Most recently employed as the General Manager for the Louisa County Water Authority, he was able to increase the operating budget with community buy-in, complete multi-million dollar system upgrades to comply with more stringent environmental standards, settle long-standing citizen lawsuits, and develop and implement a strategic plan to guide the Water Authority to self-sufficiency. Prior to joining the Water Authority, Mr. Rodgers served for 28 years as a Judge Advocate, United States Air Force, during which time he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and served in diverse communities throughout the world.
Mr. Rodgers holds a business degree from Baylor University, a law degree from the University of Utah School of Law, and a Master of Environmental Laws degree from George Washington University.
Asked what he likes best about Amherst County, Mr. Rodgers replied, “my most favorite aspect of Amherst County is how friendly and helpful the people are. There is a culture of graceful living here.”
The 17,500 sq. ft. ambulatory care center will be built behind the Ambriar Shopping Center. Centra expects to spend at least $9 million on the facility.
As an urgent care center, it will function for the treatment of non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses. The facility also would provide primary care services, X-rays including digital X-rays, laboratory services and physical therapy. Patients would not need to have an appointment to be seen.
According to Centra spokeswoman Diane Riley, the Amherst facility will address a shortage of primary care providers in central Amherst County. An older population requires more medical services, and Centra expects the demand for doctors to increase as the population of Amherst County continues to age, based on census data.
While Riley was unsure as to how many physicians would be housed at the Amherst center, she wrote that because of its size, the new facility potentially could house multiple physicians.
“Our commitment to this region is to provide access of care to our neighbors,” Riley said.
“We will work closely with the physicians already in the area to help address the [community’s] unmet medical needs due to the shortage of
The new Amherst Town Hall, located at 174 S. Main St., less than one block away from the old location, recently opened. The 3,000 sq. ft. building, purchased by the Town in August 2013, accommodates the Amherst Police Department, Town office staff, and chambers for the Town council.
The same building (located next to the Bank of the James) once housed a donut shop and, most recently, a chiropractic office. The old Town Hall building will be for sale.
Outside renovations on the Amherst Train Depot (as of August 2014) was going through Phase II, including new wooden siding and clay tiles for the roof, according to Zoning and Planning Director Jeremy Bryant.
Historically accurate windows now stand in the place of old, boarded up ones. With the second phase almost complete, the third and last stage, the interior renovation, is still preliminary. Although Amherst County was awarded a $618,671 grant from the federal Transportation Alternatives program to complete the project, it has still not been determined what organizations will locate there, and exactly how the 2200 sq. ft. of space will be utilized.
So far (as of 8/20/14) both the Amherst County Chamber of Commerce and Amherst County Economic Development Authority have requested space, but no definite plans have been made as to when Phase III will begin. Part of the space allotted to the ACCC would be used as a Visitor’s Center. For more information, call Jeremy Bryant at 946-9303.
Thanks to a collaborative effort between Amherst County High School art teacher Maryellen Barron, a group of 11 students, Amherst Town Council, arts promoter Suny Monk and others, a large mural honoring the Age of Jazz was constructed in Oct. 2013 on the building where Traveler’s Restaurant is located.
More murals are planned in the future!
Sheila Justice opened her grooming facility in the Town of Amherst, across Rt. 60 from the Food Lion shopping center, in Nov. of 2013. A groomer for20 years, she started her business in the basement of her home in 2005.
Sheila graduated from Canine Clippers School of Pet Grooming, and is certified in Terriers (Schnauzers) and Non-Sporting Breeds (poodles).
The Old 97 Restaurant opened in November of 2013. Life-long Amherst County residents and successful business owners Matthew Cox and Tracy Sprouse have transformed this landmark into a quality restaurant where one can relax with a nice meal and entertainment without being afraid to bring the whole family.
Live music, including bluegrass, classic country, blues and jazz, is featured at least weekly, and there is also a weekly family-friendly karaoke night. A favorite place for Amherst County High School class reunions, The Old 97 is a popular venue to celebrate birthdays for the young and old alike. For more information, see the ad on page 36.
After having served Amherst and the surrounding communities for 18 years from their present S. Main St. location, the Harman Eye Center will be relocating to 204 Ambriar Plaza in December 2014.
The same staff, led by Tabitha Combes O.D., will continue offering their professional services from a larger, more convenient and patient-friendly space, across from What A Blessing Bakery. For more information, see the ad on page 5.
Tweedy’s Produce, originally located behind the Apple Market shopping center at the corner of Rt.s 151 and 29N., moved to the other corner of the same intersection in January of 2014. Owned and operated by Amherst natives Brenda and Ricky Tweedy, their floor space is now doubled, allowing them to become a country store.
Besides their fresh local produce, they now offer country hams, rolled bologna, salt fish, cheeses, jams, jellies, spices, Atkinson’s Milling Products. See their ad on page 57.
Tim and Joyce Boggs started Virginia Plaques and Trophies from their home, back in 2009.
