Hollow Full of Memories

This weekend we joined good friends for a quick getaway to the nearby Blue Ridge mountains and a stay at the Rosser Lamb House. The house was built in 1915 as the home of Hiram and Lucy Lamb and their nine children, and it is now one of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s primitive (no power or water) rental cabins. It is located in Lamb’s Hollow (of course), adjacent to Shenandoah National Park.

As you may know, Shenandoah National Park was created during the Great Depression, and the formation of the park resulted in people being forced by the government to relocate. More than five hundred families were pushed out, and many had been on land that they had occupied for generations. Entire communities were uprooted and moved to the east—including some to a subdivision in nearby Madison County called “Resettlement Road” (seriously).

In 1934, the Lamb family–which had been in that hollow since 1845–got the word that they needed to relocate. But in a twist of fate, the government ran out of funding for the park before the Lambs were forced to move. The park border stopped just short of the Lamb house, so they were able to keep their home–but they had lost their community. They stayed well into the 1960s, but times were certainly different after the park.

In 1995, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club acquired the house and its surrounding property and began what became a 17-year project to restore it. The house has been described by a park historian as “a tribute to a mountain family living out the American dream in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.” And a fine tribute it is.

As for the present day, we spent our weekend hiking and enjoying the surroundings–but also trying to imagine life here some 100 years ago.

Our visit was made even more memorable by some family history that was shared with us by Larry Lamb, a sixth generation member of the family and a volunteer with the Blue Ridge Heritage Project, and Kristie Kendall, who is a historian with the Piedmont Environmental Council.

Larry and Kristie were incredibly gracious in sharing the history of the house and the surrounding area, and both of their organizations are doing amazing work.

A mill on the Lamb property. Photo courtesy of Larry Lamb

Larry’s father, Thurman, was born in the house in 1925, and Larry visited the house often as a kid. He shared that his grandparents, Rosser and Rosetta Lamb, were “kind, humble people who loved the mountains and their home.” There were also stories of corn growing on the hillside, a smokehouse, a big garden, and family gatherings that featured banjo music and dancing the Virginia Reel.

As for food during our trip, we tried to use recipes that we thought might be common back in Rosser and Rosetta Lamb’s day. Cherry trees were popular in the Blue Ridge, so we made a cherry pie. The Lambs made sorghum molasses, so we baked molasses cookies and muffins. They grew corn, so we had corn on the cob. They likely ate wild ramps, so we had some ramps. The streams in the park had (and still have) wild trout, so we made a trout dip. They had a smokehouse, so we smoked some fish.

Of course, it’s a lot easier when you get your food from the local supermarket and keep it on ice in a giant cooler—a little different than in Rosser and Rosetta Lamb’s day.

Later on our trip, we visited Far Pocosin Mission, which is about a two mile hike from the house. The Mission was founded in 1902, and historians describe it as the center of the community at the time. Now, 115 years later, it is slowly fading into the forest–but there are old foundations, stairs, and chimneys that are still visible. Rosser Lamb attended church at the Mission, and his children went to school there.

I’ve enjoyed hiking and backpacking in and around Shenandoah National Park for more than 30 years now, and I confess that I haven’t always thought much about the human history. But we found the house and the Mission to be powerful reminders of the people that were here before the park. The house is a fine tribute to the Lamb family, and to a lot of other families that lived in the neighboring hollows. I really can’t imagine what it must have been like for those that were forced to leave.

Lastly, it turns out that Pocosin Mission was founded by a very distant relative of mine, Frederick William Neve, a fact which was fascinating to me—but was either irrelevant or annoying to Souzz and our friends. After all, how many times can you listen to someone say “hey, I’m related to the guy that built this!” without wanting to scream?

Actually, I know that answer, and it’s four.

8 thoughts on “Hollow Full of Memories

  1. This is a really nice piece of writing and a tribute to what Greene County has to offer in the way of documenting its history. You were fortunate to meet and hear from Larry Lamb, local historian who documents so much with words and photographs and now monuments to those who were unceremoniously moved off the mountains. Thanks again for such a nice article and for sharing it with others. I saw it on Facebook. Bill Martin

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Bill! I was indeed lucky to get connected to Larry Lamb, and our visit was much more meaningful to us knowing a little bit of the history. I am glad that there are people and organizations that are working hard to help us remember those families.

  2. Thanks for the lovely article. The next time you visit the mountain stop by our farm, Cair Paravel, right by Split Rock on Pocosan Mountain and get some food raised right on the mountain! Martha and Whitt

  3. I stumbled on this article today doing a bit of Neve FH. My wife is a Neve and is a clearly delineated relation of Frederick of Ivy. We visited Ivy and the lovely church in 2008. I have copied the photo of Frederick in the car but if you have other copies of photos I would be really interested to see them. Can you tell me your lineage to Frederick – are you a Neve?

    1. Thanks for reaching out! The photo of Frederick Neve is by way of Larry Lamb through the Blue Ridge Heritage Project (http://www.blueridgeheritageproject.com/) and was used with permission. BHRP is doing fantastic work in keeping these memories alive, and they may well have other photos of Frederick Neve. If so, I’m sure they’d love to learn of your interest and connection! I am not a Neve, but my maternal grandmother is a Neve, born in Savannah, Georgia around 1887. As best as I can tell, my connection is very distant…but I still appreciated the history and we found our visit to the Mission to be very interesting and meaningful. Thanks again for reading and commenting!

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