Perhaps Sandy Inabinet, who together with her
husband Alan runs the Keezletown Road Inn, describes the location of Weyers Cave
best: "Weyers Cave is betwixt and between. Its not in Staunton and not in
Weyers Cave Postmaster Linda Clements puts it another way
when describing this Shenandoah Valley village that sits just south of the Rockingham
County line in Augusta County. "Its convenient because its halfway
between places like Staunton, Waynesboro, and Harrisonburg," she says.
Their comments sum up Weyers Cave in a nutshell.
Postmaster Linda Clements goes about her duties at
the Weyers Cave post office. She has been postmaster here for five years.
The town was born on March 3, 1874, when the first passenger train chugged into town
and stopped at the not-yet-finished depot. The railroad stop was chosen because of its
close proximity to all of the aforementioned market cities. A further draw was the fact
that another transportation artery, the Valley Pike, was just a short distance away. Such
a transportation crossroads meant that farmers could bring goods to the depot and ship
them out, merchants could have goods shipped in, and passengers could easily travel to the
big cities and beyond.
The brand-new stop on the railroad was named Cave Station because it was the closest
railroad stop for tourists who wanted to visit the nearby attraction of Grand Caverns. The
post office at Cave Station was named Weyers Cave after Bernard Weyer who discovered the
caverns in 1804. The name presents some confusion at times. "We have an interesting
history, but the caves are not here. People come and ask about them all the time, and want
to know where they are," explains Clements. For the record, they are about 10 minutes
up the road in the town of Grottoes.
The Weyers Cave skyline is part industrial and
part agricultural. Gerald Garbers Cave View Farm falls in the latter category.
A century and a quarter after its railroad founding, Weyers Cave is
still a transportation hub. The Valley Pike has been downgraded to U.S. Rt. 11 and tolls
are no longer charged, but Interstate 81 has been built even closer to the village. The
railroad still cuts through the town, but its role has been greatly reduced. Passenger
traffic has ceased and the depot was recently torn down.
The new kid on the block, however, is the Weyers Cave Airport, one of eight commercial
airports in the state. Operating under the slogan "No place so close can take you so
far," the airport sees 50,000 people a year pass through its gates. Its
6,000-foot-runway can handle anything up to a DC-9. And yet, unlike its bigger rivals in
Washington, DC and Richmond, Weyers Cave Airport still has a local atmosphere about it.
There are no people movers, no ticket lines, and the ample parking is still, amazingly
Greg Campbell, the executive director of the
Weyers Cave Airport, stands on the tarmac just off the airport runway.
Entrepreneurial Spirit Prevails
Although in 1874 the Kagey brothers could hardly have envisioned such changes in
transportation and commerce, it is certain they would have appreciated the entrepreneurial
spirit that still prevails. I.B. Kagey was the towns first railroad agent, the one
who contracted to have freight brought to the new depot he had erected. He and another man
opened a general store and post office where Kagey became the first postmaster. On every
day but Sunday, one passenger and one passenger/freight train passed through the village.
As business boomed, a cluster of buildings soon appeared around the railroad. Within a
few years there were several general stores, two blacksmiths, a school, an undertaker, a
telephone switchboard, and a chicken-coop factory. The core of the town, with its
Victorian clapboarded houses and fancy Queen Ann residences, all with wide, cool porches,
Volunteers and staff unload a truck full of
overhead projectors for the Equipping the Saints project housed in the old brick
In the 1890s, N.I. Kagey, I.B.s brother, started a telephone company with
all lines running into the Kagey general store. Telephones came to Weyers Cave about the
same time that Lut Whitesels chicken-coop factory got underway. For more than 80
years the wooden crates were built in the village.
By 1905, there was a bank housed in the big stone building across from the railroad
that now stands empty. N.I. Kagey served as the banks first cashier. That same year
the village electrified itself with a single-cylinder gas engine that stood in town. By
1912, Weyers Cave had one of the first rural electrification systems in the country with
power coming from a water-powered mill located on the outskirts of town.
