Just two months after breaking ground with descendants of mountain families relocated to facilitate creation of Shenandoah National Park, Warren County’s Memorial to those families whose lives were sometimes unceremoniously upended for a greater national good will be unveiled.
That unveiling is slated for this Saturday afternoon, October 13 at 1 p.m. Displays from Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Heritage Project on the memorial and its impetus will be on view from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The community is invited to come and share in the dedication of the chimney memorial and the history it commemorates.
The Blue Ridge Heritage Project site, donated by the Town of Front Royal, is on the walking path along Happy Creek just north of Criser Road, adjacent to Burrell Brooks Park and the current Criser Road Bridge replacement project. Due to the bridge replacement project the site is currently accessible only from the west on Criser Road coming off South Royal Avenue past Ressie Jeffries Elementary School and Samuels Library.
Hosting the event will be local project committee Chairman Darryl Merchant. Phase One to be dedicated Saturday is a 2-foot x 5-foot x 9-foot stone chimney memorial with a bronze plaque holding the family names of county citizens who lost their land to allow establishment of a pristine national park that is now a major regional tourism and economic asset.
As they were during the August 11 groundbreaking, descendants of some of those relocated families will be in attendance for the dedication ceremony.
Warren County’s Blue Ridge Project Memorial will commemorate the sacrifice made by what is now counted at 68 local families who lost their homes and land as part of the federal effort to create an eastern equivalent of western national parks for the enjoyment of all Americans for generations to come.
Merchant said that number has risen from an originally-cited 32 families. But he has observed that initial number was based on park service archives that only included those families who had legal title to their land taken for the park. As Royal Examiner has noted in previous coverage, those 32 families were the lucky ones – they were compensated with money or property to rebuild their lives off the mountain with those already settled in the valley. Read here:Blue Ridge Heritage Project breaks ground on Warren County memorial site
Two more phases are to come before the Blue Ridge Heritage Project Memorial site will be completed. Phase two will add a 16 x 22-foot concrete patio and phase three, two benches, a flagpole and informational kiosk.
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 says $12,936 has thus far been raised covering phase one costs. Pledges for an additional $4,500 toward phase two’s $9,000 cost have also been made, if not yet received. Donations can be mailed to the: Warren Blue Ridge Heritage Project, PO Box 1508, Front Royal, Va. 22630.
A plan to primarily use stones from the remains of the Robert McKay House, formerly believed the oldest surviving home in the county circa 1731, which was destroyed by fire several years ago, had to be partially altered, Merchant told us.
“We used some of the McKay stones in our chimney foundation. Most of the rocks left at McKay were rubble, and really not suitable for our use. Some of the stones in our chimney were from the mountain locally. We also purchased some from Frederick block and stone,” Merchant says of the finished project.
Last year Warren County joined the seven other Virginia counties that Shenandoah National Park runs through in a joint effort to shed light on an often-ignored part of those counties’ collective histories. And while federal officials heading the national park service may previously have been lax in acknowledging those histories, Merchant noted they are now active supporters of the Blue Ridge Heritage Project effort to bring that story to the forefront in the communities that were impacted.
The Blue Ridge Heritage Project is a non-profit, 501-c 3 founded by Greene County resident . Of the eight-county project, the organizational literature states: “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.”
What better way to spend a late-morning, early Saturday afternoon than by becoming part of a celebration of a long-ignored but important part of the history of our community?
Online, one can access additional information, including on fundraising and project assistance, at either the Blue Ridge Heritage Project Facebook page and 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.
A brief history of SNP
For those not prone to click to “linked” stories, to further pique your interest we will recount here the 14-year process resulting in a “forced resettlement” later described as “a classic case of bureaucratic ineptitude”:
Literature handed out at the groundbreaking documented the creation of Shenandoah National Park (SNP) as a process stretching from 1924 to 1938. That process involved federal and state officials, as well as a private-sector businessman and his associates. Most prominent on that list were President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the back end and Virginia Governor Harry F. Byrd and summer resort “Skyland Lodge” owner George Freeman Pollock at the front:
- “The idea for the SNP began in 1924. The federal government decided that the east coast region of the S. needed a park similar to Yosemite or Yellowstone out west.
