Hite Family

Standing 250 yards from the banks of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, a lone brick house witnessed one of the riskiest attack plans undertaken during the Civil War. Although the plan probably would not have changed the war's final result, it undoubtedly would have made it last longer had not defeat for the Confederates been "stolen from the jaws of victory" by the Union at the Battle of Cedar Creek in October 1864.

Long Meadow Farm is a microcosm of the history of the entire Shenandoah Valley, having ties to the first white settlers and before that, being a camp ground for the Indian tribes that passed through. The current house at the base of the Massanutten Mountain range in Warren County, Virginia, was completed in 1848, but its story began in the early 1700's when the Valley was still "the great frontier."

Before Europeans arrived, Native Americans used the Valley as a thoroughfare. Some eventually developed an agrarian society and grew indigenous crops of squash, corn and beans. By the early 1700's, however, most Native Americans were gone from the Shenandoah Valley, leaving it for the European immigrants.

Hite Land Grant

These newcomers, mostly English and German, were encouraged to settle on the frontier to protect the rest of Virginia from the French, who were beginning to migrate to the east and south from their settlements in the upper Midwest and Canada. To encourage settlements that would provide a buffer zone between the French and the rest of the colony, Virginia's Colonial Governor, Sir William Gooch, offered free landgrants to those who promised to live in the Valley. One of the first to take advantage of such a grant was Jost Hite.

Hite fled religious persecution in his native Germany and settled his family first in what is now Upstate New York and then outside of Philadelphia. Hite had a comfortable life in Pennsylvania, but yearned for more land, most of which was already claimed in that colony. He applied for a Virginia grant, which was approved in 1731. Along with 16 other families, composed of about 140 individuals, Hite moved to the 40,000 acres he was allotted in the Valley.

The group settled along Opequon Creek, five miles south of what is now Winchester, Virginia. Hite's son Isaac was ten years old when the family moved to the Shenandoah Valley. In 1737, when Isaac was 16, his father gave him about 900 acres of land. Known as the Long Meadow Tract, the property was named for its lovely, fertile meadows along the banks of the North Fork.

The Shenandoah Valley is located between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Appalachian Mountains to the west. The Massanutten Mountain runs along the Valley's spine between those two ranges and split the Shenandoah River into the North Fork and the South Fork. The Long Meadow Tract is located along the North Fork, at the base of the northern end of the Massanutten, and extended from the river toward the land where Belle Grove Plantation now stands.

Traveler's Hall

The Hites built a great log house named "Traveler's Hall," on the property in 1738. The building was located a mile downstream from the Shenandoah River's juncture with Cedar Creek and about two miles east of the Valley's main thoroughfare, the Great Wagon Road. Because of its location near the river, it also had water access for the transportation of goods.

A cemetery, now containing the bodies of many Hite descendants, was begun on the property in 1739 when Jost Hite's  wife, Anna Maria, was buried there.

hitegraveyard1

Isaac Hite married Alida Eleanor Eltinge in 1745 and by all accounts lived a comfortable life on the Long Meadow Tract. The author of Some Prominent Virginia Families, published in 1907, recalled:

Isaac spent his entire life upon this fine estate and enjoyed the rural life of a country gentleman. His skill as a planter, his close application to the development and improvement of this celebrated homestead, resulted in comfort and elegance to the owner and his large family, and from his caste of intellect and well-disciplined life, his offspring imbibed the principles and traits of character that distinguished many of his descendants as prominent in social and public life, whose influence was left throughout Virginia and even beyond her borders.

Isaac Hite, Sr., died in 1795. He left his vast estate primarily to his son, Isaac Hite, Jr., who was an up-and-coming planter and entrepreneur in the Shenandoah Valley. He received his father's land and divided the tract into five separate lots. Belle Grove Plantation was built on one of those lots.

After Belle Grove (http://www.bellegrove.org/) was completed in the early 1800's, the fertile flood plain around Traveler's Hall was used to grow wheat, apples and corn. A road that at that time crossed the Valley Turnpike between Traveler's Hall and Belle Grove was used for the transfer of goods between the two places. Now named Long Meadow Road, it no longer directly connects the two houses (being split by the construction of Interstates 81 and 66 in the 1960s).

When Isaac Hite, Jr. died in 1836, he left Traveler's Hall to his daughter, Matilda M. Hite Davison. She sold the land four years later, in 1840, to Col. George W. Bowman and his brother, Isaac Bowman, great-grandsons of Jost Hite.

Sometime between 1840 and 1848 Traveler's Hall was destroyed. In 1848 Col. Bowman erected the brick house that stands today. It was built over the wet basement foundation of Traveler's Hall at a cost of about $1,000. The house is Greek revival style with pillars on either side of the raised front staircase to reinforce the symmetry that is that style's hallmark.

Bowman was listed in the 1850 census as a farmer with $20,000 worth of land and 22 slaves, 10 males and 12 females. The small number of male field workers reflects the fact that wheat, the main Valley crop, was not as labor intensive as tobacco, so Valley farmers were not as dependent on slave labor as Virginians east of the Blue Ridge.

The 1860 census lists Bowman as owning $30,000 in real estate and $35,720 in personal property. That net worth would be approximately $1.5 million today. Bowman owned 32 slaves at the time, but 21 of those were under the age of 14. The international slave trade had been abolished by then, so most of Bowman's slaves had probably been born at Long Meadow.

Information taken from http://www.nps.gov/cebe/historyculture/long-meadow.htm