Again in the year 2009, were making our way around the
region, each issue visiting a small town and meeting some of the folks who
make up the heart of electric co-op country. On this year's
Down Home in
and photos by James Morrison, Contributing Writer
Moneta (muh-NEET-uh) began as a small, country
village, one of 20 such villages in Bedford County. Over the years,
especially since the construction of Smith Mountain Lake in the
1960s, Moneta has evolved into a sprawling community that
encompasses farmland and lakeside developments in both Bedford and
For some people, the word Moneta means the old
village. For others, Moneta is a broader community that extends out
to a radius of about three miles from the old village. For yet
others, Moneta is almost synonymous with a major portion of the
Smith Mountain Lake community and the 85-square-mile zip code area
served by the Moneta post office. This ambiguity is reflected in the
name of a branch library — the “Moneta/Smith Mountain Lake Library”
— and a new commercial development, “Downtown Moneta at Smith
In 1857, Jordan Lipscomb
and others purchased farmland around what was to become the village
of Moneta. Lipscomb established a tanyard there, and the area was
first known as Lipscomb’s Tanyard. In 1880, John Thaxton built the
first store in the area. The Thaxton family wanted a post office in
their store, and, searching for a name, Mrs. Thaxton suggested
“Moneta,” a name she had come across in a book she was reading. The
Moneta post office was officially established in 1886.
Shortly after 1900, a rail line was laid through
the area, and the village of Moneta grew, with half the village
north of the tracks and half south.
One who knows the history of the area is native
Calvin Woodford. Woodford followed his father into the poultry and
egg business, but in 1973 founded the Moneta Farm Service, which
today, serving a broader clientele, is called the Moneta Farm & Home
“The area around Moneta was predominantly rural
and agricultural,” says Woodford. “Tomatoes and tobacco were the two
main money crops. There were six or seven tomato-canning factories
within five miles of old Moneta, and there were lots of dairy farms.
“In the village, just
north of the tracks, were three grocery stores, one with a post
office in the back, an Odd Fellows Lodge that became a Masonic
Lodge, a volunteer fire and first-aid department, and a school. On
the south side of the tracks were a restaurant, another grocery
store, a garage, and for a while a car dealership and a
milk-receiving station that was later converted into a lumber yard.”
There were houses along the road running through Moneta.
In 1977, a house south of
the tracks caught on fire. Two fire trucks trying to approach from
the north were blocked by a train, and a 19-month-old boy in the
house died. The Moneta Ruritans and others then pressed to have a
bridge built nearby over the rail line, and this led to the
construction of an overpass over the tracks on a new highway segment
that bypassed the old Moneta village. When the federal government
later required railroads to close some of their little-used
crossings, Norfolk Southern closed the Moneta crossing, permanently
dividing the village.
A new commercial
development not far from old Moneta village combines both
the Moneta and lake names -- "Downtown Moneta at Smith
Today, in the old Moneta village, three of the
eight non-residential buildings near the tracks are vacant and in
disrepair. Along the roads near the village are about 25 homes, a
school, a fire house, and a few other businesses.
In 1990, scenes for the comedy movie What About
Bob? were filmed in the Moneta area, although the movie portrays it
as New Hampshire. In the film, a psychiatrist (Richard Dreyfuss)
vacations in a home on the Franklin County side of Moneta, while his
patient (Bill Murray), trying to find the doctor, arrives by bus at
one of the old stores in the village of Moneta. The home now is
known locally as “The What About Bob? House.” The old store is now
Establishment of Smith Mountain Lake
In 1960, Appalachian Electric Power Company began
constructing a hydroelectric dam where the Roanoke River runs
through a gap in Smith Mountain. The dam lies between Bedford and
Pittsylvania counties, but most of the lake’s shoreline lies along
Franklin and Bedford counties. In 1963, the dam was closed and the
lake began filling, taking until 1966 to reach full-pond depth of
795 feet above mean sea level.
Water is released through the dam to generate
electricity during peak-demand periods. In non-peak periods, the
dam’s turbines are reversed, using electricity from distant power
plants to pump water back up into Smith Mountain Lake from Leesburg
Lake below the dam. The level of the lake can fluctuate a
foot-and-a-half or more during the release and pump-back phases.
