While traveling for years, we’ve bought fuel in the Wytheville, Virginia area. It is at the crossroads of I-81 and I-77 in southwestern Virginia. Bill once said we should visit one day, so finally, we spent seven nights here, July 21-28, 2016. It was a 230 miles drive from Carters Cave State Resort Park. Click here if you missed that post.
If you’ve ever been through West Virginia, you can imagine it wasn’t Bill’s favorite state to drive through in our big rig….but thankfully the interstate system was great and all went smoothly. Note the beauty in this picture, above. Bill’s enjoyed our travels all summer, going around or even less than 100 miles per move. This final leg of our summer was just a bit long. Thankfully, we were almost to our final summer destination: time with our grandsons and their parents!
Wytheville (pronounced WITH-vill) was founded in 1792 as Evansham on 100 acres of land. Named for the first signer of the Declaration of Independence for Virginia – George Wythe, it was selected as the county seat of Wythe County (1790). At the time, it was the junction of two great western roads, the Ingles Ferry and the Peppers Ferry trails. Today, two federal highways, Interstates 77 & 81, bring thousands of visitors each day to experience the charm and beauty of this small southern community. (from Wytheville Convention and Visitors Bureau website.)
We stayed in Pioneer Village RV Park while in the Wytheville area. This was not our first choice. We tried to get a reservation at the Fort Chiswell RV Park, but they were booked over the weekend. It has VERY easy access in and out – we checked it out while here. They were kind and recommended Pioneer Village. While we were pleased with nearly all aspects of this park, however, it was a VERY hilly 2 1/2 mile drive to it from the Interstate exit.
Upon arrival, we were given a very warm welcome and an escort to our full hook up site. Of course, our steps wouldn’t open out for me to easily climb out. It’s always something, isn’t it? So for Bill, that is his first order of business after he gets us hooked up. (I do the inside and he does the outside in case you are wondering.) The park has a strong wifi connection, has full hook ups, many pull through sites and beautiful scenery. There was nothing to not like – once you got here. It was a nice park and in the end, I was glad we were here for the “workouts.” More on that later…..
We were too tired from our early start, the drive here and then the steps repair to do much after we set up. I’m always in charge of dinner on our travel days. We just didn’t have the energy to walk around the campground! Oh, did I mention it was VERY hot? Yep, that heat wave was following us! The next morning, I was ready to go! Bill was still in a bit of a travel recovery mode, so I said I’d check out the elevation from our drive in. Off I went to “workout” and explore. From the All Trails app picture below, you will see we had a bit of an ascend and descend in a short distance on the road into the park. You will also see Reed Creek and note we are right by I-81, not exactly quiet. But they have a pretty good tree-buffer so you don’t see it and we ran our fan at night so the road noise didn’t keep us awake.
By the time I got back, we decided it was going to be too hot for us to hike. We searched for an alternative, deciding to tour a few historic houses downtown Wytheville. Bill had discovered the First Lady to Woodrow Wilson, Edith Bolling Wilson (October 15, 1872 – December 28, 1961) was born here, the house preserved and now a museum. Since we learned a lot touring Mary Todd Lincoln’s home in Lexington, Kentucky, we’d check out another First Lady. See our post here, to learn more in case you missed that tour.
I loved the one thing I saw on Mrs. Wilson’s website:
…and so I began my stewardship. (From her memoirs)
I had a feeling I would like this First Lady as we believe we are stewards of everything we have. And compared to Mary Todd Lincoln, I was a bit put off by her lavish wastefulness decorating during the Civil War, I was intrigued.
Edith Bolling Wilson’s family has many historic connections. On her paternal side, the first immigrant to America arrived in 1660, Robert Bolling. He came from a prominent family in London, “traced to a Tristam de Bolling in 10th Century Bradford, England where the family home, Bolling Hall, is now a town museum….through many generations, (she) is a direct descendant of the famous American Indian, Pocahontas. Other famous people such as Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Martha Washington, and Letitia Tyler can (also) be linked to Mrs. Wilson as well.” Click here for more info.
