Rockingham County, Virginia
VAGenWeb Project

A History of Rockingham County
John W. Wayland Ph.D.

Chapter XII





     Nothing is of more importance in the economic history of any county or country than the development of facilities for travel, transportation, and communication.  In this chapter an attempt is made to chronicle some of the more important steps in the building and supervision of roads and railroads in Rockingham County, together with certain particulars regarding telegraphs and telephones.

   In February, 1744, Peter Scholl and others living on Smith’s Creek petitioned the court (of Augusta County) for a road.  They said they had to work on a road 30 miles distant from their plantations.  This sounds as if there were no legally established roads in this part of the Valley at that time.  A year later James Patton and John Buchanan reported that they had viewed a way from the Frederick County line, and the court ordered it established as a public road.(1)  Whether this road was east or west of the Massanutten Mountain cannot, perhaps, be determined, but it must in either case have been much nearer than 30 miles to Smith’s Creek.

     In 1753 when the Moravian Brethren came up the Valley with a wagon there were some passable roads west of the Massanutten, along by the places where New Market, Lacey Springs, and Harrisonburg now are; but these roads were not in good order.  It is possible that the main thoroughfare at this time and for some years afterward passed, not by Harrisonburg, but by Keezletown.  There is an old ford across Middle River, about four miles above Port Republic, known as Pennsylvania Ford.  This seems to indicate that travelers and immigrants from Pennsylvania crossed at that


(1)      Waddell’s Annals of Augusta, pp. 47, 48.



point; and it may be that this ford was on the main road up the Valley in very early times.

     Bishop L. J. Heatwole tells me that there was a very old trail from the Old Fields, in Hardy County, W. Va., to Williamsburg, that came through Brock’s Gap, past Joe’s Spring at Singer’s Glen, past Greenmount, and past the Big Spring at Harrisonburg, and so on across the Valley just above the Peaked Mountain, crossing the Blue Ridge by Brown’s Gap.(2)  In March, 1910, or thereabout, Mr. Heatwole contributed an interesting article to the Harrisonburg Daily News on the first postoffice in Rockingham County, in which he made reference to this old trail.  The postoffice, which was likely such only by common agreement of residents, messengers, and travelers, was at the Liskey farm, a mile and a half northwest of Harrisonburg, probably in the old log house still standing over the spring.  It stood by or near the old Williamsburg trail.

     At a court held for Rockingham County on Tuesday, May 26, 1778, and continued from the preceding day, the following road overseers were appointed:

     Henry Lung of the road “from the big hill to the Line of Shanandoe County”;

     George Huffman of the road “from the big hill to Henry Millers”;

     Henry Miller of the road “from his own house to the Top of the Mountain over Swift Run Gap”;

     Paul Ingle of the road “from the fork of the road leading to Swift Run Gap to Casper Haines Shop”;

     Casper Haines of the road “from his Shop to the main road leading from Staunton to Winchester;

    Stephen Conrad of the road “in the room of Frederick Haines”;


(2)      Brown’s Gap was formerly known as Madison’s Gap.  The stream flowing out of it is still called Madison Run.  The Madisons, it will be recalled, lived just above Port Republic.




     John Frazier of the road “from the Augusta Line to John Stephensons run”;

     Jacob Perkie of the road “from Stephensons run to John Keplingers place formerly Samples”;

     David Harnett of the road “from John Keplingers formerly Samples to Zeb Harrisons ford on Smiths Creek”;

     John Philips of the road “from Zebulon Harrisons ford to the Line of Shanandoe”;

     Jacob Woodley of the road “from the ford on this side of Sebastian Marts to Reuben Harrisons”;

     Jeremiah Harrison of the road “from Reuben Harrisons to Danl. Smiths Gent.”;

     Jeremiah Reagan of the road “from Danl. Smiths to the run that comes from Geo. Seawrights field”;

     Joseph Dictam of the road “from the run that comes from Geo. Seawrights field to the line of Augusta”;

     John Pence of the road “from the ford of the river at Gabl. Jones’s to Felix Gilbert’s”;

     Robt. Elliot of the road “from Felix Gilberts to Danl. Smiths house”;

     Joseph Lear of the road “from Danl. Smiths to the ford at Linvells Creek at Thos. Brian’s”;

     Marten Gum of the road “from the ford of Linvells Creek at Thoms. Bryans to the fork of the Road on this Side of Jno. Thomas’s mill”:

     John Ruddell of the road “from Chas. Daillys Ford to the upper Ford of Michael Baker”;

     Paul Gustard of the road “from Michael Bakers upper ford to the County Line on Cacapon”;

     Marten Witsel of the road “from the fork of the Cacapon road to the top of the mountain by Weatherholts”;

     John Bear of the road “from Daillys ford down the River to the Line of Shanandoe County”;

     Andrew Andes of the road “from Chas. Daillys ford under the No. Mountain to the line of Shanandoe”;




     Rees Thomas of the road “from Daillys ford to Thos. Gordons”;

     Thomas Fulton of the road “from Thos. Gordons to the Line of Augusta”;

     Thomas Bowen of the road “from the fork of the road above Thomas’s Mill to the Pine Tree between Francis Greens & Thos. Campbells”;

     John Herdman of the road “from the sd. Pine tree to Harrisons Mill pond”;

     William Herring of the road “from Harrison’s Mill pond to the forks of the road below Jno. Fowlers”;

     Gawin Hamilton of the road “from Rices Cabin in dry river Gap to Benj. Harrisons.”

