Greene is one of the eight counties where, in the 1930s, the Commonwealth of Virginia acquired land for the creation of Shenandoah National Park.
A small, thriving community grew up in Simmons Gap because it was an important mountain crossing on the road between Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. In the early 1900s the Episcopal Church established a mission with a chapel, schoolhouse, residence for the teachers, and a clothing bureau to serve the local residents.
Swift Run Gap
Swift Run Gap was another important mountain crossing. The Spotswood Trail that connected the Piedmont with the Shenandoah Valley passed through this gap. The community of Fern Hill was located at the crest of the ridge. All the land in the gap was acquired for Shenandoah National Park, and there are no original buildings remaining.
Pocosin or Pocosan? The term “pocosin” means a lowland area or sometimes “a swamp on a hill” and appears frequently in reference to upland bogs along the southeastern US coast. There are no extensive marshy areas in the Blue Ridge so it is uncertain how this name came into use in the mountains of Greene County. Today both spellings are found - “Pocosin” usually refers to the mountain and the community there, while “pocosan” identifies the two Episcopal missions started by Archdeacon Frederick Neve on Pocosin Mountain in the early years of the twentieth century. Lower Pocosan Mission lies outside the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park, while Upper Pocosan (Neve called this outpost “Far Pocosan”) was acquired by Virginia for the new national park. The public road that provides access to the area of Pocosin Mountain lying outside the park is Pocosan Rd. while Shenandoah National Park primarily uses “Pocosin” in naming trails, hikes, and locations within the park. Learn more about the Far Pocosan mission at https://www.abandonedcountry.com/2013/01/07/far-pocosan-wild-with-moonshine-whiskey/
The Geer Resettlement Community
By the mid-1930s it became evident that a number of families were not going to be able to move away from their homes and land without relocation assistance. The Resettlement Administration, a New Deal agency, arranged for the purchase of farmland at seven locations around Shenandoah National Park where houses with modern conveniences were constructed. By offering small homesteads consisting of a tract of land, a house, and some outbuildings with very generous repayment terms the government hoped the people would become self-sufficient farmers. Many families tried farming; some were successful and purchased their new homes, but the mountain people weren’t accustomed to owing money or to living in the “flatlands” and many moved on. At the Greene County resettlement community near Geer, instead of each family working its own land, the homes were clustered into a village-like area surrounded by the farmland, and the people were expected to work the land cooperatively. In part because the mountain people were independent and used to providing for their own needs the cooperative system didn’t succeed. When no families purchased their homes, the houses were all sold and torn down for the lumber.