Posts Tagged ‘Mutton Hollow Road’

Mutton Hollow

When I was little, my parents were asked to serve at a small church, Mutton Hollow, nestled up a hollow at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Elkton and Stanardsville, Virginia.  It is a very unique stone church built out of river rock.

The church as it was in the early 1950’s.

This was a big sacrifice for my parents who had to travel Route 33 west from Penn Laird where we lived and cross a steep, winding mountain.  It took us about an hour to go to church. I would get very car sick every Sunday, on the way there and on the way home. Mother said sometimes I could make it to the top of the mountain before throwing up. There were three of us kids and my younger sister also suffered terribly from motion sickness.  My folks had to deal with two puking kids and the mess every Sunday and nothing helped.

Today Gene and I traveled to Harrisonburg and decided to take the scenic Route 33 instead of Interstates 64 and 81 as we normally do. Times have changed, the road has been widen, straighten and the road across the mountain greatly improved. But let me tell you, it is still steep and curvy and include “run-away truck ramps” for out-of-control truckers to save their necks and loads. Gene made comment that he would not want to drive a truck across that mountain.

We had extra time and I asked Gene if we could take a side excursion. I wanted to see Mutton Hollow Mennonite Church, now renamed Mt. Hermon. At the base of the mountain on the Stanardsville side is a dirt road (Mutton Hollow Road) with a small church sign saying two miles.

I only have a few memories of attending there as it was before I was four years old. One of them was fording the flooded creek in the car and the water came up to the headlights. I remember daddy being concerned that he could be in trouble.  I remember one Sunday walking into my Sunday School class with a small red purse with a long strap dangling from my shoulder. I was so proud!

I also remember one Sunday as we crossed the mountain seeing a tractor trailer that had failed to navigate the curves down over the steep side of the mountain. Daddy stopped the car and we all gazed at the scary sight wondering how they would retrieve the truck and if the driver lived. As we were staring down the side, another church family stopped to look.  (Ike Risser family).

I also remember the pipe sticking out of the rock with mountain water flowing somewhere going up the mountain. There were several picnic tables in little coves along the road for travelers to stop and rest or seek relief from their motion sickness. I don’t remember, but I suspect that my folks had to make use of both spots to clean and calm their puking girls.

Today as we turned down Mutton Hollow Road, I was very anxious to see “the creek”.  We soon came to a nice concrete bridge crossing the creek and I had to stop and take pictures. To my surprise, we crossed the creek (on bridges) three more times.  So, I have no idea which crossing was the one I remembered! There were a few sparse houses on the road but we mostly wound through Shenandoah National Forest.  We could hardly believe that a church would be so far back in the middle of nowhere with almost no homes around.

The first concrete bridge.

The other crossings seemed to have more water.

The little mountain stream was flowing fairly well.

Two miles later, we rounded a corner and there in a clearing was the stone church just as I remembered except they now have a building program with a major addition being added. We were stunned. Where do the people live that attend there?

The front door of the church was wide open and you could see the preacher behind the pulpit.

It is good to know the church is still thriving and bringing God’s message to the community of Lydia.

Today the parking lot was full of vehicles!  I got a couple of pictures from the road but we couldn’t snoop around.  The setting was beautiful, a step back in time, with the dirt road still running between the church and the creek.  Just past the church, the dirt road ended and a paved road lined with homesteads took us back out to 33. We realized we had come in the back way, up the hollow, to the church.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip down memory lane today. And for memory sake, this is the picture of Judy Risser Pritchart (left) and I (right) at one of those crossings or down the bank beside the church.

I struggled with car sickness even up into my teens years. By the time we were married, it had mostly disappeared, however, I have to be careful especially on curvy, narrow and up and down roads. I credit several things; better roads, better cars with air conditioning and the privilege of now being the front seat passenger!  Our cars in those days were real “boats”! It can still sneak up and get me if I am not careful like the historic Route 58 in southern Virginia several years ago. I have no desire to return!!!

The following two pictures taken by Judy Risser Pritchard several years ago before they started the renovation project.

The original is the back section.  The front is an entryway with bathrooms and a library.

I like this picture as it shows the year the church structure was built. History records that the church was organized in 1936 as a mission outreach from Eastern Mennonite University and they met in a local Brethren Church.  It is recalled that the first structure either burned or flooded (at a different location) and a new building was built on the current location.

We would have attended 1951-1956.

Several additional pictures shared by Bertha Horst…the road up the hollow. She got better pictures than I did.

One of the few homesteads nestled in the edge of the forest.

Now you can really see why we wondered why there would be a church up this road!

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