Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Appalachian Farmhouse, Rockingham County, VA

Photo taken 1999 or 2000
Located in western Rockingham County, Virginia, north of Rawley Pike (US Route 33) near Rawley Springs, this old farmhouse's days were numbered at the time I took the photos. Rockingham County was home to me from 1996 until 2001, and includes some of the most beautiful, pastoral scenery that rivals any agricultural area in the world. Although it was officially founded in 1778, the first settlers began arriving in 1727, when German-born Adam Mueller made his home on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

Over the next 50 years, European settlers (a large proportion of them were from Germany) traveled south from Pennsylvania and Maryland via the Valley Pike (US Route 11) to take advantage of the areas fertile farmland. This route was a much easier road to travel versus having to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains if you were traveling from the east.

Even today, the vast majority of the county is made up of active farms, and is the top poultry producer in the state. After poultry (primarily turkey), dairy operations are prevalent in the County, especially in the southwestern area that is heavily populated by Old-order Mennonite farming communities.

Photographer facing NW, 1999 or 2000
The location of this old farmhouse is marked by the rise of the Allegheny Mountain Range to the west, and the disappearance of the large, open, rolling pastures, and hay fields. At this point the fertile soil gives way to shale, giving this area a more hardscrabble appearance.

A few miles west of this location, tucked away on the eastern slopes of the Alleghenies, on the banks of the Dry River, is the old site of the Rawley Springs Hotel.

Since 1800, people had been utilizing the natural spring water of the area as a tonic that were professed to cure an innumerable number of ailments. The area grew in popularity, and by 1880 there were three hotels present with a total of 800 rooms. Sadly, two of these buildings burned in 1886, were re-built, then burned again in 1915, which marked the end of the resort's glory years. Since then the resort area is more well known as a place to cool off in the summer at the Blue Hole, or to try your hand at trout fishing. For more on the fascinating history of the resort read this.

Though close to the resort, and it's wealthy visitors, this old farmhouse and it's inhabitants were certainly living what must have seemed like a world away.

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