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A short story by Etta Belle Walker

The Valley Pike

Title:     The Valley Pike
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

"Route Eleven" as the road is called from Winchester to Bristol is one of the most historic as well as the most beautiful in all Virginia. It stretches, like a broad silver ribbon, for over three hundred and fifty miles. It begins at the northern end of the Valley, near the Potomac River, and leads one through the fertile Valley, southward and winding ever westward through the Blue Ridge and the Alleghany mountains.

Let us review this famous driveway. Long before the coming of the white men, the Indians followed almost a natural trail, as they journeyed back and forth into the richest hunting grounds known anywhere in all their world. Along it they found the big elk, bear, buffalo, wolves, foxes, wild turkeys and smaller game.

The first pioneers followed this Indian Trail, as they called it. Then, as they developed the country more and more, they brought in horses and oxen. This made a wider road and soon they were rolling their hogsheads of tobacco and grain over it. They carried their products to market in heavy wagons, swapping their wild bees' honey, venison, grain, and hand-woven linen for the precious salt, sugar, iron and lead. Over this road came an ever increasing number of other pioneers to settle near those already living in the rich Valley. They brought their furniture, guns, and families and a most fervent respect for the priceless liberty to be found there. Liberty where one could worship God as one pleased. Liberty where one's children could share in the development and in a new country, full of opportunities.

Historians claim that the young George Washington surveyed this road through the Valley. Engineers today say that he did a wonderful work and that they would make a few changes in it. Let us look at some of the famous names of those who lived near or travelled over it. Some of them lived within sight of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains while others visited from one end of it to the other. As one travels near Winchester, he reads the names of John Marshall, George Washington, and General Morgan. From Charlottesville one reads of Patrick Henry visiting Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. There, too, were Lewis and Clarke, men famous in the development of our West, the McCormicks, the Houstons, the Austins and other noted Virginians who went West and settled there.

By now the Road was being called by many names, such as "The Old Indian Trail", "The Great Road", the "Settlers's Road", while still others called it the "Wilderness Road".

Then came peace and prosperity after the French and Indian War and that of the Revolution. Finer horses and carriages were being brought into the Valley and so a better road had to be built. Some thrifty soul suggested having a splendid road which should be maintained by tollgates. And so was built the famous "Valley Pike". This was the pride, not only of the Valley, but of all Virginia and the South.

Interesting stories are told every day, as one travels over this beautiful road, such as that of Charlotte Hillman who kept a tollgate along the Pike. While Sheridan was making his famous raid through the Valley (when he remarked that a crow travelling through the countryside would have to carry a knapsack with provisions for his flight), he came to the tollgate. Charlotte let down the gate and demanded toll from the army before allowing it to pass. The General and his staff paid the toll but he refused to pay for the entire corps. She lifted the gate but cut a notch on a tree for every ten soldiers who passed. At the close of the War she presented the United States Government with a bill--which is said to have been paid in full.

Today Route Eleven is known as the Lee-Jackson Highway, so called in honor of Generals Robert Edward Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson. As you travel through the Great Valley of Virginia may you know more intimately the great men and women who have built not only the Great Valley of Virginia, but who have helped in the making of America. We hope this little book may make you know them and love Virginia more ... and we hope you will come again and again to enjoy the Great Valley of Virginia.

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Etta Belle Walker's short story: Valley Pike