We on the Board of Directors of the Fort Valley Museum are extremely sad to announce that, like so many other community organizations, we have been forced to postpone our Annual Appreciation Dinner, originally scheduled for Wednesday, May 6, at the Fire Hall, until sometime in the autumn of 2020. The Museum’s traditional opening on Memorial Day Weekend will also be delayed until it is deemed safe for us to be open to the public. While we are very sad to have to take these steps, it seems essential to do so in this strange time of COVID-19. We hope that all of you are doing as well as possible and practicing appropriate social distancing and semi-isolation. Meanwhile, we on the Board will continue–at a distance from one another–to put together a new feature exhibit on “Fort Valley’s Schools through the 19th and 20th Centuries,” and to incorporate some exciting new donations into our Museum collections.
We had such wonderful plans in place for our Tenth Annual Appreciation Dinner! It was to have been held at the Fort Valley Fire Hall on Wednesday, May 6th, 2020, but must now be postponed until a suitable date in the fall of this year. The theme, “Celebrating the Fort Valley Elementary School, 1958-1995,” will feature former teachers Pete Clements, Carole Ritenour, and Nancy Stephens discussing their experiences. As always, the evening will begin with a social time from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m., followed by a catered dinner, the program honoring the memory of our school and celebrating its teachers, and an appreciation of volunteers. The short annual meeting of the Friends of the Museum and election of our officers will conclude the evening. Rest assured that we will be announcing all the details when we come out on the other side of this unprecedented time of crisis.
In a “normal” year, your Fort Valley Museum Board of Directors would be recapping our progress during the past year, discussing plans for the upcoming season, and to asking for your financial support to help the Museum meet its needs. As we all know, however, 2020 is far from normal. Most activities are curtailed because of the COVID-19 virus, and many institutions—including our own—will remain closed until it appears safe to again be open to the public.
Therefore, we want to: (1) to tell you how very appreciative the Museum is for your past generosity; and (2) to ask you to strongly consider directing your donations this year to community organizations that currently provide direct help to Fort Valley and Shenandoah County citizens. Their needs are critical in this difficult time. Although there are many fine charitable groups, we particularly recommend for your consideration the following local organizations dedicated to caring for the well-being of people in our community in various ways. On behalf of the Museum Board, I thank you in advance and wish you well.
• Fort Valley Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department, 7088 Fort Valley Rd., Fort Valley, VA 22652
• Matthew’s Food Pantry, 400 Blackhawk Lane, Fort Valley, VA 22652
• The Shenandoah Community Health Clinic, 124 Valley Vista Dr., Woodstock, VA 22664
• Response, Inc., serving victims of domestic violence and seeing an increased need for its services in this time of social distancing. Response, Inc., P. O. Box 287, Woodstock, VA 22652
Sincerely, John Gaunt President, Fort Valley Museum, Inc.
The entire Fort Valley community suffered a tremendous loss on March 4, 2020, when resident Bill Mantz passed away as the result of a tragic machinery accident. Bill–and his wife Jennifer–have been enthusiastic supporters of the Museum through the years, contributing time, labor, ideas, and financial help. Bill’s earth moving and landscaping skills made possible the building of our lovely pavilion and the “historically accurate” storage shed beside the Old Brick Church. He has always been available to give advice, and he and Jennifer put together the Faith Lutheran Church display at Trinity Church.
Our hearts go out to the Mantz family and indeed to our Fort community. It is difficult to picture a future without being able to ask for Bill’s advice. We’ve come to rely on his common sense, positive outlook, love of community and ready wit.
• Fort Valley Museum 2020 Season Opens – to be announced
• 15th Annual Ice Cream Social – Sun., July 26, 2:00-5:00 p.m.
• Museum’s Annual Appreciation Dinner – late September or early October
• “Christmas in October” – Sat. & Sun., October 30th & 31st
“Fort Valley Schools: Through the 19th and 20th Centuries” will be the subject of this year’s feature exhibit at the back of the Old Brick Church. Curator Dorothy Corder has put together a great collection of photos and information about our schools, ranging from the Civil War era through the closing of the Fort Valley Elementary School in 1995.
The center of the display is to feature pictures and commentary on that last elementary school, some of it provided by former teacher Carole Ritenour, Surrounding that will be brief histories and pictures of our small schools, among them those in the southern (Upper) end, St. David's Church, Edith, Oak Level, Golladay’s, Joppa, Kibler’s and Keller’s Schools), centrally located schools such as the Cross Roads and the Fort Valley Graded and High Schools, and ones in the northern (Lower) end like Dry Run, Promised Land, and Slate Hill. Fort schools were privately subscribed until after the passage of Virginia’s Public School Law in 1870. For more information, see the section on “Fort Valley Schools” by Jeanette Ritenour in Reflections: Early Schools of Shenandoah County (Shen. County Historical Society, 1995).
