Friday, March 2, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Chimneys Remain

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt featuring a man surrounded by children inspired me to take another look at this photo:

Henry Timber Frazier with grandchildren and cousins Greene County, VA about 1920
photo courtesy John and Janet Thompson
Back: Thomas Shiflett, Henry Timber Frazier, Mickelberry Roach, Nora Roach, Della Frazier
Center: Maggie Shiflett in the white hat
Front: Lewis Frazier, Delmus Frazier, Alex Frazier, Unknown, Mary Shiflett, Elzie McCauley, Othel Frazier

Not only is the man surrounded by children, they are all wearing hats too, save the little girl atop the fence.

This is Henry Timber Frazier - my first cousin four times removed - with some of his grandchildren and the grandchildren of some of his brothers. Henry Timber was the third of eight children born to Miley Frazier and Virenda Jane Shiflett in 1849.

At the age of 24, Miley married Eliza Lawson, 19, of Rockingham County. Together they raised about 14 or 15 children. Built-in farmhands, you might say. And they needed every hand. Henry Timber and his father Miley amassed over 1000 acres of farm and mountain land along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Albemarle and Greene counties.

Obviously the day this photo was taken was a happy day for the Frazier clan. It was probably about 1920, roughly ten years before the fall of the American economy, roughly ten years before the government put people to work in programs like WPA and CCC, roughly ten years before the Fraziers and their neighbors were forced off their land by the government to make way for the creation of Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive.

Some families to this day are still bitter about the way their grandparents were treated by the government. Others have found a way to honor them. The Blue Ridge Heritage Project is a grass-roots effort to develop a monument in each county where land was acquired to create the park. Through the monuments, living history presentations, exhibits, and demonstrations, volunteers hope to educate visitors about the lives and culture of those who lived in the mountains before the park.

Chimney from the former Haney
farm in Greene County, VA
The monument is in the form of a chimney. Anyone who has driven in the country has no doubt spied a lone chimney in a field, or maybe even opposing chimneys. When houses burn or fall to decay, chimneys remain. Chimneys - where fireplaces once provided warmth and a place to prepare the family meal. Chimneys - the hearth and heart of the home. Chimneys remain as reminders that people once lived.

In each of the 8 counties, families have donated stones from old chimneys of homes that once stood on their property. In Greene County, most of the stones are from an old Haney farm.

Stanardsville, Greene Co, VA Chimney
This is the monument in Stanardsville,
Greene county. The quilt covered the
plaque prior to the dedication ceremony.

In Rockingham County the stone comes from the home of Peter Wyant, my 4g grandfather, whose family lived in the Beldor community just outside Shenandoah National Park. A visit to this chimney will be especially meaningful for my family.

Wyant cabin Beldor, VA
photo courtesy of Jan Hensley
The Peter Wyant cabin in Beldor, VA

Wyant stone on chimney in Rockingham Co, VA
Chimney under construction using Wyant stone
Elkton, Rockingham County, VA
To bring this story full circle, Henry Timber Frazier had a distant connection to the Wyants. His wife’s aunt Elizabeth Lawson was married to David Wyant, son of Peter Wyant.

Names of families displaced from the mountain will be remembered forever because they are engraved on brass plaques attached to the front of each chimney. But the Frazier name is also memorialized in another way: The Frazier Discovery Trail. A short trail along the Skyline Drive takes hikers along the pastures that once belonged to Henry Timber Frazier and his father Miley.

Grab the kids and hike on over to Sepia Saturday. Don’t forget your hat!

© 2018, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. What a lovely way to honour past residents of the land with a chimney as a monument.

  2. Mickleberry, Othel, Delmus are all new names to me. With so many kids, I guess they had to be creative. There's something phoenix-like about the monuments made from the chimneys. As usual, a most interesting post.

  3. Such unique and memorable monuments! They remind me of the Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City, in which a donated Irish stone house was re-constructed to show a typical home before the Famine. How wonderful to have a family photo connecting your heritage to the historic Blue Ridge Mountains region.

  4. That's great that the chimneys have become monuments...though built at convenient places where folks can visit, rather than on the foundations which often still exist. I am glad that a few that do still exist around here are known to those neighbors who drive by, and they can say, "That was the home of the original owners of the land that we built our home on up the mountain...they farmed tobacco."

  5. That's a terrific idea to commemorate old family times. It's a universal feeling that the hearth is the home, but what will future generations use? The microwave 3-D food printer?

  6. I really like the idea of making chimneys into memorials. Fireplaces and chimneys are a sign of life having been lived beside them.

  7. I love it. You do what I love best of all - you take an old image and preserve it in history. It is a kind of hymn in praise of old photos. Sepia Saturday at its best

  8. Great post! Two summers ago, my uncle took me to the little town where he grew up and showed me the lot where my great-grandparents had their home. I didn't climb through the barbed wire fence and with the overgrowth, I almost missed it - the chimney of their house still stands. So glad I took a second look before we drove away.

  9. Oh Wendy you have quite the eye! Bravo I like how you took this! Great captures too!

  10. Absolutely fascinating Wendy. I had no idea. I know some of my husband's ancestors had to give up their land so a dam could be built at the back of the Gold Coast. In previous droughts, when the water level has dropped, you can see the rooves of the old houses.

  11. This is a fantastic idea for a monument. And it reminds me of what whole neighborhoods look like around here following the fires of last October. You drive through blocks and blocks and all you see are chimneys and burned trees. It still looks like a war zone so many months later.

  12. I love the old chimneys! And I love how you tied it into your Sepia Saturday post. Well done!

  13. A fascinating story linking family history and local history - I had no idea about the land grabs that took place then, and congratulations to the local community to ensuring this will not be forgotten with their unique Chimney Monument. I love the distinctive names of the children - is there such a fruit as a Mickelberry and what is the origin of Delmus and Othel?

  14. What an imaginative way to remember the former residents, and especially poignant given one of those families was your own.

  15. I knew nothing of this terrible displacement.Such acts were simply wrong & it's good that these acts are remembered & passed on as a warning.Government is supposed to represent people,not dictate.
    What happened to family reminds me of Scotland's Clearances

  16. I always learn something from geneabloggers but this was a real eye-opener. I always assumed that National Parks were wilderness areas, how disappointing. I am glad that the descendants are making their ancestors known.