26 August 2015

The Park Service Celebrated Its 99th Anniversary Yesterday - But There's Always a Back Story

Yesterday marked the 99th birthday of the National Park Service. No one appreciates the beauty of our landscape and National Parks more than I do, but there's a dark side; particularly for some of my ancestors and others who once owned what is now NPS land:

From a piece titled, Eminent domain and the Shenandoah National Park:
John Mace had sold water that he bottled from a spring on his property within park boundaries. When he refused to leave his property, the police piled all of his furniture and his belongings in his yard and then burned his house down in front of him to let him know there was no chance of return. Lizzie Jenkins was five months pregnant when the police dragged her from her home, piled her belongings in horse-drawn wagons, and pulled her chimney down so that she would have no source of heat for the upcoming winter.
I've written about this before:
My wife and I (who share the same great-great grandfather-I'll pause here for the jokes) have ancestors--Coffeys--who experienced similar treatment when the Blue Ridge Parkway was built. The Parkway connects to the Skyline Drive (which runs through the SNP) just a few miles from my home. Much of the land where Route 664 intersects with the Parkway was once owned by our folks. As a matter of fact, when you leave Sherando, Virginia and go up Rt. 664 to Love Mountain, you will pass a house on the left that was moved by the feds. That house was once owned by some of our kinfolk. Also, there is still an old log cabin (restored) that is owned by a distant cousin, right off the parkway. And, near that same place, there is still an old family cemetery. It is in that cemetery that our great-great grandfather--Morris Coffey-- who fought with the 51st Virginia Infantry, is buried.
The photo below was one I recently took with 2 of my grandsons kneeling in front of Private Coffey's headstone, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near my home. Our time together also provided a wonderful opportunity to enlighten them about a few misconceptions they had about the "late unpleasantness." They are both very bright young men.

 Also, for a very interesting and moving clip from a documentary about the SNP and the Skyline Drive and the impact of eminent domain, I'd recommend the following: