Where Gumbo Was, #336
I had driven many times around the outskirts of Lynchburg on my way to the Boonsboro neighborhood for our annual golf competition against their senior players. Two years ago, I decided on a whim to take a road trip to Lynchburg and stroll the city since it was a beautiful summer day and nothing was on my schedule. I grabbed my camera and hit the road without studying any Lynchburg history. All I knew was that it was a manufacturing city that later fell on hard times.
I found out after the trip that Lynchburg was named for John Lynch who took over a family ferry service business at the age of 17 back in 1757. John’s father immigrated from Ireland, worked hard and was said to have prospered. After John inherited the family land from his brother, he petitioned the State of Virginia to found the city on that property which was known as Lynch’s Ferry Village. John’s brother, Charles Lynch who was a judge, is said to be the person responsible for coining the term “lynching.” Not such a memorable family footnote in history.
Lynchburg with a population of 75,000+ is located along the James River between the State capital of Richmond and the city of Roanoke. In the early years, the James River and Kanawha Canal made Lynchburg a prime location for warehousing and shipping tobacco and other products to Richmond. During the American Civil War, Lynchburg served as a supply hub for the Confederate Army and was fortunate to be spared any real damage to the city.
Railroads subsequently took charge and Lynchburg became an important rail stop. The city is still criss-crossed with rail tracks, bridges and tunnels. Many of the old abandoned rail structures are left in decay for easy access.
Some have been re-purposed into cafes while many tracks have been removed and re-purposed into bicycle and hiking trails reusing bridges and tunnels, and creating kayak put-in points.
A “Share The Love” sculpture for bikers, kayakers and lover locks adorn the trail. The bicycle rental shops seemed to be doing a brisk business the day I was there and a few of the hikers I met were Europeans.
As the mid-day heat rose, I made my way to one of the many city parks. Hollins Mill Park was just the place with a dam on the Blackwater Creek along the bikeway and a few benches and picnic tables in the shade. I watched a number of fisherman trying their luck, but didn’t see any successful catches. The park was named after William Hollins who owned a water powered mill on the creek which burned to the ground in 1912. Lynchburg was definitely a place for outdoor activities. It was refreshing to see so many people engaged in family and physical activities without stopping to check their smart phone devices every few minutes. Other Lynchburg parks I visited had softball games ongoing and children’s playgrounds well populated.
James River Geyser
The biggest impression Lynchburg made on me was that is was a very patriotic city. The picturesque 9th Street and Monument Terrace route from the Lynchburg Museum down to the James River geyser was impressive. The Lynchburg Museum was preparing a new exhibit and closed during my visit.
Fronting the museum was the Confederate Monument. There is a current debate about taking down Confederate monuments in the State of Virginia. Supposedly this one was put up in 1900 by The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the monument was made in Germany. A capsule is reportedly to have been buried below the statue and to contain pictures of local generals, sheets of poems and music, a list of Lynchburg men who served in the war, and locks of hair from General Robert E. Lee's horse, Traveler.
A few short steps down is the Purple Heart Monument and proceeding further downward are monuments and names of soldiers from other conflicts. When you reach the bottom of Monument Terrace there is the World War 1 Monument. Oh, and that tall building in my clue list was the United Methodist Church of Lynchburg which is located adjacent to the Lynchburg Museum. This week, only one solver succeeded in finding the answer: PortMoresby.
Late in the 19th century Lynchburg grew in importance with iron works, blast furnaces and steel mills. At the beginning of the 20th century, Lynchburg transitioned from a tobacco dominated industry to that of a steel foundry and became the largest shoe manufacturer in the USA south. I’m guessing that occurred without the endorsement of popular athletes. As the city grew, three colleges were founded in the city, Randolph-Macon Woman's College (1893), Sweet Briar (1901), and Lynchburg College (1903).
Though Lynchburg has diversified its economy, everywhere I strolled in the heart of the city resided abandoned factories and structures, many of which were open to view without obstruction.
Some were being refurbished while others were left to decay as a testament to Lynchburg’s past economic prosperity.