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Blue Ridge Heritage Project Memorial Chimney dedicated this Saturday



The Warren County monument awaits the plaque bearing the names of 68 county families known to have been displaced; below, a proof of the plaque scheduled to arrive this week in time to be inserted for Saturday’s dedication. Photos/Roger Bianchini – Courtesy Graphics/Blue Ridge Heritage Project

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.

Descendants break ground on August 11

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

Faces of the county’s displaced

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.

Some of the stone from the Robert McKay House, circa 1731, were used in the Warren County monument foundation

History remembered

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 Merchant family was among those displaced

“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 – 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”:

Stone chimneys were often the last sign of the homes that once stood throughout the mountainous area taken for Shenandoah National Park

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.”

Community Events

WATCH: American Legion Community Band 2018 Christmas Concert



The American Legion Community Band presented its annual Christmas Concert on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 7:30 pm in the R-MA Boggs Chapel in Front Royal.  It was a free concert although a love offering was collected totaling $785 for the local C-CAP charity. There was music to please everyone, including traditional carols, a beautiful chorale and light-hearted selections delighting kids and grown-ups alike. The Royal Examiner’s camera was there to capture the event.  Now take time, watch and welcome Christmas with the celebration of music presented by the American Legion Band.

The American Legion Community Band performs at a variety of concerts and community festivals throughout the year. All performances are free and open to the public. Their repertoire is both versatile and traditional with works ranging from classical to popular, marches and operatic overtures to modern works for band. The band is sponsored by the Giles B. Cook Post #53 of the American Legion.

We spoke with the Conductors Ed Richards, Ron Dye and Kristen Fristoe after the concert.

Also there was a special guest in the audience. All he said was his name was “Nick”.

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Local News

Daytime lane closures for lane striping on I66 between Route 28 and I-495 on December 19th



FAIRFAX, Va. – Rolling double-lane closures will take place on eastbound I-66 between Route 28 (Sully Road) and I-495 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and westbound on I-66 between I-495 and Route 28 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Wednesday, December 19. Crews will be refreshing pavement markings as part of the I-66 Outside the Beltway Project.

Drivers are advised to use caution and expect potential delays.

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Local News

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over and Checkpoint Strikeforce



The Front Royal Police Department will be participating in Virginia’s 17th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign and enforcement will be from December 18th – January 3, 2019. This campaign is geared toward spreading awareness and to combat the rise in drunk driving deaths this holiday season. The 2018 campaign, which Governor Northam helped launch in August, combines high-visibility enforcement with researched based advertising to remind likely offenders to get a safe ride home.

Partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement mobilization, the Front Royal Police Department will be conducting checkpoints and extra officers will be conducting saturation patrols during this holiday season.

“This time of year brings loved ones from all over the Commonwealth together to celebrate the holiday season,” said Chief Kahle Magalis “With the increased traffic, extra law enforcement officers will be working to apprehend impaired drivers and ensure our citizens get home safely to their families.”

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Local News

High Knob home destroyed in Sunday fire, cause unknown



A late-night Sunday fire destroyed the home and vehicles at 81 Trent Trail Court in High Knob, county officials say. / Warren County Fire & Rescue photos.

WARREN COUNTY  – A late-night Sunday evening fire destroyed a Warren County home in the High Know Mountain neighborhood, according to a media release from Warren County Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico.

The release states that around 11 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16, fire and rescue units were dispatched to 81 Trent Trail Court for a reported residential structure fire. The 911 caller reported that visible flames could be seen on the exterior of the home and that the blaze had spread to two parked vehicles and the siding of the home.

Two vehicles were also destroyed in the fire, according to Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico.

The first unit arriving on the scene around 11:10 p.m. reported two passenger vehicles and a single-story, single family home involved in fire. Additionally, the fire was threatening additional structures and wildland areas surrounding them because the house was situated below the grade of the adjoining access road, as well as being perched along a steep ravine.

Maiatico said firefighters took a defensive approach and attempted to protect exposures until the arrival of additional resources.

During the incident, according to the release, firefighters encountered extreme hazardous conditions, including: below freezing temperatures, prevailing winds, icy roads, limited water supply, and difficult access. Firefighters remained on the scene throughout the night and morning to ensure full extinguishment of the fire and to ensure there was no threat to adjoining properties.

Though the fire totaled the home, no one was hurt in the incident, officials say.

The cause of the fire was investigated by the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office. Maiatico said that though Investigators have worked meticulously alongside the homeowner’s insurance company to determine the cause of the blaze, no conclusion has been reached.

The home, two vehicles, and an outbuilding were deemed a total loss. There were no reported injuries.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Fire Investigator Raymond Cross at 540-636-3830 or email

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Local News

Elks Lodge, Police provide an early Christmas to some area families



(L-R)Sergeant R. Seal, Major K. Nicewarner, Chief K. Magalis, Detective Z. King, MPO T. Clingerman, Officer R. Lowery and Officer J. Seal with Santa & Mrs. Claus and Elroy.
Some 50 local children were feted at the Elks’ Lodge on Guard Hill Road recently.
The Dec.8 party provided the children an opportunity to get to know some of Front Royal’s police contingent who handed out presents, purchased with a $2,500 Elks National Foundation Promise grant, along with Santa Claus who did his share of the gifting.
Another highlight for the kids was the pizzas provided by the Melting Pot, Fox’s and Anthony’s.
Local Walmart manager Rob Morris brought along members of Front Royal Fire Softball team. Walmart donated 30 boxes of food for needy families and team members distributed them.
Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharp and Elroy the Elk also attended.

