“A History of Goshen, Virginia” RHS Program, Sep.10, 2:30 PM, Goshen Baptist Church Presented by Anne McClung
This is my site Written by mskovira on August 26, 2017 – 1:17 pm

On September 10, the Rockbridge Historical Society will sponsor another one of its popular programs in which the county’s smaller localities are researched, explored, and brought to life. In recent months, talks and slide shows on House Mountain, Denmark, Buena Natural Bridge Station and Collierstown have illuminated what these areas were like in their heyday. As we continue to explore other themes and patterns that mark Rockbridge history more broadly, we are glad to keep spotlighting the neighborhoods and local networks that have long dotted our county.

Next up: a look at our western-most portion of the Rockbridge: Goshen.  At 2:30 PM, in the sanctuary of Goshen Baptist Church, Anne McClung will return to the RHS podium, after her packed-house presentation on Alone Mill last year.  Her narrated slideshow on the history of Goshen will include both archival and drone photography.  It is free and open to the public, with refreshments and fellowship to follow.

Anne has particular stakes in the area, as a retired librarian from the Goshen Library. While there, one of her passions was local history. She organized, collected, and significantly expanded the Goshen local history collection. Because of Goshen’s intriguing, diversified, yet intertwined history of the railroad, resort hotels, and iron furnaces, the local history collection was and is well utilized by historians and researchers from all over the country. Anne says, “It is a privilege for me to give this presentation because Goshen and Goshen Pass has been an intricate and very special part of my entire life.”

Agriculture was the basis for the settling of the Goshen area, but in time, what really put Goshen on the map was the railroad, iron ore, and the healing springs. It is hard to imagine that Goshen used to have a population of 2,000; that it had its own newspaper for a few years (The Goshen Blade, which can be read digitally at the Goshen Library); that the town was a destination, with people first coming by stagecoach and later by rail to the resort hotels in the area; and that it was home to several productive iron furnaces. These very factors made Goshen ripe for the Goshen Land and Improvement Company, comprised of street-savvy capitalist with experience in business, law, real estate development, and industry.  They aimed to blow into town with plans to make Goshen the Pittsburgh of the South. Goshen became a boom town, but the exaggerated and ambitious plans for its growth into a southern industrial city never came to fruition.

The 1800s had witnessed considerable economic growth in the United States, fueled by industrialization, railroad expansion and other improved means of transportation and foreign investment. But toward the end of the century times became tight – very tight. A severe financial crisis known as the Panic of 1893 began sweeping the nation because of a depression in the country’s farm belt, a business slump abroad, and the drain on the Treasury’s gold reserve. This severe economic depression was felt throughout the country, the county, and the little town of Goshen. Over the span of a few years the boom came and went, leaving the town of Goshen a quiet, rural haven in an ever growing world.

Both the years leading up to the boom – which witnessed those Iron Furnaces, the railroad and several popular resort spas – and the few years while the boom flourished, left the town with a remarkable history and only a few remaining structures from those times.

Today, Goshen’s population is near 400 persons, and the town’s people rely chiefly on agriculture and a few small industries for employment. Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources says, “It’s no secret that the strongest communities are not the cookie-cutter communities and subdivisions, but places like Goshen that have a sense of character and identity and connectedness to their past.”

Parking is available outside the church, but please plan to arrive early to reserve a seat, given our growing and eager audiences!

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