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Program recounts Fayerdale history
Land lies under Fairy Stone Park
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Park Ranger Dan LaPrad shows points of interest on a map of Fayerdale during Saturday’s program. (Bulletin photo)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

“Fayerdale vanished into the mountain mists. Unlike Brigadoon, it will never return,” Jack Williamson wrote in his “A History of Fayerdale, Virginia.”

“In its place, however, is a delightfully pure and rustic mountain retreat where one may hike the paths of miners and moonshiners, peer into an abandoned iron mine, and swim, boat and fish in a beautiful woodland lake where once there was a town and two railroads.”

On Saturday, Dan LaPrad, a park ranger at Philpott Lake, gave a program on the history of Fayerdale, which now lies beneath Fairy Stone Lake.

According to information LaPrad provided, Union Furnace was located where Fairy Stone State Park is now, at the foot of the hill behind the visitor center. The Union Iron Works Co. came in 1836 when three members of the Hairston family united to establish the iron works. The iron for the furnace was mined in Stuart’s Knob, where the state park now has an “Iron Mine Trail” through the workings.

Tradition says that iron from Union Furnace was used to armor the ironclad Virginia/Merrimack. A forge was at the furnace and another at Blue Falls on the Smith’s River.

The furnace ceased operation about 1865. Half a century later, the area became an ore-mining community known as Fayerdale, active from 1906 to about 1911. Ore was shipped out by railway to furnaces on the New River in Pulaski County. In 1933 Junius P. Fishburn, who also gave Roanoke its Mill Mountain Park, donated the Fayerdale property to the commonwealth.

According to Fairy Stone Park’s website, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the park and its lake and many structures that are still in use today.

According to Williamson’s history, in 1905 the Virginia Ore and Lumber Co. was incorporated in Virginia with principals Frank A. Hill, Herbert D. Lafferty, Junius B. Fishburn, Edward I. Stone and Thomas W. Goodwin. On Aug. 25, 1905, the Hills and Laffertys sold their 4,840 acres, then called Union Furnace Iron Works, to the Virginia Ore and Lumber Co. Hill also transferred his other interests in the area, including the 7,500-acre leasehold, to the VO&L. The area was given a new name, Fayerdale, concocted by Alice Hill from her husband’s first initial, his middle name and Herbert Lafferty’s middle name.

“ ... Fayerdale blossomed into a booming mining and logging town. The mining operations in Stuart’s Knob were mechanized with pneumatic drills, electric lighting, iron cart railways and a tramway, all powered by steam-driven generators and winches in a new power house. The confluence of Hale’s and Goblintown Creeks was scooped out to form a log storage pond serving a modern bandsaw mill. Twelve miles of standard gauge rail was laid along a snaking right of way along Goblintown Creek and Smith River ravines to the Norfolk and Western main line at Philpott, and stretches of three-foot narrow gauge track were run from the log pond dump ramp to cutting sites in the surrounding forest,” Williamson wrote.

“Other construction included a company office building, freight station, blacksmith and carpenter shops, an ore tipple, a warehouse to handle whiskies and brandies for the DeHart Distillery in nearby Woolwine, and numerous dwelling houses, stables and other ancillary buildings. ...

“In those days, a typical train out of Fayerdale would include: a combine carrying several passengers, a bag or two of U.S. mail, a few kegs of ‘stamped’ legal whisky and brandy, a half-dozen barrels of dried apples or peaches, a few bushels of chestnuts, a small barrel of black walnut meats, and a barrel or two of ground tanning bark stripped from chestnut oak trees; a gondola of iron ore; and a flat car of rough-cut railroad ties and other lumber. The return trip might carry, besides a few passengers, boxes and crates of merchandise for the general store, U.S. mail, kegs of liquor for the warehouse from stills along the Smith, a forge iron in various forms for the VO&L shops. The Climax dinky engine busied itself toting lorries of workers to cutting sites in the hills about town each morning, and saw logs, strips of tanbark, and tired workers back to its home base, the log pond at the bandsaw mill, each evening.”

The iron operation produced well, and the town continued to grow until about 1910, when equal quality but less expensive German pig iron began arriving at the Norfolk and Western shops in Roanoke. “Mining operations in Fayerdale drifted to a stop, and full attention was devoted to lumbering,” Williamson wrote.

He added that during 1921, the Smith River Lumber Co., a tenant at Fayerdale, advertised for saw mill men for sawing and piling several million feet of hardwood lumber. “That level of effort hints strongly that the bandsaw mill and logging railway as well as the railroad to Philpott were quite functional into at least the early twenties. There was still lumber and farm produce to haul for profit even though the iron ore trade had ceased and Prohibition had dried up the liquor traffic. But things were not well in Fayerdale. Sporadic reports from that neighborhood published in The Enterprise in the early ’20s told of more families moving out, more feuding and shootings among the moonshining neighbors, and a general malaise in the populace. Fayerdale was dying while a few of its residents were amassing fortunes in the illicit liquor business.”

On Aug. 25, 1925, T.W. Fugate bought, for $50,000, all of Fayerdale’s railroad and mining equipment, and thereafter, virtually all of it vanished, according to Williamson’s history. It added that in 1933 Fishburn donated the then 4,868 acres known as Fayerdale to the commonwealth for use as a state park and Fayerdale was flooded for the lake.

Also during Saturday’s program, Dr. John P. Bing of Bassett talked about the first doctor in Fayerdale, Albert Chapman Lancaster.

About 10 spectators attended the program. One of them was Avis Turner, author of the book “In the Land Where Fairies Cried Tears of Stone: Grandma’s Story.”


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