Park History

 

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 Vir-

ginia 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 agri-

cultural 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 provided 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 and flora.

 

By the early 1730's, squatters and tenants soon began to dwell in the

Crooked 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 blacksmith shop

near what is now the entrance to Sky Meadows State Park at the in-

tersection 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, respect-

ed 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 join-

ing 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 Piedmont Station).

 

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, philanthrop-

ist 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 Common-

wealth 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 acqui-

sition process. It is not known as the Lost Mountain Bridle Trail area

and visitors on foot and on horseback can also enjoy this scenic his-

toric area. Many visitors ask, "Why the name Sky Meadows?" Dur-

ing 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, suggest-

ed to us the name Sky Meadows."

 

 

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