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Valley of the Shadow

Valley Virginian: February 3, 1870

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Croakers and Croaking
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Summary: This article begins by describing local "croakers" who cast a gloomy shadow on events of the day. These croakers epitomize pessimism. They see only the negative aspects of political activity and bemoan current agricultural deficiencies in an exaggerated manner. Yet, with all this croaking, the author reassures his readers that times are soon to improve. He suggests, rather, a spirit of optimism and enumerates the many ways, such as new railroads, mineral resources, and an influx of enterprising men, that guarantees a prosperous Virginia.
Full Text of Article:

There are in every community, a set of men who may be called the Ravens of society. They are always discontented. They see every object through a dark medium--They never look at the bright side of things. To them, everything wears a somber aspect. They predict the failure of every enterprise, and seem unhappy if their prophesies are not fulfilled. With such men money is always scarce, and going to be scarce--a financial crisis is always at hand, and certain ruin just a little way ahead. In their view, property has attained a fictitious value, and is destined, very soon, to suffer a serious decline. Growing crops are always unpromising and the price of the grain on hand is steadily falling! If their counsels were heeded, no new enterprises would be undertaken; no new houses built, no new stores opened, no new factories set on foot!

Two weeks ago they were ready to prove to you, by irresistible logic, that Virginia would not be admitted into the Union without the iron-clad--and now they are equally confident that the Federal Government is going, with railway speed, to the ______ bad! and that nobody will get their ice houses filled this winter!

We might fill a column, with details of the subjects of croaking, and another with a description of the manner in which they croak! But in mercy to our readers we forbear.

We beg to say to our readers that mid winter is the carnival of croakers. The weather has almost as much influence on men of this stamp as it has on trees and flowers. Amidst the frosts and ice of winter the spirits of the masses become depressed. The sap goes down in men, as it does in the vegetable world, and animation is, to some extent, suspended, in both. During this season, men take gloomy views of things. They sympathize with the dreary scenes by which they are surrounded. They see everything stagnant, locked up in icy fetters, and their hearts become chilled within them. Approach some classes of men, at this season, with a proposition for a new venture in business, which promises a most bountiful return, and they see in it nothing but failure and disaster!

But wait until the winter breaks! Wait until the mantle of snow melts from the earth, under the soft breath of Spring! Wait until verdure clothes the hills, and the birds begin to chirp among the budding trees, and the flowers to spring up in the sunny vales, and you will find a corresponding man who had looked so distrustfully on all your propositions!--You will find that the sap has risen in him as well as in the trees and shrubs! He too begins to bud and blossom, under the genial influence of the vernal sun! All things now wear a new aspect in his eyes--cheerfulness has taken place of despondency. Hope like a rainbow spans and paints with its brilliant hues, the murky clouds that had overshadowed his horizons! Confidence--that plant, which is, ordinarily, of such slow growth,--springs full grown, like Minerva from the brain of Jove--in his breast!--He is ready to enter with vigor and alacrity upon any new enterprise which presents a reasonable prospect of success.

We are led to make these remarks because we often hear people croaking on our streets. They say money is scarce--trade is dull, the value of property is declining--business is overdone--too many houses have been built, too much money has been wasted in bricks and mortar--ruin is imminent--the stay-law is about to expire--and we are all bound to--Deny Jones'!

My dear friend! It is the frost and the ice that speak through your lips! Just wait till the spring opens, and you will see things in a very different light. When the genuine frogs begin to croak, their human compeers will cease their dolorous notes!

In surveying "the situation" we must acknowledge we see little to croak about.--Everything seems to promise to Virginia and Virginians a bright a cheering future. The state has now been restored to her position in the Union. We are relieved from military rule, and we have every reason to expect a fair and stable government, administered by officers of our own choice. True, the terms on which we have been received, have not been such as would have been most acceptable to us. But although they are distasteful, they are not, practically, very hurtful. They amount to very little, and we can almost afford to laugh at the impotent malice of Sumner, Drake & Co., which imposed them on us.

The restoration of the State will be followed by a restoration of confidence and a revival of credit. A new impulse will be given to business. Immigrants will flock to Virginia to occupy and improve our exhaustive lands. Intelligent and thrifty white labor will take the place of the slovenly and spiritless operators who are daily wending their way to the cotton States. Our mines and coal fields will be opened, our agriculture improved and diversified. Manufactures will spring up at our water-falls and prosperity will spread through all our borders.

The best barometer by which to measure the condition of a country is the stock-market. Applying this test, we find that Virginia State bonds have advanced in a few weeks from $36 to $50, a rise of 14 per cent. This is but the beginning of the end. As wealth and population seek a domicile here new confidence will be inspired not only in the tax paying capacity of our State, but in its willingness to redeem in good faith, all its obligations. The apprehended predominance of the negro vote in the State naturally created distrust in the minds of capitalists. But the raped exodus of that class of our population, and the influx of men of industry and means, have dissipated all apprehensions of repudiation, or inability to pay.

