Historic Grounds Walking Tour
Mount Bleak House. Mount Bleak House stands on one of the prominent
hills in the park. One meaning of the word "bleak" is exposed, barren and
often windswept. The word is certainly appropriate for this location!
Build in 1843 by Abner Settle, Mount Bleak House is a typical Federal-
style house common to the eastern portion of the country. The main por-
tion of the house is made of stone. The 2 1/2 story wooden-framed addi-
tion was added on by 1850 to accommodate Abner's growing family. Al-
though equal in stories to the main block, this addition is lower in height
because it does not have a raised English basement as the stone portion
Occupied by Abner Settle, his second wife Mary Ann Kyle Settle, and 9
of their 12 children from 1843 to 1866, the house was witness to extra-
ordinary events prior to, during, and after the Civil War. Amanda Ed-
monds, niece to Abner and Mary and resident of the neighboring farm
"Belle Grove," kept a journal from 1857 - 1867. The document gives us
a first-hand perspective on both day-to-day life in the Crooked Run Valley
and the unique struggles of these Virginia families during this time of
great national turmoil. Much of what we know about daily life here at
Mount Bleak Farm comes from Amanda's journal.
Although no major battles were fought in the Crooked Run Valley the area
did see much troop movement of both Confederate and Union forces. On
the night of July 19, 1861, Brigadier General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
camped General Joseph Johnston's 2,500-man army here after their march
from Winchester. That night, hundreds of campfires could be seen in the
valley from his location. The next morning, July 20, Jackson marched his
army to Piedmont Station (now Delaplane) where railcars waited to trans-
port his entire 11,000-man army to Manassas Junction. There, 30,000
Confederates faced 35,000 Federals at the First Battle of Manasses. This
was the first time trains were used in mass troop movement to and from
Kentucky coffeetree. Abner's oldest son, Thomas Lee Settle, studied med-
icine in the 1850's with Dr. Albin S. Payne in the near-by town of Paris.
He graduated from Castleton Medical School in Vermont in 1856 and
interned at the Louisville Hospital in Kentucky through 1858. That same
year, he opened his own office in Paris and brought home a Kentucky
coffeetree. The tree that stands here today is an offshoot of that original
Carriage barn and corn house. The carriage barn and corn house were
build sometime in the 1840s. Mr. Settle implemented a northern exposure
protective measure by situating this substantial antebellum-period car-
riage and corn house in the northwest corner of his dooryard. A second
frame barn once stood perpendicular to its west, which suggests his inten-
tion to provide a weather shield for Mount Bleak House.
The unusual combination of an attacheed corn house might have been a
slightly later evolution of the building, for there are still discernible horse
stalls in the west end. However, the practicality of the mixed-use barn on
this middle-class farmstead demonstrates the duration and significance of
agriculture through two centuries at Mount Bleak Farm.
This is an extremely well-built carriage and corn house which retains both
hewn and mill-sawn timber framing. This multi-use building, rare for its
age and survival, represents the oldest pre-Civil War agricultural outbuild-
ing at Sky Meadows State Park.
Washhouse. This structure was relocated to this site sometime in the 1940s.
It was rebuilt on top of the cellar. In the Settle's time, there would not have
been a building with a fireplace on top of the ice cellar.
The building has been furnished to resemble a wash house of the 1860s.
Wash day was a laborious affair that required large pots of hot water
washboards that were hard on fabrics and the hands holding them, soaps
and starches that were often homemade, and irons that needed to be heated
on the fire.
Icehouse. Beneath the washhouse, below the ground, is Abner's ice cellar.
Large blocks of ice were cut from the ponds and transported here. The
blocks were placed in the underground cellar and covered in sawdust to
insulate them. Ice stored in this manner would last until August, keeping
food fresh and allowing the Settles to serve chilled treats, including ice
cream, to their guests.
Log kitchen. This building served as the kitchen for the main house. The
location of the chimney was probably deliberate, in order for the prevailing
winds to blow the smoke and smells of the kitchen away from the house.
