Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sisters Find Their Virginia Roots

When your imagination has soared listening to your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles tell stories of their childhood in Virginia, of mountain climbing and green valleys and rocks and streams; when your brother goes there to live and he writes you about his life in the green valley, you must grab the opportunity to go there to see for yourself.

This is what Neville and Virginia did. Their brother Verne had moved to Virginia in early 1937. In June, the sisters traveled to visit him, probably by train. Travelers customarily wore their Sunday best in those days, men in suits and women in dresses and heels, as did Neville and Virginia. They stayed through the month of July escaping Nebraska's hot, dry season to enjoy warm days and cool mountain nights in Smyth County. Neville was 26 and Virginia was 21.

Neville, Verne, and Virginia, c. 1937.
The sisters stayed in Marion at the home of their Uncle Jim, Aunt Susie, and cousin Frances Troutman.1 Their mother wrote motherly letters to them: worrying about why they hadn’t written, worrying that they might be sick. She hadn’t heard from Verne, either, and supposed that he was “too busy to write.” She worried that Verne was imposing on Clint’s niece Eula by boarding with her. With six family member and Verne, the house was too full, she thought. Verne ought to find his own place.2
James H. Troutman home in Marion, c. 1930s.
She reported the daily happenings. “Dad said to tell you,” she wrote, “that he was almost through laying by corn. They won’t start cutting small grain until next week.” The grasshoppers were “getting large and numerous,” she said, and were eating some of the small grain. They were hoping for rain to quell them. Her neighbors were canning, but her tomatoes and other vegetables were not quite ready yet.3 She hoped that the girls would get home in time to help cook for threshers.4 While Virginia saved letters from her mother, Mary did not save letters from Virginia, so we don’t know for certain what the sisters did while they were there, but we can guess.

Knowing Verne’s penchant for sightseeing, he probably took them to some of his favorite spots, such as Backbone Rock near Damascus, Virginia, and he surely took them to see the place where their father was raised in Rich Valley. They certainly drove over Walker Mountain to Marion and perhaps stopped at Hungry Mother State Park for a picnic. He certainly introduced them to his friends and maybe there was a party of two while they were there.

Backbone Rock, near Damascus, VA, c. 1937
Their soon-to-be, sister-in-law Ruth wrote them supposing they had “been to the capital city and [had] more than taken things in.”5 Whether she meant the capitol of Virginia of the capitol of the United States is not clear, nor is there any indication regarding either visit from any other letters.

Neville and Virginia returned home, hopefully in time to help their mother cook for threshers, and in the fall, Neville returned to her teaching position in Meadow Grove.

At Thanksgiving, Verne traveled home to Nebraska, and a family photo was taken. It must have been a warm Thanksgiving, for they’re not wearing coats.

Left to right: Irene Sahs (Verne’s Nebraska girlfriend), Mary (Waggoner) Troutman, “Aunt Jenny” Virginia (Totten) Troutman (sister-in-law to Mary and Clint), Unknown (behind Jenny’s head), Clint Troutman (peeking between Jenny and Dorothy), Dorothy (Fleer) Troutman, Virginia Troutman, James Troutman (maybe, peeking between Virginia and Neville), Neville Troutman holding Darrell, Carl Troutman, Verne Troutman, and Gary (Darrell and Gary belong to Carl and Dorothy).

Verne would go back to Virginia for a few more years where he would soon meet the love of his life.

1 Mary Troutman, Winside, NE, to Virginia, Neville, and Verne Troutman, letter, 1 July 1937, newsy letter about activities at home: garden, canning, visits from friends, and so on; Family Letters; copy privately held by Z. T. Noble, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana.. Also, Mary Troutman, Winside, NE, to Virginia Troutman, letter, 12 July 1937, newsy letter about activities at home, anticipating the return of her daughters. Letters are addressed to Virginia Troutman, c/o J. H. Troutman, Marion, Virginia, Family Letters, CD.
2 Mary Troutman, Winside, NE, to Virginia, Neville, and Verne Troutman, letter, 1 July 1937.
3 Ibid.
4 Mary Troutman, Winside, NE, to Virginia Troutman, letter, 12 July 1937.
5 Ruth Schindler, Nebraska City, Nebraska, to Neville and Virginia Troutman, letter, 13 July 1937, asks about their activities in Virginia and tells them about an accident involving their brother James, Family Letters CD; copy privately held by Z. T. Noble, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana.


  1. Sounds like a good time for the two sisters. Thank you, Zola.

  2. You're welcome, Jack! I appreciate your comment.