Photo courtesy of Bud Cherefko
THE WARREN COUNTY CHAPTER & PARK
LOCATION and DIRECTIONS
The Warren County Chapter Park is located at 3364 Gooney Manor Loop, near Browntown, VA, in southern Warren County. From Front Royal, drive south on U.S. 340 about ½ mile. Turn left onto Browntown Road, at the stoplight just across from the new Skyline High School. Drive 7.9 miles on Browntown Road, and go through Browntown. About ¼ mile beyond Browntown, turn right onto Gooney Manor Loop. Drive 2.2 miles on Gooney Manor Loop to the Park entrance on the left, just past the Cool Spring Church.
The Chapter House was built in about 1894 by Byrd Updike. A sawmill on the high ridge east of the house cut the mostly chestnut lumber. The Updikes lived in the house until 1922, when it was sold to Ott & Nannie Borden. Numerous families lived in the house throughout the years. These include the families of Clarence Baker, David Clatterbuck, Richard Henry, and Turner Mathews. It's also noteworthy that several Browntown residents were born there (including Bea Frame, and Orivel & Ott Baker).
Our land adjoins Shenandoah National Park, but was spared when the Federal government acquired land for the SNP in the 1930s. It is now under a perpetual conservation easement held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The Chapter is able to use the land in a manner consistent with our mission, but it will never be commercially developed.
Original buildings include the farmhouse, spring house, equipment barn and root cellar. Extensive dry-laid stone fences, and chestnut and locust snake fences criss-cross the property. A large chestnut-framed barn no longer stands. Only the foundations of the original chicken house, woodshed, outhouse and workshop remain.
THE IZAAK WALTON YEARS
The Warren County Chapter was originally chartered in 1929, and was re-activated after becoming inactive during World War II. At least one of the members who were instrumental in re-activating the Chapter in the mid- 1940's remained active until his recent passing. One of our remaining members served in Europe in WWII, and landed at Normandy.
In March 1955, the fourteen Chapter members voted to purchase our property at a cost of $4,000. That brave act was financed by members selling bonds to each other. In 1955, $25 an acre was thought to be a high price. Taxes were $8.36 a year.
The land was - and remains - a 155-acre farm. The farmhouse was built in the 1890's with lumber harvested from the mountain east of the house.
For nearly 60 years, the members have turned their time and effort to conservation, restoration, and beautification of the property. A pond was built soon after the property was purchased. An extensive educational trail system has been developed along the ridges and adjacent to the creeks. Wildlife plantings were a priority and now consist of extensive stretches of a few remaining Chinese chestnut trees, autumn olives, pear and apple trees, lespedeza, small annual grain plots, pin oaks, and chinquapins.
Consistent with the League's policy of wise stewardship of the land and its resources, members are able to fish and hunt on the property.
In 2009, after over 50 years of service as an independent chapter, the former Valley Ladies Chapter combined with the Warren County Chapter. The two associated Chapters had always operated in close coordination, cooperation and support, and now serve together as one organization.
In 2013, a Conservation Easement for the Chapter Park was donated to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. This will help to ensure that the Park's 155 acres will never feel development pressure, and its rural character will always be preserved.
Fall Comes to Hogback Mountain
In addition to the original 1890's house and outbuildings, later improvements include:
- Stocked pond and dam
- Rifle and pistol range
- Archery range
- Picnic shelter with grills and horseshoe pits
- Covered barbecue pits
- Barn and shed for maintenance equipment
- Two fully-functional classic outhouses (needed in the winter)
- Information kiosk and flagpole
- Apple & pear orchard
- Extensive blazed educational trail system
- Roads and parking areas
- Wildlife food plots
- Memorial board and plantings in memory of deceased members
The Park, house and other facilities are available year-round for use by all members and their families (when accompanied by the member). To avoid scheduling conflicts, please coordinate larger group and overnight events with Gene Mathews, the Building and Grounds Chairman.
If you notice something needing maintenance, please call Gene or a Board member.
The Warren County Chapter meets monthly (except January and February) in the Chapter House at the Park. The property is also frequently used for class trips, family reunions, church groups, Scout camping, retreats, several outdoor weddings, and even a funeral.
Our meetings are held at 7:30 PM on the first Monday of each month, (except January and February when the water is turned off). It's usually postponed a week if there's a conflict with a holiday. Dinner is served at 6:30 PM, before the meetings.
If you're interested in joining, please consider attending a dinner meeting to get to know the Chapter. The Park is located at 3364 Gooney Manor Loop, just past Browntown. For the GPS-ers, the house is at latitude 38.783701° and longitude -78.252362° . . . give or take a few inches.
The house and pond fifty years ago The Chapter house, as it looks today
The Park is maintained by a stalwart Building & Grounds crew, under the able leadership of Chairman Gene Mathews. One past National IWLA President commented that the Park was the best-maintained Chapter property he had ever seen.
They also include building rail fences (including cutting and splitting rails from locust on the property when the supply of chestnut rails dried up), making and erecting small signs identifying the various types of trees in the park, and the planting of thousands of daffodil bulbs.
Ongoing restoration efforts include work on the farmhouse, springhouse and root cellar.
VIEWS AROUND THE CHAPTER PARKDaffodils along the fence
Thanks to Joanne Cherefko
Rear of the Chapter House
Thanks to Joanne Cherefko
Hal Meredith (1918-2014), former Chapter President, Building & Grounds Chairman,
Building & Grounds Crew Chairman and Esteemed Member
OTHER VIEWS AROUND THE CHAPTER PARK
The former resident geese, guarding the pond
Split-rail snake fencing and Root Cellar in the background
Barbecue pits and Spring House
Picnic Shelter and Horseshoe Pits