The Tracy Family History
Mountain Plain(s) Presbyterian Church
Rev. Neander Woods (1844-?)
Introduced to you earlier, his massive works, The
Woods-McAfee Memorial, was published in 1905. The main thrust is on the
Woods line. Although the book is 503 pages total it has only 132 pages on our
Born in our family160 years ago, he had the advantage of growing up listening to the family legends, stories, and traditions. He spent many years corresponding and personally interviewing our cousins for his information.
Some of the people he worked with were 90 years old, which puts them very far back in time and close to the original sources.
His approach is different with many calculations, assumptions, and conjecture. (also, many solid facts.) Not all historians agree with his conclusions. However, his approach to the family history makes for interesting possibilities.
Introduced earlier. Ruth recently passed away. As her legacy, she has left several well-researched books on our cousins.
She spent many years and considerable money in her research, corresponding with many people, and actually visiting some of the places in our history.
Many photos and stories in this and following chapters are from these two genealogist's published works.
Our Woods-Wallace cousins are indebted to these two pioneers of research. Without them my version of the family history could not be told.
Michael Woods did not lead our band directly from
Pennsylvania to their new homes in the Piedmont. Our clan left Pennsylvania,
crossed Maryland, and entered the Valley of Virginia, continued down the valley,
passing by the gap to a place that was sparsely settled. Today, this area is
known as Rockbridge County. There were just a few settlers scattered about.
There our people “tarried” for awhile.
The first half of the immigration would not have been difficult. They took the Old Indian Trail, which ran through Lancaster County down to the Potomac River. This was a good wagon road as this was settled country. (A good road according to the times.) Then they continued down the Indian Trail. It now becomes more and more primitive as they descend the Valley of Virginia for the Indians did not use wagons. For generations there were no wagon roads in the Lower Valley of Virginia and Albemarle County.
Nearly 100 years after our people entered the Piedmont: “The road, especially in Albemarle, was often impassable, being cut into deep ruts by the wagons after every rain; and sometimes being through its whole extent a 'Slough of Despond.' The broken parts of wagons scattered along the route were like the debris of a battlefield.” This is how bad it was when they had roads. I am talking about when our people first settled the region and there were no roads at all. Across the Blue Ridge, in Rockbridge County the traveling was just as bad. The only form of transportation was by horseback. This is why I believe our people did not have wagons when they came through the gap.
However, the old Indian trails and buffalo paths were no problem for traveling on foot, riding a horse, and using pack animals.
After “tarrying," they retraced their route, going back up the valley, through the gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains and into what is now Albemarle County. The trail through the gap is only 3 miles, but it rises 1200 feet. It was rugged.
They would not have taken their families and belongings and cast their fate to the wind entering an unknown land without scouting ahead of time. They would have sent a party of men ahead, probably a season before the migration. This party would have selected the most promising land for settling. They possibly even built a few crude cabins in advanced preparation for their families.
Woods Gap, close up view. Michael Woods plantation was three miles from the mountain range. (Neander Woods, 1905)
We see an old photo of what the gap looked like from Michael Wood’s plantation. What did the land look like as our people descended the mountains? It appeared to our Presbyterians as if entering the gates of heaven. “A lovelier, more impressive view it would be difficult to find anywhere in the world.”
There, in this place of paradise that he named Mountain Plains, Michael Woods planted his plantation. (You remember that word has come down through the generations in Ulster.) It is not known if in fact Michael Woods himself named his plantation Mountain Plains. However, somewhere along the way the name came into existence. The location according to Neander Woods in 1905, was 14 miles west of Charlottesville.
It was not only a land of milk and honey but also a land of sheer terror, for the plantation of Michael Woods lay directly in the path of the Indian War Trail. For hundreds of years this was the route used by the Indian tribes, North and South, to make raids and full scale battles. You will remember that they came down the Valley of Virginia on the Old Indian Trail. These were not routes for the Indians to take vacations, hunt, visit relatives, or migrate. Their purpose for using these trails was to do battle.
The raiding parties moved fast as they were on serious business. The bands were small, usually no more than 20, carrying their own provisions. They did not stop to hunt or socialize with “...the troublesome whites.” At the time Michael Woods settled our people on the Piedmont the Indians were not just making intermittent raids. Some were in formal war with the other tribes.
The Indians did not live in these parts of Virginia, Rockbridge and Augusta Counties. They only passed through on their bloody business of killing, torturing, scalping, and kidnapping their enemies. The Indians were allowed passage through the area by treaty and with a pass from the government.
However, the raiding parties had to go through this gap, and to go through this gap they had to go through Michael Wood’s plantation.
In theory, the whites and the Indians lived in two different worlds. What the Indians did with the other Indians was no business of the whites. There had been no Indian troubles in these regions for the last 10 years. This was a big inducement to get the settlers from Pennsylvania to move to this primitive, yet fertile, land.
Even though at peace, you never knew what the Indians would do. They would steal “..anything they could get their hands on.” The raiding parties always outnumbered the whites. The Indians knew the land intimately. They had the advantage of surprise and ambush and loved to torture, scalp and kill.
For our people in Virginia, the constant feeling of fear, apprehension and terror came to be normal.
Mountain Plain(s) Presbyterian Church
Three years after our people entered the Piedmont they built a church on the plantation of Michael Woods. The church still stands, although in 1960, it almost got wiped off the face of the earth by a tornado.
Restored building photo is from Ruth Petracek book. Damaged building is from newspaper photo after being hit by the tornado.
The following is from the newspaper report: Thursday afternoon, April 28, 1960; THE DAILY PROGRESS, Charlottesville, VA.
Service Sunday to Mark Restoration of Tornado-Damaged Church
A new face for 220-year-old Mountain Plain Church near Mechum River will have the attention of the congregation and contributors to the restoration at ceremonies to be held at 3 o’clock Sunday afternoon.
Interior remodeling, reroofing and construction of a new brick veneer front for the tornado-stricken Baptist church have been completed with the aid of $4,000 given by other churches and individuals.
Total cost is estimated at $12,000. Besides repairing damaged from the Sept. 30 tornado, which caved in the brick front (crushing part of the floor) and ripped off the roof. The restoration project has included construction of a balcony – a feature which has been removed about the time of the Civil War – and a vestibule.
New walnut pulpit and choir section furniture has been acquired, and one of the members–Edwin Russell, agriculture teacher at Albemarle High School – has made a cabinet from some of the old pine flooring in which the original communion set of pitcher, cup and plate will be displayed.
The Baptists congregation moved into the church in the 1820's, almost 100 years after it was built by Presbyterians who came into Albemarle County from the Shenandoah Valley. The Eschol Baptist congregation, formed in1812, had been meeting in a log building when they acquired brick Mountain Plain from Presbyterians who had built another church at another site.....
My family history web site has 79 chapters. If you would like to
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