As early as 1822 there was in Rockingham an auxiliary colonization society, endeavoring to raise money to establish and support and “Infant Colony” at Cape Misurado, on the African Coast. Robert Heron was treasurer. This society was still in existence in 1825.
The civil war of course produced many needs for charity, and was marked throughout by organized movements aiming to supply those needs. Early in the war a soldier’s aid society was organized in the county. At a meeting in Harrisonburg, September 24, 1861, the following officers were elected:
President – Miss Jeannetta Conrad.
Vice-Presidents – Mrs. Amanda Keezle, Mrs. Strother Effinger.
Recording Secretary – Miss M. Byrd.
Corresponding Secretaries – Mrs. Harriet Ruffner, Mrs. M. Harvey Effinger.
Treasurer – Mrs. Harriet Warren.
The following were chosen managers:
Mrs. James Crawford Mrs. Margaret Wartmann
Mrs. G. Kratzer Mrs. Rebecca Newman
Mrs. Dr. Dinges Mrs. Henry Ott
Mrs. Nelson Sprinkel Mrs. Annie Kenney
Mrs. Geo. Christie Mrs. Lucy Effinger
Mrs. Col. Hopkins Mrs. Juliet Strayer
Mrs. A. Lincoln Mrs. Mary Kyle
Miss Anna Strayer Maj. L. W. Gambill
Miss Rebecca Davis Mr. Peter Woodward
Miss Annie Jennings Mrs. Lizzie Hudson
Miss O’Brien Mrs. Susan Bear
Mrs. L. Bryan Mrs. Malinda Kite
Most of the ladies named lived in Harrisonburg and vicinity; some were from other parts of the county. At another meeting held in Harrisonburg, October 29, the following were added to the list of solicitors for the county:
Mrs. Bramwell Rice, Rushville;
Mrs. E. Bear, North Mountain;
Mrs. Fannie Hopkins, Mt. Clinton;
Mrs. Kieffer, Mountain Valley;
Mrs. Mary Lincoln, Linvill’s Creek;
Mrs. A. Brock, Linvill’s Creek;
Mrs. Jane Burkholder, Linvill’s Creek;
Mrs. Christian Coffman, Linvill’s Creek;
Mrs. D. C. Byerly Mrs. Huldah Heiskell
Mrs. Jacob Byerly Mrs. Pricilla Miller
Mrs. Lenion Harman Mrs. Rankin
Miss Mary Lewis Miss Dolly McGahey
Miss Sarah Weaver (Mrs. Fannie Hopkins)
The object of the society was to provide supplies of various kinds for the soldiers in the field and in the hospitals.(1)
In June, 1862, C. Clinton Clapp, a Harrisonburg merchant, made the first subscription ($50) to a fund for the purpose of erecting a monument upon the battlefield where the lamented Turner Ashby fell.(2)
On April 30 and May 1, 1863, the ladies of Bridgewater gave an entertainment in the M. E. church, the proceeds to be used for the benefit of sick and wounded soldiers. In the spring of 1864 they sent 30 pairs of socks to Co. D, 10th Va. Infantry.
In February, 1864, the Misses Ewing, of near Harrisonburg, furnished an abundant supply of warm, woolen socks to Co. A, 1st Mo. Cavalry. This was the famous Woodson’s Company, McNeill’s Battalion, partisan rangers. About the same time D. M. Switzer offered to cut garments free for private soldiers of Rockingham in limited circumstances.
(1) See Rockingham Register, Oct. 4 and Nov. 1, 1861.
(2) See page 179 of this book.
The physicians made special provisions for such soldiers and their families. Some of the mills in the county did grinding for soldiers’ families, free of toll.
At a meeting held in McGaheysville February 21, 1864, residents of the village and neighborhood contributed $1700 for the aid of soldiers. The meeting was addressed by Rev. J. L. Stirewalt, of New Market, who was soliciting funds to be used in purchasing artificial limbs for maimed Confederates.
November 28, 1864, at a special meeting in the M. E. church, Port Republic, conducted by Rev. J. Stirewalt and Pastor J. P. Hyde, $894.66 was taken up for the help of wounded (maimed) soldiers.
After the battle of New Market, May 15, 1864, the people of Harrisonburg and vicinity sent a lot of carriages to the battlefield, specially for the purpose of bringing the wounded men of Woodson’s company to Harrisonburg, where many of them were cared for in private families.
In 1865-6 the merchants, lawyers, doctors, and mechanics of Harrisonburg formed a Thespian society, for the relief of widows and orphans of Rockingham soldiers. In May, 1866, a Thespian society was formed in Bridgewater.
In the summer of 1866, a Rockingham Memorial Association was organized by the ladies of Harrisonburg. This was probably the beginning of the Ladies’ Memorial Association mentioned on pages 159, 169, 170, above. In the “Old Commonwealth” of November 28, 1872, appeared a tribute to Mrs. C. C. Strayer, president of this association.
