Looking forward in the Shenandoah (Jan. 1866)

Posted on February 19, 2016 by

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Perusing some Valley newspapers recently, I ran across an interesting article in the Spirit of Jefferson (Charles Town) which did not reflect on the devastation left by war, but on the future of the Valley and its residents.

There is no portion of the whole agricultural district of the Union richer than the Valley of the Shenandoah. The lands are of prime quality, – wheat, corn, rye, oats, and all the grasses in great luxuriance. Its forests are filled with timber of all sorts, and of excellent quality. Iron ore is abundant, and easy to be got at. It is well watered by the Shenandoah and its numerous tributaries. As a farming country it has no superior; and we hope the day is not distant when we will see it once again in all its wonted agricultural thriftness, and its people happy in their homes, and prosperous in their industry.

But this fertile Valley of ours has always needed market facilities. Owing to a want of true legislation, our farmers have had no proper railroad outlet to the great Southern grain market of Baltimore – the natural commercial depot of all the counties of the State lying west of the Blue Ridge. It has been found absolutely impracticable to make Alexandria the market town of the Valley, and while we should be glad to see easy and quick communication between that ancient town and our section of the country, we do earnestly hope that a more liberal policy will be developed by the Virginia legislature; that right of way will be granted to any company to run railroads from Harper’s Ferry to the uttermost head of the Shenandoah. Our people have a right to this; and will require the legislature to grant it, no matter whether the channel of trade runs to Baltimore or elsewhere out of the State. It is wrong, as well foolish, to bind our farmers to carry their products out of the natural routes to market, and to attempt to build up Alexandria at their expense. That experiment has been tried in the past, and has signally failed; and we hope to hear no more of it.

It is probable that the Winchester and Potomac railroad will eventually pass completely into the hands of the Baltimore and Ohio company; and if so ,common justice to our farmers, requires that every facility be extended that company for the extension of their road as far up the Valley as they may wish to go, and to make any connections they may desire with the great lines of Central Virginia. We do not believe that such connections would damage any portion of the State, or retard the growth of any of her cities, and we know that they would be of incalculable benefit to the farming and commercial interests of the noble Valley of the Shenandoah.

It seemed clear enough … railroads were the key to the Valley’s future, and in fact, in time, would prove a economic boom to the area.