Down Memory Lane for June 15

 June 26, 1986

“We kept hearing about a man named Melancthon Cliser,” said Jack Bruce when asked about the eviction of the mountain people from the park.

“He was giving the park administration fits.”

Melancthon Cliser, from all accounts, was a prosperous merchant who ran a store, filling station and lunchroom on Lee Highway. From newspapers and documents in the park archives, his story can be pieced together.

In 1929, Melancthon began to hear rumors about the eviction of residents from the park. He wrote to anyone he could think and tried to convince his neighbors and friends to do the same.

Melancthon wrote to the local newspapers, he wrote to the Department of the Interior, he wrote to the president. Unsatisfied with the response, he even called the White House.

Melancthon refused to accept the check. He didn’t want to sell — he wanted to stay. The sheriff refused to evict him. It took the threat of legal action against the sheriff to convince him to tangle with Cliser.

The officials pulled up to the gas pump, jumped out and handcuffed Melancthon as he approached the car.

While the angry man was before the judge, agents cleared out his house. Soon the home and its nine outbuildings were destroyed.

He died, remembers his daughter, an angry man, bitter and disillusioned at 74.

April 4, 1974

The old school on Mt. Salem Avenue in Washington is being transformed into a residence “in the Southern tradition,” which, among other things, will mean installation of a soaring portico with six 20-foot high pillars and an elaborate interior redecorating job.

Neighbors and former students won’t have to remain outside, wondering what happened to the blackboards where they first encountered the multiplication tables, or window sills where they carved their initials, for what they assumed was posterity.

The new owners, John and Sizie Lipko, plans three housewarming parties, sometime around next Christmas — one for the workmen, one for anyone who went to school in the old building and another for guests “by invitation only.”

Plans for the old schoolhouse are based on the Lipkos’ extensive entertaining habits and penchant for growing things, flowers and vegetables. Plants seem to dominate their decorating scheme.

“We bought the land across the street too; we’ll do it in yellow, forsythia and daffodils. That’s where I’m going to put my cow and calf. We’ll have to build a little house for them first.”

Old iron truss bridges are being torn down all over Virginia. In the Piedmont, the State Highway Department is attempting to replace the scenic old bridges with “rustic” featuring tinted concrete bridges.

Two such “rustic” bridges, that have a strange pink hue, have been built in the area — one in Rappahannock County at Laurel Mills, and the other between Rappahannock County and Fauquier County on the Flint Hill Road (Route 647).

Now the Highway Department plans to replace the iron truss bridge over the Rappahannock River between Fauquier and Culpeper Counties on the Springs Road (Route 802).

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