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A short story by Etta Belle Walker


Title:     Berryville
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

Long before the County of Clarke was ordered to be carved from Frederick, a town was established called Battletown. This was so called, says tradition, because of the rough and-tumble fights of the gang who met there to drink their ale.

Daniel Morgan, a picturesque character of the Valley, thought he had the right to stop such fights and so he frequently got into the fray. Old records show that Morgan sometimes had to pay a fine "for misbehavior." But no doubt it was here that he won his strength and learned to out-match the toughs of the neighborhood. Certainly he won a reputation for his prowess, and as a general he won distinction.

The town changed its name in 1798 when it was granted a charter and became Berryville. It was named for its founder Benjamin Berry, who donated the land and when Clark County was formed in 1836, Berryville was chosen as the county seat.

Tradition tells us that George Washington boarded with Captain Charles Smith when he was in the Valley surveying for Lord Fairfax. This home was about a half mile from the present Berryville. His office while in the Valley was a small log building which was used as a spring house for "Soldier's Rest." A cold spring of water flows under the floor of the first room, which is about twelve feet square. George used the room upstairs for his sleeping quarters. It was there he kept his instruments and carefully recorded in his diary his experiences. It was there he made out his reports for Lord Fairfax. Howe, an early historian, tells us about that youth of sixteen. Quoting Bancroft, he writes: "The woods of Virginia sheltered the youthful George Washington, the son of a widow. Born by the side of the Potomac, beneath the roof of a Westmoreland farmer, almost from infancy his lot had been the lot of an orphan. No academy had welcomed him to its shade, no college crowned him with its honors, to read, to write, to cipher--these had been his degrees of knowledge. And now at sixteen years, in quest of an honest maintainance, encountering intolerable toil, cheered onward by being able to write to a boyhood friend, 'Dear Richard, a doubloon is my constant gain every day, and sometimes six pistoles.' He was his own cook, having no spit but a forked stick, no plate but a large chip; roaming over the spurs of the Alleghanies and along the banks of the Shenandoah, alive to nature, among skin-clad savages, with their scalps and rattles, or uncouth emigrants that would never speak English, rarely sleeping in a bed, holding a bear skin a splendid couch, glad of a resting place for a night upon a little hay, straw or fodder ... this stripling surveyor in the woods, with no companion but his unlettered associates, and no implements of science but his compass and chain, contrasted strangely with his fellows. And yet God had not selected a Newcastle, nor a monarch of the Hapsburg, nor of Hanover, but the Virginia Stripling to give to human affairs and as far as events can depend upon individuals, had placed the rights and destinies of countless millions in the keeping of the widow's son."

While in the Valley of Virginia the young George Washington learned how to tell the age of various trees by the thickness of their bark. The older a tree is, the thicker the bark and it is much rougher and thicker on the north side of the tree. He learned to know the course of the winds and to get to the leeward of his game when out hunting for food or skins. This was done by putting his finger in his mouth and holding it there until it became warm, then holding it high above his head; the side which became cold showed him which way the wind was blowing. He learned that the deer always seeks the sheltered places and the leeward side of the hills. In rainy weather, they keep in the open woods and on the highest grounds. He found that the fur or skins of animals are good in all those months in which an "R" is found in the spelling.

He learned how to track animals, to know the various birds' songs and cries. He watched the hunters build their camp fires and learned how to cook his own game.

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Etta Belle Walker's short story: Berryville