     In each case above it was provided that “the usual tithables work thereon.”  The minutes of subsequent courts show that numerous changes were made from time to time in the personnel of the road masters.

     At a court held November 24, 1778, “On the petition of Sundry Inhabitants in the forest for turning the road leading from Brocks Gap to Massenutting, Ordered that Maths. Reader,  Jno. More & Nicolas Cairn do view the Conveniencies & Inconveniencies attending turning the road as prayed by the petitioners & report the same.”


March 23, 1779.

     Benj. Harrison, Joseph Dictam, Danl. Smith, and Jeremiah Reagen were appointed to view a road from Danl. Smith’s plantation to James Magill’s ford on the North River, and report pro and con on the same.

     Christopher Our was appointed overseer of the road from Danl. Smith’s to the dry fork in place of Jeremiah Harrison.

     William Chestnut was appointed overseer of the road from Thos. Gordon’s to Dry River, the tithables within 3 miles of the said road to work thereon.

     G. Hamilton and Jno. Rice were appointed to view the Brock’s Gap Road that crosses Dry River and make report.




     Saml. Skidmore was appointed overseer of the road from Hampshire Line to Joseph Skidmore’s.


April 27, 1779.

     On favorable report of viewers previously appointed, the court ordered a road opened from Danl. Smith’s to the ford of the North River, by James McGill’s;  Richd. Reagan was appointed overseer of the same from Smith’s to where the new road would cross the Butler Road; Nehemiah Harrison, from the Butler Road to Coll. Benja. Harrison’s; William McGill, from Harrison’s to the ford of the river; all the tithables within 3 miles to work on their respective portions.


May 25, 1779.

     James McVey was appointed overseer of the road from Archd. Hopkin’s mill (3) to Nehemiah Harrison’s.


November 23, 1779.

     Robt. Rutherford, Michl. Warren, and James Reagan were appointed to view and mark the nearest and best ground for a road from mill at the plains to the courthouse at Thos. Harrison’s.

     Joseph Dictam, Ezekiel Harrison, and John Huston were appointed to view and mark the nearest and best ground for a road from the courthouse to George Huston’s.

     Nehemiah Harrison, John Rice, and Gawen Hamilton were appointed to view and mark roads from Briary Branch Gap and Dry River Gap to the courthouse.

     Joseph Smith was made overseer of the road from Benj. Harrison’s to Gawen Hamilton’s, and John Rice of the road from Gawen Hamilton’s to the feeding trough in the mountain.


March 27, 1780.

     Archbd. Hopkins, John Hopkins, and John Harrison were appointed to view the route for a road petitioned for from Hopkin’s Mill to the courthouse.


(3)      This mill was likely the one on Muddy Creek, at Chrisman, now operated by H. L. Burtner.




March 28, 1780.

     Ab. Hankle, George Teter, and Robt. Minnis were appointed to view and mark a road from the Augusta line to the line of Hampshire, down the No. Fork.

     Jo. Dictam, Saml. Hemphill, and William Cravens were appointed to view and mark a road from Ezekiel Harrison’s to the Walnut Bottom – “the nearest and best Way.”


April 24, 1780.

     William Campbell was made overseer of the Rockfish road, from James Bairet’s to Jacob Whitmore’s, the tithables within two miles on each side of the road to work thereon.

     It was ordered that the tithables within four miles on each side of the road from the run at Robt. Rutherford’s to the Plains Mill work under Ezekiel Harrison, overseer thereof.


Aug. 29, 1780.

     Upon report of the viewers, it was ordered that the roads from Briery Branch and Dry River gaps be opened.  Joseph Hinton was appointed overseer from the Briery Branch road in Collo. Smith’s land to where it crosses the first fork of the Mole Hill draught; Alex. Miller, Jr., from the said fork to the courthouse.


March 26, 1781.

     John Hopkens, Jesse Harrison [?], and Rees Thomas were appointed to view a road from Geo. Baxters, leading to Brock’s Gap, to the lower end of Josiah Davison’s land.


May 28, 1781.

     On its being represented to the Court that the Court of hampshire have order’d persons to view the Ground from Leonard Stumps to the deviding Line between that County & this for a Road to lead from the Courtho of sd County to the Seat of Government, & praying this Court to appoint viewers from this County Line to the foot of the Mountain on this Side in order to effect such a necessary Design, it is ordered that Jno Fitzwater Conrod Humble Martin Witsell & Henry Witsell or any three of them being first sworn do view the Ground from the County Line to the foot of the Mountain leading to the head waters of Cacapon or the Gap Waters as the Ground will best Suit and report the Conveniences




& Inconveniences attending the making of the sd Road & in particular what Labour & Expense may attend the Digging bridging &c of the same.


August 27, 1781.

     On the petition of the Inhabitants of Brocks that a convenient Road may be opened to the Courtho O that John Thomas Rees Thomas Peter Hog & George Spiers or any three being first sworn do view the nearest & best Way from the Gap to the road at Michl. Warens.


November 27, 1781.

     Capt. James Magill was appointed overseer of the road from Capt. Ben. Harrison’s to the county line, “leading to the Iron Works.”


     O that the Tiths. from the picked Mountain on one side & two miles on the other side of the road work under Jacob Woodly overseer of the road from the forks to the big Spring.


April 1, 1782.

