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Staunton River State Park is a state park in Virginia. One of the Commonwealth's original state parks, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and opening in 1936, it is located along the Staunton River near Scottsburg, Virginia.

Contents

Location

Staunton River State Park was constructed at the conjunction of the Staunton and Dan Rivers beginning in 1933 before Buggs Island Lake was formed in the early 1950s. The joining of these two rivers formed the Roanoke River basin. The section of land starting at the park and continuing downstream beside the Roanoke River was known as the Roanoke River Valley.

Background

The park gets its name from the Staunton River, which forms part of its boundary. Today the river is also known as the Roanoke River; however, locally it is known as the Staunton River (pronounced Stanton). The name “Staunton” was said to have come from Captain Henry Staunton, who before the Revolutionary War was in command of a company of soldiers organized to patrol the river valley from the mountains to the mouth of the Dan River. Their duty was to protect the early white settlers from attacks by the Indians. This section of the river became known as “Captain Staunton’s River” and finally as just the Staunton River.

History

This area was settled first by small farmers. With the introduction of tobacco as a cash crop, the area plantations began to grow. Many plantations were located along the Staunton River above the park. Red Hill, the last home of Patrick Henry and Roanoke Plantation, home of Captain Adam Clement and his son John M. Clement, who is the father of Samuel Clement (Mark Twain) are two of the better-known plantations. The Fork Plantation was located on what is now Staunton River State Park. H. E. Coleman owned the plantation and in 1839 the ownership was transferred to Richard Logan. The plantation contained all of the land located on the fork. One tract of the plantation was made up of more than 1,000 acres (4.0 km2). At this time, there was also a Fork Mission located near the present day town of Scottsburg.

With the plantations, there was a need for good transportation. With the Staunton and Dan Rivers, the area was open to water-borne commerce. A fleet of freight bateaux (flatboats) operated upstream from Brookneal and downstream to Clarksville and Gaston, North Carolina. Samuel Pannilla owned these flatboats. They bypassed the falls by building channels walled in with stone masonry, which formed a sort of canal. These boats not only stopped at the plantation of Samuel Pannilla, but at landings up and down the river to take on and deliver freight for other shippers. This system lasted until the Civil War and became popular again in 1869 until the railroads put it out of business. Charles Bruce of Staunton Hill placed two small steamboats in operation on the Staunton River, but most forms of water travel ended with the coming of the railroads.

Matt Haskins was the legendary strong man of the Staunton River bateaux men. Haskins, a black man who lived in Randolph, was known up and down the river. It was said that he could lift a 200-pound sack of fertilizer with his teeth and pick up a barrel full of liquor in his hands and drink out of the bunghole.

After the war, the Fork Plantation fell into ruins. Tenant farmers took over the land of the once great plantation. The land near the rivers was very rich and fertile and crops grew well. Each year, between five and six hundred pounds of corn was harvested. Tobacco was the main crop and large quantities of it were grown. One farmer usually had around fifty tenant farmers and their families living in what is today Staunton River State Park.

In 1899, there was a settlement in the Fork of the Christian Social Colony. It was an experiment of a religious sect trying to establish a Utopia based on a communal system. On August 8, 1899, Mr. J. C. Zimmerman of Wisconsin purchased a tract of land about two miles (3 km) above the confluence of the Dan and Staunton Rivers. The land was composed of 1,426 acres (5.77 km2). Mr. Zimmerman headed the group of men, women, and children that established the colony. The colony was made up of nine or ten families. The buildings were arranged in a semicircle with the kitchen and dining room in the loop. However, because the people knew little of the farming practices of the area, the colony began to fail and in a short period the group left the colony.

In 1933, the State Commission of Conservation and Development of the State of Virginia bought 1,196 acres (4.84 km2) of land from J. W. Johnson, his wife Mary C. Johnson, J. E. Johnson, and his wife Elizabeth Johnson. Other land for the park was also purchased. From 1933 to 1935, a Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) company was established at “the fork”. Most of the buildings and facilities of the park were built by the skilled hands of the C.C.C.

In 1936, Staunton River State Park was opened to the public. It is one of the first original six state parks. Covering 1,776 acres (7.19 km2), it opened recreation to the people of south central Virginia. In 1952, with the completion of the John H. Kerr Dam and the formation of Buggs Island Lake, part of the park was flooded. The park offers many forms of recreation to its guests with its pool, tennis courts, volleyball court, concession stand, picnic areas, children’s playground, boat launching facility, campground, cabins, and nature trails. Located in a rural area, much of the original beauty of “Captain Staunton’s River” still exists for all to enjoy.

References

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