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History of Stephens City’s early school days

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Byron C. Smith’s article, “Where is the Grave of Samuel Kercheval? And Other Matters Relating to the Life of the ‘Herodotus of the Valley,’” Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society Journal, (2015), makes known that Stephensburg Academy was the first formal school in Stephens City. The article informs that in December 1808, the Virginia General Assembly recognized Samuel Kercheval along with twelve other prominent men from the Stephensburg community as trustees of the Stephensburg Academy. When in September 1809, and again in December of the same year, Kercheval wrote as the Secretary and a Trustee of the Academy to Thomas Jefferson requesting money to support this new community school, Jefferson politely declined.

Students who attended Stephens City Academy private school at Captain Joseph Long Tavern are standing on the front steps of this building on Main and Locust Streets in 1899. Photos courtesy of Stone House Foundation.

Old Public Schools Report of Frederick County, VA, undated, compiled by James V. Hutton, Jr., cites the following; “prior to the establishment of public schools in Frederick County in 1870 pursuant to the act of the Virginia General Assembly of 1869-1870, there were many private, subscription and community Old Field schools.”

As early as 1846 a state law passed allowing Virginia counties the option of establishing “free” schools, however local voters opposed them in both 1847 and 1856. In the pre-war years and throughout the nineteenth century, many citizens preferred to minimize state involvement regarding the education of children. They believed education for all was not a function of government. Instead, they maintained such training came within the scope of the home as a family responsibility. On the family farm, parents needed their children for planting and harvesting crops, tending farm animals and a multitude of other survival chores.


In Thomas Kemp Cartmell’s book, Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and their Descendants, Chapter XXX, Educational Developments, published in 1909, Cartmell cites “When the Civil War closed, the changed conditions of the State, with her new Constitution, provided for a free school system through special taxation. We may endorse freely the principle, though we condemn much of the mismanagement, throughout the State; but in late years the subject has received more careful attention by our legislators; and rapid strides are now being made in this laudable work.”

The James V. Hutton, Jr. document cites, ”the first public schools placed in operation in 1870—1871 are not known. It is known that by the spring of 1871, the district school trustees of Stonewall, Gainesboro, Back Creek and Opequon (Shawnee had not been formed yet) established about seven free schools per district.”

Captain Joseph Long Tavern on right and McArtor store on left about 1880.

Most, if not all, were private schools converted to public use, primarily small one-room buildings, built with brick and later rusticated concrete block. The first three in the Opequon District nearest Stephens City were Canterburg, built in 1879 on Route 522 near Nineveh (conveyed by James H. Canter and wife), Painter Hill, built in 1886 on south side of Marlboro Road 2 miles west of Stephens City (conveyed by Lemuel Painter and wife) and Deerfield, built in 1888 on Marlboro Road, 4 miles west of Stephens City (conveyed by Harvey A. Richard).

During this time period, citizens of various communities had constructed many of these schools without tax monies from general county funds. Frequently land had been loaned by the owners with the understanding that it was to be used for educational purposes, reverting back to the owners if use was discontinued. Back then before busses and improved rural roads, the schools themselves had to be scattered out within walking distance of the students’ homes or they did not attend school. These community-based schools contributed to the small village cohesiveness and allowed students of farming families to travel to school by foot.

A Rosenwald elementary public school for African Americans in Stephens City was built on the northeast corner of Grove and Martin streets in 1921. The school was destroyed by arson on December 26, 1939. African American students then attended class at the St. John’s Baptist Church on the south end of Main Street until a replacement school was built at the same site in the early 1940s. Students who finished the seventh-grade then attended Douglas School in Winchester, built in 1927, which had upper grades (up to 11th grade by 1941) and was the only African American higher-grade school in Frederick County. The Douglas school closed after Winchester schools were integrated in 1966.

Stephens City Academy brochure for 1897-1898 school year.

According to the first annual Frederick County Public School Report, the average monthly teacher’s salary in 1871-1872 was $27.30. By 1885, the teacher’s salary had increased to $30.00 per month and in 1921 the monthly salary was $55.00.

An 1874 First Grade Teaching Certificate for the Commonwealth of Virginia required proven ability in the subjects of spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, gramma and geography. The teacher would need to furnish satisfactory evidence of professional ability, zeal, experience and good morals and general fitness.

