The "Story" of Sky Meadows has its origins not in the year of 1983, when
the park officially opened; not even in the early 1840's when Mount Bleak
was built. The inhabitation and agricultural use of the Piedmont and Blue
Ridge area was well established long before the arrival of Europeans.
Anthropologists believe that Siouan-speaking peoples who were once
united in the Ohio River Valley ventured both west and east thousands
of years ago separating into Western and Eastern Siouan cultures. Though
these early inhabitants of Virginia were hunter-gatherers, it is not generally
known that the Manahoac Tribe were a Siouan-speaking nation that called
the upper Piedmont area home and its people probably used sophisticated
agricultural techniques. One such technique may have been the growing of
squash, beans and maize together. The broad leaves of the squash kept the
soil from drying out around the base of the maize plant and the maize pro-
vided a support for the beans. Each plant replenished different nutrients
to keep the soil from being depleted.
It did not take long for the push west from "Jamestowne" to reach the
Crooked Run Valley. By 1719, Thomas Culpeper, Sixth Lord Fairfax of
England, inherited more than 5,282,000 acres situated between the
Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. By using natural passage ways from
the Tidewater region, passage ways previously well traversed by buffalo
and Indians, English colonists made their way into the interior of Virginia
with its diverse forests and meadows of grasses populated by exotic fauna
By the early 1730's, squatters and tenants soon began to dwell in the Crook-
ed Run Valley. Though the land was claimed by Tidewater gentry such as
Colonel Robert ("King") Carter, an agent for Thomas Culpeper, it was
Captain James Bell who formally instituted legal land ownership in the
Crooked Run Valley. In 1731, Captain Bell purchased from Lord Fairfax a
7,883 acre tract on the east side of the Blue Ridge south of Ashby's Gap.
When Ball died in 1749, his property was divided into 2,000 acre parcels
and distributed among his daughter and five grandsons. John Edmonds
purchased land from one of Ball's grandsons in 1780. Edmonds then built a
one-and-a-half story house (which still stands) and established a black-
smith shop near what is now the entrance to Sky Meadows State Park at
the intersection of U.S. Route 17 and Edmonds Lane. Edmonds died in 1798,
and his land was divided among his five children. Sons Elias and George sold
most of their inherited land to Isaac Settle, respected postmaster and tavern
keeper in the nearby village of Paris.
Isaac Settle built a large brick house in 1812, and named it "Belle Grove"
(located just south of the park) where he and his wife Mary raised three
children. In 1842, he sold the Belle Grove farm to his son-in-law Lewis
Edmonds, who, a year later, sold 148 acres to Isaac's son Abner Settle.
In addition to being a farmer, Abner was a co-owner of the general store,
"Settle and Rodgers."
The adjoining property to the original homestead had a prominent ridge
from which one could view the surrounding rolling hills and streams. On
this ridge, Abner built the stone portion of what is now the "Mount Bleak"
house ("Bleak" in this case meaning "exposed" or "breezy"). By 1850, he
had added the frame portion of the house to accommodate himself, second
wife Mary, their six children, and his father. Five more children were born
to the Settles by 1862 (Abner also had a son, Thomas Lee, from his first
wife, Isabelle Hixon).
When the darkening clouds of impending civil strife loomed on the horizon
in 1860, the people of Crooked Run Valley and the Gap at Paris did not
realize the devastation that warfare would bring to the area and the families
thereof. Patriotic to their Virginia homeland, many Crooked Run Valley
residents were torn in their loyalties. One of Abner's sons, Thomas Lee,
volunteered to join the 7th Virginia cavalry as an army surgeon, while two
other sons, Isaac Morgan and Abner Carroll, decided to protect their homes
by joining the independent command of Colonel Mosby (of Mosby Rangers
fame). All three sons returned home safe and sound at the end of the war
in 1865; however, Abner's health had declined during the war.
In 1866, because of declining health and financial difficulties brought on by
the war, Abner Settle sold the Mount Bleak farm to Thomas and Emily
Glascock. Abner and Mary moved to Delaplane, Virginia (then known as
Glascock sold the property in 1868 to George M. Slater, who had been a
member of Mosby's Rangers (43rd Battalion Cavalry) during the Civil War.
Slater and his son owned the farm until they both died in 1923. During the
following decades, the land changed hands several times.
In 1966 a housing development was planned and the property was divided
into 50 acre lots. This scenic area was saved through the actions of Paul
Mellon, heir to the Mellon Bank fortune, philanthropist and an owner/
breeder of thoroughbred racehorses. Virginia State Parks received the
1,132 acre farm as a gift from Mr. Mellon in 1975. After building facilities to
accommodate the public, the Commonwealth opened Sky Meadows State
Park in 1983.
A 248 acre corridor between the park and U. S. Route 50 containing
three miles of the Appalachian Trail was added in 1987.
On the east side of Route 17 is a parcel of land that was purchased from
Lord Fairfax by George Washington. During the 19th and 20th centuries,
the land had been farmed by several local families.
In 1991, Paul Mellon presented this additional 462 acres as a gift to the
park. The Virginia Outdoor Foundation was active in this acquisition
process. It is not known as the Lost Mountain Bridle Trail area and
visitors on foot and on horseback can also enjoy this scenic historic area.
Many visitors ask, "Why the name Sky Meadows?" During World War II,
Robert Hadow, British Consul-General, and his family would spend
summers on the property and it is claimed that he was impressed
with Mount Bleak, stating that it reminded him of Scotland's Isle of
Skye. The farm was therefore named "Skye Farm".
Later, in 1949, United States Attorney General John Scott used the name
"Sky Meadows" in a 1976 letter to the Fauquier Democrat newspaper,
stating, "The high broad meadows, under the sky, suggested to us the name
Crooked Run Valley