Rap­pa­han­nock News de­liv­ered to Hoover Li­brary

Rappahannock News - - The Rapp - By John McCaslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

The Rap­pa­han­nock News was de­lighted this year when “Dis­cov­er­ing Hoover and his Hid­den Jewel in Shenan­doah Na­tional Park” took first place hon­ors in Fea­ture Story Writ­ing at the Vir­ginia Press As­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual com­pe­ti­tion.

Now, in a sort of round­about way, an orig­i­nal copy of that story has landed in the archives of the Her­bert Hoover Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum in West Branch, Iowa.

How did it get there?

Rob­bie Ann Mor­ris is the do­cent of the Ge­orge W. Bush Li­brary and Mu­seum in Dal­las, Texas. She and her hus­band also own a farm in Rap­pa­han­nock County. As Mor­ris tells the story, she re­cently wel­comed board mem­bers of the Hoover Li­brary to the Bush Li­brary.

“We were host­ing an ex­hibit on pres­i­den­tial re­treats, in­clud­ing the Hoover Camp in Vir­ginia,” Mor­ris ex­plains. Dur­ing the board’s visit to Dal­las she re­called see­ing the Rap­i­dan Camp story fea­tured in the News, re­mem­ber­ing in par­tic­u­lar Pres­i­dent and Mrs. Hoovers’ “gen­eros­ity to the peo­ple in this part of Vir­ginia . . . of which few Amer­i­cans are aware.”

So Mor­ris took it upon her­self to de­liver the ar­ti­cle to H. Eu­gene An­der­son, Vice Chair­man of the Board of Trustees of the Hoover Pres­i­den­tial Foun­da­tion, for the li­brary’s archives.

Pub­lished July 19, 2018, the story opined that few U.S. pres­i­dents were as mis­char­ac­ter­ized as Her­bert Hoover, a fa­mil­iar re­frain that dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion the na­tion’s 31st pres­i­dent ig­nored com­mon Amer­i­cans in their most dire time of need.

“Ar­guably, the op­po­site is true,” we wrote. “Just ask de­scen­dants of the moun­tain peo­ple who lived a cen­tury ago above the head­wa­ters of the Rap­i­dan River and in the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Criglersvi­lle, Syria, Et­lan and Graves Mill.”

Shortly af­ter his elec­tion in 1928, Hoover and his na­ture-lov­ing wife Lou Henry (she ran the Girl Scouts of Amer­ica, among other out­doors in­ter­ests) sought a week­end es­cape from the for­mal­ity of Wash­ing­ton — away from the “pneu­matic ham­mer of con­stant per­sonal con­tacts,” as he re­ferred to it.

They set­tled on 164 acres at the go­ing rate of $5 per acre above Criglersvi­lle, west of Graves Moun­tain Lodge. The first fam­ily agreed that at the end of his pres­i­dency they would do­nate ev­ery­thing they built at the camp to the U.S. govern­ment, with the hope it would be­come a re­treat for fu­ture pres­i­dents.

From that point for­ward, the Hoovers took an ac­tive but dis­creet in­ter­est in their Blue Ridge neigh­bors. When a lo­cal fur­ni­ture fac­tory burned, Lou Henry made the fam­ily-owned busi­ness a loan to re­build. They also pro­vided a bell for a church in nearby Dark Hol­low. And the Hoovers built a new school for the lo­cal chil­dren be­tween Rap­i­dan Camp and to­day’s Sky­line Drive.

It wasn’t un­til af­ter the first lady’s death that the na­tion learned Lou Henry had also been fi­nan­cially as­sist­ing lo­cal stu­dents who wished to con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion be­yond grade school.

Rap­i­dan Camp never be­came the fu­ture pres­i­den­tial re­treat he en­vi­sioned, but as Mor­ris pointed out to An­der­son: “Not many know that Her­bert Hoover founded the first pres­i­den­tial li­brary, a fact that we at the Bush Li­brary point out to our guests.”

Thanks to the Na­tional Park Ser­vice, Rap­i­dan Camp — a Na­tional His­toric Land­mark — has been re­stored to its orig­i­nal splen­dor and is en­joyed to­day by count­less Shenan­doah Park vis­i­tors who ei­ther take a guided tour of the camp or hike in from Big Mead­ows or Madi­son County.

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