Byron C. Smith, Executive Director & Curator for the Newtown History Center, provided insight about local oral tradition. Tradition maintains there was a time in the late 1800s, through 1920 when children attended school buildings that served more than just students and teachers. In the rural Opequon School District which included Stephens City, churches and even private homes doubled as classrooms. One of the earlier buildings leased by the Stephens City Academy, was a brick house that once resided where the Methodist Church now stands on Main and Locust Streets. Known in the period as the old Captain Joseph Long Tavern, it was a brick Federal-style house built and licensed as a tavern in 1835. Like many hotel buildings at the time, it was used by local militia and magistrates and by town trustees for frequently scheduled meetings.

“The Joseph Long Tavern served as a private school from approximately the 1870s until 1913,” Smith said. This building was demolished to make way for the current Methodist Church which was completed in 1915. “Oral tradition also maintains that in the time between the demolition of the old Joseph Long Tavern School building in 1913 (to make way for the Methodist Church) and the opening of the Stephens City elementary/high school (5516 Main Street), students were spread out around town in different houses and buildings that leased space for classrooms,” Smith said.

One of them was at 5381 Main Street (Thornton McLeod wainwright building) where the upstairs room on the brick side of that house (warehouse space) was used as a classroom. Smith continues with local lore. “At one time there was an exterior stairway that ran up the south gable of the brick side of that house. At the top of that stairway was a door that opened into that room on the second floor. Today there are louvered shutters covering that doorway on the outside. This is the one known occurrence for buildings used as classroom space between 1913 and 1916. There could be others but we do not have any written or oral traditions about them.” It would not surprise Smith if the churches here in town served as temporary classroom space during that transition period between the demolition of the Long Tavern and the opening of the Stephens City School.

Vaucluse Train Station just south of Stephens City where both Claude and Harry Strickler attended school on the second floor in the early 1900s. A school house called High View was later built near Vaucluse in 1920. Photo courtesy Mark Gunderman.

At Vaucluse just a few miles south of Stephens City, a second-floor room of the train station functioned as a public-school classroom (approximately 1900 through 1920) for children of that neighborhood. Smith recalls a Sessions Oak Cased Drop Octagon “Schoolhouse” clock which was donated by a former Stone House Foundation board member, David Powers. Powers received the clock from the Claude Strickler estate. Powers informed Smith that both Claude and his bother Harry Strickler attended school on the second floor of that railroad station. Claude and Harry spent many afternoons watching and anxiously waiting for that clock to signal the end of the school day. Claude became a collector of railroad antiques and rescued the clock from the Vaucluse Station before it closed.

Compulsory school attendance laws were first passed in Massachusetts in 1852 and invariably spread to other sections of the country. Virginia passed its first compulsory school attendance laws in 1908. The first high school in Stephens City was built in 1916, however, children had to acquire their own transportation in order to attend. Since Frederick County was an agricultural area, many children completed their education, received their certificates at the end of 7th grade and went to work on the family farm.

During the early 20th century, the school was in session just seven months a year. Even so, attendance remained a serious problem; parent cooperation, integral to getting children to attend school, was less than robust. The state responded to the problem in 1922, when the General Assembly enacted legislation requiring student attendance and providing for the distribution of textbooks. Although mandatory attendance in Frederick County schools was not initially imposed, by the 1920s the idea of sending one’s child to school rather than to work not only was legislated and implemented but also was promoted and voluntarily accepted by increasing numbers in society.

The Later School Years

Kim Begnaud, a resident of Middletown explains how her families attending Frederick County Schools reflect their gradual evolution through the years. Her grandmother Mildred Luttrell Christian grew up in Shockeysville, Virginia and attended the Salem School (built in 1889) near Timber Ridge. The building closed in the 1930s. Her dad Jerry Christian was raised up on Cedar Creek Grade and attended Mt. Airy School until it closed in 1950, then finished up at Stephens City School. Kim lived on Perry Road and attended Stephens City Elementary until it closed in 1975, then moved on to Bass-Hoover Elementary, then Aylor Middle and James Wood High (both Amherst and Ridge Campuses), graduating in 1983. These days Stephens City students attend Sherando High School, opened in 1993.

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Front Royal Zombie Walk 2021

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The 2021 Front Royal Zombie Walk was a great success. We raised almost $500 (so far)  in donations for the Front Royal/Warren County Humane Society.

Hundred of Zombies walked the streets of Front Royal on Saturday night. Fun for all at the Boomuseum. Good to see the community gathering at the Gazebo area and just enjoy the time together. People of all ages participated, some just came to watch, from a safe distance, of course.

