While writing a series about the evictions of Blue Ridge Mountains residents to make way for the Shenandoah National Park, which you can see here, I came across a unique book, Burnaby’s Travels Through North America, which relates the Reverend Andrew Burnaby’s impressions of America in 1759.
You can find copy of the entire book, from its 1904 printing, on the wonderful website, archive.org. The book is here. Burnaby’s feelings for the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah are represented perfectly by the exquisite photos of Jon Bilous, below. You can see all his Shenandoah photos here.
The wide-eyed reverend from the Church of England toured Virginia and other parts of the British Colonies, keeping careful notes of what he saw and experienced. From landing on these shores at the Chesapeake Bay, he traveled with Colonel George Washington, who showed the British gentleman around the Old Dominion. Of Shenandoah and the Shenandoah River, he wrote:
It is exceedingly romantic and beautiful, forming great variety of falls, and is so transparent, that you may see the smallest pebble at the depth of eight or ten feet.
Of the Blue Ridge, he wrote:
When I got to the top, I was inexpressibly delighted with the scene which opened before me. Immediately under the mountain, which was covered with chamoedaphnes in full bloom, was a most beautiful river: beyond this an extensive plain, diversified with every pleasing object that nature can exhibit.”
And of Shenandoahans, he wrote:
I could not but reflect with pleasure on the situation of these people; and think if there is such a thing as happiness in this life, that they enjoy it. Far from the bustle of the world, they live in the most delightful climate, and richest soil imaginable; they are everywhere surrounded with beautiful prospects and sylvan scenes; lofty mountains, transparent streams, falls of water, rich valleys, and majestic woods; the whole interspersed with an infinite variety of flowering shrubs, constitute the landscape surrounding them: they are subject to few diseases; are generally robust; and live in perfect liberty: they are ignorant of want, and acquainted with but few vices. Their inexperience of the elegancies of life precludes any regret that they possess not the means of enjoying them but they possess what many princes would give half their dominions for, health, content, and tranquillity of mind.”
I couldn’t agree more.