It was dark and dry when we left Maine at four in the morning. We made it around Boston and all the way through Hartford to Danbury before the rain started. With all the rain there wouldn’t be any bold displays of fall color as we drove along the steep ridge above Wilkes-Barre. We’d be lucky to stay on the road when the spray of the passing 18-wheelers hit our windshield and overwhelmed our wipers.
Over the years, we have spent a lot of time on this route and usually when we get to Virginia I put aside my knitting and simply enjoy the fields and pastures that spread across the broad, rolling landscape and climb on up to the Blue Ridge Mountains. I can tell you from memory that the cheapest gas along Route 81 is to be found at exits 279 and 17. Those are usually our only stops, but this time we were going to turn off the highway for a visit with former neighbors from Arizona.
I was especially curious to see their home because they had lived just down the road from me in the northern reaches of Scottsdale. Theirs was a stucco-sided ranch-style house with walls that resembled an aging hacienda. The land between our houses grew mesquite, palo verde, saguaro cactus and creosote that scented the air after the monsoon rains. Coyotes and javelinas ran in our washes and a great horned owl hatched her young each year in a burrowed hole in a tall saguaro at the curve of the road.
Thankfully, the rain eased up by the time we got to New Market and we were ahead of schedule so we stopped to take a quick look at this historic town in the Shenandoah Valley. New Market is the birthplace John Sevier, Revolutionary War hero and the first governor of the state of Tennessee, but it is remembered for the Civil War battles that took place here, especially the one in May of 1864 when the students from the Virginia Military Institute grabbed weapons and fought along with the Confederate soldiers. Together with the troops, they broke the Union line, captured several cannons and sent the Union Army back north in retreat. If you are so inclined, there are two Civil War Museums to explore in addition to the battlefield.
In town, Jon Henry’s General Store and the Strayer House (on the right) anchor opposite corners of the street at the town’s only stoplight. “On May 21, 1862, Confederate Gen. Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson watched from the building’s stoop [Strayer House] as his ‘foot cavalry’ turned east toward New Market Gap to surprise the Federals at Fort Royal.” He returned two weeks later and stayed for a while at the Strayer House after the tent he had been sleeping in got washed out in a “torrential downpour” (Historic Marker).
We took a little time to walk the streets of New Market where every building seemed imbued with such a strong sense of history. #shenanoahvalley, #virginiaforlovers
One of the things we noticed was that most of the buildings had a “stoop” like the one Stonewall Jackson had stood on to watch his men parading past.
A sign in the window of the Calvert House dates the bricks in the house and the sidewalk back to 1770, giving it a solidly pre-Revolutionary history.
The sign on the Henkel House dates its back brick portion to 1802 and said that the two-story front had been added in 1855. “A metal plate nailed on the right beside the latch covers the holes broken into panels by the rifle butts and bayonets of irate Yankee soldiers who had been doused with hot water thrown from the upstairs window.” A sign like that leaves a lot of story to be imagined.
The Henkel Press came into existence in 1806 when Ambrose Henkel “began publishing Lutheran devotional materials, newspapers, song books and children’s books” in German and later in English. “The Henkel family believed it was a way to preserve their culture, language, and religious beliefs” (Historic Marker).
People also come to this area to enjoy subterranean touring in the Endless Caverns and nearby Luray and Shenandoah Caverns that are all part of a vast underground network that runs through the valley. New Market lies in a gap in Massanutten Mountain, which caused it to be an important battle in the Civil War. Today it is also known for the hiking trails that cross the mountain’s ridges, giving those who like to travel on foot a challenging piece of the Appalachians to explore.
If your wandering take you down the aisles of antique markets, this area has a lot to offer for you as well. Burt Long Antiques is just one example of a shop selling furniture, collectibles and memorabilia that have come from homes and families in this area.
We’d now used up our spare time so we turned our GPS on to find the way to Grand Oaks for our visit with Mark and Kathy.