Category Archives: Blue Ridge

In Clarke County, Virginia: We Make the Road, The Road Makes Us

Nelson's Road looking west to Blandy and White Post
Nelson’s Road looking west to Blandy and White Post

“The word ‘road’ in its old and roaming roots, originally meant ‘to travel by horse’ What a surprise…or is it? Not when you know what to look for. The Observer of Clarke County, March 2015.

It was travelers on horseback navigating the landscape with a unique, lifted, horse-top perspective – seeing further than a person can on foot- who, centuries ago, crossed fields, forded rivers, and clambered up the grassy flanks of the Blue Ridge seeking easy passage to gaps and notches making their way to lands west.

Horses and riders made the early roads and traces – about 100 by 1775 – that criss-cross what has become Clarke County. Those old roads, full of the stories that link People to Place, dwindling to bridle paths and odd berms in the woods, lost to most, have been kept from dissolving entirely by generations of horsebackers who, still roaming those woods and viewing the landscape from the saddle, may have saved old roads from vanishing entirely. Now, those roads and the stories they tell have been researched and mapped by historian equestrian, Matthew Mackay-Smith. Working with the Clarke County Historical Society, and Long Branch Plantation, his work, concentrating on King’s Road, Berry’s Ferry Road, and Commerce Road, is helping others learn how to see the roads that made us.

Nelson Road, White Post, Virginia
Nelson Road, White Post, Virginia