In 1878 liberal contributions were sent from Rockingham to the yellow fever sufferers in the South. Up to October 17, $715.24 had been contributed in the county to this cause. Early in 1880 a meeting was held in the Court House to organize relief for the victims of the famine in Ireland.
A work of benevolent character that must not be overlooked in this connection was organized and led for many years by Mrs. Lucy G. Chrisman, in cleaning up, beautifying, and caring for the cemeteries of the county. This work
probably centered at New Erection, but has extended far and wide with most beneficent results.
The remainder of this chapter will be devoted to five particular institutions, which typify different lines of benevolent enterprise: (1) the Harrisonburg almshouse, (2) the county almshouse, (3) the Old Folks’ Home, (4) the Orphans’ Home, (5) the Rockingham Memorial Hospital. The chief benevolent institution of Rockingham is the good will of her citizens; but this has crystallized in various definite forms.
The almshouse for the town of Harrisonburg is located on the Valley Pike, a short distance southwest of town, near the toll gate. It is under the supervision of a committee of three of the town council, who, with the chief of police, look after the poor of the town. The inmates usually number only five or six. The present chief of police is Frank L. Dovel; the superintendent of the almshouse is David Landes.
The almshouse for the county was formerly located near Keezletown, but for the past thirty or forty years it has been at the present site, one mile northeast of Pleasant Valley. It is on a fine farm of 323 acres, 185 acres of which are under cultivation, the balance being in timber. The number of persons cared for here is usually 46 or 47. The popular superintendent is C. W. Pence, who has had charge of the place for the past seven years.
At Timberville is located the Old Folks’ Home, maintained by the Church of the Brethren. Initial steps toward providing such an institution were taken in 1888, when Michael Zigler, S. F. Miller, and N. W. Beery were appointed a committee, by the Second District of Virginia, to take the matter under advisement. The home was opened March 1, 1892, with Daniel Wine and wife in charge. The number of inmates ranges from ten to twenty-five. J. W. Lichliter is the present superintendent.
Near the Old Folks’ Home, at Timberville, the Church of the Brethren maintains an Orphans’ Home, established in 1905. The present building was completed in 1910. The plan contemplates a home and industrial school for orphan
children, regardless of religious affiliation. Altogether, up to March 31, 1912, 44 children had been received at the Home. Of these, 24 have been placed in permanent homes. The original trustees of the institution were D. H. Zigler, J. W. Wampler, J. M. Wampler, M. J. Cline, and P. S. Thomas; the present trustees are D. H. Zigler, S. D. Miller, M. J. Cline, J. J. Conner, and P. S. Thomas. Mr. and Mrs. John L. Holsinger are in immediate charge.
On October 1, 1912, the Rockingham Memorial Hospital, located at the south side of Harrisonburg, adjoining the grounds of the State Normal School, was formally opened. A gift of $20,000 or more, by will, made four years ago by William G. Leake, led to the establishment of this institution. Of Mr. Leake it has been said, “He devoted his life to honest work, and his wealth to relieve human suffering. The Rockingham Memorial Hospital is his Monument.” By his own request, the hospital does not bear his name, but inside the main entrance is a handsome bronze tablet, bearing the following inscription:
WILLIAM GLODOMORE LEAKE
THIS TABLET IS ERECTED
TO RECORD THE GRATITUDE
THE PEOPLE OF
WILLIAM GLODOMORE LEAKE
OF HARRISONBURG VIRGINIA
FOR THE NOBLE GENEROUS
AND FREE GIFT
WHICH MADE THIS
HOSPITAL BUILDING POSSIBLE
At another place in the hall is a marble tablet, inscribed as follows:
THE ROCKINGHAM MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
J. WILTON – President
T. N. HAAS – Vice President
J. M. BIEDLER – Secretary
E. R. MIILLER - Treasurer
W. J. Dingledine T. O. Jones
George E. Sipe Layton B. Yancey
Elmer U. Hoenshel John S. Funk
J. Wilton W. J. Dingledine
E. R. Miller E. U. Hoenshel
T. N. Haas J. M. Biedler
ARCHITECTS – Corneal & Johnson
BUILDERS – W. M. Bucher & Son
At present Julian A. Burruss and Jacob S. Sellers are members of the board of trustees.
All over the county, churches, benevolent organizations, and generous individuals have made donations to the hospital. Within the past year the ladies’ auxiliary of Harrisonburg has raised $2575 for the institution. The president of this organization is Mrs. Russell Bucher; Mrs. Julian A. Burruss is secretary, and Mrs. E. Purcell, treasurer. Among the number of ladies who have rendered notable service, it will not be invidious to mention the name of Mrs. B. Ney. The superintending nurse in charge of the hospital is Miss Nan Dupuy.