Washington column for Feb. 18

‘At the Edge of the Endless Mountains’

News from the Rappahannock Historical Society:

Long before — possibly some 10,000 years before — European exploration and settlement of the area that is now Rappahannock County, various groups of Native Americans crossed, camped, traded, fought, lived, died, and were buried in this area. According to experts, there are thousands of prehistoric sites.  Unfortunately, the descendants of these natives, died out or left Rappahannock by the mid-18th century; therefore, despite early awareness of these indigenous people, extensive and lengthy interaction between them and the European immigrants was limited.

Much of what was reported about the Native Americans, often based on rumors and stories, came from 17th- and 18th-century explorers. In the 1670s, Europeans such as German scientist John Lederer and English Col. Cadwallader Jones traveled into the Shenandoah Valley through Chester Gap. Lederer passed by native villages. Jones established a trading post along the headwaters of the Rappahannock River in Rappahannock County and in 1679 published his memoirs in London. In the early 1700s, Alexander Spotswood crossed the Blue Ridge via Swift Run Gap, but he reported no encounters with natives in the area. It seemed they were gone, and from then on the area of Rappahannock County was transited by natives but not inhabited.  The Treaty of Albany with the Five Nations, first negotiated in the 1720s and finalized in 1744, prohibited all Native Americans from entering the Shenandoah Valley, and the Iroquois League (another name for the Five Nations) was promised in return that Virginia ‘Indians’ would not invade its territory.

What seems to be consensus is that the natives in Rappahannock County were a branch of the Sioux, at least linguistically, and were called variously Manahoac, Mannahoak, Mahanhoac, and Mahock. It also seems that the Manahoac, in general, were enemies of the Iroquois, i.e., the Virginia ‘Indians’ of Spotswood’s reference. For the most part, evidence of the ancestry, affiliations and cultures of the natives in our area remains archaeological. Many native artifacts, particularly items made of quartz, have been found in the county. Some of them are displayed in the Society’s museum. It is through excavating by professional archaeologists and collecting by curious and enthusiastic residents that knowledge of our native peoples has grown.

James Madison University
Dr. Carole Nash will present At the Edge of the Endless Mountains on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2 p.m., at the Town Hall in Washington. James Madison University

To that end, the Rappahannock Historical Society is hosting renowned teacher and scholar Carole Nash, Ph.D, a specialist in the archaeology of the Appalachians, who will present a program titled, At the Edge of the Endless Mountains: Native American Settlement in Rappahannock County. Dr. Nash has a history with our area and RHS. In 1990 she spoke to the Society, and in 1991 she participated in an excellent program hosted by RHS in which the public was invited to bring in artifacts of possible Native American provenance for her to evaluate. She discussed various types and designs of prehistoric stone work and traced the development of and differences between spear points and arrowheads. She is an advocate of ‘citizen science’ and encouraged attendees not just to collect artifacts but to keep detailed records of where they found them.

Dr. Nash has taught at James Madison University for 27 years and is currently associate professor in the Department of Integrated Science and Technology. She is the author of numerous technical reports, papers and publications, and she has directed archaeological research in Shenandoah National Park since 1999 and at Wintergreen since 2003. Her recent work has focused on the interaction of Native Americans and European settlers. She is directing multi-year excavations at White House Farm, a circa 1760 German stone house in the Page Valley. She is president of the Archaeological Society of Virginia and has been instrumentally involved with other professional archaeological organizations and projects.  

At the Edge of the Endless Mountains will be given Sunday, Feb. 28, 2 p.m., at the Town Hall in Washington. Come and learn and share your information about the natives who inhabited our ‘endless mountains.’ A donation of $10 is requested. Light refreshments will be served.

Love — the cold, snow and ice

In spite of the cold weather over the weekend, I hope that everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day on Sunday. Monday brought us a nasty day of snow and freezing rain. Good thing some businesses were closed for President’s Day. I’m glad that I had it off, so I didn’t have to go out in the snow and ice.

Heart month

Besides Valentine’s Day, February is also known as Heart Month. So let’s make blood pressure control our goal.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms, which is why having your blood pressure checked regularly is important. It’s easy to get your blood pressure checked. You can get screened at your doctor’s office and drugstores or even check it yourself at home, using a home blood pressure monitor.

Work with your doctor to make sure you meet your blood pressure goal. If you know you have high blood pressure, take these steps to help get it under control: Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be. Set a goal to lower your pressure with your doctor and talk about how you can reach your goal. Work with your healthcare team to make sure you meet that goal. Take your blood pressure medicine as directed and reduce sodium intake for sodium can raise blood pressure.

Stay healthy!

WVFR breakfast

Washington Volunteer Fire and Rescue will be having an All You Can Eat Breakfast this Saturday (Feb. 20). Come enjoy all your favorites: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, sausage gravy, hash browns, biscuits, fried apples, coffee, and orange juice, prepared by your local fire and rescue volunteers. Breakfast will be served from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the station. Adults and kids 11 and older $8, children 10 and under eat FREE. For more information, call 540-675-3615 and speak with one of their volunteers.


Belated Anniversary wishes go out to Danny and Hope Huff and Wayne and Ruth Burke. They celebrated their special day on Sunday, Feb. 14.

Many thanks

I want to thank Joshua Alther for scraping my driveway out on Monday afternoon. Good to have neighbors to help out in a time of need.

Warmer weather is on it’s way this weekend. I’m hoping that groundhog was right, and spring is right around the corner.