     Ordered that Nicholas Karn be appointed overseer of the road in the room of Ezekiel Harrison “from the Plain Mills to opposite Val. Seveyors old House in the Long Meadow including the Branch or Creek.”


May 28, 1782.

     It was ordered that Felix Gilbert, John Harrison, and Henry Ewin, being first sworn, should view “ the Nearest and Best Way from the Courthouse [to] The ford of Cub run By Wm. Young and Mark ye Same and Make Return of their proceedings To Next Crt.”


May 27, 1783.

     Robt. Dunlap was appointed overseer of the road in place of Henry Ewin, the tithables “This Side of Gap Road” to work thereon “As far as a Crooked Locust where Blain’s Road Crosses the sd. Road”; and David Bery was appointed overseer from Hopkin’s Mill to the said locust on the said road.

     James Devier was appointed overseer to open the road from Harrisonburg “To Where the sd. Road Will fall Into the path Crossing the big Hill and That all Tithables within three




miles on each side Work thereon”; and Felix Gilbert was made overseer from Bug Run to the said place on the hill.

     In June, 1784, a petition was presented to the court by sundry inhabitants of the county for a road from the county line, by Plain Mills, to Harrisonburg.  Brewer Reeves, Ezekiel Harrison, Jeremiah Ragan, and Robert Rutherford, or any three of them, were appointed to view the proposed road and make report.  At the next court, July 26, Reeves, Harrison, and Ragan reported that they had laid off the road as follows:

     Beginning at the county line, running thence near by George Ruddel’s, thence near to John Moor’s, thence crossing the river opposite Moor’s house, thence to Michael Holsinger’s, thence into the former road near John Reeve’s, it was to continue thence with the said former road to Harrisonburg.  Nicolas Carn was appointed overseer of the new road from the county line to Carn’s (or Carr’s) Spring.  Jacob Lincoln was to be overseer from the said spring to Michael Warrin’s, and Benj. Smith from Warrin’s to Harrisonburg.

     At the August court, 1784, Joseph Dictum, William Fowler, and George Snodding reported that they had laid off a road from Harrisonburg to the line of Augusta, toward Staunton as follows:

     Keeping the old [road] past Edwd. Shanklins and from thence Crossing the North River below Fowlers Still house from thence past Hugh Campbell and past the three Springs leads to a place called the read Banks near the County line.


     In an old almanac, for the year 1788, published at Philadelphia or Baltimore, is found the following table of distances on the road from Philadelphia to the Falls of the Ohio:



Winchester                   20 miles


Newtown                        8  


Stover’s town                10  







Woodstock                    12 miles


Shanandoah river           15    


North branch                 29   


Stanton                         15   


North fork J. riv.           15   


James river                   18   


Botetort C. H.               12   



     A corresponding table of distances, from Winchester to the Falls of the Ohio, is founding “The Virginia and Farmer’s Almanac” for 1792, printed and published at Winchester by Richard Bowen.  The name “Stephensburg” appears in Bowen’s table in place of “Newtown.”  Bowen styles himself  “The North Mountain Philosopher.”

     In Benjamin Banneker’s Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanac for 1794, printed at Baltimore, is a table of places and distances on the road from Baltimore to Knoxville, containing the following:


     Harper’s Ferry to Charles-Town       12

                        To Stone’s Tavern         10

                        To Winchester              11

                        To New-Town              8

                        To Stover’s-Town         10

                        To Woodstock               12

                        To Newmarket              8  [18?]

                        To Harnet’s                  15

                        To Keesletown              5

                        To Ten-Mile Stage        15

                        To Staunton                  10




to Millers’s                    12

to Steel’s Mill                6 (4)


     It will be observed that the route indicated in the table just above goes east of Harrisonburg, past Keezletown, to Staunton and places further on.  “Harnet” was probably David Harnet, who is frequently mentioned in the old records of the county.  Evidently he lived two or three miles east or northeast of Harrisonburg.

     As early as 1789 an Act of Assembly was passed for repairing the Swift Run Gap road.  In 1809-10 and Act was passed to incorporate it.

     The late Capt. J. S. Harnsberger informed me that one of the first roads built into Rockingham County came down from Staunton to Port Republic, and passed thence on the east side of the river down to Swift Run Gap.

     Mr. Geo. F. Compton, in his chapters on the early history of Rockingham, says:


     From 1790 to 1800 about $3,000 was appropriated to putting the Swift Run Gap Road in order, and this was at that time the main road of the county.


     The road to which Mr. Compton refers was doubtless the one going eastward from Harrisonburg, through Swift Run Gap.

     A map of the Waterman lands, made in 1795 (and amended in 1811) shows an old “Road from Frankline to Winchester.”  It came across the Shenandoah Mountain between Tomahawk Mountain and Brush Ridge, and, after coming on eastward to or toward Little North Mountain, went down on the west side of Little North Mountain, through or past Brock’s Gap. (5)


(4)      I am indebted to the kindness of Hon. Geo. N. Conrad, of Harrisonburg, for the loan of the above almanacs.

(5)      At the time referred to Dr. Asher Waterman of Harrisonburg owned 93,000 acres in what is now West Rockingham and Pendleton.  I was allowed to examine the old map above mentioned through the kindness of Mr. A. G. Waterman, of New York, and Mr. Ed. C. Martz of Harrisonburg.




     In the Rockingham Register of October 5, 1876, I find a statement that in 1826, and thereabouts, the Keezletown Road was the principal thoroughfare of this part of the Valley.

