The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Buffalo Mountain Presbyterian Church - Backroads Tour

Bob Heafner © 1983-2011

Issue: April 1983

This month our BACKROADS column will direct you through some of the most beautiful country in Patrick, Floyd and Carroll Counties of Virginia. We will begin in Patrick County at the intersection of US 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway. As we go along, I will point out some of the highlights of the area to you. In order to do this

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.

From beginning to end, we will cover approximately cover 28.5 miles and the drive will take an hour to an hour and a half. There are many beautiful places along the way and by all means, bring your camera and binoculars.

00.0 (0.0) We have come from Meadows of Dan, Virginia on US 58 Business and entered the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance ramp and are stopped at the stop sign, getting ready to pull onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. From here we go north toward Mabry Mill.

01.6 (1.6) Mabry Mill is on our right and it seems the only tourist taking advantage of this beautiful place today is a big crow who at first glance appears to be examining the parking lot for pavement cracks. (I believe he saw me coming and his dignified air is only a ruse to hide the fact that he has been scrounging for tasty morsels left by last years visitors.)

01.7 (0.1) We have just passed Mabry Mill and a little gravel road crosses the Parkway at this point. It is State Road 603. Here we turn left.

02.3 (0.6) The house on the right, in the woods belongs to Ms. Jackie Conner and it is for sale [in 1983]. It is a beautiful cabin and the agent is Peter Bartel with Wimmer Realty in Floyd. The next house on the left, down in the hollow, used to be much closer to the road. Not this road but an old discontinued road that went by the house and came out through the area now occupied by the cemetery of the Meadows of Dan Baptist Church.

03.0 (0.7) This little house on the right was the home of Mrs. Flora Dehart. Mrs. Dehart was quite a lady and we regret she died before we got to meet her but we will have stories about her in upcoming issues.

03.2  (0.2) As we cross the bridge over Laurel Fork Creek, we will bear around to the left, State Road 779 goes right but we continue on State Road 603. The creek winds through the meadow on our left. It will parallel and crisscross our path many times today.

03.7 (0.5) Here we come to another stop sign. State Road 600 turns left but we’ll go straight ahead and continue on State Road 603. The creek is now on our left and it is crossing a beautiful meadow. It is continually getting bigger as we follow it along.

04.2 (0.5) Now we are at another stop sign where 603 dead ends into State Road 600 (which is paved). We’ll turn right and follow 600 across the bridge

05.0 (0.8) Here’s another stop sign at the intersection of 600 and State Road 758. There is a small store on our left and while we are stopped, if you look ahead to your left, you will see many cabins dotting a mountainside. This is Slate Mountain and the name of the development is Slatemont. If we turned right on 758, we would be back to the Parkway in about a mile and only two miles north of Mabry Mill. But we will turn hard back to the left on 758 by the other side of the store. This is Hylton’s Store and has been operating here for many years. It is typical of the many small stores that used to supply the needs of this area but it is one of the few still in operation. If you’re not in too much of a hurry, stop in for a soft drink or a snack. The folks are real nice and I’ll bet you’d enjoy meeting them.

As we drive along 758 after leaving Hylton’s Store, you’ll be able to see Buffalo Mountain off in the distance on your right. It is the highest mountain in this area, over 4000 feet elevation, and has a firetower on its crest.

06.2 (1.2) Here is a large straight stretch of road with a meadow on the right. In the edge of the field, next to the road is a telephone pole with an old cattle loading pen made of weathered gray boards next to it. Stop just before you get to this telephone pole and park your car beside the sixth fence post back from the cattle pen.

Look to your right across the meadow you will see a large pine tree on the far side. Just past this tree, you’ll see a pond in the edge of the woods. This pond was the handy work of a family of beavers. They have managed to create quite a swimming hole for themselves by building their dam across Oldfield Creek. Please do not disturb them and remember, this is not public land, however the owner won’t mind if you take a closer look but be sure to ask first. The folk’s at Hylton’s Store can tell you who to contact. Mr. Ellis Hubbard looks after this property for the owners and he gave me permission to get a closer look and I took my son along. He and I were both amazed at the size of some of the trees the beavers had cut down, not to mention the engineering that went into the dam construction.

