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January 22, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

Willis Mountain: 19th Century Destination

Willis-Mountain_Amy Braileyphoto by Amy Brailey

In the 19th century, Willis Mountain was a popular destination, an inviting natural setting drawing young Virginians for a day in the great outdoors.

In the 1930s, Elizabeth McCraw wrote for the Virginia Historical Inventory, “The huge moss grown rocks were piled one upon another and in places deep crevices can be seen. There was at one time some splendid timber at the base and extending some distance up the sides. Along the trail to the top of the largest of the two main peaks, are several splendid springs of sparkling mountain water.”

Last month, following my initial post about Willis Mountain, Nancy Jamerson Weiland wrote, “My father retired from the Kyanite mine. He worked on Willis Mountain and Baker Mountian in Cullen.  As a little girl, we would go for picnics at the foot of the mountain at a place called Peaceful Valley.”

Does anyone else recall Peaceful Valley or pleasure outings to Willis Mountain?


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  1. John Catlett / Oct 7 2019 5:46 pm

    My grandparents Mr & Mrs Thomas Henry Catlett had a farm there. We used to call it Grandma’s Mountain when we visited as kids. Dad would drive the dirt road back to the farm in a corvair. Sometimes cultures sat in the road

    • Joanne Yeck / Oct 8 2019 11:24 am

      Hello John,

      Many thanks for adding this information to the post.


  2. Benjamin L. Dillard III / Jun 20 2013 11:28 am

    I have fond memories of Peaceful Valley. My great uncle, John F. Sheppard owned it for about 6o years. I have some pictures and paintings of the place when it was in its hayday.

    • Joanne Yeck / Jun 20 2013 12:17 pm

      I would very much like to learn more about Peaceful Valley, your Sheppard family, and see any pictures you might have to share, especially any of the CCC-built shelter. Please write to me at Thanks for commenting! Joanne

    • Helen Jones Meinhard / Mar 5 2016 7:46 pm

      Benjamin, My grandmother Ruby Jones used to go to some reunions with a Mr. Dillard. I remember visiting Cousin John Sheppard at Willis Mt. when I was young. I would love any info you have about the Sheppards, my great grandmother was Mary (Mollie) Sheppard Crute who married Paul Marion Jones.

      • Joanne Yeck / Mar 6 2016 9:03 am

        Helen, While I don’t have any specific information about your ancestors, I wrote about the Buckingham County historian William Gamaliel Shepard in “At A Place Called Buckingham” Volume Two. I don’t know if there is a connection. You can learn more about the book here:

  3. Margaret Thomas / Jan 23 2013 9:08 am

    Peaceful Valley, the Dixon Family “compound” at the foot of Willis Mountain, has been owned by the Gene Dixon, Sr. family at least since the 1950s. Mr. Dixon had the picnic shelter that was built on Willis Mountain by the CCC moved to Peaceful Valley and it has been the scene of many church picnics, family reunions, and weddings over the years. Peaceful Valley was also the location of the first swimming pool in Buckingham County. It was a spring fed swimming pool and jumping into it was always a shock because the water temperature was so cold. Another activity was to climb the mountain, with permission, to the cave on Willis Mountain, which has the initials of early explorers and the date 1769 carved in the cave.

    Margaret Thomas Buckingham

    • Joanne Yeck / Jan 23 2013 9:43 am

      Thank you, Margaret. Peaceful Valley was new to me or at least I didn’t recall it. Now that I know it was a popular recreation spot designed by the Dixon family, perhaps more folks will share memories and, maybe, photos! I would love to post a montage of Peaceful Valley over the years.

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