- The owner of Skyland Lodge, a summer resort (located at what would become Skyline Drive mile post 42) for wealthy clients and politically-connected residents of Washington, D.C., thought a national park would bring visitors to the Shenandoah Valley.
- That resort owner, George Freeman Pollock, recruited guests and business friends to nominate this area of the Blue Ridge Mountains as a potential site of the eastern national park.
- Government specifications required the proposed park to be visually stunning and have amenities like fishing and hiking, access to roads; and essentially be a wilderness – in other words “FREE OF HUMANS”.
- However, the selected site was not free of humans; it was home to over 500 “mountain families”.
- Public and pseudo-science stereotyping of those somewhat isolated “mountain families” as backwards and in need of a push into “normal” society was used as justification for their removal from their mountain homesteads. Later sociological studies concluded that those “mountain folk were no better or worse off than the valley folk” they were said to need social integration with.
- In 1926, during the presidency of Republican Calvin Coolidge, the S. government approved the proposed eastern national park site.
- In April 1926, Virginia Governor Harry F. Byrd established the Virginia Conservation & Development Commission, headed by William E. Carson of Front Royal. The commission was created to acquire the land for the park, which would then be transferred to the federal government.
- Carson convinced the State Legislature to enact a blanket condemnation law, which was promptly challenged and not resolved until 1935 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
- Originally, many land owners were told they would be allowed to remain in the park. However, that changed on February 1, 1934, when a new commission director decreed that “all inhabitants must leave.”
- Federal officials initially tried to dump the relocation problem on state officials, who resisted taking on the final step in a politically-volatile matter they had helped create. Eventually responsibility was transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Resettlement Administration.
- By 1938, some 175 of the estimated 500 impacted families had been resettled to over 6,000 acres of land purchased by the S. government for use as resettlement communities.
- As the relocation continued, as quoted by Nancy Martin-Purdue – “And people came in and moved them out. Burned their house down in some cases. Took their things and carried them off to some other place.”
Be prepared Warren County: Once-eradicated measles shows up in Virginia
FRONT ROYAL — Virginia’s first case of measles reared its ugly head earlier this month and another possible case is under investigation, said Dr. Colin Greene, director of the Lord Fairfax Health District (LFHD) of the Virginia Department of Health during the June 18 Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting.
What does that mean for Warren County and the other areas served by the LFHD — which include the City of Winchester and the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page and Shenandoah?
It means that residents need to be prepared by getting educated, Greene said on Tuesday during a public health presentation to the board.
“This is not a kind disease,” the doctor said about measles, which was declared eradicated in 2000 in the United States. “It’s extraordinarily contagious. It makes you sick as a dog. It’s like having a case of the flu on steroids.”
Measles is caused by a virus that spreads via contact, coughing and sneezing, said Greene, who noted that the average incubation period is 10 days from the time someone is infected until symptoms appear. And the symptoms aren’t fun: a high fever that may spike to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, a cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis, and a rash that usually appears three-to-seven days into the misery, he said.
The rash is recognizable as being flat, red spots that start on a person’s face and then spreads and clears “from north to south,” the doctor said, adding that “the rash means you’re not contagious anymore.” But from four days before the rash until four days after the rash appears, you are contagious, he said, and you’ll be “miserably sick” with “significant personal discomfort.”
The first Virginia case was confirmed in early June by the state health department, which reported that an unvaccinated traveler to a measles-endemic area had returned through Dulles International Airport. A diagnosis of measles was determined within a few days of the traveler’s return, the health department said. Dr. Greene emphasized that the case did not expose the Warren County area and there could possibly be another case confirmed soon in the state. Nationally, 1,044 measles cases have been reported in the United States as of June 13, said Greene, who pointed out that in 2010 there were 68 cases total around the country.
“Why has measles returned? Because some people aren’t getting vaccinated,” Greene said. “Two MMR shots prevent measles for life.”
And, by the way, the MMR vaccine against measles does not cause autism, he added, citing a 1998 medical article connecting measles to autism that was found to be fraudulent. “But the rumor won’t die and many have chosen not to get vaccinated against measles.” “There is zero link between them,” Green said turning to face the audience.
So what should people do?
If you are already immunized, then you really don’t have to worry about getting measles, the doctor said. But ensure you are immunized, particularly if you’re a healthcare worker. If you’re not immune, he advised that you see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. If you think you already have measles, then stay at home and call your doctor. Or if you must go to the doctor’s office, urgent care or the emergency room, have someone take you there, Greene said.
