Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

Farmland in the rain near Nortonsville, Virginia

One day last week I took the camera and drove back into the mountains toward the town of Crozet. It started raining but the light was so nice that I ended spending most of the afternoon taking pictures in the rain. Next week I will post a series of these "rain" pictures, and yes, I got wet thanks for asking.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mountain View Methodist Church, Giles County, Virginia - 2011

The Mountain View Methodist Church has been well cared for over the years (see yesterday's post for pictures of the church from around 1950). A small vestibule has been added, and the fence and tree that once stood in front of the church have been replaced by a paved parking lot. These pictures of the church and nearby cemetery were taken earlier this month when I visited Mountain View.

Walker Cemetery - Guinea Mountain - Giles County, Virginia

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mountain View Methodist Church - Mountain View, Virginia 

As I drove up Guinea Mountain Road on a quiet Sunday morning in early April, I was not sure what I was going to find. The last time I remember coming here was for my grandfather's funeral. He died in 1957.

I was nearly 10 years old when my grandfather died and had no experience with funerals. When we arrived at my grandparent's house there was a wreath on the door, and cars were parked up and down the street. Inside, my grandfather's coffin sat in the small living room, surrounded by flowers. The curtains were drawn and it was dark and hot and crowded. I was glad that I was staying overnight with my aunt and uncle who lived nearby.

It was over 50 years ago when I rode with my family up Guinea Mountain Road to bury my grandfather at Mountain View. But on this April day I was alone, and my memories of that time were faint. At last I reached the Mountain View Methodist Church and stopped. The parking lot was empty; services are held only one Sunday a month. As I walked around the church taking photographs, a car pulled up at the house next to the church. I walked over and asked about the location of the cemetery. I remembered the cemetery being adjacent to the church but there was no cemetery within sight of the church. The woman told me that the cemetery was about a half mile down the road. She asked if I was interested in a particular family.

My grandfather is on the far left
" I am a Fuller," I replied.

"There was an Edd Fuller who preached at this church when I was a little girl," she said.

"That was my grandfather," I said.

She said that back then, several different denominations used the church building for services, and that she remembered my grandfather well. I had pictures at home that were taken at the church in the early 1950's and I wondered if she was in any of them. Standing in front of the church where my grandfather once preached and talking to someone who had known him made me feel close to him.

I drove on up to the cemetery, which is on a high ridge near the top of Guinea Mountain, and visited the Fuller graves. My grandfather's grave is no longer there; he was moved to Princeton, West Virginia at my grandmother's wishes in the 1960s. The cemetery was just as I remembered it. For a moment, the years fell away, and I felt the first bitter loss of a loved family member. There were no flowers, but the grass was just starting to turn green. I leaned against the chain link fence and looked across the valley at the unchanging mountains. Then it was time to go home.

Thanks to my cousin Timmy Hurst for the pictures which are from a family album owned by his mother, my dad's little sister. She attended services at Mountain View with her father, and sang in the choir.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mountain View - Giles County, Virginia 

Traveling home from Mississippi a couple of weeks ago, I took a detour through Giles County, which is in the mountains of southwestern Virginia.  My goal was to visit Guinea Mountain, where my grandfather preached in the early 1950s at the Mountain View Methodist Church. I was last there forty-some years ago.

As you drive up Guinea Mountain Road a roadside sign indicates that you have arrived in the community of Mountain View. There is not much there now except for the church, a cemetery and a couple of houses. Mountain View is aptly name, for there are beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, and the place is quiet and secluded.

Tomorrow, I will have more to say about my grandfather and the Mountain View Methodist Church, which is still standing.

The picture above was taken from the parking lot of the church, looking to the west along Guinea Mountain Road.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Poultry Barn - Lincoln County, Mississippi 

Back in December, I wrote about the trials and tribulations of bird photography. (See here) Nature photography in general and bird photography in particular are very demanding pursuits, and it is only after seeing the work of photographers who are really good at it that one realizes how hard it is to do well

I recently came across a blog called Red and the Peanut. Kelly Riccetti is a photographer and painter who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, who brings a painter's eye to her nature and bird photography, and perhaps a photographer's eye to her painting (but I wouldn't know about that, not being a painter myself.) In any event her work is outstanding and I highly recommend Red and the Peanut. A permanent link has been added to the links on the sidebar.

