of Otter - Life and Times
A history of Virginia and America, with the Blue Ridge Mountains as the
stage. Indians, Frontier Days, Civil War, the full story about Union
General Hunterís Raid, Ghosts and Murders, Herd of Elks, the missing
Town, C.C.C. boys, building the Blue Ridge Parkway, Wildlife and
The First Americans
White Man & War
Big Families & Roads
Real Estate Slump
Wills, Wives & Wool
The Wilkes Monopoly
The New Order
Yankees Buy In
Community of Mons
A New Century
Locals Expand Hotel
Crash & Depression
Build Parkway, Raze Hotel
Evidence of Indians
Peace & Radar
Lake & Lady Bird
Full Time Lodge
Here are just a few excerpts
The First Americans
Native American human beings, Indians, inhabited the Peaks of Otter
thousands of years ago; they left artifacts that attest to their presence.
The Mountains are an Emotional
And they will continue to be important to people who know them, important as a place to
go to gain perspective and feel closer to God, important as an emotional anchor.
A former resident wistfully recalls, "Those mountains were an important and
'always there' part of our family life." Another asserts, "When life gets you
down, you can look out and see that the Peaks are still there." A dairyman was
emphatic when he said, "One thing you can depend on: you can depend on them."
The Doctors' Murderer was Hung
Griffin practiced medicine and prospered, with a home in one place, two plantations, a
grist mill, and land adjoining the Beard tract. He owned 25 slaves.
The life of this prominent citizen came to an abrupt and untimely end on January 24th,
1812 when, for reasons unknown, one of his slaves, Abram, murdered him. How Griffin was
murdered is not recorded. In spite of a "not guilty" pleas by his attorney,
Abram was convicted by the Court in February. The six justices serving, including William
R. Jones, sentenced Abram to be hung by the neck March 13th until he be "dead, dead,
Northern Soldiers Forgot Something
The narrow twisting road proved difficult for the Union wagons. Some fell off the edge
and tumbled, cartwheeling down a hillside, finally broken and brought to rest by large
trees. As the army worked its way up the mountain, the soldiers welcomed the cool air they
encountered the higher they went. They savored fresh water from mountain springs, slight
solace to compensate for their fatigue, hunger, and sore feet.
Union Captain F.E. Town sent men to the summit of Sharp Top to maintain surveillance of
the area. Lieutenant Meigs and others scaled the South Peak. They enjoyed the view, but
failed to sight the enemy. Upon reaching the top, they discovered that no one in the group
had a field glass.
Earlier, Confederate scouts at the Peaks watched as Hunter's army began snaking its way
up the mountains. It would be almost eight hours before the last of Hunter's forces left
Buchanan. The Confederate scouts abandoned their vantage, rode down the mountain, and
relayed word to Liberty and to Lynchburg. They estimated Hunter's forces to be 15,000
Flowers in Gun Barrels!
Most of the other younger and able men of Bedford County were also away serving the
Confederacy as soldiers. But a home force of militia was still able to muster about thirty
men who vowed to do their best to slow the giant army coming their way. Down near the base
of Sharp Top, the militiamen didn't know that up above some of the Union soldiers had
paused at the hotel between the peaks, helping themselves to anything in the hotel
smokehouse larder, including a hundred slabs of bacon. One Union officer, a Major Harkins,
facetiously signed the guest register. Opposite his name, someone wrote: "He didn't
pay his bill."
Some small hotel outbuildings were set afire. Two miles of fencing were broken up and
destroyed. The invaders smashed the roof of the rock house on Sharp Top. Little did the
militia know that many of these northern soldiers had picked rhododendron blossoms and
whimsically stuck them in the barrels of their guns. The adjutant for Colonel Hayes said
that the marching troops looked like "a moving bank of flowers."
Ranger Gene Parker befriended and raised an abandoned bear cub, but let it free to
One balmy July day, Parker left the visitor center and was pulling away on the Parkway
when he passed two tourists in a red convertible coming towards him. "Out of the
corner of my eye, I saw a bundle of black fur in the back seat," said Parker.
"Then their brake lights brightened, so I stopped, swung around and pulled along
side. It was my bear. He jumped out and took off."
Shaken and now relieved, the couple explained that they had parked at an overlook to
take pictures. They heard a slight noise, looked around and saw the 70-pound black bear
crawling into their back seat.
They coaxed and cajoled. But the bear seemed to be content to just sit there. It made
no threatening moves. So the couple gingerly -- and ever so smoothly -- quickly drove
towards the ranger station to get help.
Parker says, "You can't push a bear. If this ever happens to you, just get out and
wait. He'll get bored and leave." The bear may have been bored, but the couple
Civilian Conservation Corps
Fancy Farm became a special place of interest again, this time in 1934, as a camp site
of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Fancy Farm's owners, the Sitwell family, leased
tot he government some land north of the house. The very same land was once the campsite
for some of Hunter's Raiders in 1864.
Congressional approval of the CCC brought hundreds of unemployed unmarried young men,
ages 17-23, to Kelso to contribute to the CCC's goal of helping to conserve and develop
the nation's natural resources. The young men were officially known as
"enrollees," buy everyone called them "CCC Boys." In the ensuing
years, the national CCC provided jobs for more than one and a half million youth.
All came from families that were "on relief," many from industrial or city
areas. The program helped develop self respect by providing them with their first
experience of working close to nature with a meaningful job. Each enrollee signed up for
six months at a time, for a maximum of two years.
Each was paid a dollar a day and was provided with room subsistence, clothing, medical
hospitalization, and some vocational training. Enrollees lived in modest barracks. One of
more than 50 such camps in the state, the one at Kelso was built by and under the command
of the U.S. Army 3rd Corps.
Read for fun or study. Keep for reference.
200 illustrations. Detailed
index. 278 pages. 3rd printing.
Cloth hardbound. ISBN 0-9608598-9-6 Price $22.00