Sturdy Replacement Foot Bridge Eases Access for Snickersville Academy

Susan Freis Falknor

It hasn't always been that easy in recent years to find Bluemont's historic Snickersville Academy.

Although the log structure, built in 1825, lies just behind the historic Carrington House, across Snickersville Turnpike from Clayton Hall, the passing decades had disguised its location along the once-well travelled Mason Street that led up to the settlements on the Old Mountain Road. Tall weeds, brush, and a creek stood in the way.

But now a sturdy wooden structure, built by long-time Bluemonter Michael Elsea (see photo) provides an inviting and easy way to visit this treasured piece of Bluemont history.

The Snickersville Academy lies across Butcher's Branch, a stream that flows down through Bluemont -- fuller during some months than other. Before the new bridge was constructed, visitors could cross the creek on a two-part plank footbridge, built by the Academy's neighbors to facilitate their volunteer lawnmowing efforts at the log structure. The plank bridges were sometimes wobbly, however, and, glimpsing downward as you crossed, you could make out a disused narrow, rather frail-appearing metal bridge, apparently older (see photo).

Building a replacement access bridge across the creek was the first construction project carried out by Friends of Bluemont in its campaign to stabilize the Snickersville Academy and make it a focus for learning about the pre-Railroad-Era Bluemont.

Once this diminuitive log cabin sat in the middle of things in the village of Snickersville. The land on which it stands -- located just behind the ~1820s tavern at Carrington House -- was donated to the village as a schoolhouse and house of worship by Amos Clayton in 1825. It thus became the first public building in the village, serving the community for decades. By contrast, the old stone Methodist Church was established in 1852 and the Mountain Shadow school on Snickersville Turnpike, which replaced the Academy, was built in the 1870s.

Towards the end of the 1800s and into the 20th century, the "old schoolhouse" became a residence. It was finally a summer home for Catalina Hatcher, whose sons Tom and Walter donated it to Friends of Bluemont in September 2010.

To contribute to the restoration of the Snickersville Academy, join Friends of Bluemont online. Or, join via postal mail.

Bridge builder, long-time Bluemonter Mike Elsea (right) with Friends of Bluemont's Mark Zalewsi. Mark is managing the restoration of the Snickersville Academy. The Academy is visible iover Mark's shoulder.   Left to right: The plank bridge, the old iron bridge, and the new replacement bridge (under construction).
The holes for the foundation posts filled up with water when first dug, due to the extremely wet spring of 2011.
    Looking back to Snickersville Turnpike. A planting of shrubs by the adjoining property owner now helps demarcate the over 150-year- old right-of-way