A BIG thank you to all who helped this year. A BIG BIG thank you to Shae Parker and his band, River Driven. The music calmed even Zombies.

And we don’t want to Forget the Front Royal Police Department – they assisted in getting the Zombies across the busy traffic and safely downtown.



The Zombie Walk 2021 T-Shirts are still available at C&C Frozen Treats on Main Street.

Check out the Zombie Walk Facebook page for more pictures.

Did you miss it? Watch the event now on this exclusive Royal Examiner video:


 

Some celebrated their wedding anniversary at the Zombie Walk.

 

Zombies come in all ages.

 

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Everyone age 12 and older can now get the COVID vaccine

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Here are the COVID-19 vaccine locations in Warren County.  Be sure to call and check on vaccine availability and appointment times.

Walmart Inc #10-5105
10 Riverton Commons Dr, Front Royal, VA 22630
540-635-4140

CVS Pharmacy, Inc. #17367
10 Crooked Run Plaza, Front Royal, VA 22630
(540) 631-3291

Warren County Health Department
465 W 15th St #200, Front Royal, VA 22630
(540) 635-3159


CVS Pharmacy, Inc. #07509
800 John Marshall Hwy, Front Royal, VA 22630
(540) 635-1601

Martins #6282
409 South St, Front Royal, VA 22630
540-635-3175

Check at https://www.vaccines.gov/ for other locations in our area.

Protect yourself and others. Remember the following when receiving your COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Wear a cloth face covering or mask in accordance with CDC guidance
  • Keep at least six feet of distance between yourself and other people not in your household at all times
  • Respect the privacy of others when taking photos

 

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Warrior Psychotherapy Services opens on Main Street

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Niki Foster Cales of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, along with fellow Chamber members and Supervisor Walt Mabe welcomed Courtney Patti to the community with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Warrior Psychotherapy Services is located at 130 E. Main Street in Front Royal.

Courtney Patti is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with over 15 years of practice working with the chronic medical and behavioral health population.

Her experience includes working in facilities such as Children’s National Medical Center, Washington Hospital Center Outpatient Behavioral Health, University of Virginia Medical Center, Sheppard Pratt Health System, and Ft Belvoir Community Hospital working in both inpatient and outpatient settings. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Minor in Religion from Sweet Briar College in 2005. Courtney received her Masters of Social Work (MSW) from Catholic University of America: National Catholic School of Social Services in Washington, D.C.  in 2007.

Her specialty focuses on adults whose lives are impacted by depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and unresolved emotional issues. She is considered an expert in her field in formulating diagnostic and treatment recommendations, providing individual, couple, and family therapy.


Click here to find out more about Warrior Psychotherapy on their website.

 

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Motion to bar press from hearing on Luckey indecent sexual liberties with a minor charges delays hearing to January 6

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On Thursday, October 21, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Daryl Funk ruled in favor of a defense motion to bar the press from the courtroom during the hearing of accused child sexual abuser Dr. William R. Luckey. The ruling, at the request of Luckey’s defense counsel Shannon Johnson, resulted in a continuation of the scheduled hearing at which the alleged juvenile victim was expected to testify.

Court records indicate the hearing was continued to January 6 of next year on the morning docket with an anticipated start time of 10:30 a.m. The delay will allow press organizations to file responses to the judge’s ruling on their exclusion, making their case to be allowed in the courtroom for future hearings or trials where testimony by and about the alleged victim would be heard.

According to reports Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Samantha Meadows was poised to call at least three witnesses Thursday, including the alleged victim and case investigator Kristin Hajduk of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. However, the youth’s testimony would have been by remote video hook-up, avoiding the necessity of an underage witness having to be in the same room with their accused abusers as they testify.

As of a J&D Court ruling on Thursday, October 21, media was excluded from hearings where testimony by or about the alleged victim in the William R. Luckey sexual solicitation and indecent liberties against a minor case would be heard. Below, Luckey upon his June 25, 2021, booking into RSW Jail. Mug shot – RSW Jail website; Courthouse photo – Royal Examiner File Photo


 

On June 25, 2021, the 72-year-old, retired (in 2015) Christendom College professor of 33 years and more recent teacher at the Padre Pio Academy at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Front Royal was charged with one count of “Solicitation of prostitution from a minor less than age 16” and two charges of “Indecent liberties … of a child less than 15”. Court documents list all three offense dates as June 22, 2021, three days prior to Luckey’s arrest. Original presiding Judge Nancy Reed initially denied bond in the case on June 30. However, upon defense appeal citing health issues and his long-term ties to the community, Luckey was released on a $50,000 secured bond on July 12.

