Sperryville column for Aug. 6

An anniversary to remember

Members of the United Methodist Church in Sperryville pose on the church steps after a celebration of the building's 100th anniversary.
Members of the United Methodist Church in Sperryville pose on the church steps after a celebration of the building’s 100th anniversary. Chris Green | Rappahannock News

The United Methodist Church in Sperryville recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of what some call the “prettiest church in Rappahannock.” On May 6, 1854, according to an article published in 1974 by the Rappahannock News, the land was sold by Lucy Wood for $25 to seven men, the trustees of Sperryville Methodist Church, now named the United Methodist Church. In 1915, the original church was torn down and the present church built on the same site. The cornerstone was laid with Masonic ceremonies on Aug. 12, 1915.

Pastor Sara Keeling, during last Sunday’s remembrance, poignantly spoke before a rapt audience of parishioners of the more than 5,000 sermons that had taken place in the hallowed sanctuary over a 100-year period. The church, she said, “contains the spirits of those parishioners” — parishioners whose names are etched in Rappahannock hillsides, including the Estes, Dodsons and many more, ancestors of families who still attend the church.

“Think of all the music . . . the hymns, and prayers, the relationships formed, the hugs enjoyed, the pain and anguish of life experiences shared, still lingering in this room and hovering in the air,” she said. Attending the service I was struck by the warm hellos, familiar faces and heartfelt hugs and handshakes, welcoming a guest into their midst.

Lunch followed the service, complemented by the sounds of The Inoperables, a talented musical trio, one of the band members being a parishioner. As they sang and strummed, conversations in the enthusiastic din were overheard, including one woman who reminisced with a smile that she’d been married in this very church 56 years ago.

Folks admired the plentiful spread of great homemade foods, including a dessert table bedecked with such delectables as Mary Frances Bywater’s lemon meringue pies and Aline Johnson’s Tyler pudding. Tom Pellikaan, in signature style, efficiently orchestrated the congregation’s photo op. They laughed, smiled and sang “Happy Birthday” on the entrance steps. I’m sure Norman Rockwell was smiling from above.

Championing the mustang

Sperryville resident Meghan Kavanaugh, a beautiful and gifted equestrian, adopted a wild mustang not so very long ago, as reported here. Thanks to Meghan’s training, Landay, of Andalusian extraction, is into her first year of dressage and according to Meghan is “proving to be a very special talent.”

Landay’s name is an expression of freedom, as landays are anonymous oral verses, and thus belong to no one — a perfect fit for mustangs, who are, by definition, ownerless beasts. Meghan’s passion for the mustang has morphed into more than just riding and training her new horse, and she’s established a nonprofit, TAMO, The American Mustang Organization. The mission of her nonprofit is to “To preserve and serve the wild mustang through education, demonstration, adoption and awareness.”

Last week, the first TAMO fundraiser was held at the Griffin Tavern, whose owners Deb and Jim Donehey are avid supporters. The event was a hands-down success; the tavern filled with camaraderie, laughter and good ol’ karaoke. A short video was presented, with the opening lines that read: “For the past few years, I’ve dreamed of owning a wild horse.” More fundraisers are planned. For information on upcoming events and the organization, visit tamo-us.org. Meghan thanks the community for their generous support.

The River District’s new brew crew

Pen Druid Brewery, at the east end of the Copper Fox Complex, enjoyed a fantastic opening weekend. This brainchild of three talented Woodville-raised brothers, Jennings, Van and Lain Carney, from the band Pontiak, celebrated with style. The outdoor deck, with picnic-like long tables along the bank of the Thornton River, was brimming with happy faces, savoring the good weather and great beers.

Inside, lively conversations took place around the finely hewn wood bar (courtesy of Smiggy Smith, a talented craftsman as well as musician). At the moment, the brothers offer three beers on draft — a Belgian farmhouse saison aged in Rappahannock Cellars chardonnay barrels, a Southern IPA and a dark English mild.

Take Water Street and follow the River District Arts and Copper Fox Antique signs, park in the lower parking lot. They’re open 11 to 8 Thursday, 11 to 9 Friday-Saturday and 10 to 8 Sunday. More info at 540-987-5064 or pendruid.com.

Burke Antiques and . . . Fire Trucks

A 1941 USA fire truck has found a new home at the Burke Antiques and Consignments store in Woodville.
A 1941 USA fire truck has found a new home at the Burke Antiques and Consignments store in Woodville. Chris Green | Rappahannock News

Richie Burke, chief of the Sperryville Volunteer Fire Department and an avid collector of all things fire-engine related, has recently added a new, rather large item to the family store’s front yard. Now on display outside Burke Antiques and Consignments in Woodville, according to Richie, is a 1941 USA fire truck “built by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps at Camp Holabird in Baltimore. The truck interested me because it’s almost identical to Sperryville VFD’s first truck, which was a 1938 USA.

“I purchased it a couple months ago from a 92-year-old World War II veteran in upstate New York,” Richie added. “My grandson loves for me to ride him around in it and it’s a good eye catcher for the antique business. It’s actually my second fire truck, the first is a 1945 Ford.”

When I first covered the opening of the store for the Rappahannock News months ago, I’d asked him where all the store treasures had come from. He shrugged sheepishly, and said they’d been in his home and smiled saying his wife sure was pleased they’d all be relocated. I wonder where he keeps his 1945 fire truck.

There’s information about the history of the Camp Holabird trucks at firetrucks-atwar.com/G.html.

A sad departure

While Sperryville’s River District Arts complex, with mighty new small businesses unfolding and prospering almost on a monthly basis, one sadly has not. Emilio Fontan of El Quijote came to Sperryville a year ago with a dream to open another successful Spanish restaurant, his last enterprise having been the recipient of Best Spanish Restaurant accolades in Miami several years ago.

He envisioned Sperryville as another Sonoma, another Napa, a destination where his superb cuisine and authentic flamenco performances could thrive and draw local as well as city folks. He saw Sperryville as a destination and hoped his enterprise would bring additional cachet.

Jerome Niessen, owner of the sprawling former apple packing house that housed El Quijote and still is home to River District Arts, Middle Street Gallery and others, told me: “Unfortunately, he simply could not make it. I wish he could have. I hope he will have more luck in his next venture.”

Referring to the Rappahannock Central building being on the market, Jerome added that “while I love Rappahannock and Rapp Central/RDA, managing it from California is difficult. Hence our desire to find a local group of investors who can take Rapp Central and RDA to the next level and restore the café and restaurant as a place where the community can meet over a cup of coffee, a glass of wine and a simple meal.”

Best of luck to whomever the future owners may be. Sperryville is a very special hamlet.

Chris Green
About Chris Green 159 Articles
Chris Green (formerly Chris Doxzen) is an an executive recruiter by profession who enjoys exploring and writing about all things Rappahannock. Friends and neighbors with potential stories for her Sperryville column should email her at chrisdoxzen@gmail.com.