Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thinking Wide

This is an example the many walls you find in Rappahannock County. (Note the scale and width is fairly traditional.)

I had known about and seen many of the dry stone walls of New England and Tennessee but had no idea how many there were in Virginia. It was amazing. They were all over Rappahannock County, beautiful old walls made of local stone and with lots of interesting styles and features. It seems strange that so few people seem to know about these walls and that to my knowledge no books have been written about them.

After several months of having an excavator full time on his own property John Henry wrote to tell me he had uncovered and dislodged enough bedrock and loose stone material to build a lot of walls. (He had in fact dug a quarry size hole on his property.)

I kept getting cryptic email messages about how his wall building was going.

It went something like this. - We have tons and tons of stones. We've started building a practise wall through the forest along the northern boundary of the property. I don't want to do the south wall until I get better at building.

The next letter went - The wall is coming along fine. It has started to get wide. I kind of like it.

Another letter left me wondering what was going on. - The wall is about 10 or 12 feet wide now in parts and is taking up a lot of material. It's a good thing I have lots of it.

I checked with him if he didn't mean 10 or 12 feet long?

"Nope , in fact it must be nearly 30 feet wide now along one part and I figure that I wont fill it in but sort of let it have a kind of rounded open area in the middle of the wall. The wall has a few of these enclosed areas now along its length.

I couldn't imagine what he was talking about.

Then he sent me a photo.

I was amazed.

Last week Mary and I had to go see for ourselves .


  1. FYI:

    Well, that would be a start.

  2. Sorry Chez, didn't see any thing about the traditional dry stone walls in Rappahannock in those links, nor did I find any reference to information to there being any books about them?

  3. There is this one of course - but I think there needs to be a book with all kinds of info and the history of these walls wouldn't you agree?

  4. Yes, most definitely. Winchester is just north west of Rappahanock County but in the limestone area of the Shenandoah Valley. Legend has it that during the Revolutionary War general Daniel Morgan was in charge of Heissian prisoners of war who built many of the stone houses of the period in Winchester. Also there are many dry stack walls in the area from clearing the fields for growing wheat. That whole area of north west Virginia has miles of dry stack stone walls along the back roads. My intent was not to provide info on John Henry's area but to highlight the amount of stone used in the general area. The local historical and preservation societies would have much more info. Many thanks for bringing to light John Henry's magnificent work.

    Oh yeah, Henrietta furnace is just over the Blue Ridge from John Henry and is but just one of many examples of furnaces of the 18th and 19th centuries used for making pig iron for export to England.