     In 1827-8 and in 1836-7 Acts were passed by the assembly authorizing the Rockingham County court to make contracts for repairing the Dry River Gap road.

     In 1829-30 an Act was passed to incorporate the Warm Springs and Harrisonburg Turnpike Company; the next year the Harrisonburg and Thornton’s Gap Turnpike Company was incorporated; and in 1832-3 the powers of the court were enlarged for the purpose of opening roads from Harrisonburg to Charlottesville.

     In March, 1834, and Act was passed providing for the construction of a road from Skidmore’s Fork, in Rockingham, to South Fork, in Pendleton.

     In the same month and year the Act was passed authorizing the construction of the Valley Turnpike, from Winchester to Harrisonburg; and about two years later another Act was passed granting a charter for the Harrisonburg and Staunton Turnpike.  These two roads, which soon became one, have since become celebrated, and for two or three generations have constituted the main highway of the Valley.  Trotter’s stages, Jackson’s Foot Cavalry, and Miss Mary Johnston’s “Long Roll,” as well as the pathfinders of the national automobile highway, have found it good and have left it more famous. (6)

     In 1849 an Act of Assembly authorized the spending of a sum of money, not to exceed $333, for the purpose of finishing and improving the mountain part of the road from Harrisonburg, through Brock’s Gap, to Moorefield.

     In 1850 the Rockingham Turnpike Company was authorized to build a macadamized road from some point at or near Stanardsville, via Swift Run Gap, to some point on the Valley Turnpike. The point chosen was Harrisonburg, and


(6)      For more particulars concerning this road see Wayland’s “German Element,” pp. 209-212




the road has been an important highway across the eastern part of the Valley ever since.  It has been out of private control for a number of years.

     In March, 1851, the Harrisonburg and Franklin Turnpike Company was incorporated.

     January 15, 1867, an act was passed authorizing the Warm Springs and Harrisonburg Turnpike Company to charge a toll of three cents on all persons walking over the bridge at Bridgewater.  The writer well remembers the first information he had of this provision.  It was received about nineteen years ago, this month or next, shortly after he had become a citizen of Rockingham and a resident of Bridgewater.  But he has a shrewd suspicion that some of the older residents of the town have not know of it until this day.

    In the Rockingham Register of January 9, 1868, the following notice appeared concerning the stage lines on the Valley Pike:


     The old and well-known stage line of Trotter & Bro., in the Shenandoah Valley, is now making its regular trips between Staunton and Winchester, twice daily, (Sundays excepted) . . . . . the stages leave Staunton and Winchester in the morning as well as in the evening  . . . .

                                                                                                                Jos. Andrews, Agt.


     Trotter & Bro. Co-operated at Staunton with Col M. G. Harman, who was also a famous master of travel.

     In February, 1868, it was announced that Trotter & Co.’s daylight line between Staunton and Winchester had been taken off, owing to a decrease in travel; and that the night line had been quickened.  In 1870, after the railroad had come in from Strasburg to Harrisonburg, the Trotters were still operating their stages as connecting links between Staunton and Harrisonburg, at one end, and between Strasburg and Winchester, at the other.

     In March, 1868, the editor of the Register, evidently having in prospect the completion of the railroad to Harrisonburg, advocated a wagon road from Harrisonburg to Franklin. He says:


     We once had a charter for a road from this place to Franklin, but




through the neglect of those interested and squabbles about routes, the whole thing went down, and we are yet without this necessary and important highway.


     At the June court, following, Peter Paul was appointed to confer with the authorities of Pendleton regarding the repairs of a road leading across the Shenandoah Mountain, into Pendleton, and to make report.  From time to time the road between the two county-seats (Harrisonburg and Franklin) has been improved, and Harrisonburg has been the chief depot on the railroad for the citizens of Pendleton for many years.  About 1907 the road across the mountain, for a distance of four miles, - from Dry River to the top of the Shenandoah Mountain, - was made better than ever before.  Joseph G. Myers was surveyor, Hoover & Andes were the contractors.  The road from bottom to top was put on a grade of 3 3/4 degrees; the old road at some points had a grade of 9 degrees.

     Attention has already been called to the fact, in Chapter VIII, that the great material revival in Rockingham in the half dozen or more years following 1865 consisted in large measure in the building of roads - opening new ones and improving old ones.  Generally, this road-making may be accounted for as part and parcel of economic reconstruction; particularly, it is explained by the completion of the railroad to Harrisonburg in the winter of 1868-9.  The coming of the railroad stimulated the building and improving of wagon roads.

     In September, 1868, a new road from Port Republic to Harrisonburg was surveyed by Harnsberger & Kemper, who thus reduced the distance to 10 1/2 miles, - 1 1/2 miles less than by any old road.  An incident of the enterprise was the sending up of rockets one night at Harrisonburg, to enable the engineers to get the exact bearings of the course.  But let no one innocently suppose that this road was or is straight.  The Valley Pike, the Keezletown Road, and Middle Road (passing Linville, Timberville, etc.), and other roads that run up and down the Valley, parallel with the ranges of mountains




and the ridges of hills, follow courses generally direct, and are quite straight for considerable stretches; but the roads that cross the Valley, either at right angles or obliquely, are not straight, and cannot easily be made so.

     In July, 1869, Bonds & Mauzy began to advertise a new stage line, running from Harrisonburg to Shenandoah Iron Works on a tri-weekly schedule.  This line was opened largely as a result, no doubt, of the completion of the railroad to Harrisonburg.

