By Bob Heafner © 1984-2012
Issue: November 1984
This month our BACKROADS tour will begin and end at the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and US Highway 58 Business in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. The total distance traveled will be 14.8 miles and the entire tour will take approximately one (1) hour to complete.
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) Beginning at the intersection of US 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, we will head north on the Blue Ridge Parkway toward Mabry Mill and Roanoke, Virginia.
01.5 (1.5) Mabry Mill is on our right.
03.6 (2.1) Here we will turn right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway onto state road 758. An old mill once operated on the small creek which passes under state road 758 just after we leave the Blue Ridge Parkway. The mill stood to our left, just off the road.
03.7 (0.1) The old white store building on our right and the smaller white buildings behind it were once the Slate Mountain Motel. It is no longer in operation.
04.2 (0.5) This beautiful little valley is Rock Castle Gap. Across the meadow to our left is the Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church. This picturesque rock church is one of the Reverend Bob Childress’ churches. The history of this church is detailed in the book, “A Man Who Moved A Mountain” by Richard Davis.
04.4 (0.2) We will bear to our right in this sharp curve and continue on state road 758.
04.7 (0.3) Here we will turn left off of state road 758 onto state road 609 (unpaved).
04.8 (0.1) The land on our left is a portion of the Rocky Knob Recreation Area. This area includes Rock Castle Gorge and many miles of hiking trails and trout streams. It is managed by the National Park Service.
05.6 (0.8) The farm of Mr. and Mrs. Q.D. Conner is on our right. Mr. Conner sells honey and farm produce in season.
06.0 (0.4) There is a beautiful private lake on our right.
06.7 (0.7) The farm on our right used to belong to Oma and Uell Handy, who operated the farm into their 90’s and 100’s. This road was a portion of the original Appalachian Trail and the first person to hike the entire trail in one hike, Mr. Earl Shaffer tells of meeting Mr. Handy and having dinner at this farm on that historic hike. Mr. Shaffer’s book, “Walking With Spring” is excellent reading. It is a fascinating account of this area and Mr. Shaffer’s historic hike.
07.2 (0.5) Here we will turn right onto state road 764. There is not a sign here indicating the road number, but this is the first road to the right after passing the Handy farm.
08.0 (0.8) As we approach the small white house on our right, we can see an old weathered gray building in the backyard. Directly in front of this building is one of the most beautiful flame azaleas I’ve ever seen. Each spring this is a feast of color for winter bleak eyes.
08.6 (0.6) Mountain View Methodist Church is on our right. Since 1885 this church has played an active role in this area.
08.8 (0.2) Here we will turn right onto state road 604. The Mountain View Mission School once stood on this corner. The brick church here is Conner View Baptist Church.
08.9 (0.1) Turn left here onto state road 612.
09.0 (0.1) The picturesque mountain farm of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Boyd, complete with cattle, sheep, and rolling meadows is on our right here.
09.5 (0.5) The farm of Bunny and Tella Mae Cockram is on our left. Bunny and Tella Mae were featured in our November, 1983 issue.
10.0 (0.5) At this small bridge over the Dan River, there once was a water powered grist mill. It was originally built by James Steptoe Langhorne in the mid 1800’s. Mr. and Mrs. Langhorne held a land grant to approximately 13,000 acres at that time. They came from Lynchburg to settle here on the Dan River bringing with them 13 slaves. The Langhornes are said to be the first family in Meadows of Dan to own a plank house rather than log.
10.1 (0.1) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto state road 610.
10.5 (0.4) A small red house stands in a meadow to our left here. This was the site of the Langhorne Homeplace, but nothing is left now of their original home.
11.6 (1.1) At this stop sign, we will turn right onto state road 764. From the Handy’s farm to here we have been following the path of the original Appalachian Trail. We will leave the old trail route at this point.
12.3 (0.7) At this stop sign, we will turn right onto US 58.
12.8 (0.5) Cockram’s Mill Pond is on our right here. This pond is on the Dan River.
13.5 (0.7) The Meadows of Dan Post Office is on our left here.
[Update 2011 – Since the new US 58 bypass we will need to follow the signs to Meadows of Dan and the Blue Ridge Parkway on US 58 Business.]
14.5 (1.0) We are now in the center of Meadows of Dan. Just after passing Parkway Car Care Center on our right, we will turn right onto state road 614, which goes between the Car Care Center and Meadows of Dan Baptist Church.
14.6 (0.1) The old Meadows of Dan Elementary School once stood between the row of pine trees on our right and the back corner of Parkway Car Care Center. We will turn into the church parking lot and follow the paved driveway around behind the church.
14.7 (0.1) I have walked across this cemetery with Mr. Matt Burnett and stopped with him in front of various graves as he recalled the history of this mountain community. In front of one old tombstone, he stopped and pointed with his cane and said, “I reckon that there was the first girl I ever was sweet on.” The grave he pointed to was Josie P. Gray’s. She was born September 6, 1900 and died May 1, 1920. Here sister Clarice Gray lies beside her and her brother Harry is on the other side. Clarice was born January 10, 1903 and died June 10, 1919. Harry was born February 22, 1906 and died July 2, 1920. They were the children of C.W. and India Gray. One can only imagine the loss felt by those parents as they lost three children in less then 13 months.
Toward the Parkway there is a large poplar tree where James Steptoe Langhorne and his wife Elizabeth are buried. The Langhorne family gave 10 acres of land for the church in the 1800’s. The tall monument with a pointed top has a hole in its center that Mr. Matt recalls being put there by a bullet during a Fourth of July Celebration early in this century. Beyond the poplar tree and this monument, toward the Blue Ridge Parkway, is where Mr. Langhorne’s slaves are buried. When the Parkway was built, in the 1930’s, three acres of the church property was taken for the right of way beginning at this tree. During the Parkway construction, the gravestones of the slaves were removed and never replaced. However, the gravesites can still be recognized by depressions where the ground has settled.
14.8 (0.1) From the church cemetery, we will turn right onto US 58 Business and we will be back to our point of beginning at the intersection of US 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We hope you have enjoyed this month’s tour through, “The Heart Of The Blue Ridge.”