Looking nearer home, we see that the Chesapeake & Ohio R.R., that great improvement--that highway of wealth and prosperity, which is to empty into the lap of Virginia, not merely the treasures of our own mountains, but the accumulated stores of the West, and of the countries beyond the Pacific, is now on the eve of completion. In little more than a month the contracts for the work will be let out. Between the Ohio and the falls of Kanawha probably five or ten thousand hands will be at work within the year. And at the eastern base of the Alleghany between Millborough and the White Sulphur, we shall in less than three months, have two thousand men with a full complement of mules and horses, employed on Lewis Tunnel, and the great falls at Millborough and Jerry's run.

The employment of such a large number of men and animals, will open an extensive market for our agricultural supplies. Staunton will be the base of supply and Augusta and Rockbridge must furnish the grain, the meat, the flour, the hay, the potatoes and everything for their support and comfort.

Let our farmers then be of good cheer! Let them put out large crops of oats and corn. Let them raise all the hogs they can. Let them out and bale all the hay their farms will produce. All will be needed and more than they can supply. The railroad gives ready means of transporting all we have to sell. The new company proposes to deal on cash principles. It has boundless means, and it will pay as it goes. The old picayune style of doing business under the auspices of the old Central road will be repudiated. The purchase of horses, mules, provisions and supplies of implements of all kinds will throw vast amounts of money into circulation. This will infuse new life and energy into our community. Business of all kinds will be more active and cheerfulness will take the place of gloom.

Nor is this all. In two years from this date the entire work will be done. And what then? Who can venture to tell! We venture to predict that within three years from the completion of the road we will have not less than 50 trains per day passing along the line, freighted with passengers and with the wealth not merely of the great West, but of "Ormus and of Ind!"

By that time the iron works west of us will be in the full tide of successful operations and will be pouring their rich tributes into the Eastern cities--our coal fields will be opened furnishing the power which is to operate hundreds of factories along the line of the improvement. Our own town will be the centre of a great iron and coal interest, and the site of rolling mills and other manufactories. A large coal trade will spring up here and a way side traffic in all the commodities brought along the line.

Now there is time to prepare for this trade. Now is the time to erect the necessary buildings and be ready to catch the trade as it flies.

But we feel that it is hardly necessary to say anything on this subject. A word to the wise is sufficient. We have an enterprising and a live population. Their past history proves it. What community has displayed so much energy and industry and keen intelligence as ours? what people have made such good use of their means, or done so much to improve the advantages of their position? Where have so many buildings been erected and so many improvements accomplished? Where can be found better churches, better schools, better public institutions, better buildings, better society, better people?

But we must stop. Our citizens will doubtless understand the future, that is before them, and will not fail to improve every opportunity of adding to their wealth and prosperity.

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Summary: The paper reports heavy shipments of cattle between Staunton and Baltimore in the past week.
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Summary: Tabner L. Riddle and Mahala J. Allen, both of Augusta, were married on January 27th by the Rev. A. A. J. Bushong.
(Names in announcement: Tabner L. Riddle, Mahala J. Allen, Rev. A. A. J. Bushong)
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Summary: Jacob L. Pifer and Miss Margaret R. Harmon, both of Augusta, were married on December 30th by the Rev. J. M. Follansbee.
(Names in announcement: Jacob L. Pifer, Margaret R. Harmon, Rev. J. M. Follansbee)
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Summary: James A. McFall and Miss Radie M. Harmon, both of Augusta, were married on January 23rd by the Rev. J. M. Follansbee.
(Names in announcement: James A. McFall, Radie M. Harmon, Rev. J. M. Follansbee)
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Summary: Joseph Carson and Lavalette Swink, both of Augusta, were married on January 25th at the residence of John Towberman in Mint Spring by the Rev. James Murray.
(Names in announcement: Joseph Carson, Lavalette Swink, John Towberman, Rev. James Murray)
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Summary: William H. Magann and Miss Mollie E. Blackwell, both of Augusta, were married near Waynesboro on January 18th by the Rev. C. Beard.
(Names in announcement: William H. Magann, Mollie E. Blackwell, Rev. C. Beard)
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Summary: Hezekiah Bernard Curry, son of Rev. H. W. and Rachel Curry, died near Spring Hill on January 24th. He was 2 years old.
(Names in announcement: Hezekiah Bernard Curry, Rev. H. W. Curry, Rachel Curry)
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Summary: John Arey Hiet Kercheskie, son of Joseph and Mary Kercheskie, died in Spring Hill on January 24th. He was 1 year old.
(Names in announcement: John Arey Hiet Kercheskie, Joseph Kercheskie, Mary Kercheskie)
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Summary: John Ailor died at his residence near Deerfield on January 5th. He was 82 years old.
(Names in announcement: John Ailor)
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Summary: Martha Steele Baldwin, wife of the late Judge Briscoe G. Baldwin, died at her Staunton residence on January 24th. She was 79 years old. She was a member of the Presbyterian Church for 50 years. "She was a lady of fine intellect and generous feelings. Her genial and cheerful temper in early life made her the brightest ornament of the circle in which she moved, and an object of warm attachment to her family and friends. Her heart and her hand were always open to the appeals of charity. She possessed a ready wit, and a fine taste for music and poetry. In the earlier period of her life, when her children were growing up around her, her house was the scene of warm-hearted hospitality and of delightful enjoyment to the young, who courted her society."
(Names in announcement: Martha Steele Baldwin)

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