There is a popular Irish quote that says, “A people without the knowledge of their past, origin and culture is like a tree with no roots.”
The first settlers of Craig County can be traced back to the mid-1770s, and many were of Scotch-Irish and German descent. Founded in 1980, the Craig County Historical Society has a primary purpose to preserve the treasured history of Craig County.
“Our most recent project is rebuilding the Holstein Cabin,” President Gerlene Sizer said. “The society has had the great fortune of securing three log cabins.”
Two cabins are already established and completely furnished. The two-story Keffer cabin on Market Street was moved and rebuilt in 1999 while the Hawkins Brizendine Cabin was reconstructed in 2001, located on Court Street beside the Hotel.
Sizer shared the history of Holstein. Research indicates the house, originally located on Rt. 615 near the turnoff to Camp Mitchell, was the residence of Henry Holstein’s family – a farmer and road surveyor of the 1780s. His son, Henry Jr., was a minister who signed several marriage certificates between 1815-1820.
In 1990, the two-story Holstein Cabin was dismantled and moved to Roanoke County, where the materials laid in storage because of a lack of funding. In early 2017, Explore Park offered to return it to Craig.
Recently, the Society contracted with cabin-builder Roger Davis, finding a building site beside the Hawkins Cabin. Foundation stones have been acquired from a cabin on Sinking Creek, wood for window frames came from a Meadowcreek farm and extra logs from the Hawkins farm on Rt. 614.
“Footers were poured in late February and weather permitting, construction is expected to wind up in a few months,” Sizer noted.
Davis was contracted by the Society years ago to rebuild the Keffer cabin. He discovered his passion of rebuilding the past about 1989 and said he has never gone back. He lives in his beautiful self-handcrafted cabin in Troy, Montana.
The Holstein Cabin was given to the Society with the condition that it be used for public and educational purposes. Plans are to furnish it with unique items from Craig, relating to life on the western Virginia frontier.
Still, the Historical Society has accomplished a lot over the years.
• In 1983 the Old Brick Hotel was purchased, restored and filled with Craig County articles which needed to be preserved.
• On the first floor are a dining room, a restored kitchen, the sales room and a display room which once operated as the Lone Star Saloon when the first section of the hotel was built in the 1840s.
• In the mid-1990s, rooms on the second and third floors of the hotel were adopted and furnished by family members and community groups including a vintage clothing room maintained by New Castle Garden Club, a parlor by the Lowry family and bedrooms by the Reynolds, Layman and Boitnott families. There’s also a toy room, child’s room and school room. On the third floor is an early 1800s loom display while the second floor has a museum room with rotating exhibits.
The Genealogy Library was added in 2012 with collections of many family’s histories, high school annuals, New Castle Records and other resources such as census, death and marriage records.
“I had the pleasure of being a tour guide in fall 2017 when a class from McCleary Elementary visited the hotel and cabins,” Gerlene Sizer shared. “It was pure joy to see and hear their interest and share history with them. They are our future, and young minds are ours to nurture.”
Many books have been compiled about Craig County history and its people.
One resource for historians is the three-volume history of the Civil War – Hard Times 1861-1865, written by Society members to document the experiences of Craig County soldiers in the war between the states. It includes many letters from Craig soldiers from the battlefields and their folks writing to them about home. There are also historical facts about the Union Army when they came through Craig County.
Since 1990, editions of In and Around Craig County have been written and published by society members featuring a different area or topic each year. These are filled with stories, old letters and neighborhood history. The most recent of Peaceful Valley and Barbours Creek is $10.
Other histories include Sue Eakin’s Story by Roger Caldwell Davis and poetry written by Joy Huffman.
Membership to the Historical Society helps them to maintain the building and to preserve Craig’s heritage. Hanging near one entrance to the Genealogy Library are four boards with over four hundred names of Life Members.
A Life Member pays a one-time fee of $100, receives quarterly newsletters (Our Proud Heritage) and the Annual In & Around Craig County. Annual members pay $10 and $15 for a family. “New members are always welcome,” several current participants said.
The Society has fourteen ‘Hometown Collectibles’ which recognize local landmarks. They include Tingler’s Mill and buildings on Main Street, for $12 – $15.
The sales room is open every Friday, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. To place an order, contact Diane at (540) 580-3745 or [email protected]
Sponsored by the Society since 1983, the 36th Annual Craig County Fall Festival will be Saturday, October 1. An antique car show, live music and a country breakfast and lunch are expected to be served.
The next fundraiser will be at the Hotel this Friday, May 4, at 5 and 6:30 p.m. with country-style steak, homemade sides and desserts. For reservations, contact Mary Hutchison (540) 747-2255 or by emailing [email protected]
“About $12,000 has been raised toward cabin expenses, but more donations are needed,” Sizer said. Watch Davis as he rebuilds the past of the Holstein cabin. Contributions are much appreciated and tax-deductible to; Historical Society, PO Box 206, New Castle, Va. 24127.