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FVM's 19 th Annual Ice Cream Social -- Always a Midsummer Favorite! 

Spend a summer Sunday afternoon in Fort Valley the way it was meant to be spent ... at the annual FVM ice cream festival! We're ready to go for Sunday, July 28th, from 2 pm to 5 pm at the Fort Valley Museum.

This popular annual event once again features five flavors of hand-dipped Garber's ice cream (including Cookies & Cream and GrapeNut!) while local musicians The Con Burch Trio will provide a backdrop of live, acoustic music at the Dorothy Corder Pavillion. Fort Valley Smokers BBQ will have food available, and beverages will be available for purchase.

The Old Brick Church will be open for public visits, but please remember that no food or drink is allowed inside of the building.

The Fort Valley Museum is located at the intersection of Fort Valley Rd. (VA Route678) and Dry Run Rd, about 14 miles northeast of Edinburg and 11 miles south of Waterlick on Route 55. Parking is available in front of the Old Brick Church and on the grounds of Trinity Church, where handicapped spots are located near the Pavilion. Overflow parking is directly across Fort Valley Rd. at the Church of God. Museum address: 8361 Fort Valley Rd. 



Fort Valley Museum at 50: The “Next Era” Begins

Thank you to Hank Zimmerman for our Pre-Season feature story! As we kick off our 50th Anniversary, we have many great things planned for the future of the Fort Valley Museum and we hope you'll come see us during our 2024 season.

~~~

On July 14th, 1974, a newly formed non-profit group launched a new museum here in Fort Valley, housed in a tiny brick building built several generations earlier by Daniel Munch.  Fort Valley Museum, Incorporated had taken ownership of the property in 1972, and after two years of hard renovation work, its doors were once again opened to the public, giving the historic building yet another role to play in the Fort Valley community. 


Fifty years later, the Fort Valley Museum has since established itself as a major part of the Fort Valley Community.  A legion of community volunteers have not only preserved and archived a huge part of Fort Valley history, but continue to develop new and innovative ways to interpret and make it available to all.  

During that time, says museum curator and board member Amy Jett, not only has the museum survived, it has thrived.  So there is a lot to celebrate during the museum’s 2024 50th anniversary year.

“We are going to kick it off with our annual volunteer appreciation dinner. We always invite all of our volunteers, all of our larger donors, anyone who has really contributed to the museum in recent history, we invite them to come,” she says. There will also be a variety of commemorative items for sale during the entire year, including a very special Christmas ornament that will be for sale throughout the season. She says that the sale of anniversary keepsakes is an important part of what is planned, “...because we've made it to 50. One of my goals is to financially make sure that we make it another 50.”

Amy says that she is a multi-generational Fort Valleian, tracing her roots back through two main family lines: Munch and the Ritenour, and she's also connected through marriage to families like the Lichliters, Burners, and Boyers. Amy's grandmother was born in the Daniel Munch house, and while her father and aunt were born in a hospital in Woodstock, they spent their formative years growing up in the Munch house before eventually moving on.

The Daniel Munch property has gone through a variety of community purposes over the decades, beyond its original function as a church.  In the 1940s, the church transformed into a community center, serving various purposes such as for indoor basketball games, as well as Girl Scout and Boy Scout meetings.  After the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) re-routed the Fort Valley Road to run very close to the building, the entrance door was relocated to the Dry Run Road side. The proximity of the re-routed Fort Valley Road is what helped facilitate its more diverse usage. 

After the building became a museum, it was often Maisie Cullers, living directly across the road, who was instrumental in providing visitors access to the building.

“She would sit out there on her porch waiting for people to show up. She would then go across the road and open the door for them, the visitors. So you know, at that time, there weren’t regular museum hours, there were just community members who were making sure that people were let in when they came by,” Amy says.

Then, as the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s decades passed, community interest in the old Munch church building seemed to be declining – or at least until a surge of new interest was generated by the debut of a big, new book about Fort Valley history.

Jeanette Ritenour had been a sort of “grass roots” historian who also happened to be a Fort Valley native. She had a remarkable vision to write a book about Fort Valley history, with much of it based on her own personal notes and recollections. Along with co-authors Meg and Jim Trott, who, at that time owned and lived in the Daniel Munch house, additional research was completed, and the result was Welcome to Fort Valley: The History and Culture of Virginia’s “Valley Within a Valley”.  The first printing quickly sold out.  After a number of subsequent printings, its popularity remains strong and it continues to be available for purchase. 

