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Virts Families of the Long Lane Lovettsville Virginia



Virts Families of the Long Lane Lovettsville Virginia

 

contributed by Gary Virts

 

The Virts Families

 

It’s the summer of 1975 and the phone rings at the home of Raymond Virts on the Long Lane. For many homes this is a typical event that occurs several times each day. For this Virts home it is the first time a phone has ever rung in this house. You see a phone was one of those things that is not necessary to sustain the quality of life that one needs to survive.

 

Survive is what typically represents the Virts families. Never asking for more than what is needed, but giving more than is asked. The Virts families that lived on the Long Lane are typical of the hardworking Virts found everywhere.

 

James Marion Virts' Family

 

The Long Lane is a one and one-half mile dirt road in Western Loudoun County, Virginia. About four miles west of Lovettsville and located at the base of the East side of the Short Hill Mountain. It is here where several Virts families made there home for more than 100 years. Back to the times of James Marion Virts, the son of Eliza Virts and the sixth generation of Wilhelm Wurtz. James took up permanent residence in the mid 1800’s in a small one room log home located about three-quarters of a mile from the end of the Long Lane in the Short Hill Mountain. James owned and operated a small store on the Long Lane for a few years before settling into farming.

 

James raised a family of eight children. His sons Oscar Franklin and Elbert Franklin and daughter Rose would also call the Long Lane their permanent home.

 

Oscar married Mary Catherine Mann and moved into a house that was located in the woods behind the Woodland School located on George’s Mill Road. Oscar will live here for a few years before returning to the Long Lane to live on the Charlie Steven’s farm. The Steven’s farm is the old Potterfield place were John Moberly the Confederate Soldier was assassinated. I have heard my grandfather and uncles say when it rained you could see Moberly’s blood stains in the barnyard where he died.

 

Oscar remained on the Steven’s’ farm until the 1920’s when he moved into a two-room log cabin on a piece of property that he purchased located at the end of the Long Lane at the base of the Short Hill Mountain. About 1924 he built a frame home on the site tearing down the old log home. Many of the logs were used in construction of the buildings. The frame home was what you might consider a “pre-fab home." Many of the interior walls were from other homes that had been torn down. The doors were also from other houses as well. The frame house still stands today and this is were my mother lives. Five generations of Virts have lived in that house dating back to my great-grandfather James Marion.

 

By now it was the late 1920’s and James Marion and his wife Mary Elisabeth Leigh were living with Oscar. James divided up his household items amongst the children and sold his place for $100. Mary died in 1926 and a few years later James suffered a stroke. James died in 1933.

 

The 1940’s would again bring tragedy to the her sixty-fifth birthday in 1942. Raymond would be drafted in the army at the young age of 32 and be called off to serve in Europe for almost two years during World War II.

 

The 30’s and 40’s would find Oscar and his family busy working on the Charlie Steven’s farm and for Charlie Painter’s sawmill that was located in the Chestnut Orchard right in front of Oscars’ home. The wood in front of his home was called the Chestnut Orchard for all of the chestnut trees that it contains. Today all of those trees are gone, wiped out by the blight that occurred in the 40’s. There must have been some big trees. I can remember seeing a chestnut tree stump that existed when I was young that would have easily measured five feet across.

 

My first recollections of my grandfather were when I was about six years old. I can vividly remember him taking his pocket knife and dipping his Rose Bud snuff as he would set in his straight back Waterford Chair by the kitchen window. He was a small man in size, about 5’9” and maybe weighing 150 pounds. He had a full head of snow white hair. He was tuff as nails and kept going until just a few weeks before he died at the age of 89 on February 3, 1967. I can remember him looking out that kitchen window two days before he died and said “See the white horses down in the Chestnut Orchard." I guess he was speaking of the angels coming to carry him home.

 

There was no running water in that house I grew up in and still none to this day. I have fetched a many pale of water from the spring that is about one hundred yards from the house. Not only did we have to carry water for human consumption but the hogs, chickens and the rest of the animal needed water as well.

