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A short story by Etta Belle Walker


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

First called Muellerstadt after its founder Jacob Miller, Woodstock was granted its charter in 1761 by the General Assembly of Virginia. Miller was farsighted in his plans for the community and provided adequate building sites for homes and businesses.

The historian Kercheval tells an interesting account of the appearance of Indians around Woodstock:

"In 1766, the Indians made a visit to the neighborhood of Woodstock. Two men by the name of Sheetz and Taylor had taken their wives and children into a wagon, and were on their way to the fort. At the narrow passage, three miles south of Woodstock, five Indians attacked them. The two men were killed at the first onset, and the Indians rushed to seize the women and children. The women, instead of swooning at the sight of their bleeding, expiring husbands, seized their axes, and with Amazonian firmness, and strength almost superhuman, defended themselves and children. One of the Indians had succeeded in getting hold of one of Mrs. Sheetz's children, and attempting to drag it out of the wagon; but with the quickness of lightning she caught her child in one hand, and with the other made a blow at the head of the fellow which caused him to quit his hold to save his life. Several of the Indians received pretty sore wounds in this desperate conflict, and all at last ran off, leaving the two women with their children to pursue their way to the fort."

When Lord Dunmore came to govern the colony of Virginia in 1772 the citizens passed a resolution endorsing his administration. They requested that a new county be formed from Frederick which would be called Dunmore County. Five years later, when he began to have trouble with the colonists the people of Woodstock instructed their burgess to get the name of their county changed to Shenandoah. This name is retained to the present time.

About six miles from Woodstock a Mr. Wolfe erected a fort on Stony Creek years and years ago. He had a fine hunting dog and at the time of our story Indians were lurking in the neighborhood. This was during the period when the savages were endeavoring to rid the Valley of the white men.

Mr. Wolfe went out hunting one morning and had not gone far before his dog began to run around and around him, blocking his path. Then he jumped up in front of his master, put his feet on his shoulders and seemed to try to stop Wolfe's progress. When the dog found he could not stop his master he ran back towards the fort, then back to his master, all the time whining a warning.

The hunter suspected some danger, so he kept his hand on his gun and watched out for Indians. He soon saw two of them behind a tree. Evidently they were waiting for their man to come close enough for them to get a good shot at him. Mr. Wolfe began to walk backward, making a rapid retreat to the fort. Long afterwards someone asked Mr. Wolfe why he did not kill the old dog since his years of usefulness were over and he was apparently uncomfortable. He told the inquirer the story of how the animal had saved his life and added, "I would sooner be killed myself than suffer that dog to be killed."

"There is a time to every purpose under the heaven--a time of war and a time of peace." So spoke one of Woodstock's most famous sons, the Reverend John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, in the Lutheran Church one Sunday morning after the Declaration of Independence had been issued. After delivering an inspired sermon taken from this text in which he reviewed his stand on liberty, he dramatically cast off his black pulpit robes and revealed to his astonished congregation his colonel's uniform of the Revolutionary army. He was about thirty years old then and had served the Woodstock flock for four years.

Dr. Wayland in his book The German Element in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, suggests that the Rev. Mr. Muhlenberg was associated with the Episcopal as well as the Lutheran church and that "he seems beyond question to have received Episcopal ordination.... His connection with the Church of England was probably sought in order that his work as a clergyman might receive the readier and fuller sanction."

Almost immediately after preaching his patriotic sermon he raised a regiment among the Valley folk. Known as the Eighth Virginia, or German Regiment, they saw hard service at Germantown, Brandywine and Monmouth as well as in some of the southern battlefields.

Before the close of the war Muhlenberg was made a brigadier-general and after his retirement he lived in Pennsylvania, his original home before coming to the Valley of Virginia.

A movement is under way at the present time to restore the little church of the Lutheran faith where the colonel made his firey sermon. Let us hope this may be accomplished so that we may catch the inspiration of his remarks.

Woodstock saw the march of many feet during the War Between the States; almost constantly were the troops passing by, causing fields to be laid waste, crops to be confiscated and stock to be carried off. But the little town conceals her war scars well and today is a progressive community.

Massanutten Academy is located here and draws boys from all over Virginia and a number of other States.


Contrary to popular belief, President Lincoln's forebears were not poor and shiftless, but were influential and prosperous Virginians who lived in the handsome old brick Colonial home which, in a fine state of preservation, is still standing, with the Lincoln family cemetery and slave burying-ground nearby.

The Lincoln homestead is near the little village of Edom, not far from the Caverns of Melrose, and can be reached by turning west from U. S. Highway 11 at these caverns, six miles north of Harrisonburg. Visitors are welcome at this homestead. Exact directions as to how to reach it can be obtained in the Melrose Cavern's Lodge.

Thomas Lincoln, father of President Lincoln, was born in this house. John Lincoln, great-grandfather of the President, moved with his family into Virginia in 1768 where, as an influential pioneer, he built the first brick unit of the beautiful Colonial home.

John Lincoln was known as "Virginia John." Abraham Lincoln, his eldest son and grandfather of the President, lived in this homestead and was captain of a Virginia company during the Revolution.

Captain Abraham Lincoln, with his son Thomas (father of the President) moved to Kentucky in 1782, leaving Jacob Lincoln, a brother of Captain Lincoln, in the Virginia homestead. Many Lincolns, descendants of Jacob and other sons and daughters of "Virginia John," now live near Melrose Caverns, in Harrisonburg and elsewhere in Rockingham county.

On February 24th, 1829, when Melrose Caverns were known as "Harrison's Cave," Franklin Lincoln, grandson of Jacob and a cousin of President Lincoln, entered the caverns and, by the light of torches or candles, carved his name and the date. He later fought in the Civil War as a Confederate soldier.

Also in these caverns is carved the name of John Lincoln, possibly John Lincoln, Jr., who was one of Jacob's four brothers, or perhaps "Virginia John" the pioneer, great-grandfather of the President. There is no date carved by the name of John Lincoln.

In April, 1862, during the Civil War, a Federal soldier drew a rough portrait of President Lincoln with charcoal upon a wall farther back in the caverns. These Lincoln signatures and this crude portrait can be distinctly seen in Melrose Caverns by visitors today.

[The end]
Etta Belle Walker's short story: Woodstock