In May of 1926, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill authorizing the establishment of a 521,000-acre Shenandoah National Park. The bill stipulated that no federal funds could be used to acquire the land for the park. The job of obtaining the land therefore fell to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In order to avoid the slow and painful process of negotiating prices with each landowner, Virginia in March 1928 passed the Public Park Condemnation Act. The Act allowed the state to acquire the necessary land by filing a single condemnation suit in each of the eight affected counties, and purchasing the land by right of eminent domain. In effect the state simply confiscated all the lands that would make up the park.
Officials then formed a three-man committee to assess the value of each property to be paid its owner. Once the condemnation had been signed into law, the next task was to remove the inhabitants.
Complicating matters was the fact that many residents did not own proper title to their land and were uncertain as to the exact boundaries of their property. Ultimately 2,800 people were forced from their homes. By 1935 most of the inhabitants had left voluntarily. But the ones who chose to remain didn’t go down without a fight.
Dear Sir I have moved to the George Herring place. and under the Contract was to use all buildings an be responsible for them.
Mr. Herring have been to the C C. Camp no 3. trying to get the store room from them. this room would be of use to me as the roof is bad on the corn house. He also has it locked. and orders me not to touch it. Also has a few hundred pounds of hay in the barn. Would like for him to move it out so I will have room for my cows. If you desire me to hold all buildings please let me no at once so I can show the foremen my permit when he comes to tear them down.
(Signed) Mr. Boss. Morriss
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
March 13, 1935
Mr. Boss Morris
Swift Run, Va.
Your letter of March 10 which you wrote to Mr. Zerkel and in which you state that Mr. George Herring is trying to get the store room from his former place on which you are now living has been handed me to answer.
This is to advise that Mr. Herring has no rights to any of the buildings on the place and is not to tear down and move any of them.
I am sending a copy of this letter to Mr. Herring at Proffit, Va., so that he can make arrangements for the removal of his hay from the barn and also removal of whatever he has locked up in the store room, if anything.
Yours very truly,
J. R. LASSITER
Engineer in Charge
CC Mr. Herring
JRL – gh
Dictated but not read.
I’m now answering your letter I recived from you. so called a Copy to Boss Morris.
I’m very mutch suprised to get a thang like that. I have not said or even thraught of tearing dawn any thang up there. that is some of Boss Morrises lies he reparted to you. his wife told me she had a wretten permatt to stay there tell fall and said you had given them the buildings to move a way this fall. and I do know the C C C boys has been giving a way the buildings, and I can proved this to you they gave the George Shifflett house and all to Andry Mawbray. and the also gave G. M. Shiflett buildings to Bernard & Warren Shifflett and the also got N. C. Herrings buildings and the gave Mr C J Begoon buildings to William Sullivan. and Mr Sellars buildings to ame Shifflett. and I wretten to W.C. Hall Chairman Richmond and he said you all had no right to give a way the buildings. and I say if you all were a goning to give them a way wouldent it be more nicer to give it to the one who awned the property and Boss Morris moved from his house he taken the windows & doors I do not know what he did with them. and Bosses wife. told me you had promised Ame Shifflett the store building to move a way. and that is the way you all are doning and sending me your harble letters to which I havent had nothing to do with eny of the buildings up there. I thank you had better send some letters to the ones who are halling out the buildings and the fence. I’m very mutch suprised at you sending to me sutch a thand. I thraught you were a man of a better standing than that. I want you to know that my husband or I nether one have not been messing. with the mess of people up there or the buildings either and Boss Morris Cant come to my face and tell his lies. and that place was mine and not G.R. Herrings. They are up there a beating the park aut of every thang they can and a living on what has moved aut and do you up hold sutch as that. if you do you wont be mutch thraought of as they are. and every body knows what sutch thangs as Boss Morris is. Boos is up there lieing on my husband and he was here down with the grip I’m not lieing on no one. an I’m not telling you one ward mare than I can prave end I am living up to what I say. and I’m a goning to keep your letter and show it to the nicest of people who knows you lisent to Boss Morris lieing on us. and know we had nothing to do with Boss morris or his bueldings they clam you give to him. I want you to answer this at once
Yours Truly (Signed) Lillie Herrg
wife of G. R. H.
Copy of a pen written four-page letter.
Shenandoah National Park Archives – www.lib.jmu.edu/special/manuscripts/hoepfner.aspx