Dedication of monument brings history to life

Page News and Courier

STANLEY, Sept. 17 — At the beginning of this year, after much deliberation, the Ed Good Park in Stanley was chosen as the site of a new monument to honor families who were displaced by the Shenandoah National Park. The groundbreaking ceremony for the Blue Ridge Heritage Project’s chimney monument took place back in early April of this year.

The official ceremony was brought to attention by Rose Ann Smythe, who stressed the importance of starting out with a song from High Ground called “What we could see for free.”

Bill Henry, the founder of the entire Blue Ridge Heritage Project, pointed out that in each of the eight counties, the monuments will be unique to that community. Two of the main things that are unique to this monument are the size of it and the stone work that went into in by Clyde Jenkins and his helpers.

Most of the stones came from Clyde Jenkin’s home in Pine Grove. Others were brought to the site by descendants to be incorporated. Behind each stone is a unique story about where it came from or why it was used in this project. One stone is special to Clyde because it was part of collection of stones gathered by his wife that she never got the chance to use on anything else. After she passed, he wanted to make sure that her stones were used, so he selected one for this project. The earth tone look of the chimney was part of Clyde’s vision because he wanted it to look authentic, like it came from the time the displacement occurred.

Claire Comer from Shenandoah National Park’s Byrd Visitors Center is the great granddaughter of a family that was moved off the park. She explained how she does a lot to educate people about this incident. A lot of her own family stories involve well known landmarks on the park. Claire discussed how the media tried to stereotype those who lived on what is now the park and she has spent much of her time trying to dispel that stereotype.

The chimney was chosen as the image for this monument because many chimneys remain within the park’s boundaries as a reminder of the people who lived there. Included as part of the monument is a plaque with 135 family names from Page County that have been traced to the displacement. The 135 names represent 240 land transactions.

The unveiling of the plaque took place near the end of the ceremony with the assistance of four guests of honor. Those guests were: Bertha Dale (Aleshire) Chaplin, Marlene (Cave) Bell, Wesley Breeden, and Chester Jenkins. It was also a special moment for all descendants when a candle was lit in honor of those who had passed. The ceremony concluded with the singing of “Amazing Grace” and asking all descendants to come up and take a group picture in front of the monument.

The new generation will get to see how important this piece of history is to their ancestors and more importantly, their legacies in this county. This site is meant to evolve over time and really become a part of the community. It is hoped that one day, family reunions will be held here.

Looking back through the past with old photographs, the black and white doesn’t tell the whole story. There is a lot hidden within the shades of gray in those memories, like there are a lot of memories and stories behind the stones in this monument.

The Blue Ridge Heritage Project is bringing that history alive again, in full color.

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