The Museum has a superb collection of over 100 Native American arrowheads and tools collected locally and organized by Fort native son Ralph Boyce (1911-1977). This is the gift of his son, Toby. We are currently researching approximate ages and values of a number of these artifacts.
Added to our collections for the coming season will be lots of new acquisitions from the Ritenour, Munch, and Funk Estates. Exhibits in the Fort Valley Museum continually change, and we’re always looking for better ways to honor and illustrate Fort Valley’s past. Please don’t hesitate to come forward with your ideas about possible new exhibits or ways to showcase what we have.
The Joseph Franklin Plauger pie safe, built by Elder William Peters when his sister, Catharine, married Joseph in 1866.
...and a collection of old Fort Valley Stores memorabilia.
Visit the Fort Valley Museum to see the latest additions and more! Exhibits in the Fort Valley Museum do change, and we’re always looking for better ways to honor and illustrate Fort Valley’s past. Please don’t hesitate to come forward with your ideas about new exhibits or better ways to showcase what we have.
In 1830, Fort Valley farmer Daniel Munch donated a two acre piece of land, which he specified be used for a church and school. He also asked that the church be known as a Free Church, one that was open to all Protestant denominations. It was here that The Old Brick Church, at Dry Run, was built. The one-room church was made of locally fired red bricks and featured an upstairs gallery built for slaves who might attend church with their masters. Over the next century, the church was home to at least five different denominations, and was in constant use. After the final congregation worshiping there built its own church in 1949, the Old Brick Church became a community meeting place.
By the 1970s, the building was becoming run-down. In 1972, the Old Brick Church trustees decided that the space should be used for a museum. The building was then re-deeded to the trustees of an entirely new community organization, the Fort Valley Museum, Inc. On the weekend of July 4, 1974 the Fort Valley Museum opened its doors to the public for the very first time. Since that time it has served the Fort Valley community by gathering, preserving, and showcasing items from its past. In 2004, under new leadership, the Museum was painted and spruced up. Its expanded activities included an Oral History program and the first Ice Cream Social. In December of 2008, the trustees of the Trinity Brethren Church generously deeded their church building and its surrounding property to the Museum. The Trinity Church space now houses displays on the history of Fort Valley Churches and organizations, an office, and the nucleus of an archive. Plans are under way for a “Hands-on Children’s Room” and a Genealogy Room.
The Fort Valley Museum is a bright and welcoming community museum that depicts Fort Valley’s past history. Exhibits include: The Church; The One-room School, The Fort’s 19th century Cold-blast Iron Furnaces (along with the history of cast iron stove plates found locally), The Seven Fountains Resort (1850-1888), The Home, The Farm, The Country Store, Music in the Fort, and a recently donated collection of local Shenandoah Valley Pottery.
In addition to the original Museum building, the Old Brick Church (circa 1830), the Trinity Brethren Church (1904) on Dry Run Road became a part of the Museum in 2008. This lovely old church is open to the public on special occasions and by request. It currently houses a religious and organizational history of the Fort, and a newly created spinning exhibit. In progress are a portrait room and an archive and genealogical resource room.
The Fort Valley Museum is open each Saturday and Sunday from Memorial Day Weekend through October.
Hours: 1:00-4:00 p.m. on Saturdays and 2:00-5:00 p.m. on Sundays.
8631 Fort Valley Road; the intersection of the main Fort Valley Road with Dry Run Road.
From Front Royal or Strasburg, take Rte. 55 to Rte 678, Fort Valley Road. Turn south on 678, travel about 10 miles. The museum is on the right at Dry Run Road. From Edinburg (U.S. 11 north), turn right (east) on Rte 675 to T-intersection at King’s Crossing. Turn left (north) on Rte. 678, go about 8 miles. The museum is on the left at Dry Run Road.
John Gaunt - President
Dorothy Corder - Vice President
Debbi Dellinger - Treasurer
Dianne Maggard and Meg Trott - Corresponding Secretaries
Dianne Maggard - Recording Secretary
Dorothy Corder - Curator
Meg Trott - Archivist
Philip Crisman, Jr.
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Website development and maintenance contributed by Hank Zimmerman