From the Editor

There is something missing from this issue. It could be a single word or an illustrated sidebar. It could be a footnote or a reference to a story that appeared in this magazine years ago. Whatever it is or might have been, Peter Houck, founder and retired publisher of Lynch’s Ferry, would have thought of it. And he would have taken the time to send a message, starting with the words: “I think readers would like to know...”

Dr. Peter William Houck died on Tuesday, March 10, 2015. Plans for a commemorative Fall 2015 magazine are underway. However, beginning with the first Fall 1988 edition, all volumes of Lynch’s Ferry are the real tribute to his legacy. The mission of the “maiden issue” continues along with the excitement it evoked. “The staff,” Houck wrote, “feels much like the people waiting for the ferry on the north bank of the James, eagerly anticipating what is to be discovered on the other side.”

Twenty-seven years and many ferry crossings later, there is still much to be discovered. Just ask David Wooldridge, a museum technician at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. Recently, he happened to find a letter in the museum archives which, after some detective work on his part, initiated the return of a brass seal snatched from the county courthouse by a Federal soldier on April 9, 1865, the date Lee and Grant formalized an end to the Civil War. The story surrounding the theft of the seal on that historic day—the image of a hungry but elated soldier stuffing war souvenirs into his pockets—helps to illuminate the picture of what took place beyond the confines of the McLean House parlor.

As the Spring 2015 edition of Lynch’s Ferry was headed to press, shuttle buses were running back and forth from Lynchburg to Appomattox, transporting Central Virginians and visitors alike to a series of exciting Civil War sesquicentennial events. One hundred and fifty years ago, a group of local men representing what remained of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry—Confederate soldiers “who fought bravely throughout the Civil War, especially at Appomattox”—were disbanded in Lynchburg’s Miller Park on April 10, 1865.  The end of their wartime journey marks the beginning of another story in this issue, “‘A Favorite Resort in the Heated Season’: The Changing Uses of Miller Park, 1861-1955.” Thanks to recently retired city employee Ann Majewski, research by the staff at Lynchburg’s department of parks and recreation has finally found its way into the pages of Lynch’s Ferry.

In his inaugural “Publisher’s Letter,”  Peter Houck urged “students of local history” to dig for “untold historic gems” and “shape and polish them for us.” Longtime contributor Scott Smith has once again risen to that challenge with his article “Air, Air Everywhere!” Readers who have participated in the outdoor, teambuilding components of corporate retreats may be surprised to learn that Central Virginia industries were offering their workers similar getaways in the early twentieth century—a time when smokestacks were touted as a symbol of the city’s wealth and progress. Through the efforts of Lynchburg’s nascent YWCA, even young women laboring in factories like Craddock-Terry were occasionally transported to the nearby countryside for a dose of clean air, sunshine, and perhaps a few military-style exercises.

“Camping and outdoor roughing-it activities were the rage among city dwellers in the 1920s,” author Marjorie Huiner discovered during her investigation into Harris-Woodson Company’s “House of Sweets.” The candy manufacturer “sponsored an annual camping and hunting trip for all of the white male employees at the company.” Whether or not African American and female employees were offered an equivalent company-sponsored bonding experience remains unknown. (In the 1940s, when union leader Edna B. Elder challenged working conditions at the Harris-Woodson candy factory, she was fired.)

About twelve miles north of downtown Lynchburg, on the Sweet Briar College campus, few students “failed to put on weight during the course of a year.” According to Margaret Banister from the class of 1916, the school’s physician “ascribed this fact to country air, proper exercise, and plenty of sleep, but it is doubtful that these were the only causes.” The photo essay included in this issue hints at another contributing factor: the ample supply of fresh food provided by the college farm, a fraction of which was captured by Frank Cash’s camera in 1910.

 



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