Another Patrick County student will receive help with their education from the Perry Family Scholarship thanks to donations received at recent walking tours at the Laurel Hill Farm in Ararat.
Thomas D. “Tom” Perry hosted two free tours of the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace on November 4. The date also marked Perry’s birthday.
“I did it on my birthday on purpose, because there is no place I would rather be,” said Perry, who worked for many years, raising funds to buy and preserve the property and then complete various projects that help tell the story of the family, the working farm located on the property, and in the present day, offers recreational activities, such as walking trails.
Several people attended the morning tour, which kicked off at a historical marker on the property.
“The old roadbed to Stuart went that way, Mount Airy was that way,” Perry said, indicating the direction by pointing first in one, then the other direction. “Stuart, which was then Taylorsville, was 25 miles away.”
Perry recalled that when “I was a little boy, the only thing here was this,” a marker noting the site. The initial marker is believed to have been installed in December 1932, possibly written by Douglas Southall Freeman, biographer of Robert E. Lee and George Washington.
The sign had signs of wear and tear, as well as a few bullet holes when it was replaced in 2000 by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Perry said.
He noted that a few years ago, a friend “called me up to say he had something I might want. The Virginia Department of Historical Resources office in Roanoke, Virginia, contacted him to offer him the original Virginia Historical Highway Marker from Stuart’s Birthplace.”
Perry said he went to the friend’s garage to pick up the sign. His friend, Gerald Via, has since died but is fondly remembered.
“I want everyone to know his role in saving this marker that meant so much to me. I hope you all have a friend like Gerald Via,” Perry said as the group embarked onto other sites on the property, including a portion of a railway to denote the route of the Dinky Railroad through the property.
A portion of the rails were unearthed during a construction project, Perry said.
“The railroad came in in the early 1900s. When the railroad left in the 1920s, we believe they moved the road because” that portion of the property was more level, he said, adding the railroad had crossed Ararat Highway.
Chip Bondurant was instrumental in that and other projects, Perry said. He added that many people have helped with projects on the property through the years. Many were included in the tour, with other offerings featured during the tour, such as cemeteries, markers, and historical stories shared by Perry.
The tour is among many events held throughout the year to raise funds for the scholarship.
“We are planning on doing at least three Tom Talks History at the Ararat Ruritan Building to raise money for the scholarship,” Perry said, adding that plans are underway for more walking tours of the Laurel Hill property next year.
Donations are accepted. Visit the Perry Family Scholarship Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/perryscholarship, or mail a check to the Perry Family Scholarship, P. O. Box 11, Ararat, VA 24053.
To donate using a credit or debit card via Square, visit Tom Perry’s Laurel Hill Publishing LLC at https://laurel-hill-publishing-llc.square.site.
To be considered for a scholarship, Patrick County High School seniors are required to write a 1,000-word essay on the historical topic of their choosing.
Perry also is an author and publisher of both his books and those of others, including “Corn Squeezins,” by Danny Martin.
A small sample of Perry’s books include “The Strange Case Of Not Adams: Arson, Power, and Politics in Civil War Era Patrick County Virginia,” “The Free State of Patrick,” “Return to Mayberry,” and “The Dear Old Hills of Patrick,” which is said to be Perry’s favorite book about J. E. B. Stuart’s family and his connections to Patrick County.
For more information, visit laurel-hill-publishing-llc.square.site.