A stone's throw: Tiny town offers rich culture

Monticello absorbs a lot of local and tourists’ attention and rightly so. But many other area attractions warrant a closer look. A short distance from the downtown Charlottesville business hub of shopping and dining, central Virginia has much to offer. Learning more about where we live enhances both our appreciation of it and our desire to protect its historical significance. However you look at it, Virginia’s contribution to all things American is undeniable.
Schuyler’s popularity ebbs and flows along with the James River. Like Sauk Center, Iowa (birthplace of Sinclair Lewis and the setting of his scathing novel, Main Street), Schuyler’s current claim to fame seems to rest upon being the hometown of a famous writer. Earl Hamner Jr. and his nearly fictitious family, the Waltons, began as Earl’s own family in Schuyler. But they, and almost the entire town, probably could not have existed without the soapstone factory where Earl Hamner Sr. worked. Having gone through its own bouts of popularity, the New World Stone Company is again up and running and producing beautiful and functional soapstone pieces.
The power to run the factory came from the Schuyler Dam, another cultural point of interest. Down the James River sits Howardsville. The proverbial “Don’t blink or you’ll miss it” joke was probably coined here. Appropriately, Howardsville was known for its bank whose paper money was beginning to circulate in 1861. Popularizing paper images, they used pictures of Native Americans, women, and African Americans on this currency– ironically, the very members of society who never used the money.
A walking tour of the Schuyler Dam and Howardsville, as well as a stop at the New World Stone Company, sponsored by the Wintergreen Nature Foundation takes place Wednesday, August 28. Join volunteer Mike Williams as he shares the cultural history behind these lesser-known attractions.

Registration is required by noon Tuesday, August 27. Meet at the Trillium House at Wintergreen Resort by 9:30am. $10 non-members of Wintergreen. Bring lunch and plenty of water. Route 151 in Nellysford. 434-325-7451.

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