A few days ago, we drove up 340 thru Front Royal and then went sight seeing in other areas too. Today I needed a Starbucks to blog as I could not get fast enough internet to upload the photos. It was a beautiful drive again up here through the farms, forests and on curvy roads going up and down over the rolling valley. So I Googled Front Royal and here is the possible reason for the name.
The entire Shenandoah Valley including the area to become Front Royal was annexed and claimed for hunting by the Iroquois Confederation during the later Beaver Wars, by 1672. Some bands of the Shawnee settled in the area as client groups to the Iroquois and alternately to the Cherokee after 1721. The Iroquois formally sold their entire claim east of the Alleghenies to theVirginia Colony at the Treaty of Lancaster in 1744. Front Royal, originally settled in 1754 under the name LeHewtown, had been known to European explorers as early as the 1670s, and the nearby settlement of Chester’s Ferry was in existence by 1736. The town also had a well-known nickname by the 1790s, “Helltown,” due to the many livestock wranglers and boatmen on the Shenandoah coming through the area, who came into town looking for alcohol. It was incorporated as “Front Royal” in 1788.
The origin of the name “Front Royal” remains uncertain. One version holds that, in early decades of European settlement, the area was referred to in French as “le front royal,” meaning the British frontier.
At any rate Russ and I loved this Historical downtown and then moved on t0 see Belle Grove Plantation just south of Middletown. It is a 1797 plantation. Major Hite married President James Madison’s sister Nelly. Thomas Jefferson gave them suggestions for the fancier home they built later and you could really see his input. But the original footprint is lined by rock foundation-and it was a very small two story house. It seems Dolly and James Madison honey mooned with the Hites in the little house which included the 3 children. Anyway the Major got slaves from his wife’s dowry and really did well. The mansion only has one floor and the below ground floor that the slaves worked and cooked in. It was a sensational tour especially when you stepped on the front veranda and visualized the Union Army camped all across the acres in front. Union lost to Stonewall Jackson who pushed them north, but pushed back and took over again. This was part of the fight over this great bread basket that the South needed to hold onto. Sheridan then burned almost everything so that the south could not eat out of this beautiful area. Loved this history. Had tingles standing on the veranda and visualizing the troops, tents and fires that were going when the Confederates surprised the Union in the middle of the night-Cedar Creek Battle.
Only had a couple of hours for the city of Winchester-so we went to the historic down town blocks that has been set up nicely as a pedestrian mall. Found a bistro for lunch and sat out in perfect weather (today is 93) but that day was in the 80’s. Will say that Winchester was the first English speaking town west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the County was the military and political training ground for George Washington. During the Civil War the town changed hands 72 times. Puts the war in perspective here in Virginia.
I know, too much information, but I do not want to forget what we have seen and this is my best way to remember. Love you all and will get to the west despite tornados.