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A short story by Etta Belle Walker


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

The question is often asked as to the origin of the unusual name of the town of Luray. Legend disagrees as to its derivation. There are some who claim it came from the name of an early settler, Lewis Ramey. He was familiarly known as Lew Ramey and the contraction Lew Ray might have followed naturally. The site of Ramey's little log cabin is at the corner of Main and Court streets.

Some citizens of the town insist that the Huguenots who escaped from France and finally migrated to the Valley named the new settlement Lorraine after their province in France and that Luray is a corruption of the former name.

There are reminders near this town of former years of struggle. During the French and Indian War the settlers decided upon building "cellar forts" for protection against Indian raids. These cellars dug under the log homes were large enough for living quarters and were generally supplied with a spring of water. They were so constructed with rocks serving as a ceiling that even in case of fire in the house proper, the occupants of the cellar would be unhurt. Several of these ingenious little fortifications remain in Page County, Rhodes Fort and the Egypt House being good examples of them.

In the Hawksbill neighborhood, not far from Luray, there lived a long time ago John Stone and his family. In 1758 the Indians came to his home while he was away. They had little difficulty in carrying off Mrs. Stone and her baby, a son about eight years old and another boy, George Grandstaff, who was sixteen.

The marauders sacked other residences in the neighborhood and killed a number of persons. It is possible that when they set out for their own settlements some distance off they found Mrs. Stone's progress impeded because of carrying the baby. At any rate, they murdered those two and continued on their way with the boys.

Three years later Grandstaff escaped as their prisoner and returned to Mr. Stone. Young Stone remained with the savages for a number of years and when he did come home he sold his father's property and with the money in his pockets he went back to the Indian village. No one ever heard of him afterwards.

Luray was laid out in 1812 by William Staige Marye, son of Peter Marye, who built the first turnpike--a toll-road--to cross the Blue Ridge from Culpeper into the Shenandoah Valley. Near Luray is the Saltpetre Cave. During the War Between the States the Confederates established a nitrate plant there and used the products in their manufacture of ammunition.

One of the most beautiful drives in Virginia is that leaving Luray, crossing the mountain and entering the Valley Pike at New Market.

Of particular importance to this section are the Luray Caverns. An entertaining history is attached to them. As far back as 1793 there was knowledge of the existence of the caves, for Joseph Ruffner's son had explored several passages just about this time. Ruffner's property took on the name of Cave Hill.

The Ruffners were among the largest landowners in the Valley, their property extending twelve miles on both sides of Hawksbill Creek. They received a part of the land through inheritance and bought other tracts. Dr. Henry Ruffner, a member of this distinguished family, was at one time President of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University at Lexington.

Fighting during the War Between the States occurred near the town of Luray and about two miles south on the Lee Highway there is an old oak tree which marks the place where Sheridan's famous Valley ride was halted for a time.

There are interesting landmarks remaining in the town today which have witnessed the pageant of history, among the most pretentious being "Aventine." This home originally occupied the present site of the Mymslyn Hotel.

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Etta Belle Walker's short story: Luray