While poking around the links on Red and the Peanut, I came across Montanagirl.  Montanagirl lives in northeastern Montana, and has an excellent eye for nature and wildlife photography. I think she has a particularly good way with birds, and as an easterner, it is a treat to see photos of birds we do not get to see west of the Mississippi.  A permanent link to Montanagirl has been added to the links on the sidebar.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Gourd house" - near Norfield, Mississippi 

This lovely, sprawling old house, close to the earth, surrounded by pine trees, welcoming and unpretentious, captures the flavor of the South for me much more than does the stately antebellum mansion. The good times and the hard times are written on its walls, the history of the South reflected in its windows that have seen hard times come and go.

Norfield, Mississippi is a few miles south of Bogue Chitto on Highway 51. As you pass through, there is nothing to suggest that a town once prospered here. It is simply what we used to call "a wide spot in the road."

But in 1890, the site which would become the town of Norfield was in the heart of the Southern pine belt. The seemingly inexhaustible supply of yellow pine and cypress, and the proximity to the Illinois Central Railroad promised work and prosperity.

The Norwood and Butterfield Lumber Company, based in Chicago, decided to build a lumber mill between Brookhaven and McComb to take advantage of the abundant forests. They built a mill, laid out the streets and lots of a new milltown to support the operation, and Norfield was born.

The mill became operational in 1893, and with the mill and associated trades, Norfield boomed, and by 1920, was the second largest town in Lincoln County. (In 1915 the mill  was purchased and renamed The Denkmann Lumber Company.) Even in the midst of prosperity, life was not always easy.
"All of these men, up in the hundreds, knew nothing else to do. Most of them lived in shabby frame buildings, with no running water in the house. Their lights were furnished. The water was one hydrant on the edge of the back porch. Their rent was about $2.00 to $6.00 a month. Heat was a wood heater and fire places. Their wood was furnished at $1.00 a truck load. Most of the houses had a small garden where they could grow a few vegetables. Their pay check was $15.00 to $21.00 a month. Their doctor bill was $2.00 a month, flat rate. This was a hard life. I knew for I had been there."  - Lawrence H. Shepherd, Sr. 1978
With the arrival of the Great Depression the mill was forced to close in 1931. Without the mill to drive the economy the town faded away and by the late 1940s there was nothing left except the trace of abandoned  streets and a few piles of bricks. Today, all that is left is a standard green and white Mississippi highway sign that reads "NORFIELD." 

Many thanks to Norfield Publishing and their web page Norfield, Mississippi, and The Denkmann Lumber Company for the information in this article. This site has a fascinating account of the rise and fall of Norfield, along with many period photographs and a first hand account of working for the mill.

Monday, April 18, 2011

An evening walk - Greene County, Virginia 

 Yesterday afternoon I attended the annual meeting of the Greene County Historical Society. Until 1838, Greene was a part of Orange county and historian Frank S. Walker told about some of the people who played a key role in the formation of Greene County, including William Monroe, who came to this area in 1769 and left his vast estate in trust to be used to provide free education for local children. When Greene separated from Orange, a portion of the fund was transferred to and administered by the Greene Humane Society.

Samantha Hammer and Yancey Harrison are students at William Monroe High School which is named after the early benefactor of education. They presented "The Mountain Folk's Story: The Displacement of People in Shenandoah National Park" which was their entry in the Virginia History Day competition. They told the story of the birth of the Park by acting the parts of the various participants, providing a glimpse of the impact that the Park has had on the people of the mountains, for better and for worse.

This presentation won first place at the District Virginia History Day competition, second place in the State competition, and the young historians are on their way to the National History Day program. Virginia will be well represented.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bogue Chitto Methodist Church - Bogue Chitto, Mississippi 

Bogue Chitto (say boga chita) is a small town in rural Mississippi about 70 miles south of Jackson. The town was settled in the first half of the 19th century. "Bogue Chitto" is Choctaw for "big creek."

After the Civil War, sawmills were built in the area and Bogue Chitto enjoyed boom years. After 1920, the town began to decline, and today is a quiet, mostly residential village.

