Library Receives Pioneer Portrait
Eastern Rockingham Community Formerly Named For Valley Man
By JEFF MELLOTT
J. Gilliam Conrad came back to the Shenandoah Valley on Wednesday bearing a gift for the Massanutten Regional Library.
Conrad, 87, of Lynchburg, presented library Director Phil Hearne with a portrait of Conrad’s great-great grandfather, George Conrad. "It should be here," Conrad said. "It’s a Valley name." The presentation was held in the genealogical library.
For a time, George Conrad’s name denoted a settlement in the Elk Run Valley in eastern Rockingham County. In 1881, the community changed its name from Conrad’s Store to Elkton.
The building that gave Elkton its earlier name still stands on Old Spotswood Trail just west of downtown. George Conrad built it in 1812 and lived in the upstairs quarters.
Weatherboard siding now covers the log structure.
Four years after the store was built, it became the community’s first post office and George Conrad became the postmaster.
His prominence in the area is not too surprising given the large land holdings of his father a few miles to the northwest at East Point, where George Conrad was born in 1785.
His father, Stephen Conrad, a Revolutionary War veteran in the Rockingham County Militia, began amassing land at age 21. He also engaged himself in a number of enterprises. He was involved in the tannery business, farming and whiskey making, according to Casey Billhimer, president of the Elkton Historical Society.
George Conrad’s marriage in 1810 to Susanna Miller deepened the family’s Valley roots. Miller was a descendant of Adam Miller, the first white settler in that part of the Valley.
George Conrad built a separate home for his family while running the store and post office. He resigned as postmaster and moved to Harrisonburg, where he acquired 583 acres, built a stone house on Main Street and opened a tannery business.
His growing land holdings, 1,471 acres at his death in 1850, abutted Woodbine Cemetery. George Conrad became the first person to be buried in the cemetery.
Displayed For Public
With his great-great grandfather’s ties to Elkton and Harrisonburg, J. Gilliam Conrad said it was important that the portrait hang at the library. Without grandchildren, he decided to pass the painting to posterity through the library.
Hearne has not determined where the portrait, painted by George Conrad’s daughter, will be displayed. He promised the family, including Conrad’s sister, Mrs. Richard Jackson of Sunnyside Retirement Community, that it would be displayed so the public can see it.
"It shows some confidence," Hearne said of the gift, "that the library can be a conservator of local history."
Contact Jeff Mellott at 574-6290 or email@example.com
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