Copied from Clifton Forge Review (Frenger & Vicars, Editors, June 1896)
This is an article written by Oliver Green Humphries
SKETCH OF RICH PATCH
Elsewhere in the Review, we published an article relating to Rich Patch. It contains a number of interesting facts concerning the location, resources and citizenship of that favored locality.
The article was kindly furnished by Mr. Oliver Green Humphries, son of Charles L. Humphries and brother of C.W. Humphries of Clifton Forge. The Humphries family is intimately associated with the early settlement of the Rich Patch area. The grandfather of the writer of the sketch we printed, Jesse Humphries, may yet be remembered by some readers of the Review
Will allow us a small space in your paper for a short description of one of the most famous parts of Alleghany County, known as Rich Patch Valley.
About 150 or 160 years ago, a man named Montgomery was clearing the first spot of land in this valley and he saw approaching him a small squad of Indians. He became alarmed, dropped his working tools and sought a hiding place. The Indians came up to where he had been working, picked up the implements, gave a loud "whoop", laid them down again and went on their way. This spot of land lies in the eastern part of the valley, and was then, and has ever since been called Rich Patch field1, from which this valley derived its name. It is now owned by Messers. Madison and Samuel Hook.
This valley is in the eastern part of Alleghany County. It is longitudinal, lying northeast and southwest. The Rich Patch or Big Mountain as it is sometimes called, borders it on the southeast and various smaller mountains border it on the northwest. It average width is about 3 miles2, and its length, beginning at the line between Alleghany and Craig countries, near Nicholas Knob3 its northeastern extension is about 10 miles. With the exception of about two miles of the central part of the valley it is generally well watered.
From the sides of Rich Patch flow some of the purest waters known in any land. One of these springs called the "Bear Wallow Spring" is especially pure and bold; and sometimes during a freshet assist sending forth a large and dangerous current. The dryness of the central part of the valley is not due to an insufficient amount of water afforded by the mountain springs, but to the open condition of the earth, the streams rising and then sinking as is often the case in limestone formations. As a depth of fifty or sixty feet in the valley is underlaid with a layer of limestone overlaying the solid clay which is sufficient for holding water. Hence we suppose that all the good water that passes through underneath this limestone mingles and bursts forth in the southwest part of the valley, forming what is known as "Blue Spring Run", which empties into Potts Creek4.
While we are at a disadvantage as to water, we have the advantage of the surface of the land, which is the most level portion of the valley, yet plenty of rolling land is found. A large amount of the area is under cultivation, and our agriculture resources are unsurpassed by another section of the county, producing the best of wheat, hay, oats, corn, rye, buckwheat, potatoes and all garden vegetables which may be raised in a temperate climate. Its fruit products are apples, peaches, pears, grapes, damsons, plums, quinces and a great variety of berries.
The mountain sides and uncleared part of the valley are covered with excellent timber. In places, however, a part of the chestnut oak has been cut for tan bark and hauled to the Covington tannery.
Good buildings are found in the valley, most of the land owners having erected new frame houses; but here and there may still be found the primitive log house - - the oldest log cabins in the land.
We have two stores in the eastern part run by Mr. W.C. Barger, and one in the western part by D.M. Humphries and Son. The Rich Patch post office is at the store of W.C. Barger and Clift post office is at the store of D.M. Humphries and Son. We have one church. It is located at Hook's store and has been built several years at a cost of about twelve hundred dollars5.
Divine services, however, are held occasionally at Dark Hollow school house6, near the residence of Rev. William Allen Humphries and at the Simmons school house, near Nicholas Knob
There are five ministers of the gospel who administer spiritually to our people, namely;
Rev. J.D. Mayes, of the M.E. Church; Rev. Frank Rickett, of the M.E. Church south; Rev. Mr. Paisley, of the Presbyterian Church; and Rev. S.F. Chapman and Rev. John B. Davis, of the Baptist faith.
The total population of our little village is 447. There are 89 families living in the valley. There are 77 fathers, 85 mothers, 52 young ladies, and 44 young men. Of the above numbers, 30 fathers, 55 mothers, 10 young men, and 30 young ladies are church members.
There are 17 widows and 7 widowers. There are five persons, four of which have reached four score and ten years, and one aged 79 years. The name of these are as follows: Mrs. Barbara Tingler, age 87; Mr. Madison Hook, 84 years; Mrs. Delila Fridley, 82 years; Mrs. K.L. Evans, 81 years; and Mr. Jack Stull is 79 years of age. Many others have reached three score years.
My aged friends, are you ready to cross over the river of death? Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God, St. John 3:3.
There are five cemeteries or burial grounds in our midst where sleep our sainted dead.
They are located as follows: One at C.M. Stull's, one at J.R. Stull's, one at the Hannah Stull place, one at C.L. Humphries' and one at the Jamison place. We may hereafter give a brief account of these sacred spots. "Ye living men, come view the ground where you must shortly lie."
We have two mills, Hooks Mill on Roaring Run and the grist mill of Emory B. Humphries. We also have a blacksmith shop and two butchers, A.M. Stull butchering for the Low Moor Iron Company; and Hugh Payne Humphries for the Rich Patch Iron Company.
The land owners of the valley are the Stull families, the Hooks, Persingers, Fridleys, the Bush people, the Humphries', Willards, Sullender, Noble, Evans, Hamlet, Simmon, Arrington, Byers, Redman, Taylor and Wolfe. Besides the above land owners, there is a list of 31 who live here on rented land.
The writer would say in winding up that we have six gentlemen who have reached the age of 30 years, who remain unmarried. This should not be, especially when there are so many young and deserving ladies to be had in our land.
There are also four young ladies in our midst who have each reached a quarter of a century in years. Let these be up and doing! This is "leap year", girls, and if you take advantage of your prerogative we know the Review will be called upon to announce a marriage or two in the near future.
Written by Oliver Green Humphries
Footnotes by Ted "TJ" Humphries, Jr.
1. This is believed to be the field diagonally across from Rich Patch Union Church.
2. A slight exaggeration.....not as the crow files but maybe if you walked from one mountain top down
thru the valley and up to the other mountain top.
3. Currently referred to on maps and by locals as Nichol's Knob. Possibly a typo error.
4. To this day, well drillers are reluctant to come to Rich Patch to drill due to the many limestone
caves and resulting lost drill bits
5. This is the current Rich Patch Union Church located at the crossroads of Rich Patch Road and
Roaring Run Road.
6. Mountain Valley UMC was built a couple of years later, approx. 1899, directly across the gravel road from the school house - - parts of the school house foundation and the old well pump remained until the 1970's when the land was re-landscaped. The school house was called Dark Hollow in reference to an extremely deep, and therefore dark and shady hollow, located just to the west of the school, whose western end lies near the headwaters of Blue Spring Run.
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