Page News & Courier

Heritage and Heraldry

Page was once known for orchards and new apple varieties

Article of April 19, 2001

Some may recall my story on the Milam apple and its ties to Page County. However, some may not realize just how active the county was in apple production since before the Civil War.

Page County ranked last in acres of improved land in farms in 1860 in the ten-county area of the Shenandoah Valley (Augusta, Berkeley, Clarke, Jefferson, Frederick, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Warren), but it also ranked 4th in value of orchard products (standing only behind Rockingham, Augusta, and Rockbridge).

Seemingly, the greatest amount of orchard activity changed little over the years with dominance being in the northern areas of the county – Beahm’s Gap, Thornton’s Gap, Kimball and Luray holding the greatest prominence.

It appears that the cash crop grew over the years, and with growth came creativity in finding new varieties. While the exact numbers of apple varieties introduced from Page County is unknown, there were no less than six recorded and mentioned in “Old Southern Apples” by Creighton Lee Calhoun, Jr.

As early as 1860, Page County introduced two varieties– “Kimball” and “Shenk.” While “Kimball” (also known as Dr. Dunn’s Sweeting or Dunn’s Sweeting) was said to have had origins east side of the Blue Ridge near Beahm’s Gap (incorrectly identified in the above mentioned book as “Brahm’s Gap”), Kimball was being grown and sold in Kimball in 1899.

“Shenk” originated “on the west side of Thornton’s Gap.” “Honest John” followed “Shenk” as being from Beahm’s Gap in 1865. “Harrah” or “Billie’s Favorite” was another Thornton’s Gap introduction brought to light in 1882.

Perhaps the most notable person to bring Page County apple varieties to the attention of the industry, Albert Bolen introduced the “Armintrout” in 1873.

Born in 1868, Bolen, a descendant of a Rappahannock County family, made Page his home and was advertising his “Page Valley Nurseries” in Kimball in the 1894“Page News” – “250,000 fruit trees and ornamental trees of all kinds for sale.”

In 1899, Bolen sent yet another variety, known as the “Beahm” apple, to the USDA. This may be the last recorded of those to originate from Page County.

Regretfully, all six varieties are considered extinct southern apples and cannot be found in the market or nurseries today. “Milam,” (also known as Harrigan, Blair, Thomas, Red Milam, Red Winter Pearmain, or Haragan) is the only variety known to be available today with slight historic ties to Page County.

Though a sidebar business to his larger enterprises, Miller Elbea Roudabush of Luray, is perhaps one of the best known for apple propagation and sales in Page during the mid-20th century. Apples faded from prominence as a major cash crop for the county by the latter third of the century. A relic of sorts from the end of the "heyday" - labels from bushel baskets of “Red Fox” brand apples, one of Roudabush’s many business activities, can still be found for sale on Internet auctions today.

Born in 1886 and the oldest of five children, Roudabush was the son of Major Ashby and Virginia Belle McAllister Roudabush. True to his given name, Miller Roudabush was also highly known for his efforts in continuing the family milling tradition.

Roudabush was not only president of the Page Milling Company but was also instrumental in converting the famous Stanley Flour Mill to electricity after 1921. The electric power for the mill originated from yet another project of Roudabush’s - the hydroelectric plant at Newport that became known as the Page Power Company.

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