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New trail celebrates region's textile heritage
Quarter-mile loop joins Fieldale Trail
Information about the area’s textile industry is displayed along the new Textile Heritage Trail, located on Smith River Road in Fieldale. The trail also connects to the Fieldale Trail as part of the Smith River Trail System. See more photos on Page 8A. (Bulletin photo by MIke Wray)
Henry County supervisors Chairman Jim Adams said 20 of the best years of his and his family’s lives were when he worked for Bassett-Walker.
Adams was speaking at the grand opening ceremony of the Martinsville-Henry County Textile Heritage Trail on Friday.
During his official remarks and in an interview, Adams said working at Bassett-Walker provided an income that helped his family buy a home and educate the children.
Adams held a number of positions at Bassett-Walker. His last position involved managing yarn procurements and other duties. He worked in the United States as well as Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, he said.
“People I worked with there (at Bassett-Walker) were not just business associates. They felt like family,” he said.
He added that he hopes the interpretive signs along the new trail will encourage walkers who worked in the textile industry to reminisce about their work and co-workers’ community involvements.
Maybe grandparents will walk the trail and teach their grandchildren about the textile heritage, he suggested.
“We were proud to say that we worked in that industry,” he said.
The new trail, located on Smith River Road in Fieldale, connects to the 3.5 mile-Fieldale Trail as part of the Smith River Trail System.
The quarter-mile loop trail features an elevated boardwalk with seven interpretive signs. Along the self-guided tour, visitors will see a glimpse of the nearby former Fieldcrest Mills, opened by Marshall Field & Co. in 1919, and its smokestack.
Jennifer Doss, director of tourism for the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., said in her remarks: “This interpretive trail project is a component of Martinsville and Henry County’s Deep Roots initiative which gives a respectful nod to our community’s rich legacies related to furniture and textiles, motorsports, outdoor recreation and cultural arts. ...
“Tourism in the commonwealth of Virginia is a $50 billion industry with nearly $62 million being spent each year right here in Martinsville-Henry County. The Textile Heritage Trail adds to the variety of outdoor recreational opportunities and historic sites that our area has to offer and enhances the visitor experience for those who travel here.”
She said the trail has been listed as a point of interest along the Southern Textile Heritage Corridor, which spans 700 miles from Richmond to Montgomery, Ala.
“The Deep Roots Initiative demonstrates resilience, renewal, and revival. It reminds us where we came from and the innovative entrepreneurs that helped build our community,” Doss said. “It also teaches younger generations to dream big as they are our future entrepreneurs and leaders. We hope that you will enjoy admiring the innovation that built Martinsville-Henry County as you explore the trail.”
Brian Williams, program manager for the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA), recognized project contributors Martinsville-Henry County EDC; Dominion Power; Harvest Foundation; DRBA; Donald G. Trantham Jr.; Charles Warlick, Switchback Trail Design; Ansley Hodge Advertising Group; Virginia Department of Transportation; Friends of the Fieldale Trail; MHC Rivers & Trails Group; Henry County Parks & Recreation and Public Service Authority; city of Martinsville; Walker and Pannill families; Bassett Historical Center; MHC Historical Society; the Fieldale Heritage Committee; and volunteers.
In an interview, Williams said one can tell a lot about an area by how much it values such things as its natural and cultural resources and heritage. Gettysburg, Pa., promotes its heritage through a battlefield, so why can’t this area parlay its heritage? he asked.
In an interview, Henry County Administrator Tim Hall called the trail “tremendous.” It recognizes the area’s history and promotes health and wellness, he said.
Horsepasture District Supervisor Debra Buchanan said the trail provides one more reason why people will want to come to Henry County and Martinsville. “We’ve got a lot of outdoor activity that a lot of surrounding counties don’t have,” she added.
Linda Drage of Martinsville called the new trail educational.
“I’m very impressed. ... I love that you can stroll and read and get so much history out of it. It’s not a running trail; it’s an educational trail,” she said, adding that she is looking forward to bringing her grandchildren there.
William Lewis of The Virginia Home Inn — formerly a boarding house built in 1920 for young, unmarried women who worked at Fieldcrest Mill — called the trail “absolutely wonderful.”
“It’s not hard to walk. It’s fun. It’s for everybody,” he said.
Vicki Thomas of Ridgeway, who worked at Tultex for 12 years and at Pluma for several years, recalled when textile companies employed many people. She said there was a time when someone with limited skills could get a job at a textile company that was willing to train. “All you had to do was be loyal and be willing to work.”
Ken and Jane Cundiff of Floyd County said it was nice to walk the trail and learn about the area’s heritage.
“I’m very impressed with the signs,” Jane said, adding she is involved in a park effort in Floyd.
Dozens of people attended the grand opening ceremony. The Fieldale Antiques’ Mountain Music Jamboree performed.