“If you go to urgent care or ER, go with another person who can go in and say they have a possible measles case with them,” Greene said.
Stay away from others; get a mask if you’re around other people; and call your healthcare provider so they can prepare. Four or five people who aren’t immunized can start the spread of measles, warned Greene.
“It’s a bad disease. We got rid of it, but it’s coming back again,” he said. “The good news is that it’s not Ebola. This is not a disaster. This is something we can control.”
Call your local health department for more information at 540-635-3159.
The Royal Examiner’s camera was there:
Tuesday evening fire destroys Lake Front Royal home
On Tuesday evening just after 5:00pm, WCFR units were dispatched to the 1400 block of Highridge Road in the Lake Front Royal Community for a reported residential structure fire.
Firefighters arrived on the scene to find a two-story single family home with significant fire conditions throughout the home and a nearby vehicle in the driveway on fire. Firefighters initiated fire suppression efforts and performed a search of the home. It took firefighters approximately 20 minutes to bring the fire under control. Firefighters remained on the scene throughout the evening fully extinguishing the fire and assisting the the investigation of the incident.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office with assistance from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. The fire displaced the family which occupied the home which has received assistance from the American Red Cross. The fire caused an estimated $300,000 in damages and contents loss. A canine pet lost its life in the fire, two ducks located in a outside pin attached to the game were able to be released by firefighters during the incident.
Anyone with information with regulates to this fire incident is encouraged to contact the Fire Marshals Office at 540-636-3830.
Units on the call:
Attack 9 – Draft Site
Sayre elicits public comment on alleged McDonald embezzlement scheme
A question posed by Warren County Board of Supervisors Vice-Chairman Tom Sayre to County and EDA Attorney Dan Whitten during Tuesday’s (June 18) supervisors meeting pointed to one interesting aspect of the Cherry Bekaert report on its accounting investigation into signs of fraud within EDA finances. That aspect is the possibility now jailed former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald has used stolen EDA assets to fund her civil litigation battle with Sayre.
Sayre and McDonald are engaged in dueling defamation of character lawsuits launched by Sayre in September 2018 (for $25,000 in small claims court) and in response by McDonald in February 2019 (for $600,000 in not small claims court).
“Is that the last embezzlement found by Cherry Bekaert?” Sayre asked Whitten of a $10,000 wire transfer authorized by McDonald to her civil suit law firm on November 21, 2018, ostensibly to pay for Afton Inn legal work.
“To my knowledge it is,” Whitten replied.
McDonald resigned under increased scrutiny from the EDA board as a result of the Cherry Bekaert financial accounting fraud investigation a month later on December 20, 2018.
The possibility of McDonald’s use of embezzled money to pay for some aspect of her civil litigation attorneys fees was initially raised by Sands-Anderson attorney Cullen Seltzer on the EDA’s behalf during a May 22 motions hearing.
“Is she using stolen money to pay her attorneys,” Seltzer asked Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. during discussion of McDonald’s civil counsel’s request to quash a plaintiff subpoena of his client’s financial records related to her legal representation.
In explaining the request to the court Seltzer noted that the former EDA chief executive is accused of “defrauding a significant amount of money from the EDA” and wondered if some of that money was being used to fund her legal costs.
And while on May 22 Athey upheld McDonald civil attorney Jay McDannell’s motion to quash that portion of plaintiff subpoenas of his client’s financial records, circumstances have since changed.
Two days later on March 24 McDonald was arrested by the Virginia State Police on four felony charges related to the EDA’s civil litigation initially seeking return of $17.6 million in EDA assets, an amount now up to $21.1 million. McDonald is the central figure among nine defendants, including Truc “Curt” Tran, Donald Poe, Justin Appleton and the late Daniel McEathron, and four LLC’s tied to McDonald and/or those people.
And 19 days after that civil case hearing, on June 11, files ordered produced by Athey on May 22 from the financial fraud investigation at the base of the EDA civil litigation were discovered by media unsealed in the civil case court file.
And in the “Afton Inn Embezzlements” section of the Cherry Bekaert investigation there appears to be a direct answer to Seltzer’s May 22 question to the court about how McDonald was financing her civil attorneys.