07.7 (1.5) Here there is a lake on the left and a large white house on the right. This property was, I have been told, once owned by the family of General Robert E. Lee, and the small cabin on the hill behind the house was used for an office. I was told there were slave quarters scattered in the orchard behind the office. We plan to research this further and do an article on it at some future date.

09.4 (1.7) Here the pavement ends and the next several miles will be on gravel roads.

10.3 (0.9) Down the hollow on the left is the J. F. Sproule property which is featured in our BROWSING AROUND column this month.

11.5 (1.2) Pavement begins here but we turn left on State Road 628, down the road 100 yards or so, on the left is the old Starr & Starr Store. There had been a store in operation for almost a hundred years but it was closed sometime in the late 1950’s. Ernest Kemp lives in the brick house on the right just passed the store and he has a bill of sale showing that Bailey Goad bought a 22 inch heater here in 1924 and the price was $1.75. At that time overalls were 75 cents a pair and big plugs of chewing tobacco were 20 cents.

12.1 (0.6) Here you can look to your left and get a magnificent view of “The Buffalo.”

12.2 (0.1) The old weathered building on your right used to be Goad’s store.

12.3 (0.1) Here we leave Floyd County and enter Carroll County. The county line runs through the cemetery on the left. The church ahead on the right is the Buffalo Mountain Presbyterian Church. It is one of the churches built by the Reverend Robert Childress of which the book, “The Man Who Moved A Mountain” was written. This is a fascinating book and we recommend that you read it, if you haven’t already. It was written by Richard C. Davids and published by Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA. This book gives an account of this area as it was along with many photographs taken in the early 1900’s. Reverend Childress is buried in this cemetery along with many others written about in the book. Walking through this cemetery and reading the names on the tombstones is like reading a Who’s Who of this section of the Blue Ridge. They are the names that lived and endured the mountain way of life as it was when life was simpler and times were harder. If you’d like to pay your respects to these hardy souls, I’m sure no one would object to your walking through the cemetery.

Here in front of the church, State Road 628 goes straight but we will turn right on State Road 626.

12.6 (0.3) The large three story building on the left is the Buffalo Mountain School and the old, two story white house on the right is where Reverend Childress lived. As we go up the road, the house we pass on the left is the house of Mrs. Evelyn Kemp and just beyond it, on the right, is a brick home which is the home of Mrs. Marie Lucas, both of these ladies are Reverend Childress’s daughters.

13.0 (0.4) On the left, there is a pond down in the hollow. This property belongs to Trent Goad, who lives in the house adjacent to the cemetery back at the church. Trent acquired this property from Hugh L. Woods, who died a few years ago. Mr. Woods was a resident of Florida and the author of the book, “Wings Over China”. He also served as personal pilot to Chiang Kai-shek during World War II.

14.6 (1.6) At this point we come to another stop sign. The old building on the left was the Mount Hebron School. It has been closed since sometime around 1918. It is mentioned in our MOUNTAIN MEMORIES column this month. From this point, we will turn left onto State Road 627.

14.7 (0.1) We’re at another stop sign and we will turn left and wind around the little pond which will then be on our right. The house by the pond belongs to Mr. Tyson Sutphin, who is featured in our MOUNTAIN MEMORIES column this month.

15.9 (1.2) At this stop sign we turn left at State Road 638 which is paved. There is far too much beautiful scenery along this road for me to describe and part of the fun along the BACKROADS is the anticipation and surprise awaiting you around each curve.

22.0 (6.1) We are now at the stop sign where 638 intersects with US 58, across from the Laurel Fork Post Office. Here we will turn left onto US 58, heading back towards the Blue Ridge Parkway and Meadows of Dan.

24.7 (2.7) Here we leave Carroll County and enter Floyd County.

26.2 (1.5) We’re now leaving Floyd County and entering Patrick County.

28.5 (2.3) We’re back to the intersection of US 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway at Meadows of Dan, where we began.

I hope you enjoyed this trip as much as I did.