Once upon a time, there was plenty of joy to go around in Mudville. The two major streets, Squirrel Lane and Rabbit Lane, bustled with the daily life of a small rural community. Folks took pride in their gardens, creating a pleasant, clean and peaceful place to live. Tall grasses, plants and flowers filled every family’s yard. Beautiful meadows filled with rabbits and squirrels gave the village roads their names. The smell of homemade jams, breads and pastries emanated from the neighborhood kitchens. About twelve closely knit families lived along the dirt roads during the pre-depression era. People residing here rarely remembered to lock their doors at night. Mudville residents often fed itinerant strangers breakfast, who walking the railroad tracks, had nothing to eat. Christmas was an unforgettable experience as each family exchanged presents with each other. Often residents reminisced about their childhood days when the train whistle was the last sound heard at night before laying their heads on the pillow.
Stephens City Station aka Mudville, was located just west of down-town and split by Marlboro Road (Route 631) and the railroad tracks. On June 13, 1870, the new Winchester and Strasburg Railroad was completed which connected Stephens City (then Newtown), for the first time with Winchester and the Manassas Gap Railroad at Strasburg. A small train station was built on the east side of the tracks, just north of Marlboro Road and occupied by the station master. The railroad empowered Stephens City Station to become the industrial and commercial hub for Stephens City. The business district was later nicked-named Mudville, due to the lack of hard surface roads and water filled potholes lined with lime paste which seldom allowed the dirt streets to completely dry.
The train depot located across the tracks from the train station was expanded in 1914 to include a general merchandise and produce business. The general store sold everything from clothes, farm supplies, coal, and lumber to dried vegetables. Very rural folks would drop in to exchange eggs and butter for dry goods. The building included a Western Union telegraph office, a small waiting room and a merchandise pickup area. Mail was delivered daily by train to the depot and then driven to the Stephens City Post Office by horse-drawn wagon. Livestock was routinely loaded onto the trains. In the 1930s, the Baltimore and Ohio ran eight passenger trains, four every morning and four every evening stopping in Stephens City each day.
Businesses flourished around the larger train depot from the 1870s until the 1930s. The three story Stephens City Milling Company, established in 1893, resided on the west side of the tracks along with The Shenandoah Vinegar and Cider Company which operated an evaporator for drying fruit. In 1900, the M.J. Grove Lime Company opened a lime quarry and lime kiln here employing as many as seventy-five workers. A lime kiln plant was constructed in 1906 and became an important piece of the Stephens City economy. Stephens City Cooperage, Virginia Chemical Company, a blacksmith shop, grocery store, barber shop and several restaurants all blossomed in Mudville. A one room school house sat in the middle of this industrial complex.
Mudville’s prosperity would begin to wane during the Great Depression and then a most disastrous fire would plunge this community toward an economic death spiral. On November 17, 1936, there was a devastating fire that ravaged the village. According to the Winchester Evening Star, the raging inferno began in the evaporator plant of the Vinegar and Cider Company, a building made of mostly dry pine boards. It was a two-story building with furnaces on the ground floor and facilities for hydrating the fruit above. Apparently furnace waste had sifted through apertures which admitted heat into the drying room and had lodged against pipes leading from the furnace. The fire engulfed the entire building in a matter of minutes and forced employees out of the building. Fanned by high winds that roared in from the west with gale-like force at times, cascades of sparks and ashes carried east at least a mile.
The winds caused the fire to spread quickly and by morning the flames had consumed the evaporator, the cooperage (barrel-making) plant, the apple packing shed, a storage house, a corn house, an auto shelter and a few storage sheds. The fire also damaged a blacksmith shop, a grocery business, a restaurant and property of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad. While no fatalities or injuries were sustained, the property losses (adjusted for inflation were equal to $950,000 in today’s dollars) were enormous with a comparatively small portion protected by insurance.
The intense heat from the fire broke the Northern Virginia Power lines plunging Stephens City and Strasburg into darkness until early morning. A large B&O steel hopper containing coke caught fire. Six of the B&O main line rails had to be removed and a power switch leading to the cooperage plant was rebuilt. One rail nearest the coke hopper bent almost into a right angle. Fortunately many buildings including the M. J. Grove Lime Company, B&O Depot, a restaurant and residential dwellings went undamaged. A major factor was the excellent service rendered by bucket brigade volunteers who were stationed at strategic locations, fiercely extinguishing blazes in the grassy fields and buildings as sparks and embers touched down.
