- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

BRISTOL, Va. (AP) — A Virginia historian compiled a new guide to help explain and decipher the more than 1,850 silver-and-black markers across the state.

The $19.95 book is titled “A Guidebook to Virginia’s Historical Markers” and is printed by the University of Virginia Press.

Now in its third edition, the 366-page book includes nearly 900 new and replacement markers on roadsides since the last edition was published in 1994. The book was published last year to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the markers.

“The original intent of the [marker] program was to foster interest nationwide in Virginia’s history and to encourage tourism through a uniform system of noting historic events.” said author David Arnold, who managed the historical highway marker program with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources while compiling the book.

The first signs appeared in 1927, along U.S. Highway 1 between Richmond and Fredericksburg. The markers largely have retained the same look and some have stood since the 1930s.

While ubiquitous, the markers are not always fully informative. Some read like a non sequitur.

One pays tribute to the Stonewall Jackson Female Institute. The college took its name from the famous Civil War general. The college has been out of business since 1930 “because of mounting debts.”

Some are quite informative.

At Big Moccasin Gap, between Weber City and Gate City, one recent addition details the Carter Family’s importance:

“After their first recording session in Bristol for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1927, the trio enjoyed tremendous popularity, appearing on the radio, and recording more than 250 songs until 1943.”

In Smyth County alone, markers pay tribute to such points of interest as the founding of Chilhowie; the Civil War Battle of Marion; Saltville’s history; Seven Mile Ford; Sherwood Anderson; Hungry Mother State Park; and the grave of William Campbell, who is buried at Aspenvale Cemetery.

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