Two of the children who received bicycles and new safety helmets.

Walmart manager Rob Morris with some of the softball team.

Sergeant Robbie Seal & Elk Lodge Secretary, Jane Wine (on either side of Elroy) co-chaired the event again this year.

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Local News

Front Royal World War II veteran’s memory honored 74 years on



At left, sister Charlotte of Stephens City and nephew William Hallman of Front Royal. At right, nephews Sam and John Hallman of Front Royal, and niece Belinda Hallman. Todd Lewis photo.

On Dec. 17, 1944, a 21-year-old soldier from Front Royal was killed on the World War II battlefield in Europe.

On Dec. 16, 2018, 74 years later, members of his family gathered at his grave site in Front Royal’s historic Pioneer Cemetery to honor his memory.

Todd Lewis, who recently moved to Warren County and is a self-styled wartime historian, brought the group together after researching the soldier’s history. His narrative will be cited and the local soldier will be honored at next year’s Memorial Day ceremony at the Gazebo.

The soldier, who lost his life in the famed Battle of the Bulge – specifically the Malmeday Massacre – was Samuel Albert Hallman, born and educated in Front Royal and, when he enlisted, was working on the building of the former American Viscous site under the aegis of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Hallman, in the final year of the war, arrived in Fort Sill, Oklahoma for boot camp, then immediately was assigned to active duty in France and Belgium.

Pvt. Samuel Albert Hallman (left) with wartime buddy. Archive photo.

Less than a few months later, Hallman, a fresh-faced private with Battery B, 285 Field Artillery Observation Battalion, was dead, his name later etched on the memorial to all local Second World War veterans who died in the conflict. That memorial stands in the Warren County Courthouse grounds in downtown Front Royal.

Among family survivors who live in Warren County, and who were at the Pioneer Cemetery last Sunday, was Charlotte Partlowe of Stephens City, Hallman’s one remaining sister, now in her eighties and seven years younger than her brother, Sam. She said after the war their mother, Odessa, received Samuel’s decoration, the Purple Heart, from the war department. She recalled Sam going straight out to work from grade school to the CCC as a construction worker.

“Those were days (in the 1930s) when times were poor and jobs hard to get,” she recalled. She said her brother had turned 21 when he died. She would have been about 14. Charlotte recalled that during his youth Samuel was an ardent hunter and fisherman.

While there are more Hallmans in and outside the area, those who mourned at his graveside Sunday included three nephews, William, 60; John, 54; and Sam, 46, all of Front Royal. Sister Charlotte attended along with a niece, Belinda Hallman.

Faulkner, who did the research on Hallman, said the Malmeday Massacre, part of the better-known Battle of the Bulge, involved German SS troops firing first on Hallman’s battery, many of which stood, hands raised in surrender. They were mowed down by the German troops. Faulkner said Hallman survived the initial assault, making it to the shelter of a hedgerow, making plans to escape. In a break for it, Samuel was hit and severely wounded. Members of a tank crew walked down the lane where the Front Royal man was lying with his fellow soldiers. The German SS shot each of them to death with their pistols.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower spread news of the killings among American troops, later described as “the biggest massacre in U.S. Army history,” to effectively spur them on to eventual victory in the key Battle of the Bulge.

Samuel Albert Hallman – R.I.P.

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Upcoming Events

3:00 pm St. Luke Community Clinic Annual... @ St. Luke Community Clinic
St. Luke Community Clinic Annual... @ St. Luke Community Clinic
Dec 20 @ 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
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6:30 pm Oil painting for the non painter @ Strokes of Creativity
Oil painting for the non painter @ Strokes of Creativity
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Oil painting for the non painter @ Strokes of Creativity
Come join Gloria Howarton, self taught artist, and explore the rich medium of oil painting. This is a 4 week Thursday Evening Class from 6:30-9:00 pm. The dates are 12/06/2018, 12/13/2018 , 12/20/2018 and 1/3/2019[...]
10:00 am Paper Sculpture Party: Koi Fish @ Art in the Valley
Paper Sculpture Party: Koi Fish @ Art in the Valley
Dec 24 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Paper Sculpture Party: Koi Fish @ Art in the Valley
Create your own 5″ x 7″ koi fish paper sculpture with your friends! Schedule your own party for up to 8 people (3-person minimum). No drawing skills are necessary. Artist Tiffany Budzisz will walk you[...]
2:00 pm Annual Community Christmas Dinner @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptarment
Annual Community Christmas Dinner @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptarment
Dec 24 @ 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Annual Community Christmas Dinner @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptarment
This is the fourth year of the Annual Community Christmas Dinner being held! It is on Christmas Eve, December 24th from 2 to 7pm at Front Royal Volunteer Fire Dept. A hot meal is provided with turkey[...]
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2019 Dare to Dream Grant Applica... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 25 @ 9:00 am – 11:00 am
2019 Dare to Dream Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Now Accepting Applications for 2019 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a profession, start a non-profit, anything[...]