The Mudville fire along with the 1930s depression era economy and the termination of passenger train service in August 1949 did bring about the gradual demise of the village. Some of the businesses did rebuild but not with the success experienced before the fire. The M. J. Grove Lime Company would continue to operate in Stephens City through most of the twentieth century. As businesses closed and residents moved or passed away, The Lime Kiln operation bought the properties and demolished the buildings. Anna Stout, who left Mudville in 1972, was one of the last residents to depart the village. The railway agency closed the station building in May 1974. According to the Newtown History Center website, the quarrying operation would close down in September of 1988 after being bought out by the Flintkote and then Genstar Companies. The processing plant was then operated by the Shen-Valley Lime Corporation and would finally close down in 2003.
Today, all that remains of the once thriving village on Marlboro Road are the empty lime-covered remnants of demolished factory and house foundations left to be reclaimed by nature. The passenger train service transportation economy that drove the haphazard establishment of Mudville was eliminated, the harsh living conditions due to lime dust become too difficult and the economic downturn put an end to this amazing little community, leaving us with another fascinating Shenandoah Valley memory.
Happy Creek road closure continues into August
Work continues on Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) in Warren County. A portion of Route 624 is closed to traffic and will remain closed until ongoing utility work is finished. A reopening date will be announced as this work approaches completion. The closure began on June 19, 2021.
The closure also allows for road widening work, road alignment improvements, and drainage improvements.
The road closure extends from the Town of Front Royal Eastern Corporate limits to Route 647 (Dismal Hollow Road). Access to residential and businesses properties in this area will be maintained during this closure.
Detour signs are posted. Northbound traffic from Route 624 will take Leach Run Parkway to Route 55 (John Marshall Highway) to Route 647. Southbound traffic will take Route 647 to Route 55 to Leach Run Parkway to Route 624.
On April 1, 2021, a construction contract valued at $1,736,387.66 was awarded to Kickin’ Asphalt Paving and Excavating LLC of Strasburg, Virginia. The Route 624 contract provides safety improvements located from the Town of Front Royal Eastern Corporate limits to Route 645 (Manassas Run Road). Project completion is estimated for late 2021.
All work is weather permitting.
Be the Change offers business classes for women, new format for fall semester
Now in its fifth year, Be the Change Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a mission of empowering, strengthening and inspiring women, offers a series of 12 classes for women who want to start a business or build on an existing one. Taught by local professionals in their respective areas of expertise, each session starts with a local spotlight entrepreneur who shares their unique story and business tips.
Until now, classes have been held in person at Lord Fairfax Community College Fauquier campus. COVID-19 changed the landscape with hybrid sessions necessitated during the spring 2021 semester.
The Be the Change Foundation board voted to adopt an all-virtual classroom format for the fall 2021 semester and contracted with BlueSky Phoenix, a website and marketing development company in Warrenton, to create an online curriculum based on the in-person program.
WomenBizLaunch is a 12-week online entrepreneurship program that educates women on how to form a business and run it successfully, or move to the next level in an existing business. After offering this successful program in-person, the Be the Change Foundation is excited to offer this program to women across the country in a virtual platform.
The two-hour class sessions are held weekly, live via Zoom and recorded in case the time or date is not convenient. Sessions begin with an “Entrepreneurial Spotlight,” where short stories are shared by small business owners hoping to empower and inspire participants as they begin this new journey. Spotlights are followed with the main topic, taught by a well-respected subject matter expert. Additional access and support are offered by the instructors, board members and program director throughout the 12-week program via a private Facebook group.
“We want our participants to be inspired and empowered not only for their own growth but to support others as they grow and truly Be the Change,” said founder Marianne Clyde.
The comprehensive curriculum covers a range of topics for aspiring businesswomen including Finding Your Why, Mission and Vision and Your Unique Selling Proposition, Building Your Business Plan, SWOT Analysis – Why It’s So Important, Organizing the Chaos: Using Systems That Work, Keeping Your Books, Building Your Team, Marketing on a Dime on Your Time, Networking Like a Rock Star and Controlling Stress as examples.
“I appreciate all the support I’ve received,” said a former participant Samantha Spittle who went on to form her own podcast, Flushing It Out With Samantha Spittle. Tune in for the fun conversations at samanthaspittle.com.
This 12-week class is valued at $2,250 but because this program is new and in the beginning stages, your investment is only $475. In return for the value provided, participants will be asked to complete a short evaluation at the end of the program to offer feedback for future programs.