In 1917, a fine brick high school was built in the village. It was here that 28 of the
schools agriculture students formed the nations first Future Farmers of
America chapter in 1927. Today there are FFA chapters in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Eventually the high school became an elementary school and then closed altogether in
1995. But the fine brick building does not stand empty. Today the school is once again a
beehive of activity under the direction of Keith Jones and his outreach ministry,
Equipping the Saints. Jones and his mostly volunteer corps gather and disperse items
needed in ministries throughout the world. Within the schools walls where desks and
chairs once stood are overhead projectors, clothes, radios, and much more, all stacked
floor to ceiling. They will be used in such countries as Tajkistan, the Philippines, and
the Sudan. "The community has been deeply supportive of our work," Jones says.
A Double-Edged Sword
Even in its early days, the Weyers Cave community walked a tightrope between industry
and agriculture. To area farmers, having a transportation hub like Weyers Cave has always
been a double-edged sword. The Augusta County Cooperative Farm Bureau, for instance, was
founded here in 1929 specifically because of railroad access. At one time farmers could
also sell livestock at a small stockyard located in the village.
Miller Kyger, the self appointed caretaker of area
cemeteries, sets off on his daily duties.
"When I was 5 or 6 years old, I would come on Saturday with my dad on
a wagon with sheep and hogs to be shipped," says Miller Kyger, 78, who grew up
in nearby Port Republic, but has lived in Weyers Cave for the last two decades and is the
self-appointed caretaker of area cemeteries. "In Weyers Cave everyone had a little
something to sell if the weather was open to get there. Sometimes we had to wait in line
to get unloaded. It would be nothing to have 12 or 15 teams of horses standing there. We
would come up here eight or nine times a year. It was so interesting that my brother and I
couldnt wait until we got there. Everybody knew everybody," he remembers.
Farm Bureau a Constant
The stockyards were a thing of the past by the time Sidney Moyer began working
at the Farm Bureau 44 years ago. "They had already stopped that when I got here, but
they were still getting a lot of feed and fence, salt and a lot of bulk fertilizer on the
railroad," he recalls. Moyer, who graduated from school on one day and began working
at the Farm Bureau the next, has seen a lot of changes in the community, but the presence
of the farmers co-op has been a constant despite the fact that its headquarters have
re-located to Staunton.
"At first all we had to sell was feed and seed. After that we got a few groceries
and then a little bit of clothing. Now we have just about everything," Moyer explains
on the eve of his retirement.
Gerald Garber, a life-long resident of Weyers Cave, has seen the tug of war that
takes place between industry and agriculture in the area. He has just finished building a
state-of-the-art computer-controlled milking parlor that will allow him to increase the
number of Holsteins he milks from 250 to 500. His barn complex, which includes one of the
tallest silos in the country at 132 feet, is almost within shouting distance of downtown
Garber is a leader in the community. As an active Ruritan and chairman of the airport
commission, he has special insight into the changing needs of an area that is struggling
to welcome both industry and agriculture.
Sidney Moyer prepares paint for a customer at the
Augusta County Farm Bureau, where he has worked for 44 years.
"Fifteen percent of Augusta Countys dairy cows are within 1 1/2 miles
of downtown Weyers Cave," he says of the areas farms. He describes an unwritten
plan that has evolved placing most of the industrial growth around the village to the
west, while most of the farms, like his, have expanded to the east.
The Best of Both Worlds
For now, at least, residents of Weyers Cave have the best of both worlds. "I have
moved three times in my life for a total of two miles," Garber says. "And I
dont want to move even one mile more."
Weyers Cave has always been a quiet place to live with people "who care enough to
look out for you, but are not so nosy that you cant stand to have them as
neighbors," he adds.
