Mennonites migrated into the Shenandoah Valley as early as the 1730s, though not until after the Revolutionary War did the trickle turn into a steady migration from points north. Most 18th century Mennonites farmed, whereas in the twentieth century many diversified their economic pursuits into other areas of work. The farming heritage in the western part of Rockingham County near Clover Hill, Virginia, with the Allegheny Mountains as a backdrop, is still strong and deep.
Trent Wagler explained that Red Wing is an old traditional mountain tune, which the Steel Wheels band has updated and added new lyrics to for their shows today. Wagler learned the song from his grandfather over thirty years ago. A nice tribute to the past with an eye towards making meaning out of the present. Congrats to the Steel Wheels who are making great music!
Mennonite Bishop Lewis J. Heatwole wrote an article for the Daily News Record, Harrisonburg, Virginia, in 1921, in which he explained the meaning of the word Massanutten. From his research he concluded that Massanutten is from two Indian words for “ground” and “potato,” which when put together mean “Potato Ground.” Today the old peak still towers over the valley, easily seen from a jumbo jet descending on a Washington, D.C. airport from the south, and visible from about any point in the Shenandoah Valley. The encroachments of civilization have not dimmed the spectacle and grandeur of a mountain that has provided a visual feast for ancient Indians and modern travelers.
On a crisp July Sunday evening after a thunderstorm erupted across the Shenandoah Valley, a group gathered in the Cove schoolhouse at the CrossRoads Heritage center to listen to stories about 19th century Martin Burkholder documents. “Grace is a treasure,” Burkholder wrote in 1853, a fitting description for any era, including ours today.
Historians met at Mennonite Church USA Convention in Phoenix Arizona. It’s clear there’s a new era of regional collaboration among Mennonite historians rather than the former centralization of historical resources in one place. The Historian sat next to Jake Buhler, President of the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan, Canada. He shared stories about Russian Mennonites and in turn he heard stories of Swiss-South German Mennonites in Virginia. Buhler and others publish the Saskatchewan Mennonite Historian periodical, similar in name and format to the Shenandoah Mennonite Historian of Virginia.
Mennonites met in Phoenix, Arizona, in early July, 2013, for their biennial convention. A sign at a Vietnamese restaurant welcomed visitors from Virginia and beyond to good food, friendly greetings, and sweltering heat in the downtown area. The Historian has several meetings focused on historical studies to attend at the convention.