By Bob Heafner © 1985-2012
Issue: August, 1985
On January 19, 1890, a midwife by the name of Orlean Puckett assisted in the delivery of a baby boy to a poor mountain family living in a hollow nestled against the foot of the towering Blue Ridge. Aunt Orlean had helped deliver thousands of mountain babies, but none would have the impact on the Blue Ridge of the boy born that cold January night to Babe and Lum Childress.
The child, Bob Childress, faced impossible odds from the day he was born. It was a lawless time of bootlegging, shooting and killing. A time when corn liquor and brandy flowed from the hills almost as freely as the cold clear water flowing from mountain springs.
On January 16, 1956, the life of Bob Childress ended, but the legacy he left behind has forever left its mark on the people and place he loved for a lifetime. The story of his life has been recorded by Richard C. Davids in the nationally acclaimed book, "The Man Who Moved A Mountain." It is a story of tears and joy and his unquestioned love of mountain people.
He was over thirty years old and the father of four children when he decided to become a minister. It was not an easy decision for a man with a wife and four children to make, and the fact that he did not have ahigh school education would have made the journey seem impossibly out of reach for most people. Bob Childress however, didn't think like most people. He had faced challenges all his life and the journey from the backwoods of Patrick County, Virginia to graduation exercises at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia was only the beginning of an odyssey that was to change the spirit of a mountain.
Most of the accomplishments of Bob Childress cannot be seen by the naked eye, for they involved such intangible things as brotherly love and providing the element of hope for the future of mountain children. He was a man of vision and greatness in a place and at a time when such a man was desperately needed. The story of his life is not only heartwarming and informative, but it is inspirational and we suggest you read "The Man Who Moved A Mountain" before taking this month's tour, which will pass by the five rock churches that he built.
BACKROADS tours always make a complete loop back to the point where we started. The underlined numbers atthe 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.
Our tour will begin and end at the junction of US Highway 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Meadows of Dan, Virginia (Parkway Mile Post 177.7). Our entire tour will require approximately three (3) hours and will cover a total of 69.9 miles from beginning to end.
00.0 (00.0) From the intersection of US Highway 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway, we will travel north on the Parkway toward Mabry Mill and Roanoke, Virginia.
01.0 (1.0) Mabry Mill is on our right at this point.
03.5 (2.5) Here we turn right onto state road 758 toward Rocky Knob Cabins.
(0.8) Turn left onto state road 726 directly across from the entrance to Rocky Knob Cabins. 04.3
04.5 (0.2) On our left is Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church. The first of Bob Childress’ five rock churches that we will pass on our tour. After turning around at Slate Mountain Church, we will head back the way we came on state road 726.
04.7 (0.2) At this stop sign, we will turn right onto state road 758 and head back toward the Blue Ridge Parkway.
05.5 (0.8) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto the Blue Ridge Parkway heading south.
05.6 (0.1) Turn right onto state road 758.
07.1 (1.5) At this point, the road forks and a small store sits in the fork. We will take the right fork continuing on state road 758.
(3.5) Here the pavement ends and we will turn left onto state road 629. 10.6
12.5 (1.9) At this stop sign, we will turn right onto state road 628.
12.6 (0.1) On our left is Buffalo Mountain Presbyterian Church. This beautiful fieldstone church is no doubt one of our nation's most picturesque rural churches. Bob Childress and his wife Lelia, along with their daughter Hattie, are buried in the rock fenced cemetery on our right. Their son, Bob, Jr. is now pastor of this church as well as Bluemont Presbyterian and the Mayberry Church. After stopping, we will turn left onto state road 626, beside the church.
12.7 (0.1) The small rock spring house here on our right once provided water to the church, manse, and the school. It also served as a meeting place for folks to gather before school and church services.