The lake is about 40 miles long, has about 500
miles of shoreline, and covers some 20,600 acres.
“The lake changed things,” says Woodford,
referring to the construction of the lake, whose main Roanoke River
channel lies just 3.5 miles south of old Moneta village.
Construction of the lake has been followed by
residential and commercial development and an influx of people,
including full-time residents, weekenders, and visiting vacationers.
Many full-time residents are retired and come from the north. Some
residents of nearby Roanoke and Lynchburg have built weekend homes
at the lake, and some lake residents commute to these cities to
work. Trying to define what constitutes the lake area and estimate
the population around the lake is an elusive exercise, but some
believe there may be more than 25,000 full-time residents in the
general lake area.
commercial, and resort developments have been built on both the
Bedford County and Franklin County sides of the lake, and
construction continues. A large commercial development and large
housing development are being built within a quarter of a mile of
the old Moneta village.
There are several strip malls or cluster
commercial areas. When one adds to the businesses in the Moneta zip
code area the businesses in the Westlake area, which straddles the
Moneta zip code boundary in Franklin County, one can count three
supermarkets, more than a dozen banks, five gas stations, six
marinas, several restaurants, two branch libraries, two YMCAs, and
over 260 other business establishments.
Tammie Hartberger and
Marie Tuck work at the Moneta Post Office.
Tammie Hartberger and Marie Tuck work at the
Moneta Post Office, which covers the 85-square-mile Moneta zip code
24121, extending from north of the old Moneta village to the end of
a peninsula in Franklin County, some 15 driving miles away.
“The Moneta Post Office now delivers to 5,237
single or cluster mailboxes,” says Hartberger. Tuck, who has
delivered mail for 29 years, adds, “The number of routes has
increased from three in 1980 to 10 at present.” In addition to the
Moneta Post Office, there are seven other post offices that serve
areas of Smith Mountain Lake.
Lewis Creasey owns the Shoprite IGA grocery, 1.3
miles south of old Moneta village. His store, in effect, has
replaced the four small grocery stores that used to be in the
“I like to think of my customers as personal
friends,” says Creasey. “Many come here not only to shop but also to
socialize. We have two picnic tables outside where some like to sit,
talk, and eat. Some call this the town meeting. The farmers would
rather eat outside than at one of the booths inside the
Lewis Creasey owns the grocery store that replaced several
in old Moneta village.
Referring to the influx of customers from the lake
area in the summer, Creasey says, “Our busiest times are around
Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. After Labor Day, we
Activities Around the Lake
Life in the Moneta area and elsewhere around the
lake is active. Many retired residents stay active volunteering.
There are more than 15 churches in the Moneta zip code area. Service
clubs include Ruritans, Lions, and Rotarians.
The Smith Mountain Arts Council promotes musical
events, art and photography shows, and groups pursuing music,
writing, stained-glass artistry, playreading, and dancing. The Smith
Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour showcases beautiful lake-area homes
to raise money for area charities. Many people volunteer at Lake
Christian Ministries, which helps those in need with food,
furniture, clothes, money, and other assistance; its building is
located in the old Moneta village.
The Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce
sponsors a wine festival, chili cookoff, business expo, and fishing
tournaments. The two libraries sponsor events, and there are more
than a dozen book clubs around the lake.
Opportunities abound for boating, fishing,
waterskiing, wakeboarding, swimming, golfing, and tennis, and there
are indoor and outdoor movie theaters.
New housing and commercial developments have grown
in recent years, providing new conveniences and opportunities. At
the same time, much of the rural nature and charm of the area
remains. There are still farms, rolling pastures and woods, tobacco
barns, and historic old homes and buildings, as well as the nearby
Postal carrier Marie Tuck tells of substituting
for another carrier one day and opening a mailbox to find a terrapin
inside. Tuck believes the postal patron wanted to give the terrapin
to the regular carrier to help keep insects from his garden.
On the other hand, maybe the terrapin was just a
way of telling the carrier and all of us to slow down, look around,
and enjoy where we live. There is certainly much to enjoy about
Moneta and Smith Mountain Lake.