“MCDONALD requested a wire draw down from FB&T (First Bank & Trust) for $10,000 with instructions sent via e-mail Rochelle Longnecker of FB&T representing the $10,000 wire request (from funds restricted to Town or County use) was for the Afton Inn Attorney. MCDONALD also attached an invoice with wiring instructions to send the payment to ‘Berlik Law, LLC’ ” McDannell, who successfully argued the quashing of the EDA subpoena of McDonald’s financial records regarding payments to her civil attorneys on May 22, works for Berlik Law, LLC.
But perhaps McDonald discussed the “Afton Inn Embezzlements” aspect of the EDA civil case against her with her Berlik Law attorneys – I guess you might argue such discussion made them “Afton Inn Attorneys”.
Perhaps we’ll ask whichever Berlik Law attorney who shows up for this morning’s hearing on the McDonald-Sayre defamation lawsuit in Warren County Circuit Court exactly what legal work related to Afton Inn redevelopment on the still EDA-owned property they may have done last year.
Whatever it may have been, it appears to have been counterproductive. Work under the auspices of Afton Inn developer 2 East Main Street LLC – not a defendant or named liable party in the EDA civil case – is now stalled due to the project’s alleged use by McDonald to embezzle EDA funds, also to pay off personal credit card debts, resulting in a halt on EDA payments to the developer for already completed contractor work.
Lord Fairfax Health District warns residents of rabies risk
The Lord Fairfax Health District is notifying the public that on June 14, 2019, in the 500 Block of Warren Ave. in Front Royal, a fight between a raccoon and a dog led to the death of the raccoon, which subsequently tested positive for rabies.
“At this time, we are not aware of any contact between this raccoon and any humans, however should any person or domestic animal that might have come in contact with a raccoon in this area in the last two weeks should receive a medical evaluation immediately,” said Lord Fairfax Health District Director Dr. Colin Greene. “Truthfully, any contact with a raccoon is dangerous and should result in a medical evaluation, but this one is especially so, since the animal was known to have active rabies.”
The health district strongly advises that people take the following steps to protect families and pets from exposure to rabies:
• Never approach or touch wild animals, especially any raccoon, fox, skunk, or bat, particularly if it behaves oddly or if it is seen in the daylight. These animals are the primary carriers of rabies in the eastern United States.
• Avoid stray cats and dogs. Feral or unknown cats and dogs may also carry rabies. Report bites or scratches from these animals to your physician or the health department. Feral cats are especially dangerous.
• If you are bitten, scratched, or licked by any of these animals, seek medical attention immediately. Rabies is fatal to both animals and humans once symptoms begin, but it can be prevented in humans if they receive a proper treatment soon after exposure.
• If the attack is from a cat, dog, or ferret, try to identify or capture it if possible. Rabies can be ruled out if these animals are observed to remain healthy for 10 days.
• Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies (even if they don’t go outdoors) and keep their shots up to date. Even working cats on farms should be vaccinated, for their safety and yours.
• Do not feed wild animals or stray cats and dogs. Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home.
• Keep pets confined to your property or walk them on a leash. (Electric collars work on cats, too.)
• If one of your domestic animals is bitten or otherwise interacts with a wild animal, notify the local health department and animal control officer at once.
• Cooperate when the health department calls for information. We do not take people’s pets from them. We only want to keep track of them so we can stop the spread of rabies.
For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/rabies-control/ or call the Warren County Health Department at 540-635-3159.
The Lord Fairfax Health District serves residents in the city of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties. For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/.
Cardinals lose to the Lumberjacks in a close game
After splitting a double header with the Harrisonburg Turks in Harrisonburg Sunday night, the Cardinals returned to action at home last night. In a seesaw affair, the Cardinals lost a close game to the Covington Lumberjacks by a score of 6-4.
The teams traded the lead throughout the game. The Lumberjacks scored first, in the top of the first inning, but the Cardinals were unable to answer, stranding two runners in the bottom of the inning. Despite each team putting runners on base over the next two innings, the next score didn’t come until the fourth inning. Hits by Cardinals’ Easton Waterman, Jose Hernandez and Patrick Baggett scored two runs, giving the Cardinals a one run lead. It was short lived, because the Lumberjacks plated another two runs in the fifth, reclaiming the lead. Cardinals’ right fielder, Mason Nadeau, slapped a single in the fifth, scoring Steve Grober and tying the game at three each. The Lumberjacks took another one run lead in the sixth inning, and in the seventh, Easton Waterman’s third hit of the night scored Arrison Perez. The game was tied once again.