The authors’ work on their book project became intertwined with new, museum-related initiatives, as the valuable historical information they had gathered and compiled for the book became a means to organize new exhibits and archives at the museum. This collaborative effort further evolved into developing community engagement activities, now with several annual events that include an Ice Cream Social festival held every summer in July. At this point, things were looking good for the Fort Valley Museum.

Then a double blow was dealt as the world struggled with COVID and in 2020, a longtime museum volunteer and beloved curator, Dorothy Corder, passed away.

During the post-pandemic recovery, the museum members and trustees faced the challenge of clearing out the contents housed in a second building they had acquired in 2008, the Trinity Church building.  It had become overcrowded and much of the materials it housed became practically inaccessible, as the community continued to funnel in more and more historical family items. 

The archiving overload led Museum and community members to join forces, examining and judging the historical value of each item. They repurposed, donated, or disposed of the items accordingly, ensuring that only relevant artifacts remained for preserving the history of the Fort. This monumental task spanned more than a half of a year.

Simultaneously, a separate team of museum archivists, led by museum board vice president Lloyd Moss, tackled the job of cataloging the items that had survived the culling process. However, the existing cataloging system, which relied on a collection of index cards similar to the old Dewey decimal library system, was clearly not up to the job. Instead, the team opted to transition the form of paper-based museum records into a digital catalog. 

Not only has this new form of high-tech archives allowed for more efficient records management, it also has opened up online access for researchers, genealogists, family members – actually, anyone who has an interest in Fort Valley history and may be living in any part of the world.

With the completion of the cleanup and restoration project at the Trinity Church building, it’s once again accessible to the public. Most recently, the museum volunteers have introduced numerous new exhibits in that building, many of which highlight the rich history of longtime Fort Valley families. 

They've also established a reference library that’s dedicated to the memory of Jeanette Ritenour, and created a space for speakers and presentations. A pavilion on the church grounds was named in honor of Dorothy Corder. 

The revitalized Trinity Church building now serves not only as a museum but, along with its surrounding grounds and nearby Munch church building, also serves as a hub for community social functions. The museum is open May through October to allow people to come together, to learn and re-connect.

Amy’s museum connection is more than just a community volunteer opportunity. 

“I would say the number one thing really is the homage to my grandmother, Audrey Munch-Jett-Simpson. She was very meaningful to my life. She didn't pass away until I was in my ‘30s. And the reason why I know so much about the Fort, the reason why I understand my family history, the reason why I understand the landscape, the physical landscape of the Fort is because of her,” she says, “So I think that the number one thing is I think about the memory of my grandmother and that she, I think, would be proud of me being involved to keep this history.”

“The other thing is, is that I see that we need, and I don't consider myself to be the youth, but we need more younger people to be involved… If I come in, maybe I can inspire others of my age or around my age to come in and get involved. So that 20 years from now, the museum is still there and they'll be celebrating the 70-year anniversary of the museum.”

-by Hank Zimmerman

Fort Valley Book Available

Welcome To Fort Valley is available, and can be shipped.  

The book cost is $80.00. If you prefer to have it shipped, the shipping cost by USPS costs an additional $6.00 ($81.00 total for the book, plus shipping). Cash or check or credit card payments are available. Checks should be made out to"Fort Valley Museum."  Checks should be mailed to: Fort Valley Museum, PO Box 32, Fort Valley, VA  22652. If you wish to pay via credit card, please email us for an online invoice: fortvalleymuseum1830@gmail.com



Online Digital Archive Directly Accessible Via Our Home Page

You may have noticed the “Archive” option on the menu bar of our home page.  Fort Valley Museum volunteers continue scanning documents and photos and then cataloging them in our museum software.  This is a project that will go on for years so new documents and photos will be added regularly.  Interested in helping with this project? Send us a message with one of the “Send us feedback” links to inquire.

When you visit the Digital Archive landing page either by clicking the menu link at the top of the home page or by directly accessing it through fortvalleymuseum.org/archives. You will have several options to look at this content:

Random images - Archive - Photos - People 

We have watermarked downloaded images to protect the copyrights of our donors.  If you would like a copy of an image without the watermark, please make that request with the “Send Feedback” link and tell us what you plan to do with the image.


We are just getting started and there is much more to come!  



Oral Histories Now Available on New YouTube Channel

A new video channel has been created by Lloyd Moss to provide online access to a collection of recorded oral histories.  Check it out!






 

Fort Valley Museum, Inc., P.O. Box 32, Fort Valley, VA 22652

Fort Valley Museum, Inc., P.O. Box 32, Fort Valley, VA 22652