Even though Weyers Cave is convenient to most of the areas bigger cities,
residents dont always see the need to go that far away from home. Right in the
village is a three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar community center that was paid for the day
the townspeople moved in, as well as a 25-acre park that has two ball fields, a soccer
field and a jogging track. Both facilities were made possible through the hard work of
local civic groups like the fire department and Ruritan club.
"We have two banks, three doctors, a pharmacy, a dentist, a day-care center, and a
grocery store. We have everything here you need on a small scale. The greatest thing about
Weyers Cave is the people. Its a good place to live and raise a family," says
If You Go...
Its easy to find Weyers Cave because
it has its own exit off the interstate. Take exit 235 off I-81 and turn east. In one mile
you will come to a traffic light. Welcome to Weyers Cave. Turn left and then take any of
the next few lefts to get to the heart of downtown.
If you are spending the night, try a room at the Inn at Keezletown Road. Soak in
the charming Victorian atmosphere of Sandy and Alan Inabinets century-old house and
enjoy a hearty breakfast of green eggs and ham (biscuits). The breakfast requires some
explanation. The Inabinets raise their own chickens which supply fresh eggs for the
breakfast table. One variety of chicken lays a green-shelled egg rather than the more
typical brown or white shell. Although the outside sports an unusual hue, the egg inside
the shell tastes normal and is lower in cholesterol. For reservations, call 540-234-0644
or visit their Web site at www.keezlinn.com.
Sandy Inabinet, proprietor of the Inn at
Keezletown Road, is holding one of the hand-raised chickens which supply fresh eggs for
the breakfast table at the B&B.
No visit to Weyers Cave would be complete without a trip to Grand
Caverns; after all, Thomas Jefferson came all the way from Charlottesville on
horseback to visit. The caves are located about 10 minutes from Weyers Cave. When you get
to the traffic light at Weyers Cave, go straight through on Rt. 256 until you come to the
town of Grottoes. Follow the signs to the caverns. For information, call 540-249-5705.
Twenty minutes in the other direction is Natural Chimneys Park, where columns of
limestone formations as much as 120 feet high can be seen. The park has camping,
picnicking and swimming facilities. Each year on the third Sunday in August, a jousting
tournament is held in which competitors test their horsemanship while trying to spear tiny
rings suspended from posts. The park can be reached by calling 540-350-2510.
Civil War enthusiasts are in for a treat if they choose to visit the Port Republic
Museum just a few miles away. Here Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall"
Jackson won the final battle of his famous Valley Campaign. To get to Port Republic from
Weyers Cave, go straight through the light, heading east on Rt. 256. Go 3.6 miles and turn
left on Rt. 605 (Lee Roy Road). Go 3.3 miles and you are in Port Republic. Turn right and
the museum is the tan house immediately on your left. This well-preserved village has a
self-guided walking tour as well.
The town of Dayton is only about 15 minutes to the west. Here one will find the Dayton
Farmers Market (540-879-9372), Historic Fort Harrison, and the Shenandoah
Folk Art Museum and Heritage Center. The center is a good place to start learning
about the areas heritage. The phone number there is 540-879-2681. The town also has
a self-guided walking tour.
Downtown Harrisonburg, a few minutes to the north, is home to the Virginia Quilt
Museum housed in the historic Warren Sipe House. For information, call 540-433-3818.
Seasonally there are other nearby spots to visit. Half a dozen or so times a year the
Green Valley Book Fair offers 500,000 books for sale at 60-90 percent off the cover
price. The same folks have an auction house and frequently host estate sales. Call
540-434-4260 or visit their Web site at www.gvbookfair.com. Green Valley is one stop up on
the interstate. Just up the road on Rt. 256 is Mountain River Gardens, where
visitors can pick berries in season. Call 540-249-4442 for further details. Next door is
the Golden Kernel, offering bulk foods, cheese, local crafts, produce, and Florida
citrus. For information, call 540-249-4813.