There was no comparison to these first Lady’s or their homes. Although, both came from prominent families and both were very bright women! Mrs. Lincoln’s dad maintained his wealth while Mrs. Wilson’s father lost their homestead as a result of the Civil War. However, father had family living in Wytheville who offered them a place to stay. Her father again rose to prominence as a Circuit Court Judge, but she never forgot her humble beginnings as she was born in the upstairs of this store front building, and lived here until she left home in her early 20’s:
We really enjoyed learning about this remarkable woman. First we watched a short video which told much of her fascinating story. There was some furniture that belonged to the family, either donated or on loan to the museum and many displays that continue her story. Her family had a strong Christian faith, attending church services every Sunday in the Episcopal church. She was also a caregiver to her crippled paternal grandmother and her 26 pet canaries. She washed her clothes, took care of her bedding and just spent time with her. Her grandmother was an educated woman and taught her many things. She not only learned how to crochet, knit, embroider and make clothes, she also learned French.
She learned to appreciated poetry and music at a young age. The family would gather in her grandmother’s bedroom of an evening where the matriarch would share many stories and folk tails. Her father also read classic English literature to the family. He also hired a tutor to further educate Edith and occasionally took her on his travels while he serving as a Circuit Judge. Mrs. Wilson learned to make quick judgements and much like her father and grandmother, had strong opinions. This would serve her well later in life.
When she was in her early 20’s, she visited a sister who lived in Washington, DC. It was there that she met and married her first husband, a wealthy jeweler, on April 30, 1896. They had one child, a son, who only lived a few days. The difficult birth left her unable to have more children. Then just 12 years into their marriage, her husband died unexpectedly. She had a decision to make: sell the store or learn how to run the business. The manager agreed to stay on and help her and she became a rather prominent business woman, being the first woman (in Washington DC?) to own an electric car.
Approximately seven years later, in March 1915, she was introduced to newly widowed President Woodrow Wilson. They had a whirlwind courtship, but she initially turned him down for marriage – for a time. She finally said yes and they married December 18, 1915. Little did she know her early caregiving experiences would become important after the President suffered a stroke. There is so much more to this story, but let’s just say, she earned the reputation of being a “secret” President as she helped him continue to run the country during his recovery. She was a wonderful steward of the American taxpayer’s money, helping to save a lot of money during the war with the purchase of sheep …. well, let’s let you figure out what she did by helping to support the foundation and purchase this book, “How the Sheep Helped Win the War” (WWI). (We receive NO commission, just want to help support the museum.)
We then paid $10 to be shown the upstairs, which included a gift store. I was really torn on whether I should try walking up the stairs since we had lots of hiking planned, but I was enthralled with this woman and decided I had to walk up the stairs! We were so saddened to see how dilapidated the upstairs was, which included the very room where she was actually born and the rooms her family occupied. The building had not stayed in the family and was used in many different ways before it’s historic significance was discovered and preserved. It needs a lot of funding, or perhaps a Governor’s wife take an interest in it as what happened to Mary Todd Lincoln’s home in Kentucky! Click here to visit the museum website.
After our time in the museum, we walked around the beautiful Bolling Wilson Hotel across the street and named in her honor. She did have the privilege of returning to her former home during the dedication of this magnificent hotel. While we didn’t eat there, we toured another house with a group that had. They said it was definitely worth it!
We then continued to walk around the town and found the two other two houses we could tour, The Boyd House (the Father of Wytheville) and Museum as well as the Haller-Gibboney Rock House Museum, built in 1823, home of the first physician in Wytheville. Hoover over on each picture to see the caption or click on one to view the five pictures as a slideshow:
We saw the sign to the Visitors Center, so attempted to walk to it. It was up a steep hill and we couldn’t see how far it was…so we decided to drive there. Of course, it was closer to the interstate exit, so we’re glad we drove. It was a full service Visitor’s Center and should have been our first stop! For more pictures of our time in the Wytheville area, click here.