Evidence suggests that the timbers used to construct the building were re-
purposed from a Colonial-era structure.
The second floor probably served as living quarters for the enslaved cook.
Abner had as many as 13 enslaved workers at Mount Bleak, but they were
not the first to live here. From Colonial times until the end of the Civil
War, the majority of people living in the Crooked Run Valley were prob-
ably enslaved. John Edmonds had 36 enslaved people in 1785 to work his
1,000-acre property, and Belle Grove, just to the south of Mount Bleak
was home to 33 enslaved workers in 1860. Although much of their history
is lost, these individuals shaped the land and the cultural landscape of this
valley for over 100 years.
Visitor Center. This building, once known as the Glass House, was
probably constructed as a questhouse during the 1940s, during Sir Robert
Hadow's ownership of the farm. The name Glass House omes from the
wall of windows overlooking the Crooked Run Valley to the south. Sir
Hadow was a diplomat attached to the Britsh Embassy during World War
II. His, wife, a naative Virginian, was a relative of the Edmonds and the
Settles. They came to this farm, along with their children, to escape the
confines of Washington, D. C. and to find a sage haven in another time
of global strife. Hadow called this property "Skye Farm" because the
landscape reminded him of the Isle of Skye an island off the coast of
Scotland where he had vacationed in his youth.
Kitchen Garden. Most 18th and 19th Century farms maintained herb and
vegetable gardens for the family's personal use. The food harvested from
these gardens was used daily in kitchen recipes and home-made medicines,
or preserved to sustain in family through the long winter. The victory gar-
dens of World War II were an evolution of the kitchen garden. The Hadows
maintaineed a victory garden here at Skye Farm. Today, the park's garden
is planted and maintained by dedicated volunteers and the food harvested
from it is used in our cooking programs.
Dairy barn and other outbuildings. The barn and other outbuildings
at Sky Meadows were built during the 1950s when the dairy industry was
booming in the Crooked Run Valley. This boom was possible due to ad-
vances made in farm tools immediately after the two World Wars. New
power equipment transformed farming and made large-scale operations
possible and profitable for more landowners. Today, the buildings are used
for storage and house a variety of farm equipment from the first half of the
Blacksmith shop. Blacksmiths were valuable members of preindustrial
communiities. Nowhere was this more than on the frontier. Frontier smiths
made a living producing and repairing tools and implements for their farm-
ing neighbors. During Colonial times, John Edmonds established a black-
smith shop at his Wayside Cottage, the small white house at the corner of
the Winchester-Warrenton Road (Route 17) and Edmonds Lane.
Today, Sky Meadows continues the tradition of having a smithy on the
property. Our historic forge was repaired in 2012 by members of the
Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac. In 2013, the park opened the black-
smith shop as a permanent addition to the Historic Area. Guild members
man the forge on select weekends throughout the year, demonstrating
blacksmith skills and crafting tools and other items for use here on the
View of the Crooked Valley. Since the time of European colonization,
the Crooked Run Valley has been associated with agriculture. George
Washington immediately saw the potential value of this land and acquired
several acres as payment for surveying the area for one of its first Euro-
pean owners, Lord Fairfax. With its vast numbers of streams and water-
ways this valley was also a perfect site for mills. Several were in operation
prior to and during the Civil War.
Although no major battles were fought in the Crooked Run Valley during
the Civil War, the area did see much troop movement of both Confederate
and Union forces. The night of July 19, 1861, Brigadier General Thomas
"Stonewall" Jackson camped General Joseph Johnston's 2,500 man army
here after their march from Winchester. That night, hundreds of campfires
could be seen in the Crooked Run Valley from this location. The next
mourning, July 20, Jackson marched his army to Piedmont Station (now
Delaplane) where railcars waited to transport his 11,000 man army to
Manassas Junction. There 30,000 Confederates faced 35,000 Federals
at the First Battle of Manassas. This was the first time in American his-
tory that trains were used in mass troop movements to and from battle.
This concludes the walking tour. For more information, please visit the
Crooked Run Valley