Fort Valley Virginia

Tour curated by: Shenandoah County Library-Fort Valley Museum

Fort Valley is a 23 mile long mountain valley located in Shenandoah County Virginia. Called by a “valley within a valley” and a “gem within a gem” the valley lies between the arms of the Massanutten Mountain Range. It is closed on the south end and is accessible in the north via a narrow gap created by Passage Creek.

Europeans first arrived in the Fort in the mid-18th century. Native Americans had used the land for hundreds of years as hunting grounds and farms. These arriving whites took possession of the land and began to clear forests to create their own farms and communities. Since the valley was isolated and everything had to be built by the individuals involved, life during this period would have been incredibly difficult. Despite this, several families remained in the area and are still present today.

The antebellum period saw the growth of the iron furnace industry in Fort Valley. Since the area contained several high quality iron deposits that were easily accessible, it became home to numerous operations that worked to provide Virginia and the nation’s growing demand for this metal. During the Civil War, these iron furnaces were a major supplier to the Confederacy’s Tredger Iron Works in Richmond which produced most of the South’s arms and ammunition.

After the war the iron furnaces continued to operate. In addition manganese mines, lumberyards, and bark tanning operations supplied locals with jobs. However, agriculture and the family farm continued to be the main means of support for Fort Valley residents into the later part of the 20th century.

During the Great Depression an economic shift began to occur. Government programs, both state and Federal, began to focus on developing the area’s woodlands and natural resources for tourism. This trend continues today and the majority of Fort Valley residents are in some way connected to the service economy that developed to assist travelers that come to one of the Fort’s numerous campgrounds, trails, or recreation centers.

Locations for Tour

In 1850 Noah Burner, a native of Fort Valley, built a resort on this location. Known as either Burner’s Sulphur Springs or Shenandoah Springs, it was known for its hospitable welcomes, blazing fires, and delicious food. The true attraction though…

In 1836 this area had been home to Elizabeth Iron Furnace. This was one of many small iron producing furnaces that existed throughout Fort Valley and Shenandoah County. Elizabeth utilized the power provided by waters of Passage Creek. Initially the…

In January 1896 a group of dissatisfied Lutherans finally made the decision to break away from St. Davids Lutheran Church and start their own congregation. That year they completed this structure and named it Mt. Zion Evangelical Lutheran…

In 1816 the Reverend Paul Henkel, a notable Lutheran minister in the valley, noted Lutheran residents of Fort Valley formed their own independent congregation. Their meeting house stood on land donated by Jacob Golladay near the mountain road. Many…

According to local legends, an individual named William Powell settled in the northern end of Fort Valley during the mid-18th century. A wide array of stories has emerged about his life. Some of these are: -He was a stage coach robber who used his…

In 1965 the Lutheran Congregations of St. Davids and Mt. Zion Churches agreed to end the 75 year old dispute that had separated them. This effort was a result of several decades of improved relations that had led to joint Sunday Schools and Youth…

Dry Run Christian Church was born around 1841, when a small congregation began meeting at the Union Church at Dry Run in Fort Valley. In 1879 this congregation joined the American Christian Church which followed the tenants that Christ was the head…

In 1830, Fort Valley resident Daniel Munch donated two acres of land to house a school and church. He required that the church be available for all Protestant denominations. The one room church building that was constructed there was made of locally…

In 2008 a second building, Trinity Brethren Church, became part of the Fort Valley Museum. The trustees of that congregation were no longer able to support the building due to a decline in membership and transferred ownership top the museum to ensure…

On March 9, 1923 the Shenandoah Herald reported a group of Federal, State, and Local law enforcement officers had raided Clarence Shiflett's home and found a forty gallon still and a large quantity of mash. Shiflett lived in Fort Valley but the…

Daniel Munch was a well known producer of apple brandy and other spirits in Fort Valley during the antebellum period. After his passing, Daniel's son Addison became a producer. They sold spirits throughout the county and manufactured them at…

On March 9, 1923 the Shenandoah Herald reported a gallon of liquor, a still, and a barrel and a half of mash were found on his property by local and Federal law enforcement officers. The exact location of this still is unknown.

Store owner's Don and Laurie Kadel displayed a still at the King's Crossing Store starting in the 1960s. This item was a popular among store patrons. In 1974 it attracted the attention of the Virginia ABC Board who raided the store and…

In 1905 Joseph W. Gochenour in Fort Valley Virginia advertised in the Shenandoah Herald that he was selling his distillery. He described the operation as having "two good copper stills, caps, and worms, capacity 105 and 110 gallons, about 85…

On March 9, 1923 the Shenandoah Herald reported law enforcement agents raided the Fort Valley home of Mont Woodrow and found a "fully equipped still" with two and one half gallons of moonshine. Where exactly this still was located and when…

In April 1965 Russell Henry Clem of Fort Valley was charged by the Virginia ABC Board for having "possession of alcoholic beverage, tax not paid..." and for "keeping, storing, and having in his possession...distilling apparatus."…

On May 10 1927 the Shenandoah Herald reported that Deputy Sheriff McKinley Ryman arrested, with the help of Mik Neff, Layman Habron on violation of prohibition laws. While working with law enforcement Neff had gone to Habron's home where he had…