History, and family, fill the rooms of Milly’s Cabin

House Tour: Oct. 19-20

For more info on the 58th annual Trinity House Tour & Dried Flower Sale Oct. 19-20, sponsored by the Trinity Episcopal Church Women of the Parish, call 540-675-3716 or visit facebook.com/trinityhousetour. Maps of the tour can be picked up, and dried flower arrangements are on display, at the church on tour days. Tea is served from 2 to 5 both days at Middleton Inn. Admission is $30 for all three houses, or $10 for one.

Going down the hill on U.S. 522, over a low water bridge and up the mountain leads to what was once called “O’Leary’s Cabin,” the old name for the three-level log cabin built in 1740 — making it the oldest house on the tour this year.

This is also one of the oldest structures in the county, if not the oldest, and certainly witnessed Indian raids, talks of rebellion and all the turmoil that led to the Revolutionary War. The cabin and its inhabitants may have even heard the bugle calls and seen the smoke of campfires during Civil War encampments up the road. The cabin stood as the land for the Shenandoah National Park was amassed, and then as the soldiers went off to fight in World War II.  

But for the past 60 years or so, it had been called “Milly’s Cabin,” owned by Mildred Fletcher, who always felt that a woman “should have a house of her own.” This philosophy is recounted by her daughter, Martha Stuart Thornton Fletcher Trope, who now owns it, and enjoys it whenever she can with her husband, son and two happy dogs, as well as a daughter who comes up often to do research on stink bugs for Virginia Tech.

The 1740 Milly’s Cabin, a three-level log home, is the oldest house on this year’s tour. Courtesy photo.
The 1740 Milly’s Cabin, a three-level log home, is the oldest house on this year’s tour. Courtesy photo.

“My father did many, many repairs on this place when my mother bought it, and it has been, over the years, a place of numerous happy memories for our family. All the cousins would come and we would play in the stream all day. We had all kinds of parties and picnics here. Once we all, all seven of us, lived here, lots of our friends honeymooned here and it stands for a place of fun and contentment for us all,” remarked Trope.

Certainly it has all the trappings of an idyllic spot, where once the family could watch the races at Thornton Hill through the trees. Talk of Milly’s Cabin always brings a smile to the faces of those Rappahannockers of a certain age, who vividly remember the gatherings, parties and happy times.

Furnished with family antiques and other period pieces from all over Virginia, the cabin’s chestnut beams, old hardware and short doorways attest to its great age. The first floor has the living room, with its stone fireplace, a bedroom with many old quilts and a tiny back porch.

A Swedish cupboard, French desk and bench from Thornton Hill, as well as a Bible Box from 1750 and a pearl salesman’s display case, provide interest in the living room. The mantel boasts a stuffed fox, which Trope remembers as always being there, although this one is a new substitute for one that disappeared.

Family pictures and mementos cover the walls of the stairways. On the lower level, with its stone floors, is the dining room and kitchen. A Hoosier cupboard and French dining table from 1780, as well as an antique two-plank kitchen table, furnish the space.

Trope has enlivened the house with beautiful decoupaged work that she does herself — plates, trays, kitchen backsplash and pictures. Upstairs is one big loft, with sleeping room for six. Outside is a new spacious outdoor shower with views of the mountains.

The cabin still looks as it might have hundreds of years ago. The trees are taller now, the grass is probably mowed more often. Interior furnishings are certainly more elegant than formerly, and include plumbing and heating. But outside, with its rustic fence, simple seating and quiet dignity, it still projects the feeling of rightness that such old cabins do, at home in the landscape, and admirably suited for the needs of the people who live in it.