The Methodist church was established in 1879 and the building is constructed in the Carpenter Gothic style. Of particular interest is the lovely round scroll-work in the front gable. The church is not being used for services, according to a neighbor, but the building and grounds appear to be well maintained.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

White house - Bogue Chitto, Mississippi

Last week we took a trip to visit Summer. When we left Virginia, the leaves were beginning to unfurl yellow and green, the redbud trees were blooming and the dogwoods just starting to open. As we made our way through Tennessee and northern Alabama, Spring became more advanced. We arrived in Mississippi on the heels of a violent summer storm and found that we had left Spring behind.

Back in Virginia, it is still early Spring. Tonight a cool rain is falling outside my window. It was nice to spend a week in Summer, but I am glad to be home. I wouldn't want to miss Spring.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

RFD - Madison County, Virginia 

In the 21st century, the US Postal Service is starting to seem like an anachronism, but in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Post Office knit the country together, and the establishment of rural free delivery made mail service available to farms and rural areas. In the late 1800s, rural post offices, often located in country stores, did not deliver mail out of town, and farmers had to make a trip to the post office to pick up mail. In 1896, the post office began implementing free delivery to rural areas. The rural routes were based on how far a man could travel by horse and buggy in a day.

Parcel post delivery was begun in 1913, and rural citizens were no longer cut off from the rapidly changing trends of the 20th century.

On October 22, 1896, Palmyra was the first post office to establish rural free delivery in Virginia. Palmyra is located in central Virginia east of Charlottesville.

RFD: To The Country is an excellent short video from the Smithsonian Institute's National Postal Museum which tells the story of rural free delivery with many period images and film clips.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mineral Depot - Mineral, Virginia 

Travel a few miles east of Louisa and the next stop on the former Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad's Piedmont Subdivision is the small town of Mineral, Virginia. The town was originally called Tolersville Station but after the discovery of copper, gold, mica and sulfur in the 1880s, the town was renamed Mineral.

The station was built in the mid 1880's and is still standing and is reasonably well maintained. Passenger service was discontinued in the 1950s and freight service ended in 1979.

Thanks to the Chesapeake and Ohio Piedmont Subdivision website. This is a privately run site that is not affiliated with the C&O, but provides a wealth of information on the history of the Piedmont Subdivision.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Louisa Station - Louisa, Virginia

The Louisa Station is one of the few surviving stations along the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad's Piedmont subdivision (see here). Build in 1899 to the C&O's 1892 standard design, the station was in use until 1979. It is now used as a storage building for a feed store. For more information about Louisa and the Piedmont subdivision, see this excellent history

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mrs. Anita Howard in the kitchen of the Howard Hotel - Rowlesburg, West Virginia 

Mountain State Stories

In 1975, Kevin Scanlon traveled to Rowlesburg, West Virginia to photograph trains along the Baltimore and Ohio's Mountain Subdivision. The story of the trip and the stay in the Howard Hotel is beautifully told in "Mountain State Stories--Rowlesburg, Rooms 9 & 10."  Kevin writes:

"My photography at the time was almost exclusively trains, but something inside me made me ask, 'Do you mind if I take your picture?' 'Oh, but I’m a mess right now.' 'No you’re not, you look beautiful.' I raised the camera and pressed the shutter. Mrs. Howard was sitting at the spot where she ran the hotel, the large wooden work table in the kitchen. . . . the aftermath of the breakfast preparation all around her."

Don't miss this story on The Photographers' Railroad Page. 

Photo: Copyright by Kevin Scanlon, all rights reserved. Used by permission.

Monday, April 4, 2011

G Cabin, Gordonsville, Virginia 

This brick signal tower was built in 1945, replacing an earlier wooden tower. The tracks through Gordonsville were part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad's Piedmont Subdivision, which runs from Richmond to Charlottesville. The Piedmont Subdivision was the oldest section of the C&O, chartered in 1836 as the Louisa Railroad.

Today, the CSX railroad hauls empty coal cars over this section on their way back to the coal fields of West Virginia. G Cabin is no longer in use.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Baseball game at Vale, Oregon, 1941 - Russell Lee

Play Ball !
"You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you're a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen." - Joe DiMaggio

Russell Lee photo from Library of Congress - LC-USF33- 013070-M4