The Tracy Family History
Woods Gap Today
Now a delightful surprise for all of our cousins. Woods Gap has not gone the way of most frontier passages and become a super highway. More than half the original trail still exists in its primitive state as when Michael Woods, the Englishman, led our Scottish clans into American history 270 years ago.
We have been helped in the Gap’s preservation by the National Park Service, for much of Woods Gap lies within the Shenandoah National Park. What portion lies outside of the park is in an area that nobody really cares about anyway, still primitive.
In 1757, The Virginia legislature designated this as “Woods Gap,” which it was to be called forever and ever. That is why today, 247 years later it is still called...”Jarmans Gap.” It seems that around 1820, a man named Jarman bought the land, and, defying the Virginia legislature, called it Jarmans Gap. (To this day, it has upset our Woods-Wallace historians to no end.) It doesn’t matter because the Jarmans and Woods would marry, so the gap is still ours. (I thought it should be called Jarman-Woods Gap, but I suppose that would confuse the Indians.)
We are all indebted to Rick Childs, the South District Ranger at the Shenandoah National Park. He provides us with information on the Gap today, and took all of these wonderful photos just for our family history.
Rick tells us that the park is so big that it has 25 rangers. The Gap sits at the southern end of the park. Mathematically, the Gap is not that great a distance, only 4 miles from one end to the other. However, Rick cautions that it is very rugged territory. If any of you wish to be a free-range chicken and attempt the hike you are welcome. You are on your own. It is not a designated hiking trail. There are no markers to guide your way. Jeeps, snowmobiles, no vehicles of any type, even horses are not allowed. Woods Gap is rarely ever hiked. It is not for the amateur or picnicker. The hike should only be attempted by an experienced hiker with professional equipment: boots, etc...
Sounds like a fun challenge!
I thought this the perfect place to put this in. An English statement of 1622 read as follows:
“Those leaving for Virginia, must provide themselves with the following tools for a family of six.” To wit:
“4 hoes, 3 shovels and 2 spades
“2 broadaxes, 5 felling axes
“2 steel hand-saws, 2 two-hand saws
“1 whipsaw with file and set
“2 augers, 6 chisels
“2 pickaxes, one grindstone
“Nails of all sorts
As I said, it is rugged!
If you decided to try this one-of-a-kind adventure and hike our Woods Gap; just imagine our people over the generations going through this same trail by foot, on horse, in the their humble farm wagons, and as we shall see, in their stately gilded custom built London coaches.
These are the logistics provided by Rick Childs:
The Jarman Gap Road proceeds west out of the little community of Jarman Gap (In Albemarle County, near Crozet, VA) a couple of miles up the mountain to the Shenandoah National Park boundary. From the end of State maintenance the road proceeds about 200 yards to a Park gate. That section and the subsequent 200 yards west of the gate connecting to the Skyline Drive in Jarman Gap itself is rarely maintained by the Park maintenance staff. The Road terminates at the Skyline Drive. Years ago (late 60's) the Park superintendent ordered that the section of the road west of the Skyline Drive be closed and be returned to nature. A hiker can follow the old roadbed into Augusta County, but no vehicle can go through.
The road is useable on the Albemarle County side. The public can drive all the way to the above-mentioned gate at the park boundary, but the road is in poor condition from the end of State maintenance to the gate. From the gate to Skyline Drive a user must hike.
The road is gravel only (one lane). There are some places on the Albemarle County part of the road where two vehicles can pass.
It has gone back to the original trace, and wagon road. It was widely used until the advent of the automobile in the 1920s. Our people traveled through this gap constantly, for generations, to visit one another. Today there are still many boulders, fallen trees, twists and turns, and a myriad of other obstacles to challenge a hiker.
PS– You remember Rockfish Gap that our General McDowell defended with nearly 1,000 troops to stop Tarleton? This gap is only 5 miles south, and is now Interstate 64. Lucky for us that the government chose this gap for an Interstate and not ours.
The Skyline Drive at Jarman Gap
Jarman Gap Road at Park boundary (Albemarle Co. Side). At this point vehicles must park and visitors must hike to go West.
For more on Woods Gap go to the next chapter.
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