     January 22, 1870, the Harrisonburg and Rawley Springs Turnpike Company organized, making Wm. H. Hamrick president, and David A. Heatwole (7) secretary and treasurer.  The directors were Abram Andes, Reuben Swope, Hugh Swope, John Brunk, and Maj. Thos. Shumate.  The same day a road meeting was held at Mt. Clinton, looking toward the construction of a turnpike.  The pike now connecting Mt. Clinton with Harrisonburg is a much-used road.

     In February, 1871, Robert S. Jones began building (or rebuilding) the bridge across North River, on the Valley Pike above Mt. Crawford.  The flood of the preceding autumn had destroyed nearly all the bridges in the county.  The rebuilding of others is chronicled in other connections.

     In 1871 the Virginia legislature granted a charter for a graded road from Rawley Springs to Bridgewater; but one of the commissioners, writing in 1873, intimated that his board had failed to carry out the project for the reason, as he said, that they could not decide where to locate the bridges over


(7)  David A. Heatwole was born in Rockingham, March 9, 1827.  He was a man of influence and enlightened public spirit.  He served a term as county supervisor for Central District, and frequently as assessor of real estate.  For 25 years he was president of the West Rockingham Mutual Fire Insurance Company (organized 1872), and for about the same period was president of the Rawley Springs Turnpike Company.  He encouraged the young men of his community in educational and literary work, and was himself a writer and investigator of no mean ability.  For further particulars see Heatwole Family History, page 200, and Hardesty’s Encyclopedia, Rockingham edition, pp. 409, 410.  He died at his home near Dale Enterprise, March 29, 1911.




Dry River.  He declared that the river so often changed its channel that the commissioners were fearful lest any bridge they might erect should in time be left on dry land.

     In February, 1872, Acts of Assembly were passed incorporating the Bridgewater and Mt. Crawford Turnpike Company.  Among the directors of these companies were J. W. F. Allemong, G. W. Berlin, and Dr. J. G. Minor.  Neither of the turnpikes contemplated in these Acts were constructed.

     It was announced in May, 1873, that “a new and comfortable coach called the Mountain Rover” had been put upon the stage route from Harrisonburg to Shenandoah Iron Works.  This line of stages was still in operation the following August.  Whether it survived the financial crash of September or not is not known.  In July, 1874, Jos. B. Moyers was advertising a new stage line, on a tri-weekly schedule, from Harrisonburg to Roadside and Newman’s Cave, at the base of the Blue Ridge, in East Rockingham.

     One of the well-known roads of Rockingham is the “Lawyer Road,” so called after Gabriel Jones, the famous lawyer.  He had it cut through the woods, it is said, as a “near cut” to the county-seat at Harrisonburg.  It begins at Bogota, the Jones homestead, on the river near Lynnwood, and comes out on the Rockingham Turnpike at Roudabush’s Mill, on Cub run. (8)  Crossing the Shenandoah Mountain, from the Feed Stone on Dry River, above Skidmore’s Fork, is an old trail known as the Lawyers’ Path.  This is probably so called because the lawyers crossing from Harrisonburg to Franklin, and vice versa, used it.

     In June, 1878, the bridge on the Valley Pike, across North River above Mt. Crawford, was again being rebuilt.  It, with a number of other bridges in the county, had been carried away in the great flood of the preceding November.

     In 1877-8 Judge O’Ferrall issued orders in the Rockingham County court directing the road boards of Stonewall and


(8)  For interesting sketches of the Lawyer Road, see Rockingham Register, January 23, 1874, and May 3, 1888.




Central districts to take charge of, repair, and keep in order the Rockingham Turnpike, the said road evidently having been abandoned by the company.

     In 1891 a bridge was being erected over the Shenandoah River at Island Ford, East Rockingham.

     In 1911 or 1912 that part of the Harrisonburg and Warm Springs Turnpike lying in Rockingham was taken over by the county.

     One of the unmistakable signs of progress at the present is to be found in the construction of fine macadamized roads, by co-operation of local and State forces, in various parts of the county.  It costs money to build good roads, in Rockingham as well as elsewhere; but we are learning that they are a good paying investment, worth as much here as anywhere else.

     Referring now to the railroads in Rockingham County, we shall take up first those that have actually been constructed, namely, (1) the one coming up the Valley on the west side of he Massanutten, and passing through Strasburg, Woodstock, Broadway, Harrisonburg, and Staunton; (2) the one coming up the Valley on the east side of the Massanutten, and passing through Shenandoah City, Elkton, Grottoes, and Basic City; (3) the one crossing the Valley from Elkton, through Harrisonburg, Dayton, and Bridgewater.  Having spoken of these, we shall next present a few facts regarding certain railroads that have been projected, but not constructed, as yet.

     (1)  “Under an Act of the Virginia Legislature, passed March 9, 1850, which provided for the organization of a corporation under the style of Manassas Gap Railroad Company, ‘for the purpose of making a railroad from some convenient point on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, through Manassas Gap, passing near the town of Strasburg, to the town of Harrisonburg, in the county of Rockingham,’ and subsequent Acts, construction was begun at a connection with the Orange & Alexandria at Manassas, and the line was opened from Manassas to Strasburg in 1854.  As indicated




above, the original charter of the Manassas Gap required the company, after crossing the mountains, to extend its line down the Valley of Virginia to Harrisonburg, but the line in the direction of Harrisonburg was not destined to be opened until after the war.”