“Out of COVID’s chaos, many nonprofits like ours, have had to adapt and create new opportunities,” said board member Anita Sherman. “We’re excited to offer these classes to women nationwide…we’ve seen firsthand the collaboration and connections made…the virtual platform will open more doors.”
Enrollment for the Fall 2021 semester is open now! Class starts September 14, 2021.
Bargain-hunters flock to now legendary Route 11 yard crawl
“Don’t give up, don’t get pale, straight ahead, for more yard sale.”
It is going to be a fantastic, festive day, attracting tons of people who are visiting the Lower Shenandoah Valley for the first time. The Valley’s stunning summer scenery, with lush greens and spectacular mountain views will provide each newcomer with an unforgettable experience to take back home and tell family and friends. Folks from all over the country are becoming interested in the event. Vendors within the mid-Atlantic area recognize the Yard Crawl as a major happening for selling product. The Yard Crawl has morphed into a cultural phenomenon and an economic boon to the small towns of the Valley community.
Each year more and more people are participating in the Route 11 (Old Valley Pike) Yard Crawl. A yearly event since 2005 (Stephens City and Middletown joined in 2008), held during the second Saturday in August; the Yard Crawl is a 43-mile-long yard sale that stretches from Stephens City’s Newtown Commons through seven historic small towns to New Market. As many as 1,000 vendors will be set up along the route and an average of 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles will rubberneck their way through each town. Over 3,000 individual sellers will clear their attics, basements, garages and carports and set up for the marathon event.
The Route 11 Yard Crawl is a partnership of the Valley Towns of Stephens City, Middletown, Strasburg, Woodstock, Edinburg, Mt. Jackson and New Market, the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce and the Shenandoah County Tourism Office. It is all about experiencing the heart and soul of small-town America.
The Yard Crawl is celebrating (Saturday, August 14) its 16th anniversary of flea market madness! It’s Virginia’s longest yard crawl, offering miles of yard sales, food trucks, fresh produce stands and indescribable family fun. The Crawl typically includes private residences, businesses and popup vendors who set out tables of sale items in empty parking lots, parks and sidewalks filled with tents and trailers, drawing crowds of yard crawlers and frugal shoppers along the route. Saleable items can include antiques, vintage collectibles, books, jewelry, furniture, tools, clothing, sporting goods, toys and the most unusual objects imaginable. Just start fantasizing about all the incredible treasures waiting to be discovered! It is almost Yard Sale Heaven.
Local businesses can count on a 30% increase above normal summer revenue. The Crawl attracts thousands of visitors from around Virginia and other neighboring states and is a godsend for area restaurants, hotels and small businesses. The Crawl is a huge economic driver for the small-town communities to include our area nonprofits. The event has encouraged additional yard sales on adjoining days, soliciting tourism dollars from bargain-hunters and summer travelers alike.
Dudley Rinker, Chair of the Lions Club Yard Crawl Committee says, “business in Stephens City has increased with calls for more vendor spaces this year.” There are approximately 90 vendor spaces allotted at Newtown Commons on Main Street (where the yard crawl begins on the north end). The Commons are at 75% capacity, but rentals are filling quickly and there is a need to expand spaces at the Old School lot on the south of town,” Rinker said. Currently Lions Club has 17 spaces rented at the Old School and can expand to 50 spaces, if needed. The vendor spaces are 16′ X 20′ and cost $20 per spot. “Vendors can join spaces if they require additional room,” Rinker said. According to the Lions Club website, profits from the rentals provide financial and human resource support to sight/hearing conservation, youth activities and community improvement.
Former Lions Chair, Jack Treece, claims about one third of the residents living on Main Street also set up on front porches to sell their own wares. “Between vendors and locals as many as 400 people can be selling product within the Stephens City town limits,” Treece said.
Rick Kriebel, Manager of Collections and Programs, Newtown History Center, says he has 16 vendor spaces (front porch, south yard and parkway) for rent with excellent locations. Kriebel cites many prime spots are still available. Kim Begnaud, Trinity Lutheran Church Community Outreach Minister, has 10 designated spaces for rent in the church parking lot on Main Street. “However, all spots have been taken,” Begnaud reported.
Yard Crawlers can prepare for the event by bringing small bills and change to make shopping more convenient, but also may get you a discount by enabling a smoother transaction for the vendor. The Crawl officially opens at 7 a.m. on Saturday, but the stores and antiques sellers typically welcome early birds. Some Route 11-yard crawl vendors setup on the Friday before and traffic usually begins to pick up on Route 11 by early Friday afternoon. Saturday is the prime travel day and traffic will be stop and go for the entire stretch of Valley Pike. Adept shoppers begin on Friday or early Saturday before the event to locate any rare or collectible items for cherry-picking at daybreak.
