowd, descendant and Lion’s Club member Daryl Funk noted that the Lion’s Club had donated the first $500 to the project and not to be outdone by the Front Royal Rotary Club, presented a check for another $2,000 prior to the ribbon cutting.
Donations can be mailed to the: Warren Blue Ridge Heritage Project, PO Box 1508, Front Royal, Va. 22630. Online, one can access additional information, including on fundraising and project assistance, at either the Blue Ridge Heritage Project Facebook page or website – www.blueridgeheritageproject.com – click the “Warren County” tab – and a new local Facebook page, the “Front Royal Warren County Blue Ridge Heritage Project”. County project Chairman Merchant may also be reached at (540) 683-6878.
National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – Flags to be flown half-staff
This December 7, we remember the world-changing event known as Pearl Harbor Day, or as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his December 8, 1941 speech declaring war on Japan, “a date which will live in infamy.”
Early on Wednesday morning, December 7, 2022, many will gather at Pearl Harbor National Memorial for the 81st Commemoration. The early start marks the moment to the minute 81 years ago when Japanese warplanes descended on Oahu, killing 2,403 service members and civilians, injuring thousands more, and dealing a near-fatal blow to the Navy’s fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Most young Americans who died that day, along with those who served in uniform during World War II or on the home front war effort, are collectively known as the Greatest Generation. Their sacrifices reflect the theme of this year’s Commemoration: Everlasting Legacy.
The focus is the importance of remembering Pearl Harbor and how the Greatest Generation saved us from tyranny and brought us peace through reconciliation.
Governor’s Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia
In accordance with the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia to be flown at half-staff at all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth in solemn respect and memory for the nearly 4,000 American service men and women killed or wounded in the early morning of December 7, 1941, at the United States Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
I hereby order that the flag shall be lowered at sunrise on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, and remain at half-staff until sunset.
Ordered on this, the 6th day of December 2022.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: American Goldfinch
These two American Goldfinches hit the same window at the same time and ended up here at the Center for care.
Though both are currently having breathing difficulty, and the male has significant head trauma with bleeding from the left ear, neither sustained any fractures. They are recovering together while they receive supplemental oxygen and pain medications.
Do you know what to do if a bird hits your window?
Though it was once standard to contain a window strike bird and let it rest for a few hours before attempting release, research has now shown that this is inadequate. Many of the issues we see with window strikes manifest 24+ hours after the strike, long after the bird can fly off.
If you see a bird hit a window, contain it right away and call the closest permitted rehabilitator. Do not release it! In the meantime, take steps to break up the reflections on your windows with tape, paint, or decals spaced no more than 2” apart. Prevention is better than treatment!
A new record!
Yesterday we surpassed last year’s intake number with this window strike pair. We are hopeful that they will soon be released together to enjoy the rest of their wild lives!
If you are looking for an easy way to help native wildlife become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
Local grandma steps out of shower, holds intruder at gunpoint until police arrive
A Warren County family had an exciting Monday morning after the family’s matriarch thwarted an intruder who may have intended to steal a family vehicle.
Tricia Montoney told Royal Examiner Monday evening that an eagle-eyed neighbor noticed a man in the family’s driveway, around 7 a.m. standing beside a Ford F-150 pickup truck belonging to Tricia’s daughter, Rachel Montoney.
Rachel said in a phone interview that “once our neighbor told me about the man attempting to enter my vehicle, I ran to get my mom.”
Tricia was in the shower but quickly put on a robe and grabbed the Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun she keeps for personal protection. She then went outside to confront the intruder. By then, she said, the man was sitting inside the pickup with the door closed.
Rachel says her mom yelled to the intruder, “What are you doing? Get out of the truck and on your knees!” The man, later identified by arresting officers as Larry Huyser, exited the truck and complied with Tricia’s instructions while a neighbor called 9-1-1.
Huyser, who was dressed in a fluorescent green sweatshirt, jeans, and a black hat, said that he had gotten into the unlocked truck “because I was cold.”
Warren County deputies who arrived on the scene found Tricia holding Huyser at gunpoint. He was taken into custody without incident.
Huyser was booked into the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail (RSW) and charged with vandalism, damaging property, tampering and entering a vehicle, and breaking and entering an auto.
He is being held without bond. Online court records show that Huyser has been arrested before for similar offenses.
