IN THE VALLEY OF HOPE mentions many towns in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia but there are three that are key to the story, Mt. Jackson, Edinburg, and Woodstock. Thankfully, these communities, nestled midst the mountains surrounding the Valley, have preserved much of their rich history. Many of the historic buildings remain as a reminder of a storied past.
This would have been the town most accessible to the Wisslers and the Showns. Strathmore is only 2 miles from town and St. Mary’s Pine Church (the Showns lived next door) is 3 miles away.
In the early 1900’s, the time in which the novel is set, Mt. Jackson was more wealthy than its neighboring communities. The major road, the Valley Pike (now Route 11) ran through the town and there was also an active rail line which made it attractive to area farmers, like the Wisslers of Strathmore, for getting their produce and livestock to market.
As revealed in the book, John and Ada Wissler left Strathmore (Frank Wissler and his family remained) and purchased a home on Main Street in Mt. Jackson. The church they attended, St. Andrews, traces its beginning to 1876 and the St. Andrews chapel was donated by Ada Wissler.
Important to the farmers in the Valley in the early twentieth century was the Edinburg Mill. The mill started operation in 1813, was rebuilt in 1848, and then nearly destroyed by fire during General Sheridan’s scorched earth campaign during the Civil War. The mill was restored and remained in operation until 1978. The story goes that it was actually some local women who saved the mill from being totally destroyed. Their argument for saving the facility was sufficient to cause the Union soldiers to turn away.
Woodstock has a rich history dating back to 1761. The town’s charter was sponsored by a fellow you may recall from your history books, George Washington. Its also the County Seat and where Charlie Polk and Frank Wissler III registered for the WWI draft. Oh, and did I mention that the courthouse, built in 1795, was designed by Thomas Jefferson? Of less significance, it’s the same courthouse where my granddaddy, Charlie Polk, took me for my first driver’s test, which I failed. Surely that event is commemorated with a plaque or a memorial of some kind.
An observation – those old places that we see every day are usually just a part of the scenery. But if we’ll just take time to take a closer look there is a wealth of lessons to be learned IN THE VALLEY OF HOPE.