Displaced SNP families to be honored locally

The Valley Banner

ELKTON – Jim Lawson and others are working to create a monument to honor families displaced due to the creation of Shenandoah National Park.

Lawson, 74, an Elkton resident and retired statistician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, got involved in the Blue Ridge Heritage Project three years ago when Greene County officials said they planned to build such a monument.

Lawson served as the eight-county project’s first chairman.

Although Greene County started the project, Madison County “took the ball and ran with it,” Lawson said. Their monument was built outside a closed elementary school last fall.

Madison County’s effort sparked one in Rockingham County, Lawson said.

So far only those three counties have formed steering committees to advance the project.

Other counties that may get involved in the future include: Albemarle, Augusta, Page, Rappahannock and Warren.

Lawson, one of eight members on Rockingham County’s steering committee, is publishing a list of 181 displaced families’ names in this week’s The Valley Banner. He’s requesting help to make sure names are spelled correctly and no family is left out.

Rockingham County’s steering committee has received a commitment from Elkton stonemason Larry Davis to make the monument, Lawson said.

The committee is looking for someone to donate one-third to a half-acre of land between Elkton and Shenandoah National Park.

The committee is working on the total cost of the monument and possible site locations, said Lawson, whose mother, Margaret Collier Lawson, and grandfather, Clarence Collier, were among those removed to make way for the park.

According to SNP records, some 57 families were evicted and 110 were forced to sell land.

“It is time to erect a memorial to the sacrifice made by these families from Rockingham County,” said Rockingham County Supervisor Mike Breeden, a descendant of those removed from the park.

The memorial will include a chimney with a medallion containing the families’ names. Chimneys, foundations, abandoned cars, household articles and gardens are clues to where these families once lived.

Two schools, two churches, four gas stations and some businesses were destroyed to make way for the park, which was opened in 1935.

Others on the steering committee include: Breeden, who serves as chairman, Delbert Wood, Kenneth Shifflet, Anne Frysinger Shifflet, Rhonda Cooper, Betty Owens and Kim Dean, a teacher at East Rockingham High School who works for the National Park Service during the summer and helps develop their education program.

For more information about the project, call Lawson at 298-0582.

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