Both Tricia and Rachel expressed their gratitude for their neighbor and his assistance in contacting the police and for staying with Tricia as she held the intruder at gunpoint.
The Montoneys also appreciated the deputies, who arrived quickly and transported the intruder to RSW.
Asked if she would now lock her truck at night, Rachel said, “Absolutely!”
Both ladies expressed their gratitude that no one was injured and said they were especially grateful for their close friendship with their neighbors. “We take care of each other out here,” Tricia said.
Congressman Ben Cline holds Town Hall meeting in Warren County
Residents of Warren County were invited to a town hall event with Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) on December 5, 2022. This town hall event was an opportunity for residents of Warren County to engage in a dialogue with Rep. Cline about important issues in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.
Watch the Town Hall meeting on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputies help rescue horse after fall into pool
On December 2, 2022, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy’s responded to a residence on Green Springs Rd. in Frederick County. This was regarding an 1800-pound draft horse that fell into a swimming pool. Once on the scene Deputies determined that the horse had knocked over the top rail of the fence around the pool, jumped the fence and walked out onto the nylon pool cover causing the horse to fall into the water. However, its head and part of the body remained above water.
The Draft Horse was in the 9-foot end of the pool. Deputies Cram, ACO Deputy Tasker and Sgt. Hawse started cutting the pool cover away from the horse. Once it was clear of the cover and haltered, the horse was pulled to the shallow end of the pool where it was able to stand and catch its breath. Deputies were able to guide the horse up the stairs to the pool deck and into the yard.
The Veterinarian who handles the horse was called and advised to dry the horse as good as possible, feed it hay and keep it moving. That information was passed on to the owner’s children that arrived on scene. At the time of this email the horse was doing fine.
“You just never know what type of calls we respond to every day. This is one for the books. We are happy that it was witnessed, and we could respond to assist. Deputies were ready to go in the water if needed to make sure the horse stayed above water,” Sheriff Lenny Millholland observed of the incident.
Local doctors take time out to again treat third world country residents of Honduras
For the past 14 years, local Dr. Thomas (call me “Tommy”) Ball has ducked out of Front Royal Family Practice to spend up to two weeks leading a medical team to serve the people of Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Dr. Ball – okay, we’ll call him Tommy from here on – has always considered serving the under-served a core mission of his medical practice. For the past 20 years Valley Health has recognized and supported that mission as part of his faculty position at the Shenandoah Valley Family Practice Residency. “Valley Health recognizes that young doctors want to understand Global Health and want to contribute internationally. They allow me to devote time as a teacher to global health issues and they support our work overseas,” he told us.
Medical faculty from around Virginia have formed a nonprofit organization, SAGE (Students And Global Engagement), focused on introducing trainees to a small community in rural Honduras. As Tommy describes it, “We attempt to foster better health among the Hondurans and to expose Americans to the needs people face in a third world setting. It is a two-way street in which both parties benefit.”
SAGE helped build a small mountainside clinic in the village of Pinares, Honduras. They send medical teams for one to two-week stretches three times a year at four-month intervals. The area they serve is approximately the size of Warren County, with similar mountainous terrain. Average take-home pay for the mostly agricultural workers around Pinares is about $3-dollars a day (yes, a day, emphasized Ball).
Medication, some donated by Valley Health, helps patients cope with a variety of diseases including familiar problems such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, as well as problems uncommon here such as parasites caused by contaminated water. SAGE tries to go beyond just medication and address the underlying social factors that foster illness. In recent years they have donated monthly food packages to families with young children and filters to improve the safety of drinking water.
This fall the team included Dr. Paulius Mui and Dr. Sean Sutphen from the residency training program and seasoned local physician Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld, as well as support personnel in pharmacy, emergency transport, and anthropology.
Tommy has developed close ties and friendships in the community SAGE serves. He notes that he is older than most volunteers, but hopes he still has a few more years left of visiting and doing his best to improve health conditions in Pinares. “We have the personnel who want to help, but we are always struggling financially,” Tommy said, hoping that local service clubs and other non-profits might see their way to help support SAGE.
If you, the reader, are interested and require additional information, email Tommy at Front Royal Family Practice (email@example.com) or visit the SAGE website (sage-community.com). And yes, you may call him Tommy!