     In 1858 the Manassas Gap road had already been surveyed past Broadway, to Harrisonburg; and another railroad had been surveyed through Brock’s Gap, to connect Broadway with a proposed line of the B. & O. on the South Branch of the Potomac.  In February, 1861, an Act of Assembly was passed authorizing the county of Rockingham to issue bonds for a sum no exceeding $100,000, to be loaned to the Manassas Gap company for the purpose of completing the road to Harrisonburg.

     “During the Civil War the Manassas Gap Railroad was entirely wrecked, its rails and rolling stock being carried away for use in other parts of Virginia, where they could better facilitate military movements.  The Orange & Alexandria, while it did not suffer the same fate, was, however, left in a condition which demanded a practical reconstruction.  It was accordingly proposed that the two properties should be consolidated the better to carry out their common purpose, and an Act passed February 14, 1867, which recited an agreement negotiated between the Manassas Gap Railroad Company and the Orange & Alexandria Railroad Company for consolidation, upon condition that the Orange & Alexandria Railroad Company should reconstruct the Manassas Gap Railroad within two years from February 14, 1867, and should assume the debts of the Manassas Gap Railroad Company, authorized such consolidation under the style of Orange, Alexandria & Manassas Railroad Company.”

     Rockingham County took $150,000 worth of stock in the Manassas Gap company, which was turned into the consolidation of the O. & A. and M. G. railroads in 1867.(9)

     On December 11, 1868, the first passenger train ran into


(9) The Rockingham Register, February 28, 1867.




Harrisonburg.(10)  From that date, or shortly afterward, regular travel and traffic began.  According to a schedule of the O., A. & M. railroad, between Harrisonburg and Alexandria, advertised in the Register of October 14, 1869, passengers could leave Harrisonburg at 9:45 a.m., daily, except Sunday.  Samuel Ruth was superintendent of transportation; J. B. Gentry, general ticket agent.

     “Under date August 20, 1873, the Washington City, Virginia Midland & the Great Southern Railroad Company leased to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company the line between Strasburg and Harrisonburg, and the Baltimore & Ohio continued in possession of this line under the lease referred to until after the reversionary interest therein had passed to the Southern Railway Company, when on March 1, 1896, default was made in the payment of rental; and subsequently on November 30, 1896, the receivers of the Baltimore & Ohio surrendered the line to the Southern Railway Company which had acquired the property of the Washington City, Virginia Midland & Great Southern Railroad Company.”(11)

     April 4, 1866, a great meeting was held in Staunton, composed of delegates from Roanoke, Botetourt, Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Berkeley, and Alleghany counties and Richmond City, to organize the Valley Railroad Company.  Col. M. G. Harman was elected president, with eleven directors.(12)

     The Valley Railroad Company was chartered in 1868, to construct a railroad from Harrisonburg to Salem (in Roanoke County).(13)  In 1872 that part of the road between Harrison-


(10)  The “Old Commonwealth”, December 16, 1868.

(11)  The paragraphs quoted are from a letter written to the author, October 14, 1911, by Pres. W. W. Finley, of the Southern Railway Company.

(12)  Rockingham Register, April 13, 1866.

(13)  From letter of Sept. 2, 1911, by C. W. Woolford, secretary, Baltimore, Md.




burg and Staunton was under construction.  On March 3, 1874, the cars went from Harrisonburg to Staunton for the first time.(14)  For short periods in 1876 and 1877 traffic was suspended owing to the lapsing of leases, etc.

     The present status of the road (or roads) under consideration is this:  The part from Harrisonburg down the Valley, past Woodstock and Strasburg, is in the hands of the Southern Railway Company; the part from Harrisonburg up the Valley through Staunton, to Lexington, is in the hands of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway Company.

     (2)  In the later 60’s there was in evidence much organized agitation for the construction of a railroad through Page County and East Rockingham.  In 1870 Hon. William Milnes subscribed $60,000oOO to the project.

     The Shenandoah Valley Railroad Company was chartered February 23, 1867, and the work of construction was commenced during the year 1870, but was suspended in 1873, after a considerable amount of grading had been done.

     Work was not resumed until the spring of 1879, when the construction of the line from Shepherdstown to Waynesboro was commenced.  The progress was such that on December 15th, 1879, the contractors having the work in hand were able to run trains from Shepherdstown to the Shenandoah River, a distance of 42 miles, when track laying was suspended to await the completion of the bridge at Riverton.  The Northern Division, then known as the Maryland Division, from Hagerstown to Shepherdstown, including the Potomac River Bridge, was commenced in February, 1880, and finished in August of 1880.  In May, 1880, work was begun at Waynesboro also, and track-laying was pushed northward from that point until the junction of the rails was effected near Luray in the spring of 1881.

     In tabular form the progress is indicated as follows: -


(14)  Diary of Judge James Kenney.




Date of Schedule



Dec. 15, 1879


Shenandoah River.

May 10, 1880



August 19, 1880



Sep. 6, 1880


Milford - 76 miles.

Dec. 20, 1880




     The road was accepted from the contractors in March, 1881, and on April 18th, 1881, the first through schedule of trains between Hagerstown and Waynesboro was put into effect.

