By Bob Heafner © 1984-2012
Issue: February, 1984
“Heart of the Blue Ridge” is a term familiar to most of our regular readers but for those of you reading The Mountain Laurel for the first time this month, I’d like to explain this term. The Blue Ridge Parkway and The Skyline Drive together ride the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains a combined distance of just 574 miles. Between milepost 181 and 182 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is the exact center of this incredibly beautiful scenic drive, thus the label “Heart of the Blue Ridge.”
This area of the Blue Ridge Parkway is in Virginia and has remained relatively untouched by the commercialization which has ruined so many of our beautiful mountain areas. Here, the pace of life is still a little slower than most places and rather than resorts, we have unspoiled natural beauty. The surrounding counties offer peace and quiet, interrupted only by rippling streams and abundant wildlife. Perhaps I should caution you before going any further that my view of this area is prejudiced, for you cannot love a place more than I love this one. Here within a radius of 50 miles, is a variety of natural beauty that is no less than astounding. From waterfalls to mountain top vistas, from peaceful valleys to old country stores, this area is a part of the American past preserved naturally.
Our tour this month encircles the very center of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, yet we will only travel little mountain BACKROADS. In less than 15 miles distance, we will travel through three counties: Patrick, Floyd, and Carroll Counties, Virginia. We’ll pass through farms still operated by descendants of the area’s first settlers, by streams where trout are still native and we will pass through time to Mayberry, Virginia. Mayberry is located between milepost 180 and 181 on the Parkway, less than a mile north of the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive center point.
We will begin on US Highway 58 Business, at Meadows of Dan, Virginia, where state road 614 intersects with US 58 Business. State road 614 is less than 100 yards east of, and parallel to, the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our tour requires less than an hour to complete and covers only 14.7 miles, but I would recommend at least half a day.
BACKROADS tours always make a complete loop back to the point where we started. The underlined numbers at the beginning of each paragraph indicate the total number of miles we've traveled from our point of beginning. The numbers in parenthesis ( ) indicate the distance from the last point of interest that we passed.
00.0 (0.0) Heading west on US Highway 58 through Meadows of Dan, Virginia, we will begin our tour by turning left onto state road 614. This intersection is located between the two story white building where the Country Whale Craft Shop and Parkway Fashion Outlet are located and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
[Update 2011 – The two-story building is no longer white and the Country Whale and Parkway Fashion Outlet have long since been replaced by other businesses.]
00.7 (0.7) State Road 601 [Bent Road] turns left here but we will continue straight ahead on state road 614. State road 601 dead ends in 4.2 miles at the entrance to Talbott Dam. This is a remote mountain lake owned by the City of Danville, Virginia, which is approximately 50 miles from here. It is part of a hydroelectric system built during the 1930’s. It offers excellent fishing and canoeing, but no motor boats are allowed. Access is permitted but first you must secure a pass on a per day basis. For more information about acquiring a pass, you may call (276) 251-5141.
If you’re in the area and would like to see the lakes, you may park at the gate at the end of the road and walk down to the dam. (This also applies to the Townes Dam mentioned further along in this article.) According to Phillip Slate, the Hydro-Electric Plant Manager, a pass is required for those wishing to walk down and see the dam and beautiful lake. For those wishing to write for passes or further information, you may address your inquiries to: The City of Danville, Electric Department, Danville, Va. 24541.
01.4 (0.7) An upcoming article in The Mountain Laurel will tell of this rustic new building on our right. It is to be an old time woodworking shop specializing in wooden coffins. This area was once known as Tobax and a post office was once located up the hollow to our left.
01.8 (0.4) Here we cross over Round Meadow Creek. This is an excellent stocked trout stream. If you look to your right, up the creek, you can see the Round Meadow Bridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This bridge towers over the creek far below.
02.1 (0.3) Here we turn right onto state road 602.
02.6 (0.5) The three homes facing this small lake are surely among the most picturesque to be found in this area. The large white home with the small log cabin behind it was once the home of Mr. Ceph Scott, who donated the land for the Mayberry Presbyterian Church. Mr. Scott once ran the Mayberry Trading Post and was Postmaster of Mayberry. This is a beautiful old two story farm home and dates back to the turn of the century.
02.8 (0.2) On our right is a part of Preacher Bob Childress’ legacy to the mountains, Mayberry Presbyterian Church. (See article in January issue) Across the road from the church, on our left, once stood the Mayberry School. Only a sharp eye can still detect evidence of the old school site.
03.2 (0.4) Mayberry Trading Post is on our right. The small white building beside the Trading Post was once used by Bill and Charlie Monroe, the now famous bluegrass musicians, for a performance. It is said that here, in front of Mayberry Trading Post, they had a falling out and this was the last place they ever performed together.
The Trading Post is now operated by 82 year old Addie Wood. It once was a US Post Office. Miss Addie makes apple butter in the fall and no trip through Mayberry would be complete without stopping to chat with Miss Addie and the other folks who congregate here. This is one place you can always count on a smile and between Miss Addie and 85 year old Coy O. Yeatts, who drops by most every day, you can get an answer to almost any question. And it’ll be right more times than not, I’ll guarantee. Mayberry was probably the inspiration for the fictional community made famous by the popular Andy Griffith TV program. Mr. Griffith was a native of Mount Airy, North Carolina, which is about 30 miles from here.
[Update 2011 – Miss Addie Wood passed away June 1, 2004 at the age of 102. Dale Yeatts, Miss Addie’s niece, now operates the Mayberry Trading Post and the atmosphere is still the same and Dale is one of those special people everyone will enjoy meeting.]
