ECW Weekender: The Fox Cemetery & Trail

Not all who wander are looking for history, but for those who are…Fox Hollow Trail in Shenandoah National Park offers some real gems, investigative clues, and fuel for the imagination. When I started off on the mile long trail which is pretty heavily traveled due to the its close proximity to Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, I was hoping to find a fox or two. Well, I did. But not furry, scampering kind.

Instead, I found a cemetery. And a Civil War veteran with the last name of Fox. Back in the land of WiFi, I found some more details about Mr. Fox and his life on the high ground of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

In 1856 Thomas and Martha Fox started farming the land with the help of their children.[i] Along the trail, there are large piles of rocks pulled from the land as they prepared fields for crops, a reminder of hard work to prepare land for crops in the 19th Century. Four years after settling on their new property, the Civil War started and their son, Lemuel, enlisted to fight for the Confederacy.

One of several large rock piles from when the Fox Family cleared the land.

According to documentation from the Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, Lemuel F. Fox enlisted on May 3, 1861, in Front Royal, Virginia. He joined Company B of the 17th Virginia Infantry and listed his age as 22. Lemuel was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862, but recovered and returned to service. On August 15, 1863, he was given an assignment as “brigade teamster.” Captured in the final weeks of the war in Virginia, Lemuel spent a brief imprisonment at Point Lookout Maryland and was released on June 12, 1865 after taking the oath of allegiance to the United States.[ii]

Lemuel F. Fox gravemarker

Lemuel Fox returned to his family’s farm, married, had 10 children, and spent the rest of his life as a “grain farmer.”[iii] According to National Park Service notes, he grew bluegrass, corn, and wheat.[iv] When Lemuel died on May 24, 1916, he was buried in the family cemetery on the family’s land.

In 1941, during the creation of Shenandoah National Park, the third and fourth generations of the Fox Family were forced to leave their land, creating frustration and sad memories.[v] About 30 years later, relatives started to document the relics of the family left on the land and over the next years gave information to the National Park Service. As the land turned from farm to forest, one of the distressing incidents was the desecration of the family cemetery; some believed acts of vandalism caused the gravestone destruction, while authorities claimed that bears created the damage. More recently, in 2014, descendants of the Fox Family repaired and replaced headstones in the old burial ground and also marked Lemuel’s grave as the resting place of a Confederate veteran.[vi]

Fox Family Cemetery

The Fox Hollow Trail winds down and back up through the old farmland, now mostly reclaimed by the forest. The rock piles still stand as monuments to the difficulty of farming on this ridge and to the hard work of the family who lived here. The cemetery, surrounded with its stone wall, is the final resting for this pioneering family and a Civil War soldier, a reminder that for the war’s survivors a life of work and family waited for them when the fighting was done.

If you’re interested in exploring this trail and history for yourself, the trailhead is located directly across Skyline Drive from the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (just a few miles from the Front Royal park entrance). It’s an easy trail that makes about a mile loop with a descent and ascent. I’ve heard that during the spring daffodils and irises mark the outlines of some of the old farm dwellings and buildings. More trail information is available here: https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/fox-hollow-trail.htm

The Trail in October 2021.

Sources:

[i] National Park Service, “Fox Hollow Second Trail Post: The Fox Family.” Accessed on 10/30/21: https://www.nps.gov/places/000/fox-hollow-second-trail-post-the-fox-family.htm

[ii] U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865, Lemuel F. Fox. Accessed through Ancestry.com on 10/28/21.

[iii] Find a Grave, Lemuel F. Fox. Accessed on 10/28/21. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/11513535/lemuel-f.-fox

[iv] National Park Service, “Fox Hollow Second Trail Post: The Fox Family.” Accessed on 10/30/21: https://www.nps.gov/places/000/fox-hollow-second-trail-post-the-fox-family.htm

[v] The Northern Virginia Daily, Front Royal family plans Civil War burials this Saturday, April 15, 2014. Accessed on 11/12/21. https://www.nvdaily.com/news/local-news/front-royal-family-plans-civil-war-burials-this-saturday/article_a091aeb0-a4f0-5b0d-87a7-5153cd86ca7f.html

[vi] Ibid.

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, author, speaker, and researcher. Past and present, everyone has a story. What will we discover and discuss?
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1 Response to ECW Weekender: The Fox Cemetery & Trail

  1. Frank Casella says:

    Thanks for preserving this piece of history. We should learn about our past, and not destroy it, so we know who we are and where we are going.

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