     The Atlantic, Mississippi & Ohio Railroad was purchased on February 10, 1881, and reorganized as the Norfolk and Western Railroad Company, by parties having a large financial interest in the Shenandoah Valley Railroad.  The extension from Waynesboro to Roanoke was undertaken in June, 1881, and prosecuted with such vigor that the first through schedule of trains between Hagerstown and Roanoke was put into effect on June 19th, 1882.

     The promoters of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, also of the Norfolk and Western Railroad, were mainly gentlemen of Philadelphia and Boston.  Mr. Upton L. Boyce, of Boyce, Va., was instrumental in bringing this project to the attention of capitalists, and had much to do with furthering the construction of the road.  The chief engineer during the construction was Mr. W. W. Coe.(15)

     (3)  As early as February, 1870, perhaps earlier, a railroad west from Harrisonburg, past Dayton, Bridgewater, and other places in that course was being agitated.  In October, 1872, the people of Harrisonburg voted a corporation subscription of $25,000 to the narrow gauge road proposed -- vote 222 for, 19 against.  In June, 1873, this subscription was increased to $50,000 - vote 171 for, 29 against.  R. B. Osberne was chief engineer; P. B. Borst of Luray was president.


(15)  For most of the above particulars I am indebted to the kindness of Supt. E. A. Blake, of the Norfolk & Western Railway Company.




     November 3, 1873, Judge Kenney wrote in his diary:


Cloudy and warm this morning.  Yesterday I walked out to where they have commenced work on the narrow gauge railroad.  This road has a sounding name, the Washington, Cincinnatti & St. Louis Railroad.  They are working about ten hands and two carts.  All the capital they have is the subscription of $50,000 by the town of Harrisonburg.


     In August, 1874, the Register reported work on the narrow gauge “entirely suspended.”  In November following it was stated through the same paper that the grading from Harrisonburg to Bridgewater had been completed, and that the whole line from Harrisonburg to Sangerville was ready for the ties and iron.  For the next ten years the work was in the main suspended, except for hopeful talk on the part of a few individuals, and occasional digging here and there.  In 1892 the project was revived with new vigor.  In 1895 the old narrow gauge interests were transferred to the standard gauge Chesapeake & Western, and on June 7 work was begun again at or near the point, south of Harrisonburg, where the Chesapeake-Western now crosses the B. & O.  The first rail was laid July 1.  The old narrow-gauge grade, properly widened, was utilized at some places.

     From January to March, 1895, the sum of $150,000 was subscribed, mainly in Rockingham, conditioned upon the completion of the road from Elkton to Bridgewater.  Among the chief promoters was E. C. Machen, W. H. Rickard, J. M. Snell, Jacob Meserole, W. H. Ritenour, and P. W. Reherd.  O. H. P. Cornell was chief engineer.  On March 23, 1896, track-laying was completed between Elkton and Bridgewater; and on April 28 following the road was opened to traffic between those towns.  In 1901 the contract was awarded for the extension of the road from Bridgewater to North River Gap. Its present western terminus is Stokesville, Augusta County.  C. A. Jewett is traffic manager; C. B. Williamson is superintendent.  These gentlemen have their offices at Harrisonburg.

     Now, a few words concerning the railroad projects that have not yet materialized.




     It will be recalled that in 1858 a road had been surveyed from Broadway, through Brock’s Gap, to the South Branch.  In 1873 a company that evidently intended to follow the same route in general was chartered:  B. Chrisman, president; Dr. Cootes, Dr. Winfield, and Dr. Williams, directors.  The road proposed (through Brock’s Gap) was to have connections and extensions reaching from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes, and was to be known in its entirety as the Norfolk, Massanetta, & Toledo Railway.(16)  In February, 1883, John Q. Winfield and P. W. Pugh, of Broadway, with A. W. Kercheval of Romney, and others, were promoting the Toledo, Massanutta, & Petersburg Railway.

     One of the most interesting projects of the early seventies was the one set on foot by the North River Railroad Company, chartered March 21, 1872, and organized at Bridgewater January 9, 1873.  J. W. F. Allemong (17) was made president; D. A. Plecker, vice-president; R. N. Pool, general superintendent; John W. Jacobs, secretary; Dr. Harvey Kyle, treasurer.  The directors were G. W. Berlin, J. G. Minor, T. M. Hite, D. A. Plecker, G. H. Dinges, J. W. F. Allemong, R. N. Pool, Harvey Kyle, and J. W. Jacobs.  The road was to extend from Bridgewater to Port Republic.  The charter required that the part from Bridgewater to Berlinton be put under contract within 90 days.  In April the enterprise was purchased by Henry M. Clay of Kentucky, who was reported to


(16)  Rockingham Register, September 19, 1873.

(17)  John W. F. Allemong, born at Stephens City, Va., Sept. 5, 1828, son of Rev. John and Hannah Payne Allemong; married Sarah C. Hailman, June 7, 1857; moved to Bridgewater, 1863, and until 1889 was one of the most prominent and enterprising citizens of Rockingham, being a merchant, bank president, director in the Bridgewater Wool Mills, Bridgewater Carriage Works, etc.  In October 1889, he moved to Salem, Va., where he took his accustomed place, as a captain of industry, till his death, Oct. 29, 1904.  He was a member of the Methodist Church, and served in various responsible offices therein.  He was the father of six children, two of whom survive him: Mrs. Ella V. Strayer, of Harrisonburg, and Mr. John Edwin Allemong, a prominent attorney and business man of Roanoke City.




be ready and able to push it.  The narrow gauge, with the long name, was also being boomed at Bridgewater at the same time.