James Morrison is retired from the Office of the
Secretary of Defense, is a past president of the statewide Virginia
Writers Club, leads the Lake Writers and Valley Writers groups, and
is the author of Bedford Goes to War: The Heroic Story of a Small
Virginia Community in World War II.
Smith Mountain Lake
Welcome Center — This welcome center, run by the local Chamber of
Commerce, has volunteers and staff to advise you, plus many
brochures, maps, and a running DVD tour of the area. It has lists of
the many restaurants, motels and resorts, marinas and boat rentals,
golf courses, and other business establishments in the area. The
center is located at Bridgewater Plaza on the south side of
Halesford Bridge on Rt. 122 crossing Smith Mountain Lake. Contact
800-676-8203, 540-721-1203, email@example.com,
Bedford Area Welcome
Center — This welcome center, run by the Bedford City & County
Office of Tourism, has volunteers and staff to advise you, plus
brochures, maps, and a small theater with a movie tour of the area.
Located in the city of Bedford at the junction of Routes 460 and
122. Contact 877-447-3257, www.visitbedford.com.
Halesford Bridge — A drive across this bridge
that connects Bedford and Franklin counties via Rt. 122 is a must.
The wide view of Smith Mountain Lake with the mountains in the
background has enticed many people to move to the lake.
Bridgewater Plaza — This plaza with a marina,
boat and personal watercraft rentals, miniature golf, game arcade,
an art gallery, shops, and restaurants is a long-time favorite
attraction. Don’t miss feeding the carp! The plaza is located
immediately on the south side of Halesford Bridge on Rt. 122 in
Franklin County. Across Rt. 122 opposite the plaza are additional
boat-rental facilities. For information, contact the Smith Mountain
Lake Welcome Center listed above.
National D-Day Memorial — Located just 12 miles
north of the old Moneta village in the City of Bedford, this
memorial honors the American and Allied military personnel who
participated in the June 6, 1944, Invasion of Normandy. Tours led by
volunteer guides are available. Contact 540-586-DDay or
Bedford Museum — This
museum, located at 201 E. Main Street in downtown Bedford, has
displays on more than two centuries ofhistory of Bedford County and City.
Booker T. Washington
— Located eight miles southwest of old Moneta village and five miles
from Halesford Bridge on Rt. 122 in Franklin County, the monument at
B.T. Washington’s boyhood home, run by the National Park Service,
has information on Washington, a replica of the cabin in which he
lived, and a working farm. Contact 540-721-2094, www.nps.gov/bowa.
Virginia Dare Tour Boat —
This large, paddle-wheel-style boat provides excursions up and down
the lake. Contact 540-297-7100, www.VADareCruises.com.
SML Antique & Classic Boat Show — This show will
be held Sept. 19 at Mariners Landing in Bedford County. Contact the
SML Welcome Center listed above.
Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival — The 21st
annual Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival will be Sept. 26-27 at
LakeWatch Plantation on Rt. 122, two miles south of Halesford
Bridge. For tickets or information, visit
Smith Mountain Charity Home Tour — The 15th
annual home tour will be Oct. 2-3, featuring eight beautiful homes
around the lake, with proceeds going to eight charities. For tickets
and information, visit online at www.SMLCharityHomeTour.com.
Smith Mountain Lake Chili & Craft Festival — The
7th annual festival will be held Nov. 7 at Bridgewater Plaza on Rt.
122 at the south end of Halesford Bridge. Contact
Smith Mountain Lake State Park — This state park
offers campsites, cabins, swimming, a beach, boating, fishing,
hiking, a visitors’ center, and interpretive programs. It is located
in Bedford County via Rt. 626. Visit
SML Community Park — This
park has a beach, picnic facilities, and a fishing dock. It is
located on the lake in Franklin County. Contact
Smith Mountain Lake Dam — There is a visitors’
center where one can view the dam and learn how it works as a
hydroelectric facility. It is accessed via Franklin and Pittsylvania
counties. Contact the center at 540-985-2587.
Westlake — This area has two groceries,
restaurants, shops and stores, art galleries, a library, a movie
theater, a golf course open to the public, miniature golf, and other
service-industry facilities. Contact Smith Mountain Lake Welcome
Center, listed above.