Copies of warrants on those charges offered additional detail. Of the two indecent liberties charges, Luckey is accused of “with lascivious intent knowingly and intentionally sexually abuse a (age withheld by paper) female …” and “that the accused feel or fondle the sexual or genital parts of such child”.

Of the solicitation charge, the warrant alleges that Luckey offered “money or its equivalent to a minor under 16 years of age … with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify and thereafter perform a substantial act in furtherance thereof.” Commonwealth evidence indicated that money was ten dollars offered to the alleged victim to see and touch their “bottom”. The warrants indicate the money was refused by the child, but that Luckey followed through with the suggested behavior, leaving the ten dollars behind when he left the scene.

During initial hearings last summer the Commonwealth introduced recorded phone conversations between Dr. Luckey and his wife discussing her husband’s legal situation in the days following his arrest. Investigator Hajduk told the court that the couple knew they were being recorded on the phone line to the jail before introducing recorded segments of those conversations to the court and summarizing other sections. While the prosecution’s take on those segments was that they indicated an admission of some of the alleged behavior, the defense disputed that contention.
Rather, defense attorney Johnson argued certain conversational lines simply indicated Dr. Luckey’s reaction to the charges against him or social dynamics involved with those accusations. In fact, she told the court some of Dr. Luckey’s comments to his wife indicated a belief the charges “were invalid” and that his accuser could face the consequences of filing a false police report.

“This isn’t what happened,” Julie Luckey told her husband of specific sexual acts described in one of the warrants, later adding, “It’s not like you raped somebody.”

“No, it doesn’t say ‘Show me your hiney,’ Dr. Luckey seemed to laugh in response to his wife’s dispute over the content of the warrants. At another point in recorded conversations in the days after his arrest, Dr. Luckey told his wife his situation was a result “of 15 minutes of stupidity on my part.”

Whether that “15 minutes of stupidity” will be viewed as a criminal solicitation and abuse of a minor remains to be seen; as does whether future preliminary hearings or a potential trial will be viewed and reported by the media.

 

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I-81 southbound slow roll scheduled in Frederick County on October 26th

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A slow-roll is scheduled on Interstate 81 in Frederick County on Tuesday, October 26 at 11 a.m. This operation, managed by the Virginia State Police, will take place in southbound lanes between exit 307 at Route 277 in the Stephens City area and exit 302 at Route 627 in the Middletown area. All slow-roll activity will conclude by noon.

The slow roll is needed for blasting operations near I-81 that will take place on a developer’s construction site in the Middletown area.

All work is weather permitting.

Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at http://www.511Virginia.org.


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WCHS conducts National Honors Society induction ceremony

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On October 14, 2021, Warren County High School’s National Honors Society chapter held an induction ceremony. The chapter inducted twenty-six (26) new members. National Honors Society is a national organization dedicated to scholarship, character, service, and leadership. These new inductees will be a part of an organization of incredibly impressive alumni.

WCHS National Honor Society Officers (L-R): Cayla Kleinschmidt, Historian; Francis Treutlein, Vice-President; John Shultzaberger, President; and Kiersten Stives, Secretary.

All new members received a certificate and their membership cards. Mrs. Jyoti Vasishta, NHS advisor, stated in her introduction speech: “Our chapter is proud to have been inducting new members since 1963 and today’s ceremony indicates the continuing emphasis on excellence that we represent for our school and community”.

Last year’s new members were unable to receive an official induction ceremony due to the pandemic. A part of the ceremony was dedicated to recognize and honor these members. These members also received the certificate and the membership pin.


Mr. Kenneth Knesh, Warren County High School’s principal, delivered an inspirational speech to students and parents in the closing.

“Tonight you join judges, lawyers, teachers, military officers, Ivy League graduates and yes, even a current rocket scientist at NASA as members of our NHS fraternity. Now your name will be among those distinguished alumni who proudly call Warren County High School their alma mater. They went on to do great things and we believe that you are destined to join them in helping to shape the world we live in and become future leaders of this great country of ours. Be bold, be brave and be the light of someone’s world.”

