This MS, the Gordon Blair report, held by the Virginia Historical Society, was discovered by Kathy Shearer [S172].

DR. SMITH'S, IN 1882

The rather large old house stands near the brow of a hill ranged about, near and far, with a spread of scenery that is most pleasingly diversified. Far down below one looks upon the valley of the Wallawhatoola (Cow Pasture) river, curved about; stretched clear away to the north for many miles. To the south the land rises upward, till reaching a barrier in the long range of Routh [Rough?] Mountain. Westward, and looking again below, the river rests in a placid stretch of water known as Blue Hole, walled up on the left side by a high bluff. On beyond there is comparatively wide open country, way away to the distant line of Warm Spring Mountain, above which one sees the fine sunsets.

In the summer of 1882, we, that is our mother, my two sisters and I, were with the summer boarders at Dr. Smith's. With Dr. Smith there was his wife (nee Rucker) and one daughter, Miss Annie. Miss Annie it was who first named the resort Nimrod Hall. Though received with amusement by the guests, the name stuck. With the family there was a young man named Johnnie Robinson who helped about with things generally.

We had a pleasant company of guests: Mr. and Mrs. Thomas H. Norwood, Mr. and Mrs. Preston Cocke and their young daughters, Ella and Edmonie (Posie) who died young. Mrs. Richard Maury and her daughter Annie. Later, Mat Maury, an old son, was with us for awhile, Mr. Hawkins, a tobacconist from Staunton, his wife, two sons, Montgomery and Jim, the older, 13 or 14 (I was 14) and Jim a year or two younger, and Palma, an infant in arms. Mrs. Hawkins was a South Carolinian, and had named her daughter with an abbreviation of Palmetto. Another guest was Mr. George Merrit Nolley, first assistant teacher at Mr. Norwood's School for Boys in Richmond. Also, there were several other young men, whose names do not remain with me.

The main house was then much as it remained in later years. The dining room is an extension from the back of it but since enlarged by taking in a porch along the side of it. The Smith's had their quarters in a one story extension westward from the back of the dining room. Outside of the west yard gate a room had been built over the ice house. The young men were quartered at the foot of the hill in rooms across the road from the mill pond. Otherwise there were no cottages. The ladies had but little by way of interesting activities. They gathered informally for conversation in the parlor. I do not remember seeing any card playing; and we had neither golf nor tennis. Towards evening we who would, went out to the brow of the hill to see the sunset, which happened to be rather fine that summer. Back from the brow of the hill the men shot bull bats, when they were flying.

The woods and waters about Nimrod made it a vacation spot more popular with the fishermen and the "mighty hunters before the Lord" than with the woman. But it has ever been a place dear to a number of patrons who returned with the coming of summer year after year.

Might note here that the water supply system that summer was rather simple. A two wheel frame with a barrel on top of it drawn by a yoke of oxen. A Negro boy drove the rig down to and into Big Spring, filled the barrel and came back with the water. About Big Spring, the water that comes out here leaves the river some four miles upstream going under the right bank, thence it passes under the river and comes out here on the left bank. And it was surmised that there was an underground lake below Nimrod.

During the summer of our first visit there was persistent hunting but no venison, the poor roebucks and their families having been nearly exterminated. The hunting was carried on in the usual "drives". The driver put out the dogs and the other men went on stands; that is, positions along the route, followed by the deer when pursued by the hounds. The driver was not supposed to do any shooting, but Dr. Smith always had with him his No. 8 gun, carrying 20 buckshot to the barrel. Mr. Norwood's gun was a No. 10. These two heavy armed scorned such frivolities as bull bats. Mr. Norwood had been on deer stand a hundred times without seeing a deer. We boys often went along riding behind the men of some six hounds. Doroughty, a female, was accounted the most efficient, Jack, Widemouth, and others composed the pack. Another dog, of different breed, by name "Shep" would sneak into the dining room for a surreptitious chicken bone from Dr. Smith. But Mrs. Smith kept a long switch, which caused Shep to lose no time in retiring.

We had good mutton supplied from a small, and diminishing flock of sheep that grazed in a field north of the house. When wanted, a sheep was shot through the head, for Dr. Saith believed that as usually butchered the meat lost some of the juiciness, thereby impairing its fine flavor.

Most of the fishing that summer was done by Mr. Hawkins, "Gum", Jim and me. Our catch was mostly such as Sunperch and Fall fish. If there were any Black Bass we never saw one. But Johnnie Robinson set a trotline in Blue Hole and one night caught a very large eel. Later, the stream was well stocked, and fishing became a major attraction at Nimrod. Notoriously successful among the devotees was Milton Humphries, who held the Chair of Greek at the University of Virginia. He was said to have his private system and he did not fish with the other men. Eventually some of the people living along the river objected to the fishing boats and that curtailed the sport.

We enjoyed bathing in the river, men and women at different times of the day. We men wore no bathing suits. We undressed and waded through the stream of water that came down from Big Spring, then clean and unpolluted, and got into the river from the far side.

Down where the electric generator is now in operation there was a grist mill with Mr. Rucker as miller. The house in which the Ruckers lived was out to westward of Nimrod Hall. I never got near enough to see the house; and of the family I knew only Margaret (called Sudie) who occasionally visited Nimrod. It was my understanding that Mrs. Smith was sister to Mr. Rucker.

A man named Ned Snead lived with the Ruckers; if I am not mistaken, a brother of Mrs. Rucker. He had been a cowboy out west, and gave the benefit of his experience that summer when Dr. Smith had a drove of cattle to be shipped from Millboro Depot. The steers had been brought over from "Doctor's Old Place" and passed the night at Nimrod. From there we drove them to Millboro, about seven miles. I say "we" for I road behind Dr. Smith. Arriving at the depot, Dr. Smith was handed a telegram telling him to bring his cattle back for shipment Sunday. So back the herd had to come to Nimrod, with the loss of many pounds in weight. Why the Doctor's Old Place was so called I do not know. I never heard that the Smith's had lived there before coming to Nimrod. It was also known as Methany's, and years later, Mary Street, in her book, called it Hunter's Paradise. As a farm, it seemed remote from other places. It had a wagon road that came out on the Warm Spring Road but it was accessible from Nimrod only on horseback. I made the trip twice riding behind Dr. Smith on his able sorrel, named Bob Lee. We crossed the river down at Poplar Ford and road up a gloomy ravine along a water course that reduced to intermittent pools of water, and then out into open country. We went there to have a deer drive, for there were some few deer remaining thereabouts.

I knew little about the Smith family and nothing about the previous history of Nimrod Hall. It seems that Dr. Smith had at one time practiced his profession among a backwoods people; who were, according to his stories, quite casual in matters of sexual morality. Much in contrast, Miss Annie Smith once mentioned their having fared quite well in Richmond while her father was in the State Legislature. But at the time of our visit (in 1882) he seems to have been "land poor". He had a farm in Amherst County, and I once heard him say that he wished he did not own so much land. There could have been but little income from the rather poor land about Nimrod. He had long been an addict to hunting, perhaps not always keeping within the rules of the game; judging from what someone, whose name I have forgotten, told me about his shooting his gun while acting as driver. I never heard that he had been excessive in the use of alcoholics, but he and Mr. Hawkins used to foregather in his cottage at twilight for their drink of tansy bitters.

On Sunday mornings we met in the parlor, and Mr. Norwood, the son of an Episcopal minister, read the First and Second Lessons and the Morning Prayer.