Sites scouted for memorial to families displaced by park

A steering committee checks out a potential site Tuesday morning near the Blue Ridge Pottery for the Blue Ridge Heritage Project's Greene County memorial to local families displaced by the creation of Shenandoah National Park.

In January 1934, Arno Cammerer, director of the National Parks, ordered all Shenandoah National Park families and businesses to “vacate by Nov. 1, 1934.”

The Commonwealth of Virginia was responsible for obtaining the land and turning the deeds over to the federal government. Required forced evictions created a sense of betrayal and distrust that is still present today.

Previous national parks were all west of the Mississippi River, except for Acadia in Maine, and were mainly dedicated from federally owned lands such as national forests. Shenandoah National Park would not be what it is today without the sacrifice of these families evicted from the park land.

On Tuesday morning, Greene County officials looked at three potential sites – two along U.S. 33 heading up toward Shenandoah National Park and one in Stanardsville – to eventually place a monument to those displaced by the building of the park.

“I believe it is awfully important to raise awareness in our community of the sacrifice made by Greene County families not so very long ago and, at the same time, to commemorate that sacrifice with an appropriate monument in a venue where future generations can be reminded of this important chapter in our community's history,” Greene County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Martin said. “The families and landowners surnames will be listed on a plaque to be placed on the monument.”

 

Norm Addington, whose wife, LaVerne, is a descendent of those moved from the mountain, has compiled a list of land owners and displaced families from official Shenandoah National Park records. The list is published in this week’s Greene County Record. Norm Addington is requesting relatives to review the spelling of surnames and to make certain no family is left out. He can be contacted at (434) 974-6276 or email at norm1394@gmail.com

Alan Yost, director of Greene County Economic Development and Tourism, has formed a steering committee made up of descendants of displaced families, members of the Greene County Historical Society and business leaders to assist in bringing this monument to fruition.

The proposed memorial with the names and information about pre-park families will be designed by the steering committee with public input.

The Steering Committee is composed of Norm Addington, Roy Dye, Bill Martin, Larry Lamb, Jim Lawson, Joann Powell, Roger Powell, Jeanne Rexroad and Alan Yost.  Addington and Lawson are co-leaders.

Lawson’s Greene County displaced families includes his mother, Margaret Collier Lawson; grandparents, Clarence and Mary Morris Collier; and great grandparents John and Martha Dean Collier.

 “It is important to point out that not only homes were sacrificed,” said Roger Powell of the Greene County Historic Society. “Schools, churches, and family businesses such as service stations, stores, mills, hotels and other businesses were closed and structures destroyed.”

Educational panels pertaining to mountain life likely will be installed at the memorial site tocommemorate their story. In the meantime, Joann Powell, president of the Greene County Historical Society, invites everyone to visit the GCHS at its new location at 360 Main St. in Stanardsville to view the various historical displays.

The Greene County memorial is part of the Blue Ridge Heritage Project that includes all eight counties surrounding Shenandoah National Park. The BRHP was initiated as a “grass-roots” movement by Bill Henry, proposing each county would create a memorial to the families. 

Madison County was the first to erect a memorial. Henry is working on a Virginia Trail marker to guide visitors to each county’s memorial location.

Greene County Historical Society will be accepting donations for the Greene County memorial. Tax-deductible contributions for the construction of the memorial may be mailed to the GCHS Memorial, P.O. Box 185, Stanardsville, Va. 22973. Checks made payable to Greene County Memorial Project should be designated in any donations forBRHP Memorial.

The symbol selected by the BRHP for the memorial project is a chimney with a medallion containing the names of the families. This symbol represents all that is left of the homes destroyed by the National Park Service.  

The chimneys, foundations, abandoned cars, cemeteries, household articles, along with the lilies, daffodils, and periwinkle, are the only remaining clues as to a past family’s life in the mountains.

The Greene County Steering Committee is looking for someone to donate a site for the monument. Also, the committee is looking for a source of native rocks or a chimney to relocate for the memorial site. To help on that cause, contact Yost at ayost@gcva.us.

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