New members include: Alyssa Albritton, Genevieve Blodgett, Anthony Carter, Zane Michael Clark, Nicholas Foltz, Amanda Genari, Lacie Glascock, Ginger Gouda, Ian Hoelscher, Arthur Kresge, Audrey Moya Machuca, Gabriella Mangene, John Martin, Emily Mawson, Haley Oyler, Cayden Patton, Mason Polk, Landon Pond, Nicole Ranney, Julianne Rappole, Mia Santillan, Sara Waller, Sebastian Ward, Leah Webster, Olivia Yates, and Brian Zook.

Former members include: Paige Arndt, Madeline Bryant, Aidan Grupac, Cayla Kleinschmidt (Historian), Griffin Martin, Maya McKean, Joanna Mendez-Dorado, Savannah Mitchell, Mavryck Lance Mora, Emma Mullins, Sydney Nalls (Treasurer), Margaret Plosch, Taye Russell, Nathalie Schelin, Jordan Searcey, John Schultzaberger (President), Kiersten Stives (Secretary), and Francis Treutlein (Vice President).


By Emily Mawson, NHS Inductee

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10:00 am Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
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Senior Painting Class with Dottie at Strokes of Creativity. Tickets: CLICK HERE Cost: $80 for 6 weeks Dates: Thursdays – Oct 21, Oct 28, Nov 4, Nov 11, Nov 18, Dec 4 Time: 10 am[...]
1:00 pm Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
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This class is for Grades 4th and 5th. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: 9 and 10 years old Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at[...]
7:00 pm Haunted Tunnel Auto Wash @ White Horse Auto Wash
Haunted Tunnel Auto Wash @ White Horse Auto Wash
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Haunted Tunnel Auto Wash @ White Horse Auto Wash
White Horse Auto Wash is excited for the first Haunted Tunnel at their new Front Royal location this year! Located next to Lowe’s at 214 Country Club Road, Front Royal, VA. The event will be[...]
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9:00 am Volunteer Tree Planting @ Sky Meadows State Park
Volunteer Tree Planting @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Edmonds Lane Field: Join The Piedmont Environmental Council, Friends of the Rappahannock, Goose Creek Association, John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District and We Plant Trees, for volunteer tree planting at Sky Meadows State Park![...]
6:00 pm Trunk or Treat @ Family Dollar Parking Lot
Trunk or Treat @ Family Dollar Parking Lot
Oct 29 @ 6:00 pm – Oct 30 @ 9:00 pm
Trunk or Treat @ Family Dollar Parking Lot
Non-profit organization Crown Vic Kiings & Queens, of Winchester, Virginia, is hosting our annual car club TRUNK OR TREAT, in Front Royal, on October 29th. The event is free but donations are greatly appreciated, as[...]
7:00 pm Haunted Tunnel Auto Wash @ White Horse Auto Wash
Haunted Tunnel Auto Wash @ White Horse Auto Wash
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Haunted Tunnel Auto Wash @ White Horse Auto Wash
White Horse Auto Wash is excited for the first Haunted Tunnel at their new Front Royal location this year! Located next to Lowe’s at 214 Country Club Road, Front Royal, VA. The event will be[...]
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9:00 am Volunteer Tree Planting @ Sky Meadows State Park
Volunteer Tree Planting @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Volunteer Tree Planting @ Sky Meadows State Park
Edmonds Lane Field: Join The Piedmont Environmental Council, Friends of the Rappahannock, Goose Creek Association, John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District and We Plant Trees, for volunteer tree planting at Sky Meadows State Park![...]
1:00 pm Fall Craft Festival @ Fort Valley Museum
Fall Craft Festival @ Fort Valley Museum
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Fall Craft Festival @ Fort Valley Museum
Fort Valley Museum Fall Craft Festival – Annual Fundraiser October 30 & 31, 2021 | Saturday 1-4pm, Sunday 2-5pm Come by and support the Fort Valley Museum at our annual Fall Craft Festival (formerly “Christmas[...]
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Feed the Homeless Trunk or Treat @ T-Bone's Bar & Grill
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Non-profit organization Crown Vic Kiings & Queens, of Winchester, Virginia, is hosting our annual car club FEED THE HOMELESS/TRUNK OR TREAT on October 30th. The event is free but donations are greatly appreciated, as Crown[...]
7:00 pm Haunted Tunnel Auto Wash @ White Horse Auto Wash
Haunted Tunnel Auto Wash @ White Horse Auto Wash
Oct 30 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Haunted Tunnel Auto Wash @ White Horse Auto Wash
White Horse Auto Wash is excited for the first Haunted Tunnel at their new Front Royal location this year! Located next to Lowe’s at 214 Country Club Road, Front Royal, VA. The event will be[...]