We have enjoyed some unseasonably warm weather this past month; a very different time from the winter of 1960. Valentine’s Day fell on a Wednesday in 1960, and it snowed 22 inches in Patrick County. For the following three Wednesdays, the area received heavy snowfall. By Wednesday, March 6th, the area had received 68 inches of snow.
My Dad was stationed at Aschaffenburg, West Germany with the Third Division of the U. S. Army during the winter of 1960, so my Grandfather ventured out and took the above photos to show Daddy upon his return home. The first photo was taken on Rock Church Road above Slate Mountain Church. The second photo shown is Wyatt and Edna Conner’s house on Conner’s Grove Road. The third photo is the Ed and Daisy Weddle home on Black Ridge Road, near the entrance to the winery.
This was a very challenging time for many people, especially folks with cattle and horses to feed. People tried to do their best to carry on business as usual, but it became quite challenging with five feet of snow on the ground (not to mention the drifts)! My aunt Gracie carpooled with several other folks to the factories in Floyd. One Wednesday evening, they got as far as Willie Edwards store on Willis Road before becoming stranded. Aunt Gracie had to stay at the store for three days before the roads opened enough for Uncle Stowell to be able to reach her.
My cousin Ivalien remembered VDOT workers Bud West and Curtis Agee working around the clock, trying to get the roads opened back up and then it snowing all over again.
Edgar Martin McPeak died suddenly at home, February 19th, five days after the first big snow. His granddaughter, Kim McPeak Merritt, said that Cecil Hall had to use his bulldozer to cut a path to the McPeak home to remove her grandfather’s body.
McPeak’s death was one of several tragedies that took place during the rough winter of 1960. Emmett Green “Bob” Conner was a World War II veteran, having served with the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion Unit at Normandy (D-Day) and in the Ardennes Forest of France (Battle of the Bulge). Harvey Dickerson Williams was a Korean War veteran, serving with the 432nd Construction Engineers.
Thirty-five-year-old Conner and thirty-one-year Williams were last seen on February 26th (this would have been five days after the second big snow) leaving the area of Bowling’s Store in Lone Ivy. The men were walking back up the mountain towards Lover’s Leap. Walking from the Woolwine area to Meadows of Dan was quite common back then, as there were many old trails leading up and down the mountain. The men did not make it home before the third big snow fell on February 28th. Family and friends searched for the men for over a month before their bodies were found.
The following is an excerpt from the Enterprise reporting the men’s deaths: “A three-man search party discovered the bodies about 1 pm, partially buried in snow and leaves, about a mile from the top of Lover’s Leap. It was believed that the men were taking a short-cut path up the rugged mountain to reach US 58. Sheriff Baliles said the snow prevented searchers from determining whether the two men were still on the path, a little-used former horse trail. The bodies were found by Lloyd Handy, Thomas Belcher, and Arlie Belcher, all of Meadows of Dan.”
I feel it is especially tragic and sad to have survived D-Day and the snow and freezing temperatures of the Ardennes Forest a half a world away, and then freeze to death only a few miles from home.
Thank you to Shirlien Belcher, Michael Belcher, and Kim Merritt for information for this article.
Woody may be reached at email@example.com or (276) 692-9626.