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A short story by Etta Belle Walker

New Market

Title:     New Market
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

A little later in becoming settled than other Valley towns was New Market, the progressive little place situated at the intersection of the Valley Pike and Route 211 to Luray. Its charter was granted in 1785 as the result of efforts made by Peter Palsel, an early settler.

Thomas Jefferson's father, Peter Jefferson, was among the party of surveyors who ran the land grant boundary for the Proprietor of the Northern Neck, Lord Fairfax. This was done in 1746. The old line is a short distance south of New Market.

The town was the scene in 1864 of the battle in which the young and inexperienced but dauntless cadets from the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington took such prominent part. The wounded from their ranks were cared for by devoted women in nearby houses. And what a percentage there was either wounded or killed! Forty-six of the former and eight of the latter out of a corps of only two hundred and twenty-one!

New Market is the center today of the caverns in the Valley, for Shenandoah Caverns are to the north and Endless to the south, while within a short drive you may reach Luray, Massanutten, Melrose and Grand Caverns. Accommodations for the tourists are numerous and fair throughout the vicinity.

Several years ago a re-enactment of the Battle of New Market occurred in which the corps from the Virginia Military Institute pitted their strength against the United States Marines. Among the spectators to this stirring War Between the States encounter was the Secretary of the Navy.

He was impressed with the majesty of the Shenandoah Valley and the legend of the name. Later he determined to name the new navy dirigible Shenandoah--"The Daughter of the Stars." For her christening a bottle of water from the meandering Shenandoah River was used. And on her maiden flight from her berth at Lakehurst the graceful ship flew over the lovely, peaceful Valley from whence came her name.


On the first of October, 1879 two boys went hunting. Their dog chased a rabbit up the long slope of Mr. Reuben Zirkle's pasture. The rabbit ran for his life and disappeared over a huge rock.

The boys gave chase and boy-like, when they reached the rock and found no rabbit, they pushed aside the heavy stone. Imagine how their eyes bulged when they looked down into a great hole in the hill. Here was a find! Here was adventure, for who can resist exploring a cave? The boys thought no longer of the rabbit. They went in search of candles and a rope. Soon they were seeing for the first time the lovely and strange kingdom underground.

The boys, no doubt like visitors, wondered how Nature had carved these miracles. Today science has answered the question for us and for the sake of those inquiring minds we will give in part the story of how Mother Nature builds her caves.

"Thousands and thousands of years of surface waters, seeping down through the earth, have dissolved and carried away the limestone rock through various tiny cracks and crevices. As each drop worked its way downward it carried coloring matter--iron, maybe copper, which tints the beautiful columns. Tiny bits of limestone formed and gradually built them up from the bottom; these are called stalagmites. Others slowly forming from the tops of the cave hung there and are termed stalactites. Then through the years these grew until they met and formed the arches and columns."

Though explorations were carried on for several years no end to the rooms was seen. One channel after another was found, and one room after another came into view, hence the name Endless Caverns.

People from far and near came to see the wonders, and dances were held in Alexander's Ballroom. The musicians had a high rock on which they played their fiddles. Huge iron circles were fastened to the ceiling and candles placed in them for lights. One night one of the bold boys took a candle and pushed farther into the cave. By the weird light he saw a glistening lake, sparkling like diamonds. Upon investigation it turned out to be a pool of clearest water and it reflected the white glittering crystal roof which sheltered it. The name "Diamond Lake" was given it and it has been admired by thousands of visitors.

Then for thirty years the beautiful caverns were closed to the public. A party of visitors came to the Valley. Colonel Edward Brown who stopped in New Market was fascinated with the stories of the old caverns. He bought the property and the next year the caverns were opened--in 1920. Today his son, Major E. M. Brown, is the progressive owner.

"The old entrance house has been replaced by a unique cave house built of limestone boulders from the mountain side. Great gates of hand-wrought iron bar the head of the stone steps which lead downward. A lone lantern hangs from the arch of the stone roof and accurately placed, at the exact center of the top of the entrance, is a huge boulder in the shape of a keystone, set there by the Architect of all the earth many thousands of years ago."

No one can describe the beautiful shapes and designs to be found in the caverns. They must be seen to be appreciated fully and no matter how many caves one has seen, he will not regret the magic time spent here.

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