Appalachian Trail Histories

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A view of the town of Fries, Virginia, in March 1911. The photographer Lewis Wickes Hine visited Fries that year to document the working conditions in the Washington Mill, visible in the left margin of the photograph. The flat bottomed river boat in the foreground is a typical example of the kind of boat used along the New River, including at Dixon's Ferry where Appalachian Trail hikers crossed the river on their way north or south until 1952.

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Hikers on the Appalachian Trail headed northbound reached the New River at Byllesby Dam, one of several hydroelectric dams built by the Appalachian Power Company in the early 20th century. Byllesby Dam was completed in 1912, and continues in operation today. From the dam, hikers turned south (upstream) along the river, roughly following the railroad line that ended at the town of Fries, site of another of the Appalachian Power Company dams. Just before reaching Fries, hikers turned aside to Dixon's Ferry, where they took a flat bottomed ferry boat across the river and then headed up the ridge toward the town of Galax.

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A news item in theĀ Floyd News (Floyd, VA) about a planned hike by local Boy Scouts on the Appalachian Trail in Floyd County.

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John Barnard with a memorial he made to the local Native Americans who lived in the Dan River gorge. According to his grandson, Barnard cast the concrete in sand and then added artifacts he had found in the gorge over the years.

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From the reverse: The Little Falls of Dan, one mile north of Pinnacles of Dan. The fall here of Dan River is 90 or 100 ft. The River here flowing through the great crevice of rock and around huge boulders at a tremendous rapid rate which is interesting to observe and very beautiful. Frank Cox in picture.

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The Washington Mill in Fries, Virginia, photographed by Lewis Wickes Hine in May 1910, just upstream from where the Appalachian Trail crossed the New River at Dixon's Ferry. The mill provided employment to almost everyone in the town of Fries and many others living nearby. When the mill closed in 1989, it still employed 1,700 people. Today only the dam remains and is owned by a Swedish company. The mill itself was scraped off in the early 2000s. Text added by the photographer reads, "Housing conditions are fairly good, but housekeeping not very good. Working very good. Good light, fresh air."

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This photograph of a hiker in the Dan River Gorge near the Pinnacles of Dan in 1931 is part of a collection of glass lantern slides held by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy archives. These slides were created in the 1930s to be used for promotional talks about the Appalachian Trail as part of the ATC's efforts to increase the visibility and use of the trail.

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The Hotel Mons was the resort hotel located in the Peaks of Otter recreation area near Bedford, Virginia. The original route of the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia began at the Hotel Mons and turned immediately south, swinging southwest of Roanoke through northern Franklin County, and from there across Bent Mountain into Floyd County. When the Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed in the mid-1930s, the Mons became part of the new National Park and was eventually torn down by the National Park Service. The trail now passes to the west of the Peaks of Otter.

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In 1935, members of the Galax, Virginia Moose Lodge decided to hold an "Old Fiddler's Convention" to raise money for the local high school. The organizers thought a couple of hundred people might show up. Instead, they were so overwhelmed by musicians and those who wanted to hear the music, that they had to break that first convention into two sessions. Ever since, the Old Fiddler's Convention has had the goal of, "keeping alive the memories and sentiments of days gone by and making it possible for people of today to hear and enjoy the tunes of yesterday." This advertisement for the first convention appeared in the Galax Gazette during the early spring of 1935.

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The road leading to Fancy Gap, Virginia from Mt. Airy, North Carolina in 1932. The Appalachian Trail passed directly through the town of Fancy Gap on its way south to Fisher's Peak, NC.

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The Bluemont Hotel on Main Street in downtown Galax, Virginia, was a popular spot for hikers on the Appalachian Trail who passed through the city on their way north or south. Despite advertising an "automatic sprinkler system," the Bluemont burned in the 1950s and was not rebuilt.

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Shirley Cole (right) and his brother Ernest (left) was the County Agent in Floyd County, Virginia and the founder of the Southern Virginia Appalachian Trail Association that marked, cut, and graded the first version of the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia in 1930. Cockram Ridge is along the route of the AT between Meadows of Dan and the Pinnacles of Dan. Photograph by ATC Chairman Myron Avery.

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