It’s a timeless view, looking east to the Blue Ridge from Meyerstown, in southern Jefferson County. This general vicinity is also the birthplace of Robert Page Sims (1872-1944). The son of a local farmer, Sims graduated from Storer College in Harpers Ferry in 1893, earned a graduate degree in science, and worked as a teacher before he became president of Bluefield State College (Mercer County, WV) in 1906. During his 30 year tenure there, he instituted a “normal curriculum” to educate Black teachers. In 1901 Sims married Stella James, who also attended Storer College and then graduated in 1897 from Bates College in Maine, the first Black woman to receive a degree (in physics) from that institution. Despite their long successful careers elsewhere, the couple apparently maintained a connection to Jefferson County and are buried in the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Bolivar.
Red barns (such as the one in Meyerstown, above) are an iconic symbol of the rural landscape across the country — testaments to the effort of the individuals who built them, who used them, who maintained them. Preserved seems an odd word to apply to these structures, intended originally to be working components of agricultural operations.
Perhaps a better descriptor would be echoes of the past, presenting a glimpse of a time when life for many was lived more closely to the land, both at work and at home. Still standing, sometimes barely so, they also remind us that time moves on, as does our relationship to the land and our priorities for its use.
In this month’s issue, The Observer continues to track the community discussion of land use as it relates to large-scale solar developments in Jefferson County. At the heart of this issue is how solar fits into both the visual, environmental, and economic landscape of Jefferson County, particularly in the context of providing options for family-owned agricultural enterprises to remain viable.
A similar conversation about balancing development and environmental stewardship is also happening this month at the American Conservation Film Festival. Several of this year’s films focus on the management of public lands and the importance of allowing all voices to the table when decisions are made about conservation. This year also marks the ACFF’s official jump into the virtual landscape — for the first time all films can now be viewed online for free during the days of the festival.By Steve Pearson