When we leave Mayberry Trading Post, we will turn right onto state road 634 and proceed on across the Parkway, staying on road 634.
03.3 (0.1) Just after crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway, a driveway turns right; between it and the Blue Ridge Parkway once stood the L. E. Scott Blacksmith Shop. L. E. Scott was the eldest son of Simon Scott. It’s gone now but one can only imagine how Mayberry must have appeared in the first quarter of this century. At that time, the Blue Ridge Parkway was not here and a chestnut orchard covered the hillside in front of the Trading Post. The community was alive with activity as we will see on up the road a ways.
03.4 (0.1) Across the field to our right is an old weathered granary. This was once the site of Simon Scott’s brickyard. Just to the right of the granary is a large apple tree. This is where Mr. Scott operated his tannery. (See accompanying article.) The large white house beyond the tannery and granary was Simon Scott’s home. Directly across the road, on our left, from the house was where Mr. Scott had his shop. Hurricane Hill is the large ridge on our left.
04.0 (0.6) This area was once called the Glade Swamp, but that was many years ago.
04.1 (0.1) The old driveway leading through the woods on our right was once a public road. It was known as the Dickerson Road and before US 58 was built, it led to Pike City. (See December 1983, BACKROADS tour.) It is no longer in use.
04.2 (0.1) On our left is the Barnard family dairy. The Barnard’s were some of the very first settlers to this area.
04.4 (0.2) Across the field on our left is the site where Tyra (Tiria) Barnard first settled in 1835.
04.6 (0.2) About a quarter of a mile off the road on our left is where the counties of Patrick, Carroll and Floyd meet. There is a large cornerstone marking the exact spot. The Barnard family cemetery is also on our left here. Also, at this spot we will enter Floyd County and leave Patrick. Just up the road a short distance we will leave Floyd and enter Carroll.
04.8 (0.2) At this stop sign state road 634 turns right but we will turn left onto state road 610. This road is known locally as the Bankstown Road.
05.3 (0.5) Reed Island Springs Baptist Church is located to our right. Between the road and the church is the Bankstown Trading Post. I’ve never had an opportunity to visit, but Mr. Coy Yeatts estimates that it was built, “Long about the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.”
05.5 (0.2) Here, where state road 616 intersects with state road 610, was the approximate location of the “Rorrer Store and Post Office.” We will continue on state road 610.
07.2 (1.7) On our right is where Mr. Wayman Banks has his woodworking shop. Mr. Banks is a retired contractor who now devotes much of his time to building grandfather clocks or similar woodworking items. On the left of state road 610 is the New Bellspur Primitive Baptist Church.
07.5 (0.3) The old store on our right was once known as the Willie Shelor Store.
07.6 (0.1) The small stream passing under the road here is Reed Island Creek. This little stream develops into a 200 feet wide river just north of Hillsville, Virginia, which is less than 30 miles away.
07.9 (0.3) Here we will go through an underpass to a stop sign and turn left onto state road 614. We enter back into Patrick County at this point.
08.0 (0.1) An access road turns left here leading to the Parkway but we will continue on state road 614, straight ahead.
09.3 (1.3) State road 724 intersects with state road 614 at this point. State road 724 dead ends in just over a mile. The Pinnacles of Dan are located to the left of the end of this road. The Pinnacles are two pyramid shaped mountains that rise from the Dan River Gorge. It is said that there is a lost silver mine in this area. Years ago, the Appalachian Trail followed this road and on across the Pinnacles. It was relocated by the National Park Service in order to keep it on federally owned property rather than private lands. The old trail can still be followed but we recommend that only experienced hikers attempt it now, and only with proper maps and equipment. We will not turn onto state road 724 but will continue on state road 614.
10.6 (1.3) Here state road 602 crosses state road 614. To the right, state road 602 dead ends in just over a mile. It is a beautiful drive and leads to the Townes Dam which is known locally as “The Lower Dam.” It is also owned by the city of Danville and was built during the 1930’s. Within the next few months we plan to feature a story about these dams. For now, however, we will turn left off state road 614 onto state road 602, heading away from the dam.
10.7 (0.1) The old home on the left was the Asa Spangler place. It was built by Levi Barnard.
10.9 (0.2) The driveway on our right once led to the old Hefflefinger Mill site. (See accompanying article.)
11.1 (0.2) We will continue on State road 602, but to our right down state road 607 a ways, was the site of the old Charlie Barnard Mill. It was operated by Wolford Spangler. It was located on Mayberry Creek and the lumber to build Mayberry Trading Post was sawed there in the early 1890’s.
11.3 (0.2) On our left is a beautiful, old two story home. This has been in the Yeatts family since the late 1890’s. Mayberry Creek passes under the road just beyond the home.
11.4 (0.1) We are back to Mayberry Trading Post, which is on our left.
12.6 (1.2) Turn left at this stop sign onto state road 614.
14.7 (2.1) We are back to our point of beginning at the junction of US Highway 58 Business and State Road 614, in Meadows of Dan, Virginia.
I hope you will take this tour and not look for what is here, but for what has been here. Our tour this month is special not only for the beauty we’ve passed and enjoyed but something about this community that is so representative of our entire area. Once little community stores like Mayberry were scattered throughout this area, but now only a few remain. Communities have slipped into oblivion where once they thrived. At least in Mayberry there is enough to provide us with a glimpse of how it was in the times before electricity, when running water meant Mayberry Creek.