The Blue Ridge Heritage Project is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor and memorialize the families displaced from the Blue Ridge Mountains when Shenandoah National Park was established in the 1930s. The Park was formed from parts of eight Virginia counties: Albemarle, Augusta, Greene, Madison, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham, and Warren.
The Project’s goal is to create a monument site in each of the eight counties surrounding the Park that displays the names of displaced families and educates visitors about their lives and culture. The BRHP serves as an umbrella organization for grass-roots efforts in those counties and works with them to develop memorial sites, with the ultimate goal of linking those sites on an historic driving trail.
BRHP was established in July 2013. The Board of Directors, chaired by its president, Bill Henry, has been meeting every month since then in the Stanardsville Town Hall in Greene County. Working with chambers of commerce, tourism councils, historical societies, county officials, and volunteers representing displaced families, the group has initiated the formation of steering committees in each of those eight counties to erect a memorial to honor the sacrifices of the people of that county who lived in the Blue Ridge.
In order to achieve uniformity among the eight memorials, the Project recommended that a stand-alone stone chimney be the centerpiece of each memorial site. A stone chimney was chosen as the central feature of the memorial as it is the iconic symbol of all that remains in the Park of a displaced family’s home. On each memorial chimney, a plaque displays the surnames of the families and landowners who were displaced from the mountains in that county.
To date, memorials have been erected in seven of the eight counties. The first memorial was erected in Madison County in 2015 and the most recent was erected in Warren County in October 2018. A map is being developed showing the location of those memorials and linking the sites on a driving tour, primarily on the east side of the mountains.
The Blue Ridge Heritage Project is now focusing on the second phase of its mission: to educate visitors about the lives and culture of the mountain families. The group is working with local county committees to do that through living history demonstrations, exhibits and other events depicting their culture and traditions.
BRHP has provided county committees with a description of the assistance it can provide to them and guidelines for the memorial. Click here to view Assistance and Guidelines.
The Project has also developed a brief narrative of the displacement story that it encourages each county committee to display at its memorial. Most counties will also include other display panels at their memorial site with period photographs, individual family stories, maps, and other information about the particulars of that county’s displacement history. Click here to view Narrative of Displacement.