The Past Comes Alive in Many Ways in Patrick County, Virginia

      

 

   One place that my wife Fyllis and I visited promised a “luxury boutique” which has won accolades as among the best resorts in the country.  The other invited us to “Experience the simple life.”

 

   These very different settings stretch along the Virginia-North Carolina border.  Together, Patrick County, Virginia and the Primland resort offer an inviting getaway with eclectic appeal. 

 

   Primland combines touches of elegance with a friendly, casual atmosphere, and opportunities to enjoy activities not found at many resorts. 

 

   The surrounding area of Patrick County offers an immersion in a locale where people cling proudly to their strong Appalachian heritage and colorful past.

 

   Much traffic in the region consists of trucks carrying freshly downed trees, horse trailers and an occasional plow heading for a farm. 

 

   Country stores left over from earlier times attracted our attention and, in some cases, our cash.  We were experiencing the lure, and lore, of Appalachia—which, we learned, should be pronounced app-uh-laitch-uh.  This place is as much a lifestyle as a destination.

 

   The rambling Poor Farmers Market lives up, and down, to its claim to be an “Old Fashioned Country Store.” Homemade jams, jellies cakes and pies share shelf space with bags of grits, barrels of beans and sacks of locally grown fruit. 

 

   Jams, jellies and a taste of history tempt those who stop at the Mayberry Trading Post.  Corn cob pipes, wooden toys and quilt patches serve as reminders that the store opened in 1892 and once served as the local post office. 

 

   Some flour sold at the Trading Post was ground at Mabry Mill, which has been in operation since 1905.   The water-driven gristmill is the main attraction along a walking path that also leads to a blacksmith shop, tiny cabin, moonshine whisky still and early farm implements.

 

   While most people who lived in the area toiled and died in anonymity, Patrick County had its share of those who went on to become well known.  One was James Ewell Brown Stuart, better known as J.E.B. 

 

   He spent his early years on a plantation and, after graduating from the Unites States Military Academy, served in the U.S. Cavalry.  When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, Stuart resigned his commission and eventually commanded the Army of Northern Virginia’s cavalry forces. 

 

   This story is told at Stuart’s birthplace and family home.  Its 75 acres contain family graves dating back to 1780 and a slave cemetery. 

 

   A very different type of plantation is recalled at the Reynolds Homestead, home of the founder of the tobacco company that bears his name.  He gained fame, and fortune, as the first major marketer of cigarettes. 

 

   Construction of the Victorian home began in 1843 and included a separate kitchen, milk house, ice house and other structures that still stand.   A hand-hewn barn represents the sheds where tobacco leaves were hung to dry.

 

   In addition to brick, native field stones were used as construction material and six lovely “rock churches,” dating to the early 20th century, are dotted around the area.  The Mayberry and Slate Mountain Presbyterian Churches, the two I dropped by, are nearby neighbors.   Those who wish to visit all of them may follow a scenic backroads tour route.

 

   Depending upon when they make the trip, visitors are treated to sounds of gospel which, along with other musical genres, play an important role in the Appalachian culture.  Settlers from Europe in the 18th century arrived with their instruments, dances and songs and a strong musical tradition was born.  Over time it evolved into bluegrass, country and other home-grown melodies.

 

  Today, music is everywhere.  Scheduled performances are augmented by pop-up sessions that can occur at almost any time and any place.   As Fyllis and I passed a restaurant one afternoon in Stuart, the miniscule county seat, four men had gathered inside to jam with their guitars and banjos.

 

   Stuart was named for the Civil War general, and is a stop along the Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.  Two sections of the tiny town are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  They fit comfortably into a destination that combines a rich history with many charms of the past.

      

   If you go.  A stay at the somewhat quirky Uptown Suites of Stuart adds to the immersion in the destination.  The five accommodations are located on the second floor of a building that was constructed in 1928 to provide office space.  They include a living room, kitchen and the usual amenities.  Rates begin at $95.   For more information log onto uptownsuitesofstuart.com.

 

   When it comes to dining, El Rancho restaurant) is a favorite among locals seeking burritos, fajitas and other authentic Mexican cuisine.   Its lengthy menu also includes a variety of shrimp, chicken and beef entrees ($9.95-$14.95).  The atmosphere is inviting and the waitstaff pleasant. 

 

  The place for breakfast, early lunch and some down-home flavor is The Coffee Break Café.  A full breakfast (egg, bacon, potato and pancake) costs $5 and a giant-size cup of coffee is just $1.    The walls are covered by photos of music groups and diners sometimes eat to the sounds of locals taking part in an impromptu jam session.  

 

   To learn more about Patrick county log onto visitpatrickcounty.org. 

 

  

 

 

 

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