Remarkably, 2023 marks 125 years since the inception of the historical society. Like the local history we pledge to preserve, ours is an interesting journey from 1898 to today. As the year draws to a close, I thought you might enjoy a some of the lesser-known highlights.
After a published call by John E. Roller for interested persons to organize in December 1897, the Rockingham County Historical Society was born in March 1898. One year later, the organization was led by President Roller and sixteen Vice Presidents! From the beginning, people have stepped up to support gathering, saving, and promoting local history.
As a volunteer organization, there were moments of busy activity and periods of quiet, but the organization became official with our incorporation under the signatures of John Walter Wayland, Ethyl Irwin Lineweaver, and J. W. Hess in 1947. One of the trustees at the time was Margaret Grattan Weaver, the granddaughter of first President John E. Roller.
During the 1960s, the Society flourished in downtown Harrisonburg. A bylaws change in 1978 introduced the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, and a generous property gift moved HRHS to Dayton in the late 1980s where the Cromer-Trumbo House became home base for administrative and genealogical activity.
A capital campaign raised funds to build the Shenandoah Valley Heritage Museum & Research Center in 1993. Fast forward through a few more name changes and a building expansion (made possible by a generous gift from Margaret Grattan Weaver), and you join us at this milestone moment.
We remain the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society and are indebted to the leaders, members, and donors who built this organization. Operating as Rocktown History, we are committed to the same ideals that galvanized our founders in 1898—to protect, care for, and share the complex history of our community so generations for the next 125+ years will understand that history matters.
So glad you are part of this historic journey, too!