Heritage Day’s 12th year to highlight Orkney Springs area

By Josette Keelor

Shenandoah County Heritage Day is never the same twice.

Each year organizers set up at a different location, and this year, on Saturday at Shrine Mont Conference Center in Orkney Springs, vacation resorts, jousting tournaments and the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival will be featured.

Presenters include Orkney Springs resident Ron Moomaw, whose family has operated Shrine Mont since about 1950, including the hotel from about 1980; and Olivia Gentile of Orkney Springs, whose family owned the Alum Springs Hotel and Henrietta Furnace.

The community is invited, and presentations will include Orkney Springs, Bird Haven, Alum Springs, Basye, Bryce, Jerome, Belgrade, Hudson’s Crossroads, Poco and McCanie.

Heritage Day started 12 years ago in Edinburg, and after a few years began moving to new locations to better focus on the intricacies of the county’s history, said event chair Jean Martin.

“We realized that we needed to bring in a little more focus to it, so that the people on the farthest edges would feel like they were a part of it,” she said.

Last year, the event focused on Zepp and Star Tannery, Martin said. Before that, it traveled to Cedar Creek, Smith Creek, Quicksburg, Fort Valley and Fishers Hill. She said the first after Edinburg was in Toms Brook and included a driving tour to Forestville.

“We’ve had mills a lot, which is nice cause they go way back,” she said.

Gentile plans a display of historic items, old photos and information about the Alum Springs Hotel and Henrietta Furnace, which her grandparents owned and operated from 1936 to 1945.

She’ll also present on the mineral springs resort, which she said dates to the 1870s, and Henrietta Furnace, “part of the iron ore manufacturing industry dating from the 1850s.”

The property housed an iron furnace until the Civil War, after which it became a resort she said was popular into the mid 1940s.

According to Moomaw, “There have been hotels here since the early 1800s.”

The hotels promoted jousting, encouraging multiple tournaments during the summers. Following the first Orkney Springs Tournament in 1852, there were three or four more that decade and then one every year or so from 1865 to the early 1890s, Moomaw said.

“They would have a grand ball in the ballroom,” he said. They made speeches about chivalry, and then they crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty.

“I have newspaper clippings of about, oh, maybe 10 or 15,” he said. “The last one I remember was in 1950, which is the only one I remember.”

Saturday the Shenandoah County Historical Society will bring local books and recent photos by Hugh Morrison, the Civilian Conservation Corps will offer information on a new exhibit at its Edinburg headquarters, and the Shenandoah Germanic Heritage Museum will show artifacts from the Hottel-Keller Homestead.

The Shenandoah Valley Music Festival will present as part of its 50th anniversary celebration.

Martin, a retired county archivist who compiled the county’s history in her book “Shenandoah County,” said Heritage Day “has grown from just plain genealogy to heritage of the community.”

“I learn something new every year.”

Heritage Day will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and includes light refreshments and a raffle. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted. For more information, call the historical society at 540-984-7842.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com>