Hike Revisits Life in the Mountains

In the foothills of Greene County, on May 5, the woods were brilliant with lush spring growth. A gravel road led up and up into the hills; eventually it would end at the border of Shenandoah National Park. Down a long drive, set deep in the forest was an old house—a sturdy two-story frame cabin with a welcoming front porch, at the edge of a clear, rushing stream.

About 80 people hiked out to the house that day, to recollect a different era here in Lambs Hollow. Before the creation of the Park, this landscape—where the forests are nearly unbroken now —was a patchwork of cleared fields and woods. A small community of families lived in the hollow, notably the Lamb clan, and they made their living off the land.

PEC and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) co-sponsored the hike, with the help of Larry Lamb, whose father grew up in this house, and Nelson Lamb, who grew up nearby on land where he still lives. The hike-at-your-own-pace event featured a range of options, from the easy walk out to the house to a longer route through the mountains, past the remains of the Upper Pocosin Mission School and several cemeteries. Interpretative signs were set up, noting the history behind old foundations and crumbling rock walls. At the cabin, known as the Rosser Lamb House, musicians played bluegrass and visitors enjoyed refreshments on the porch.

The group that came out to the house included a number of people who lived in the mountains before the Park and their direct descendants, including 17 descendants of Hiram and Lucy Lamb, who had this house built. Displays of black and white photographs as well as spoken memories recalled a time when children would hike uphill to attend the mission school, when fields were plowed by horses, most travel was done on foot, and mountain families rarely left the mountains.

When the Park was created, that culture came to an end. Families were removed from the land, and homesteads returned to forests. The Lamb family didn’t lose this house, which lies just outside the Park boundary, but they did lose their community, and eventually they moved on too. The land was sold and the house fell into disrepair.

In recent years, the historic home came to the attention of the PATC which purchased it and renovated for use as a rental cabin. PATC and PEC co-sponsored the hike in Lambs Hollow to celebrate its preservation—a remnant of this region’s cultural heritage and a resource for people who want to enjoy the mountains today.

Kristie Kendall, PEC’s Conservation Coordinator, who did her Masters thesis on old homesites in the Park, says: “So many people today hike the trails in and around Shenandoah National Park without understanding the history that surrounds them. The Lamb’s Hollow Hike was a great opportunity for hikers and history buffs, Lamb family members and park affiliates to come together, learn and reminisce about the past as well as plan for the future.”

This article was featured in our Summer 2012 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View