April 20, 2009

Marker Improved by Errant Snowplow

historical markerThis marker stands along the Valley Pike (U.S. 11) between Edinburg and Woodstock. This history of the marker itself is interesting, but first let's read what it says:


A series of conflicts between settlers and Native Americans, including the French and Indian War, the Cherokee War, and Pontiac’s War, occurred along the western frontier of the colonies. The last documented clash in the Shenandoah Valley took place nearby in 1766. A small band of Indians attacked the Sheetz and Taylor families as they fled for safety to the fort of Woodstock. Mathias Sheetz and Taylor were both killed, but their wives used axes to fight off the Indians and escape with the children.

Department of Historic Resources 2000

I was surprised to read about this marker in a book by James Loewen called Lies Across America: What American Historic Sites Get Wrong. In this case, the sign corrects an earlier version of the marker, which was hit by a snow plow in 1994 and had to be replaced. Here's what the old marker said:
Here, in 1766, took place the last Indian outrage in Shenandoah County. Five Indians attacked two settler families fleeing to Woodstock. Two men were killed; the women and children escaped.
Loewen writes that the most obvious change is the word "Conflict" instead of "Outrage" in the title. He cautions, Before dismissing this rewording as merely "politically correct," we might note that outrage was bad history. It told not of the event but of the mentality of those who erected the sign before World War II.

He goes on to say, The new text also tells more history. Before the snowplow, a reader might reasonably infer that this "outrage" was a random act of violence against whites.

Loewen even says that the revision makes a strong case for errant snowplows... other markers make Native Americans the savages and deserve snowplow attention.

One of the main points of his book is that markers and monuments should be interpreted as insights into the attitudes of the people who erected them, so notice the dates they were placed.



  1. This is interesting because there is another marker just to the east of Churchille in Augusta County that mentions the "Last Indian Raid" in the Valley. I'm going to hae to check to see if the date of the raid was later than the date on the Shenandoah County marker.

  2. Ah, you sent me to look further. Well, according to Andrea Sutcliffe's book, that marker refers to the last Indian raid in Augusta County in 1764. So it was earlier but was limited to Augusta County.

  3. All Historical Markers and War Memoirials / Honor Rolls are welcomed on "Historical Markers Data Base" at www.hmdb.org


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