 

The hogs provided the meat and the chickens provided the eggs that made up our protein intake. Once in a while we would have one of the extra roosters for Sunday dinner. Speaking of dinner, that was the mid-day meal at my home. The evening meal was called supper. The mid-day meal was also the biggest meal of the day not the evening meal. It puzzled me for years why we called lunch dinner and dinner supper. So I looked up the meaning of dinner and it clearly states that dinner is the “largest meal of the day. ” Guess those old uneducated Virts’ who did not know what a dictionary was, was right all along.

 

Education was something that was rare in those days. I believe my Father and Uncle Lester had the most. I remember my Uncle Theodore telling me that in 1909, the teacher at the local school brought him a speller and a new slate to encourage him to go to school. Well, Theodore never did go but he did keep that book and slate until his death.

 

The most important thing back then was not education but putting food on the table, and that meant work. I remember my father saying that my grandfather would hire the older boys out to other farmers to help thin corn for about twenty-five cents a day. You basically did what ever was necessary to survive.

 

Until the early 1970’s the Long Lane had several Virts families. There Was Oscar Virts, my grandfather who lived with his two sons Theodore Virts, who was not married and my father, Raymond Virts who was married to Mary Hackley. My mother was from the other side of Short Hill Mountain over in Neersville, Virginia. My Uncle Lester married my mother’s sister Lillie and my cousin Leroy, Uncle Elbert’s son also married one of my mother’s sisters, Jessie. I can recall my father talking about his dating of my mother walking back and forth across the mountain at all hours of the night.

 

Also living on the Long Lane was Oscar’s son Russell who was married to Ada Riley, his daughter Jessie who was married to Walter Frye, his sister Rose who was married to William “Bus” Everhart, who lived with two of there three sons Stanley and Milford. William Everhart, Jr. lived in Falls Church, Virginia. Milford was a part-time resident. He was separated from his wife and lived here some of the time. Other times he would be hitch hiking around the country. If was nothing for him to disappear for months at a time. He would go over to Brunswick, Maryland and jump on a freight train and go from there. Maybe end up in Texas and work there for a while and then come back home.

 

There was his Uncle Elbert, Oscar’s brother, who was married to Viola Riley. Uncle Elbert lived with his daughter Catherine who was blind. She had been blinded in the 1940’s form pesticide when she worked at the Loudoun Orchard. Also living on the Long Lane was John (Robert Lesley) Virts, uncle Elbert’s son. He lived with his daughter Elsie and Ruby. He also had a son Tommy (Leo) but he had already left home by the time I came along. You also had Mrs. Flossie (Everhart) Cooper, her son Garland Cooper and his son’s Mike and Garland. Her other two children Gilbert and Ludell lived in Brunswick, Maryland. Ms. Ray Everhart and her brother Russell, they were siblings of Ms. Flossie and Bus Everhart. They all were distant relatives of the Virts.

 

Oscar’s brother Thomas William also lived on the Long Lane on the old Vincel homestead. He died long before I was born. They tell me that I am the spitting imagine of him.

 

Uncle Elbert was the first to move away. In 1969 he had public sale of his most of his household goods and sold his place. He bought a small home in the town of Lovettsville. His son John would follow in about a year. He would sell his farm to the same man that bought Uncles Elbert’s, Mr. Buckley, and move to the town of Lovettsville. Mr. Buckley, lived in Uncle Elbert’s place for a couple of years before it burned down one night.

 

While these two Virts families were leaving the Long Lane another was moving back to his roots. Howard Gosnell, Jr. He was the son of Lillian Virts, who was the daughter of Oscar. Howard bought a piece of land from Mr. Buckley off the John Virts farm and built a house.

 

Today only my Aunt Jessie and my mother remain. Jessie still lives in the same house that she did with her husband. My mother still lives on the home-place, but as I write this story it is up for sale. Uncle Russell’s house sits empty, it is owned by his daughter Althea Swartz. Aunt Rose’s house is also empty. Mr. Pipkin lives on the John Virts farm. Mr. Motter bought the land that Uncle Elbert’s house used to be on and built a new home. Mr. Theaurex owns Ms. Flossie’s place and where Ms. Ray and Russell Everhart lived is falling down. Mike Cooper still lives on the Long Lane in his fathers home and William Everhart, Bus’s son moved back from Falls Church and built a new home on his fathers place. His wife and daughter live there now. When my uncle, Theodore, who was the last male Virts still living on the Long Lane passed away in 1996 it was as if an era came to an end.

