Down Memory Lane for April 27

Sept. 29, 1983

Poor Farm: Home to the Pauper

People limped through the Depression without the government assistance programs that today ease the life of the poor. There was no Aid to Dependant Children, no food stamps, no general relief, no Medicaid and Medicare, no Supplemental Security Income.

In Rappahannock, they had only the county poor farm. “It was for them that had nothing — nowhere to stay, nobody to look after them — white and colored,” said Charlie Lewis, who as a boy went with his pastor to the poor farm in the F. T. Valley to conduct services Sunday evenings. “Them that was able did things to help. Them that couldn’t was taken care of. But they didn’t fare too well. I do know that.”

Folks didn’t just show up on the doorstep of the Poor Farm looking for shelter. They had to be certified as paupers by the county’s supervisor of the poor. “They always came without anything — not a thing. No clothes except what hey had on their backs, no food, no belongings,” said Mrs. Hugh Woodward whose husband was overseer there from 1933 until 1941.

It was a hard life, both for the caregivers and their charges. “We usually had 12 to 15 there on the average,” Mr. Woodward recalled. “Mostly they were the elderly and disabled or handicapped.”

Banks Slow to Foreclose

“I came here in 1930. The stock market broke in 1929. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Giles Miller, who worked with Culpeper’s Central Fidelity Bank for a half century.

“Stocks rally went down. I remember Bethlehem Steel selling for $123 a share before the crash. It went to $7. But compared to other places in the country, Rappahannock people weren’t as affected. They didn’t have as many stocks as others. The wealthy had most of their money invested in land and cattle.”

A few days after President Roosevelt took office in 1933, he ordered all the banks across the country closed. “Those that were in good shape — like two banks in Culpeper and Rappahannock National — I think they were only closed for four days but plenty of others around the country kep their doors shut for 30 days or more until they were declared safe.”

Feb. 1, 1995

The Rappahannock Convalescent Aids Loan Closet has served many, many people in need in this county since its inception in 1987.

The Loan Closet offers a multitude of items needed while people are convalescing; wheelchairs, crutches, potty chairs, hospital beds, walkers, canes, tub benches, raised toilet seats and bed tables. These items can be very expensive to purchase new, and often they are needed for only a short period of time. Everything is loaned free of charge to whoever needs it, and may be kept for as long as needed.

The Loan Closet was originally associated with the Cancer Society, but that limited its loans to only cancer victims. When member Dot Mank and others saw a need for many non-cancer patients too, they broke away from the Cancer Society and formed the Rappahannock Loan Closet. Recently they had added the words “Convalescent Aids” to the name because, said Mrs. Mank, several people thought by using the name “Closet” that clothing was for loan.

Right now everything is stored in a building next to Spring Mountain School on Mt. Salem Avenue in Washington. Its use is donated by Mr. Carrigan, and it used to be a coal house when the school was known as Washington High School.

Meanwhile, anyone who walks into the Mills Store in Estes, near Castleton will feel right at home. The owner and sole storekeeper, Edna Mills, is a delightful woman who greets customers and visitors like they are long lost friends.

The store was built in 1934 and was run by Thomas Utz until 1955, when Mrs. Mills and her husband James took over. They ran the store together until he died four years ago. Now Mrs. Mills runs the store entirely by herself. She is an energetic 71 year old. She said, “Everything was here, everything was convenient. What was I going to do but keep the store running?”

Estes was the original name of the town where the store now stands, and the Estes post office was a part of the store until 1948. Some people still refer to it today as the old Estes store.

Mrs Mills said that local farmer Chris Parrish calls Mills Store “the information center.” He said that Mrs. Mills also serves as a kind of local psychologist, that people go to her for help with their problems.

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