Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Drinking Through Family History: Woodstock, Virginia

My mother's father's maternal line flows forth from the Shenandoah Valley in an area ranging from Strasburg to Edinburg and dominated by names like Hoover, Smoot, Gochenour, Grandstaff, Keller, and Hottel. These families were mostly German, Swiss, and Dutch immigrants arriving in the colonies at Philadelphia, then migrating to York and Lancaster, before finally settling in what is now Shenandoah County. They were a mixture of Mennonites and Lutherans, primarily farmers, who received their initial land grants from Lord Fairfax.

One of these immigrants was Hans Wilhelm Huber who along with his wife Anna Margaretha, emigrated from Germany and arrived in Philadelphia in 1736. A dozen years later the Hubers settled near the North Fork around Woodstock Virginia after an initial residency in Lebanon PA. Their son, Johannes Huber (John Hoover), married Elizabeth Fravel, whose family lineage arrived in the valley a couple generations earlier and included the Keller and Hottel families. The next two generations of Hoovers were farmers with the last male in my line, Perry Monroe Hoover, marrying Mary Jane Smoot -- bringing Gochenours and Grandstaffs into our mix. The Hoover, Smoot, and Gochenour farms were located very close to Woodstock, where many of these ancestors are buried.

These families participated in the growth of Woodstock starting with its original charter in 1761 - making it the 4th oldest town in Virginia - and on land which George Washington had surveyed in his youth and who sponsored the charter in Virginia's House of Burgesses. The town became the county seat of Shenandoah County with Thomas Jefferson designing the original courthouse that is the oldest courthouse still in use west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Clerk of the Circuit Court Thomas Marshall, father of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, was one of the first judges to utilize the courthouse. Ardent revolutionaries, the community contributed soldiers to the 8th Virginia Regiment that saw action in Saratoga among many other battles, and suffered through Valley Forge. During the Civil War, the community was generally reluctant to participate in the southern cause, being religiously opposed to slavery, but a few members enlisted or were conscripted into the Company F (the Muhlenberg Rifles) of the 10th Virginia Infantry as well as Company C of the 33rd Virginia Infantry -- part of the Stonewall Brigade.

Today, Woodstock Brewhouse is located near in the center of town, near the historic courthouse. The brewery opened four years ago after renovating the Casey Jones Work-Clothes Company factory - which operated from 1925 through the early 1940s. You are familiar with this company through its Wrangler brand which rose to national prominence after the company and brand where purchased by the Blue Bell Overall Company in 1943. The brewery commemorates this history through its Casey Jones Vanilla Porter as well as the nearby North Fork of the Shenandoah River with the North Fork Golden Ale and Seven Bender American Pale Ale. These last two are your hydration beers during local hiking and fishing excursions.

And when fishing or visiting the seven bends of the North Fork, venture over the one-lane bridge or the swinging walking bridge to Muse Vineyards. The winery rests on the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains with the vineyards planted with a mixture of Bordeaux and Rhone grapes close to the river. In 2003 Robert Muse and Sally Cowal purchased an abandoned vineyard that formed the base for Muse and later purchased a 200-year-old Mennonite farm adjacent to their property which allowed them to expand to thirty acres of vines. The soil for the various vineyards are quite distinct, with the blocks closer to the river dominated by silt loam alluvium and the vineyards closer to the mountains containing rocky red clay soils. Since its inception, the winery has gained a very favorable reputation for its Clio ($35-ish) Bordeaux-style red wine and Thalia ($24) Rhone-style white wine. We concur completely.

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