 

Oscars Franklin Virts’ Family

 

My father, Raymond worked on a sawmill for Mr. William Painter for several years. Besides running a sawmill, Mr. Painter built several houses in Lovettsville and my father did finish carpenter work for him. My father was a tall slim man, he favored his mother side of the family. He was a meticulous neat person, who never threw anything away. After he passed away I even found my grandfathers draft card from 1903 neatly tucked away in a box, he was simply a pack rat. He believed in preserving the land and not destroying it with chemicals. I sincerely believed if he had his way he still would have farmed with horses. He very dearly held to his roots and the old ways.

 

My Uncle Theodore worked on several farms as well as dug graves and took care of the Mt. Olivet Church cemetery. He used to love to split wood. I think he would split wood twenty-fours and day, 365 days a year if he could. I think that is what kept him young all of those years. Theodore was about 5’9” and weighed maybe 160 lb. He looked like the Virts.

 

My Uncle Russell lived across the road from us and he did a lot of work for Dr. Mallory on his farm. He also dug graves and took care of the Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Rarely would he miss a Sunday that did not open up the church and turn the heat on in the winter for the congregation. Regardless of the whether he would walk the two miles to the church to insure this was done. He would go down to the church on Saturday to clean it and every Sunday morning to open it up.

 

My Aunt Jessie married Walter Frye and lived a quarter of a mile down the road from us. They used to raise a lot of chickens to sell their eggs. Uncle Walter also work on the railroad in Brunswick. He was hurt in an accident in the early sixties and never did fully recover, but was able to get up and around and did some of the work at home.

 

Aunt Goldie married Benton Stone and by the time I came along she lived on the Axline place on Axline road and then moved to Waterford. She did not return back to the Long Lane until after her husband died, when she came back to live with my aunt Jessie after Walter died.

 

Uncle Lester had moved to Philomont by the time I was born. He was working on a dairy farm there. He the moved to the Purcellville area and worked for Gallahan Contracting until finally taking a job with the Virginia Department of Highways in the early 1970s.

 

Aunt Lilly, died before I was born so I do not remember her at all.

 

The Seasons

 

Spring would mean the time to hunt for mushrooms. Morels, a sort of Christmas tree shaped mushroom. They came in two colors, dark brown and ivory. They grew for a few weeks in early spring usually in early April. You could only find them in certain areas of the mountain and if the whether conditions were just right.

 

Spring was also time to plant the garden, and everyone had a huge garden. I remember we would plant two hundred pounds of potatoes, over one-hundred tomato plants, several kinds of beans, beets, carrots, peas, onions, radish, lettuce, pumpkins and corn. We did not plant any exotic vegetables, it was the ones that could be easily canned and put away for winter. We also had strawberries that would be ready to pick around Memorial day. We would make jelly out of them, we did not have a freezer back then. In the spring you would begin to set your hens to raise these years crop of chickens. We would rise between forty and eighty every year, hoping that half would turn out to be hens. The roosters would be killed or sold in the fall.

 

As spring lead into early summer you would began to reap some of the benefits of your labor in the garden, lettuce, radish and spring onions would now be ready to eat. This was also the time to pick raspberries, blackberries and huckleberries. Huckleberries, the look and taste like blueberries except they are about half the size. They grow wild in the mountain. All of these berries would be made into jam or jelly. We also had cherry trees and they would be ready for harvest around the 4th of July. They also would be turn into preserves or canned, for later use in pies.