     June 18, 1873, ground was broken at Bridgewater for the construction of the N. River R. R.  A speech was made by Rev. J. S. Loose; the first shovelful of dirt was thrown by Adam Rader, the oldest resident of the town.  In July the second mile was let for construction to Wm. H. Kiracofe.  H. M. Clay, general superintendent, had bought 7 acres of land at the northeast end of the town, on the turnpike, and had laid out grounds for depot, car shed, machine shops, round house, etc.  In August it was announced that the road was to extend westward to the Ohio River.  But in September came Black Friday.

     In March, 1872, the Harrisonburg, Bridgewater, and W. Augusta R. R. Co. was incorporated.  The road was to begin at or near McGaheysville, pass thence via Harrisonburg to Rawley Springs, thence through or near Bridgewater to some convenient point on the C. & O. Ry.

     In 1874-5 D. A. Plecker was proposing to build a narrow gauge railway from Mt. Crawford depot to Bridgewater.  In 1876 a bill was passed the Virginia legislature incorporating the Harrisonburg & Orange C. H. Ry. Co.  In 1890 a railroad was proposed through Shendun Pass (Brown’s Gap); a plan was being considered by business men of Elkton and Harrisonburg for connecting those towns with a railroad; a street railway for Harrisonburg was being considered; and the Harrisonburg & Western Ry. Co. was organized at Harrisonburg, Messrs. J. P. Houck, C. A. Sprinkel, T. A. Long, and Jacob Meserole being the chief promoters.

     In 1891 a railroad from Shenandoah City to Harrisonburg was projected; another, from Shendun to Weyer’s Cave station (on the B. & O.), was projected and surveyed.  In 1892 (February 16) an Act was passed incorporating the Harrisonburg & Bridgewater Electric Ry. Co.  In 1895 a charter was issued to Basic City, Bridgewater, & Western Electric Ry. Co.  In 1901 an Act was passed incorporating the Central




Railroad of Virginia, Messrs. Wm. H. Rickard, P. W. Reherd, D. C. Reherd, Herman Wise, John B. Peale, H. B. Miller, and A. A. Chapman being named as incorporators.

     It is of interest to notice that three periods of conspicuous activity in promoting and building railroads in Rockingham (as elsewhere) coincided with or shortly preceded the years 1857, 1873, and 1893:  years of notable economic crises.  In 1873, no less than five different roads were being projected or actually constructed:  (1) The one from Harrisonburg to Staunton, opened in 1874; (2) the one through Page and East Rockingham, opened in 1881 (now the Norfolk & Western); (3) the narrow-gauge westward, past Bridgewater, opened as a standard-gauge in 1896; (4) the one from Bridgewater to Port Republic, still in possibility; (5) the one through Brock’s Gap, also a possibility only, as yet.

     Just when the first telegraph line was put up in Rockingham County is not definitely known; but there was one running into Harrisonburg as early as 1863 - perhaps earlier.  N. M. Burkholder was in charge of the Harrisonburg office from 1863 to 1865, as appears from an original schedule before me.  Additional lines were being constructed, or earlier lines were being restored or repaired, in 1872-3.  In 1884 the “Bridgewater Journal” said:  “If we cannot get a railroad we must have a telephone or telegraph connection with Harrisonburg.  A telegraph line will cost $300.”  The next year a telegraph line was completed between Harrisonburg and Bridgewater.  It is needless to say that at present telegraph lines are maintained by all the railroads; and there is a Western Union office in Harrisonburg.

     No material improvement has had a more rapid development in Rockingham, or has done more to dissipate provincialism in the county, than the telephone systems.  In February, 1893, the Valley Telephone and Telegraph Company was chartered by J. W. Click, C. Driver, N. W. Berry, and others.  This company succeeded to the possession of the Rosenberger & Shirley lines, but was soon in competition with the Virginia & West Virginia Telephone Company.  In




August, 1895, the Valley Telephone Company, centering in Harrisonburg, had nearly 150 ‘phones in operation.  In 1899 a gentleman from Illinois, widely traveled, who spent a couple of weeks in Rockingham, said there were more ‘phones here than in any other section he knew.

     In 1897 the Rockingham mutual telephone system was organized.  The same year connection by telephone was established between Rockingham and Pendleton, from county-seat to county-seat.  January 25, 1898, an Act was passed incorporating the Rockingham Mutual Telephone and Telegraph Company, naming D. B. Showalter, Chas. H. Ralston, J. N. Fries, C. H. Brunk, J. R . Bowman, W. J. Lineweaver, C. N. Strickler, C. D. Wenger, M. A. Layman, J. E. Shaver, J. H. Shirkey, and W. C. Switzer.  In April, 1899, the Rockingham Mutual and the Valley Company were consolidated.

     In 1901 a long distance line between Harrisonburg and Staunton was completed.  In March, 1902, an Act was passed incorporating the Harrisonburg Mutual Telephone Company, naming W. C. Switzer, John A. Switzer, S. B. Switzer, G. R. Eastham, and J. P. Mauzy.

     At present there are in the county the following telephone companies:  (1) Harrisonburg Mutual, with exchanges at Harrisonburg, Bridgewater, and Weyer’s Cave; (2) Rockingham Mutual, with exchanges at Dayton, Timberville, McGaheysville, and Goods Mill; (3) Plains District, with exchange at Broadway; (4) Swift Run, with exchange at Elkton; (5) Mayland, with exchange at Mayland.