MOUNT CRAWFORD — Mount Crawford really is a sleepy town today, but in its heyday — and yes, it did have a heyday — it was an important cog in the lifeblood of the Valley.
The town was originally called Mount Pleasant, and then Mount Stevens, finally adopting the name Mount Crawford in 1825.
In the 19th century, Mount Crawford was important due to its proximity to North River, which runs just south of town, as well as its location on the Valley Turnpike, now known as U.S. 11 to most folks. The pike was then the main road through the Valley and remained so until construction began on Interstate 81 in the 1960s.
But for all its importance to the area, there wasn’t much in the way of a comprehensive history of the town. That, however, was before Jim and Liz DePoy, longtime residents of the town, decided to do take on the task of compiling the town’s lost records, photos, maps and documents. They’ve been at it now for more than 40 years.
“For a town that was as thriving as it was in its time, there isn’t a whole lot of information available,” said Jim DePoy, a former Town Council member.
DePoy, 78, served on council for more than nine years in the 1960s and early 1970s. He said his wife, Mary Elizabeth “Liz” DePoy, also 78, was appointed town historian more than four decades ago.
“Since then we have bought and traded and done everything we could to get documents and photos,” he said.
They have focused a lot of time and effort to compile town records and historical photographs. As far as they know, they have the largest collection, but they still keep a lookout for more items.
“We would be glad for any feedback that we can get from anybody,” he said.
Mount Crawford owes its early success to the North River. The waterway was key to the history of Mount Crawford, as was the case with the nearby town of Bridgewater, which grew as a significant location of trade due to its proximity to major transportation routes. The river passes through Bridgewater, then heads southeast to Mount Crawford.
By 1850, Bridgewater had two gristmills, two cabinet shops, several general stores, a tavern, and a hotel, according to the Bridgewater Historical Society.
DePoy said Mount Crawford benefited economically by being downstream from Bridgewater.
“If you go back to Lake’s Atlas of 1885, Mount Crawford was one of the most thriving towns in Rockingham County,” he said.
Mount Crawford had many businesses, including wagon makers, gunsmiths, multiple mills, a tin shop, a tannery and a livery stable, he said.
But the number of businesses had greatly declined as the river became used less often for transportation and commerce, said DePoy. Based on information listed in the Showalter Atlas of 1939, the only businesses that year were a barbershop, a mill, grocery stores and milk delivery, he added.
These days, few businesses call the town home and the only ones that harken back to the past are antique shops such as Frank’s Country Store.
But the DePoys are happy to be able to document that past in a collection that helps to tell the rich history of Mount Crawford.
Contact Jonathon Shacat at 574-6286 or firstname.lastname@example.org