Business was so good that they moved it to a location on Rt. 29 in Madison Heights the following year, and again in 2013 to their present location at 3690 S. Amherst Hwy., Madison Heights. They have quadrupled their workspace from their previous Rt. 29 shop. They now have a larger showroom and capacity for all services and products, including uniforms and Dixie Outfitter shirts. See the ad on page 7.
River’s Edge Pet Grooming opened March 1, 2014, at 4124 S. Amherst Hwy., near Rt. 130 and the pawn shop. Affordable and compassionate care in a convenient location is offered, along with skilled breed-specific dog grooming, basic shave downs, baths and nail trimming.
Owner/groomer Jennifer Sigmon has over 20 years of experience working with animals, and a Bachelor’s of Science, Equestrian Science degree. She is an Amherst County resident and 1987 graduate of ACHS. For more information, see the ad on page 55.
Important Monacan Historical Dates
A visit to the Monacan Nation Museum and headquarters at Bear Mountain, in Amherst County, is both an educational and enchanting one.
Located on Kenmore Rd. about five miles from the library in the Town of Amherst, the approximate 200 acres of land are beautiful, complete with a babbling brook that runs through it. But it is only a mere semblance of the territory that the Monacan’s once roamed, a swath of land in what is now known as Virginia, north and south between the North Carolina and Maryland borders, through the Blue Ridge mountains to the west and Richmond area to the east.
When the first colonists arrived at Jamestowne in 1607, they immediately met with Indian people on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. These Indians belonged to a vast Powhatan autocracy and spoke Algonquian languages. In the piedmont and mountain regions of this area lived Siouan Indians of the Monacan (Monacan meaning “earth people” or “diggers of the earth) and Mannahoac tribes, arranged in a confederation ranging from the Roanoke River Valley to the Potomac River, and from the Fall Line at Richmond and Fredericksburg west through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
At this time, the Virginia Siouans numbered at least 9,000 people. They were an agricultural people who grew the “Three Sisters” crops of corn, beans and squash, and they had domesticated a wide variety of other foods, including sunflowers, fruit trees, wild grapes and nuts. They lived in villages with palisaded walls, and their homes were dome-shaped structures of bark and reed mats. These Monacan ancestors hunted deer, elk and small game, and they would leave their villages every year to visit their hunting camps. The Monacans traded with the Powhatans to the east and the Iroquois to the north. They mined copper, which they wore in necklaces, and which the Powhatans prized greatly. The Monacans also buried their dead in mounds, a tradition that differentiates them from neighboring Indian nations. Throughout the piedmont and mountain regions, thirteen mounds have been identified and many excavated, yielding interesting information about the lives of these first Americans, whose ancestors inhabited this region for more than 10,000 years.
Even before the English arrived, the Indians had encountered sweeping epidemics of disease, carried to this land by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Such diseases as smallpox and influenza wiped out entire tribes, because the Indians had no immunity to the bacteria. With their numbers reduced and whole villages gone, the tribes were greatly disadvantaged when the colonists landed in Virginia.
Unlike the Powhatans, who maintained an appearance of friendly relations with the colonists, the Monacan people appeared to want little contact with the English. Historic records indicate that the Monacans were not fighters by nature, unlike the neighboring Iroquois. Traditionally the Monacan’s were not believed to a supreme leader like Powhatan. A number of explorers visited their towns and described them, but none remained to learn the Monacan languages, and thus the historical record of these people is poor in contrast to Powhatan history.
Between 1607 and 1720, a series of encounters are recorded, and the Monacans gradually moved north and westward, away from the advancing settlers. But many of the Monacan people stayed in Virginia, entrenched in their ancestral home in the mountains, a place that became known as Amherst County. Other tribes, such as the Saponis, Occaneechis, and Tutelos, joined these remaining Monacans.
By 1807, the settlement of Monacan ancestors on Johns Creek had been named “Oronoco,” after a type of dark-leaf tobacco grown in the area. One source has suggested that the Indians helped their new neighbors to grow this tobacco, thus contributing greatly to one of the greatest tobacco markets in the world at that time, which became the City of Lynchburg. The settlement at Oronoco was listed as a post town on a map of the county, and from this settlement grew the modern Monacan Nation.
In 1831, William Johns purchased 52 acres of land on Bear Mountain in Amherst County. In 1833, he bought another 400 acres, and this land became a settlement for the Indian families related to him. One source states, “It was the people on Bear Mountain who cohered and maintained an identity through one another. It was also this community that became the target of prejudice and misunderstanding.” In 1850, the census recorded 29 families, mostly large, related to the Bear Mountain settlement and Monacan community. In 1856, Will Johns divided his lands among his sons and daughter. Five years later, at the age of 91, he died. In 1860, the Amherst County Clerk’s Office recorded, among the names of free persons of color, the Monacan surnames of Beverly, Branham, Johns, Pinn and Terry.