12.8 (0.1) The three story building on our left here was the Buffalo Mountain School. Classrooms were on the two lower floors and teachers roomed on the third floor. The beautiful old home on our right, past the school, was the manse where Bob Childress and his family lived. Today it is owned by his son Brian, who is pastor of Stone Memorial Church in Marion, Virginia and who also preaches every fifth Sunday at the Slate Mountain Church his father built.
14.8 (2.0) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto state road 627. There is an old two room schoolhouse on our left here.
15.0 (0.2) From this stop sign, we will turn left continuing on state road 627.
16.1 (1.1) At this stop sign we will turn right onto state road 638.
20.5 (4.4) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto Highway 221 in the small community of Dugspur, Virginia.
27.2 (6.7) Here we turn right onto route 100.
(4.8) Here we turn right onto state road 783. 32.0
32.5 (0.5) At this point, we will turn left onto state road 752.
34.6 (2.1) Here we turn right onto state road 750 and then into the parking area at Dinwiddie Presbyterian Church. The interior of this small mountain church is absolutely beautiful and by all means, take a moment to step inside and see it. From here, we will head back the way we came on state road 750.
34.7 (0.1) From this stop sign, we will turn left onto state road 752.
36.8 (2.1) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto state road 783.
37.6 (0.8) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto Route 100 south.
41.3 (3.7) After stopping at this stop sign, we will proceed straight across US 221 onto state road 669.
42.0 (0.7) After stopping at this stop sign, we will turn right onto state road 668.
43.1 (1.1) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto US Highway 58 east.
44.0 (0.9) Here we will turn right onto state road 670.
48.9 (4.9) We are now traveling through the community of Snake Creek, Virginia. The old school house is on our right here and the old Snake Creek Store is just up the road.
51.8 (2.9) The Gladesboro Elementary School is on our left here.
52.0 (0.2) Here we turn right onto state road 677, beside the Gladesboro Grocery and Texaco.
53.0 (1.0) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto the Blue Ridge Parkway heading north.
55.8 (2.8) The Bluemont Presbyterian Church is on our right at this point. This picturesque rock church is another of Bob Childress’ churches.
66.9 (11.1) Here we are crossing the bridge over Mayberry Creek.
67.1 (0.2) Turn right onto state road 634.
67.2 (0.1) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto state road 602. Immediately after turning, Mayberry Trading Post will be on our left.
67.4 (0.2) Mayberry Presbyterian Church is on our left here. To convince Bob Childress that he wasn't cut out to be a preacher, his teachers at Davidson College in North Carolina suggested that he spend his summer months leading the services at Mayberry. At that time, church services were held in the old Mayberry School which stood across the road from the present church site. Rather than discourage Bob, the assignment provided him with encouragement and soon there was a new schoolhouse and church in Mayberry.
67.5 (0.1) We will turn left onto state road 600 which is directly beside the Mayberry Church.
67.6 (0.1) At this stop sign, we will turn right on the Blue Ridge Parkway heading north.
69.9 (2.3) We are now back to our point of beginning at the intersection of US Highway 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Meadows of Dan, Virginia.
We hope you have enjoyed this tour as much as we have.
Writer's Note... Bob Childress Jr., is carrying on the tradition established by his father and is, as we mentioned earlier, pastor of the Mayberry, Buffalo and Bluemont Churches. Today many of the people who attend these churches are visitors to the area or local summer home owners. He accompanied me on this tour and asked that we extend to you his invitation to visit with them any time you are in this area.
Each Sunday, Bob conducts services at Mayberry Church at 9:00 am, at Bluemont Church at 10:00 am and at Buffalo Church at 11:30 am. All denominations and faiths are welcome.
[Update 2012 – Bob Childress, Jr. passed away December 27, 2003. His son, Stewart Childress, is carrying on in the tradition of his grandfather and father and holds services at Mayberry Presbyterian Church at 9:00 am and Bluemont at 10:30 am every Sunday. Visitors are always welcome.
Robert W. Childress, Jr. Born April 8, 1927 – Died December 27, 2003. Like his father, he is missed by all who knew him.]