In the eighth inning, the Cardinals gave up two runs and two hits, and committed an error to score two more Lumberjack batters, giving the Jacks a 6-4 lead that the Cardinals wouldn’t recover for the rest of the game. Despite the loss, three Cardinals had multiple hits in the game: Easton Waterman went 3-4, and Carson Bell and Patrick Baggett each went 2-5. The Cardinals pitching staff combined for seven strikeouts in the game, and Dylan Verdonk took the loss for the Cardinals. The loss brings the Cardinals record to 6-10.
The threat of rain, and s series of unusual events made a tough day for the Cardinals. “It was a real grind today,” Coach Hurla said, “It wore on us.”
The Cardinals play at home again on Friday, against the Strasburg Express. Game time 7:00 pm.
Motions filed, August hearing date set in ‘Bawdy Place’ prosecutions
A hearing date of August 13, at 2 p.m., was set Tuesday for pre-trial motions in three cases related at least indirectly to former Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe’s May 2018 visit to a Biggs Drive massage parlor. The cases of Cynthia Atkinson Bailey, her daughter Brandy Nicole Atkinson and son Jesse Thomas Atkinson have been joined for trial according to defense counsel David Downes.
Downes filed motions, including discovery, during the Tuesday, June 18, Warren County General District Court morning docket. The criminal complaint against Bailey and her co-defendants alleges that massages of a sexual nature were a prominent part of the services “menu” being offered at the Biggs Drive address.
A gigolo, I mean “Giglio Motion” filed by Downes Tuesday sought information on potential prosecution witness Tiffany Amber Wymer. The motion cites a felony charge “on or about December 6, 2018” for “possession with intent to distribute marijuana” that according to the defense motion was dropped by prosecutors on May 28, 2019 in Frederick County General District Court.
Downes questions if the resolution of that case related to Wymer’s anticipated testimony in this (the Bailey et al) prosecution and “whether she has received immunity from prosecution for” a variety of other possible charges, including “her fraudulent welfare applications … operating an illegal sex chat website” and “prostitution charges”. Downes further asks how many incidents of prostitution Wymer may have received immunity for.
Bailey, 55, was arrested on May 15 by Front Royal Police along with her daughter, son and stepson Joshua Allan Stamper. Bailey’s charges include maintaining a “bawdy place” (defined as gross, indecent or overly graphic establishment), receiving money from earnings of prostitution, prostitution, and cruelty to children, the latter charge related to the presence of a juvenile in the residence who “answered phone calls, arranged appointments and walked clients to the rooms” according to warrants. Bailey’s relations’ charges relate to various jobs they performed at what was cited as an unlicensed massage parlor operating at the business address of Blue Valley Services.
While Tharpe has admitted to visiting the business he has asserted it was for legitimate massages on his 67-year-old body. Tharpe was indicted on a misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution charge on April 15. That day he put himself on administrative leave and four days later announced he would resign as mayor, effective May 2. Tharpe explained his decision as preventing his legal situation from interfering in the conduct of Town business.
Tharpe was in court Monday, June 17, to have motions and trial dates set in Warren County Circuit Court where his misdemeanor solicitation case is being heard due to the direct indictment by a Warren County Grand Jury.
It was a grand jury, ironically perhaps, chaired by now Interim Front Royal Mayor Matt Tederick.
Two days after her arrest, Bailey attorney Downes issued a press release asserting that his client’s prosecution was “retaliatory” and “selective” due to her assertion to authorities that she would plead her Fifth Amendment right not to self-incriminate if asked to testify regarding clients, including Tharpe. In his release Downes noted that Bailey had initially been arrested on June 7, 2018 on a charge of prostitution. That arrest came one week after the Tharpe massage parlor incident cited in his indictment. That charge was dropped by the commonwealth on October 2, 2018.
Downes release led to responses from both Tharpe Special Prosecutor Heather Hovermale and FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis denying any inappropriate actions related to the massage parlor warrants