In 1868, a parcel of land was donated for a meeting place for the Indian people. At the time, churches and schools were provided for whites and for blacks, but not for Indians. Originally, a wooden arbor served as the meeting place, and itinerant ministers began to hold Baptist and Methodist services there. Shortly thereafter, a log building was built, to be used for the meeting place. The new church served about 350 Indian people. This building later became the Indian mission school, which still stands at the foot of Bear Mountain and is now a registered national historic landmark.
An 1896 newspaper article about the Indian community described them this way: “The older part were typical Indians, of a rich copper color, high cheek-bones, long, straight black hair, tall and erect in form.”
Virginia passed its Racial Integrity Law in 1924, which prohibited intermarriage between those considered white and those having any mixture of colored blood more than one-sixteenth. This law was to have a disastrous effect on the Monacan people and resulted in many of their records being changed by state officials without their knowledge. Many Monacans left the state during this time, because they were no longer permitted to marry freely or to register as Indian in any official capacity. Indian children were at this time attending a first-to-seventh-grade school at Bear Mountain, and some were known to walk five miles each way to reach the school.
During this period, Monacans began challenging the official classifications of their race by state officials and census takers. The debate continued through 1942, when several Monacans led a legal challenge to the state’s actions, and Dr. Walter Plecker, who headed the state Bureau of Vital Statistics, was forced to admit that he had no scientific evidence ascertaining the Monacans’ race. In 1943, Monacans challenged the local draft board, successfully resolving their incorrect racial classification for the World War II draft. During the early part of the century, most of the Indian people had been tenant farmers, cropping shares, but they were forced finally to change to day work, cutting pulpwood and working seasonally at the local fruit farms. In 1946 the owner of two fruit farms, which employed many of the Indian families, agreed to provide a truck to transport the children to school and church. The people divided themselves into two groups, those with lighter and darker appearances, and the Presbyterian Church formed a separate mission and school at Pedlar Mills. During harvest season, the fruit farms had to set up three tables at lunchtime, for white, Indian, and black laborers.
A 1956 article in the Amherst paper noted the lack of secondary education being provided to mission children in the area, and in 1963, the County proposed a $30,000 bond to build an Indian school for the mission community. The proposal was voted down, and 23 students applied for transfer to public schools. In Richmond, the applications were approved, and the old mission schoolhouse closed as its students entered public schooling for the first time.
The mission, now called St. Paul’s mission, began holding its annual Homecoming Reunion and Bazaar in 1969, an event that is still enjoyed yearly in October by many county residents, and in 1970 a five-acre parcel was purchased by the church, still used as a recreational area for the tribe. In 1979, a federal Native American grant established a pottery cooperative at the mission, and some important pieces were produced, several of which were sold to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. The next year, a parish hall was added to the mission, and in 1981, the Mattaponi-Pamunkey-Monacan Consortium was created, the first intertribal consortium in Virginia, which obtains funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to create jobs and job training for Indian people in the state.
The tribe became a state-registered corporation in 1988, and in 1989, it was recognized by the Virginia General Assembly as one of the eight indigenous tribes of the state. In 1993, the tribe became a registered nonprofit organization, developed a museum steering committee, and held its first annual Powwow in Bedford County. With the funds raised from this event, the tribe purchased 110 acres of land on Bear Mountain, to be held in trust for its future generations. A tribal scholarship fund was also established at this time.
In 1994, the tribe began negotiating with the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Virginia to open a tribal museum at the mission site, and in 1995 the Church made history by returning the deed to 7.5 acres of its property to the Monacan Tribe. The mission school building was accepted into the Virginia Register of Historic Places, and in 1996 the Bear Mountain log cabin was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1997, the tribe petitioned the Virginia Council on Indians to request legislation enacting corrections to birth certificates and other official documentation at no charge to tribal members. With the passing of this new bill, nearly a century of state-sanctioned racial oppression ended for Monacan people. Also in 1997, the tribe obtained its first grant from the federal Administration for Native Americans, to conduct historical research that will help them to obtain federal recognition as an Indian tribe.
PLACES NAMED AFTER THE MONACANS: Monacan Park (on James River near Elon); Monacan High School (near Richmond);
Monacan Bridge (Rt. 29 bypass bridge over the James River, dedicated in 2005).
The Monacans have survived almost four hundred years since the first settlers landed at Jamestowne. Today the tribe numbers over 2100 people (about 650 within 50 miles of Bear Mountain), as more descendants discover their heritage and return to Amherst to celebrate their Indian culture. The tribe operates numerous programs designed to assist tribal members and to educate the general public. It has paid off its land purchase on Bear Mountain and acquired new parcels as well.
The Monacan Nation, headquartered here in Amherst County, is one of the few American Indian nations that still remain in their ancestral homeland. It has made significant contributions to Virginia’s history and development, and the Monacans continue to be a strong group, dedicated to the survival of Indian people in Virginia and throughout the hemisphere.
(The publisher is grateful to the Monacan Nation and Dr. Peter Houck (author of Indian Island in Amherst County) for the above information)