Have you ever wondered what your 6th great-grandchildren will be doing 261 years from now, in 2284? Where will they be living? How will their lives be different than ours? Most of us have not given it a thought.
Probably George Shoemaker (?-1794) did not give it a thought, either, when he received land in Brocks Gap in 1762. Would he be surprised to learn that a mountain and a river had been named for his family? Would he be amazed that 261 years later, his farm is still in the family?
George Shoemaker was the oldest son of Martin Shoemaker who came to the Valley by 1742, In 1765, George was already living on a 310-acre farm near Shoemaker River in Brocks Gap when he bought it from Valentine Sevier, and in 1774 he acquired 120 more acres near Dry River. The names of some of his neighbors are familiar to us today, like Bear (Bare) and Trumbo.
George and wife Elizabeth had twelve heirs. One son moved to Coshocton County, OH, but most of the children married locally and remained in Rockingham County. Three sons, Christian, Philip, and Paul Shoemaker, remained in Brocks Gap and have many descendants who living there today.
After George died, his son Christian Shoemaker (1780-1861) bought much of George’s land from his siblings. That farm has been in the Shoemaker family continuously and is currently owned by Christian’s descendant Myron Reedy. The Shoemaker family cemetery, final resting place of early Shoemakers, is being restored by Myron. His grandfather, C. Boyd “Cookus” Shoemaker, also grew up on this farm and remembered stories about earlier generations. Cookus recalled that Christian and wife Eve Cherryholmes Shoemaker, their son Levi Shoemaker and wife Sarah, and many others are buried in the plot. It is possible the George Shoemaker is buried there as well. While clearing the cemetery of brush in 2022, Myron found a tombstone in like-new condition because it been covered with a foot of soil. Those interested in helping to restore the cemetery may contact Myron.
A War of 1812 veteran, Christian Shoemaker served as a private in Capt. James Mallory’s company of Virginia Militia, later under command of Col. John H. Cock, from March 26 to Aug. 22, 1813. Riflemen from western counties like Rockingham were in demand by commanders in the eastern counties because of their weaponry skills. Capt. Mallory’s company likely wore “unbleached, tow-linen shirts and trousers, carrying a tomahawk, a knife, a cartridge box, a bayonet, and a quart-size canteen…In fact, most militia men went to war in everyday clothes” (from an essay in “Massanutten Musings”, a blog by Massanutten Regional Library). The first Rockingham County company called up to fight, Christian’s company marched up to 25 miles a day to reach Camp Holly, northwest of Malvern Hills, to defend Richmond from the British. Other like Solomon Ritchie also served in Capt. Mallory’s company.
Christian Shoemaker was a well-to-do farmer, purchasing much of his father’s estate and inheriting half of his father-in-law William Cherryholmes’ estate. Christian and Eve Shoemaker’s ten children married Millers, Ritchies, and Turners and remained in Rockingham County, except for their daughter Elizbeth who moved to Kansas after marrying George Ritchie.
I have more information about Christian Shoemaker because he married Eve Cherryholmes, one of my distant aunts. However, his brothers and sisters have many descendants in Brocks Gap. One of Christian’s brothers was Paul Shoemaker (1790-1855) who married Susannah Lamb. Their descendants include Gertrude “Gertie” Shoemaker (1886-1963) who owned a country store on present-day Hopkins Gap Road. Gertie’s brother Manuel Shoemaker (1890-1963) lived in Bergton and later in Delaware. Gertie’s sister Mamie Elsie Shoemaker married Charles W. Ritchie of Fulks Run.
Another of Christian’s brothers was Philip Shoemaker (1785-1848) who married Barbara Lamb. Philip and Barbara lived further south on Hopkins Gap Road. He and probably Barbara are buried in the Shumaker family cemetery beside 8389 Hopkins Gap Road, Fulks Run. Many of their grandchildren moved west, but their great-great granddaughter Edith Shoemaker Conley (1899-1968) who married Bryan Conley (1897-1972) remained in Brocks Gap and has many descendants.
Trying to trace one of the earliest families in northwestern Rockingham County to the present day is daunting. I am a Shoemaker descendant through one of Martin Shoemaker’s other sons, making me an eighth or ninth cousin. The family favored names like George, Henry, Christian, and Isaac and used them frequently, which makes it more difficult to figure out who belongs to whom.
At Brocks Gap Heritage Day April 22, 2023, there will be Shoemaker family posters with more information, maps of where they lived, and photographs of later descendants. If you have Shoemaker connections, stop by and see how you might fit in to the family tree.