 

As summer replaced spring you would reap the harvest of the garden canning your corn, peas, carrots and beans. Some of the beans would be left to dry and then picked and shelled from their hauls. Then they would go through additional drying and finaly be put into white cotton sacks and hung on the back porch for later consumption. Around late July or early August you would dig the potatoes and if we were lucky and had any extra we would sell them. We usually got about three to five dollars for a bushel. In August we would pick peaches and grapes. We had both white and concord grapes, again the would become jelly. The peaches would be canned or turned into preserves.

 

Summer was the time when you had to be careful of the poisonous snakes, especially copperheads and rattle snakes. We never did see very many rattle snakes, probably only four or five in my lifetime, but copper snakes were plentiful every year. When you would gather the eggs you had take a look in the nest first to make sure there was not a copper snake in the nest. Summer would also bring other predators of chickens as well. We always had our share of foxes, hawks and bobcats to contend with. There was also the problem with bees. Living in the country it seem that every building had plenty of bee's nest. Summer also brought the call of the whippoorwill. They would call out in the night along with the screech owl and the barn owl. I have not heard the call of the whippoorwill in many years. Other birds common in my youth such as the pheasant and the bobwhite (quail) are very rarely seen anymore.

 

Another thing I miss from not living in the mountain anymore is the sound of the wind as it would roar through the mountain sounding like a speeding freight train. I also love the sounds of thunderstorms with the rain pounding down on the leaves of the trees. You could hear it as much as a half-mile away, and it would slowly get louder as it approached.

 

Fall was a busy time of year. It was time to hunt Ginseng. That strange plant that only grows in certain parts of the mountain. You would dig the root of the plant after its berries would ripen in the fall. After digging you would wash and let it dry until all the moisture content was gone. You then would pack it up and send it off to a buyer in Pennsylvania or Missouri, depending on who was giving the best price. I was getting about $100 per pound. Fall also was the time to get the winter fuel in, wood. You would fill the woodshed with the wood you had cut and split last winter, that had dried and seasoned all summer.

 

November was butchering month for just about everyone. Each person would butcher from two to fourteen hogs, depending on the size of your family. Thanksgiving Day was always our day to butcher. You had to have a set day each year to insure you had the proper help, since everyone helped each other. I always enjoyed butchering for it was like a family reunion that took place several times during the month of November. There was always a friendly competition to see who had the biggest hog. We always weighed them after they were dressed. I remember one year we had one that weigh 450 lb. We would cure our hams, shoulders and side meat. We made our own sugar cure. It consisted of salt, pepper, brown sugar, black and red pepper and salt peter. My mother would take the sausage either loose or stuffed and fry it down then put it into jars and cover it with lard. The ribs, and backbone would bw put in brine in big stone jars. Brine was a mixture of water and salt. The formula was a simple one. To insure you had enough salt in the water you simple would get a large egg to float in the water. It always worked, never did have once piece of meat to spoil. As I look back I am very happy that this is a tradition that I still carry on. Sometimes I have a hard time convincing my fourteen year old daughter of this, but hopefully someday she will appreciate this dying art. I have tasted the store bought sausage and ponhaus (scrapple), but it can not compare to what is made at home.

 

As November passed into December winter would begin to set in. Time to cut next years supply of wood. Winter was tuff when I was growing up. Sometimes you would be snowed in for a week or more. I can remember many of a time having to walk to Lovettsville for milk and bread. The highway department back then sometimes would not get the road open for several days.

 

In the winter we would trap animals fur their fur. When I was in my teens' furs were bring pretty good prices. A raccoon would get as much as $20 and a red fox would bring as much as $50. We also trapped skunks, muskrats, minks, opossums and weasels. I used to sell my furs to Mr. Wilt, he was also our mailman. So all I had to do was leave a note in the mailbox and he would come by and pick them up. He also a trap along his mail route. Winter was not a fun time, especially living in an old house with only a wood stove for heat, no running water, but you know we were sick very little with colds, and did not know what an ear infection was. We survived to live another spring again.

 

The Long Lane Today

 

Today all the Virts are gone from the Long Lane. Uncle Elbert’s place burned down in the 70’s, Uncle Russell’s place sits empty, my grandfather’s home was sold, torn down an and replaced by a new home.




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