Our next day, Saturday, the weather was still brutally hot. Bill decided to search for a “cool” hike and he found one. It was actually more of a good long walk along the New River Trail State Park with trees on both sides for a canopy of shade! This fabulous trail is 57 miles long and is multi-use, horses, bikes, and hikers (walkers). There are historical markers along the way as well as restrooms. We decided we c\would focus on “hiking” to the area around Foster Falls, always wanting to see a reward on our hikes. We parked near Shot Tower State Park. This features the actual shot tower where they manufactured ammunition starting in 1807, so we did get in a bit of a hike up to see it. All in all, it was a seven mile day. We did get caught in a serious rain storm, but the trees gave us the protection we needed. It didn’t last long, so we were able to fully enjoy this day.
For more pictures of our time on the New River Trail, click here.
On Sunday, we attended First Baptist Church in Wytheville. It was a very friendly church with a new Pastor on board. He was an excellent preacher and as as usual, delivered a message titled, “What If?” taken from Genesis 18:20-32. If you’re not familiar with these scriptures, perhaps you’ll remember the story of Abraham pleading with God to spare his nephew, Lot and family, as well as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Bottom line to the story, are we as concerned as Abraham was for our own families, for the city of Wytheville, for the state of Virginia and beyond? Very poinet message along with the theme we’ve heard for the past few months. Are we loving our Lord God and our neighbors as ourselves?
Then Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me, but let me bother you this one last time. If you find ten good people there, what will you do?” The Lord said, “If I find ten good people in the city, I will not destroy it.” Genesis 18:32
On Monday, we decided we HAD to get in a hike with scenic views in the beautiful mountains. Maybe it will be cooler on top of the mountains, we thought, at 3,405′ elevation? So up we drove to Big Mountain Lookout, where there just happened to be some pickin’ and grinin’ going on! But first, we stopped to enjoy the view and again read another commemoration to the Civil War. If you click here, you can read about the heroic Molly Tynes, who also followed in the tradition of the famous Patrick Henry’s ride to warn that the British were coming during the Revolutionary war. Sadly, this was the only picture we took while up here. We couldn’t see the trailhead and decided to just enjoy the music. It wasn’t any cooler up here….
In an effort to finish the post, which has taken me a week to write, let’s finish it with the reason we said “the end of our summer travels.” As with any house, there are always a few repairs that need to be made. Bill is the best handy man a wife could every hope for! So in addition to preparing the stairs, he had to re-caulk around our shower. So on his hands and knees he goes (it was actually over a few days to finally fix it). After he is done, he has the paper towel in his hand he used to finish trying the area, sees something else to wipe, then bends over and tosses the paper towel in the trash….and OUCH! He can’t stand up. His back “went” out now for the third time in 10 years (not bad). But oh how it hurt. Unlike the other times. So we ended our last three days here with me playing nurse, while enjoying a hearty walk every day up and down the hills. The good news, icing it for 20 minutes on and off the first day, then day two, alternating heat and ice, he was able to drive us out of here on the third day. BUT we had a back up plan! We are so proud of our son-in-law, who after being laid off, went on to earn his CDL and start a new profession as a truck driver. We KNOW he can drive our bus home if we ever need it, and we thought we just might!
So this is the last of our summer travels post as we are now back near our grandsons and their amazing parents for five weeks. I hope to post a summery of our wonderful summer travels as well as a “Happy Third Anniversary” of our Travel Adventures! Yep, it all started three years ago which means we will also be celebrating our oldest grandson’s 3rd birthday, our second grandson’s 1st birthday AND my mom’s 93 birthday, all within a few days of each other this month!
In case you missed it, our first grandson was born on my mom’s 90th birthday. She was there when he was born and now, finally, three years later they will celebrate their birthdays together, with our second grandson. It should be quite a celebration!