Snead retiring (sort of) at age 93 from the Book Barn

So much for 93-year-old Lois Snead “retiring” from the Rappahannock County Library’s one-of-a-kind Book Barn.

“It’s getting hard for me to reach the top shelf,” Lois insisted when we caught up with her inside the tiny red barn on Saturday morning, still managing to slide a sizable book she’d just finished reading onto the highest ledge.

“I’m a slow reader,” she observed, poking her crooked but strong fingers into one crowded bookshelf after another. “But I read every word.”

Lois Snead is a voracious reader. “I’m a slow reader. But I read every word,” she said. Photo by John Mccaslin

While Lois recently relinquished the Book Barn’s directorship duties she is still appearing, as usual, at the Book Barn on Saturdays, helping to sort through, categorize and hopefully find a good home for what has amounted over the years to tens of thousands of donated books of every size and subject. And she’s agreed to fill the Book Barn’s post of treasurer and remain on the Friends of the Library board.

“As much as I love books this can be backbreaking work,” she offered, explaining how donations often arrive by the box-full and then have to be lifted, carried, shelved, and every so often re-boxed and hauled to recycling (as was her chore this past Saturday).

If all these books haven’t been time-consuming enough, Lois, who raised five children, has 14 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren to fuss over.

“It’s chaos when they all descend at once,” she laughed, although she’s had plenty of practice over the years.

“I used to raise sheep — around 300 of them, on three different farms,” recalled the longtime Washington resident. “The only bad time was during the lambing, when you always had to be there. I spent many a night sitting on the barn floor.”

Lois was married for 68 years to Circuit Court Judge for the 20th Judicial Circuit Rayner Snead, who was born in a log cabin in Gid Brown Hollow and became the youngest circuit court judge ever appointed in Virginia. The well-known judge, who died in 2011, was author of three books: Jug and Rum, a children’s story; Hollow Boy, a personal history of growing up in Rappahannock County; and The Girl of Independence, the story of his wife Lois, who as the title suggests was born in Missouri.

During the early part of his career, Lois won’t ever forget, her husband handled court dockets for the counties of Rappahannock, Fauquier and Loudoun “all by himself.”

He didn’t have any help?

“I used to type up all of his [court] opinions,” Lois confessed, “although I’m not much of a writer. But I love reading. I love reading books.”




About John McCaslin 466 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at