By the end of this epic day folks are doing a lot of “lookie loo” shopping, driving slowly by the roadside stands and viewing from the car. Churches, businesses and civic organizations sell snacks, boxed lunches and beverages all along this historic thoroughfare. Bring bottled water to stay hydrated. Stow away nylon rope, lashing straps or bungee cords to tie down any oversized purchases.
The event will be held rain or shine. Expect traffic congestion along Route 11 most of the day. Watch for pedestrians crossing Route 11. Navigate streets carefully, as pedestrians get distracted by displays and may appear to meander across the street without watching for oncoming traffic. Park vehicles completely off the road and do not block driveways. No double parking is permitted along the route.
May God continue to bless our Shenandoah Valley communities.
Grand re-opening & ribbon cutting at Code Ninjas
Code Ninjas at 133 N. Royal Avenue in Front Royal held its grand opening on July 31, 2021. Nike Foster Cales of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce along with Board of Supervisors Chairman Cheryl Cullers and Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell welcomed Kimmee Hancock LaCross and husband Chris to the Front Royal business community.
Code Ninjas is where kids learn to code while building their own video games. This is where they learn problem-solving, critical thinking, and STEM skills in a fun, safe, and inspiring environment.
Coding has been called the literacy of the 21st century for good reason. Just like math, science, and literature, coding is a key aspect of understanding our technologically advanced world. There’s a huge need for a generation that not only understands technology but how it works. Regardless of whether your kids one day pursue a career in coding, Code Ninjas teaches them confidence, logic, resourcefulness, and problem-solving skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Front Royal children ages 7-14 can look forward to visiting the new Code Ninjas center to learn how to code in a fun, safe, and social learning environment where gaming is celebrated, and STEM is cool. Everything about Code Ninjas is built around fun, which keeps kids coming back. But the center also provides the results that parents are looking for, as their children gain coding and problem-solving skills they’ll need for the jobs of the future.
Code Ninjas accomplishes this with a robust, game-based curriculum made up of nine belts, just like martial arts. The curriculum is self-paced, but not self-taught; kids get immediate help and encouragement from Code Senseis and fellow students as they advance from white to black belt. The program keeps kids motivated with little wins along the way, and “Belt-Up” celebrations where they receive color-coded wristbands to mark their graduation to the next level. By the time a child finishes the program, they will publish an app in an app store.
Code Ninjas offers a variety of opportunities for children to get involved, including a flexible drop-in program, camps, and Parents Night Out events on weekends.
For more information about the Front Royal Code Ninjas, please visit https://www.codeninjas.com/va-front-royal.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for August 2 – 6, 2021
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in the Staunton transportation district during the coming weeks. The Staunton District consists of 11 counties from the Alleghany Highlands to the northern Shenandoah Valley: Alleghany, Bath, Rockbridge, Highland, Augusta, Rockingham, Page, Shenandoah, Frederick, Clarke and Warren.
Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
*UPDATE* Mile marker 7 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for paving operations, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. through September 3.
No lane closures were reported.
No lane closures were reported.
Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) – Road closed between Front Royal eastern town limits and Route 647 (Dismal Hollow Road) for a safety improvement project. Follow posted detour. Estimated project completion December 10.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Warren County Republicans hold forum for upcoming School Board seats
On July 29, 2021, the Warren County Republican Committee (WCRC) held a candidate forum for the upcoming Warren County School Boards seats in the Happy Creek, North River, and Fork Districts.
The candidates vying for an endorsement from the Warren County Republican Committee are Antoinette Funk and Stephanie Short (Happy Creek), Melanie Salins (North River), Andrea Lo, and Al Gunn (Fork). Andrea Lo was not in attendance at the forum.
As event moderator and former Committee Chairman Steve Kurtz noted that the committee can only endorse, not nominate. That has essentially been legally interpreted to mean that a candidate cannot carry a political party designation by their name on an election ballot. That does not prevent them from carrying one on sample ballots handed out by political committees outside polling places to reflect a Party’s endorsement.
The Royal Examiner will be having each candidate on an upcoming “Meet the Candidate” Town Talk in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
After the forum, the WCRC voted and choose to endorse Antoinette Funk, Happy Creek District, Melanie Salins, North River District, and Al Gunn, Fork District. Al Gunn is the only candidate that is a write-in candidate. The others names are on the ballot in the upcoming November election.