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Va. writer tells tales of local trails

August 02, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Virginia writer has turned her fascination with local history into a book that offers readers self-guided tours of towns and back roads of the Shenandoah Valley.

When Andrea Sutcliffe moved to the Shenandoah Valley three years ago, she realized there was no book that covered the entire history of the valley, which stretches from Martinsburg to Roanoke, Va.

"People are often surprised to learn how closely the history of the Shenandoah Valley ties in with the early history of the United States," Sutcliffe writes in the preface to "Touring the Shenandoah Valley Backroads."

As early as the 1730s, German, Swiss, and Scots-Irish immigrant families began settling this area, many traveling along the "Great Wagon Road," known today as U.S. 11, according to Sutcliffe's book.

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George Washington eventually fell in love with the area, beginning his military and political career in Winchester and buying land in Charles Town, and Valley settlers endured vicious attacks as a result of the French and Indian War.

Sutcliffe said she knew some of the areas already, but she also had to do a lot of research to include other towns in the book.

The book starts with "The Clearbrook to Martinsburg Tour," taking travelers up U.S. 11 past local towns like Bunker Hill, Gerrardstown and Martinsburg.

Sutcliffe takes motorists off the main roads, often onto narrow, curvy back roads that snake through untouched parts of the valley.

In the beginning of the book, Sutcliffe dedicates the 249-page book to her father, "whose idea of a good backroad is one with grass growing down the middle."

In Bunker Hill, Sutcliffe's route turns off U.S. 11 and takes motorists past Morgan Cabin, thought to be the first settlement in West Virginia.

After Morgan Cabin, Sutcliffe leads her reader down Route 26 and onto Goldmiller Road, where they can see thousands of acres of apple and peach orchards and North Mountain.

The book is written as if the reader is tooling down the road at that moment. Sutcliffe guides motorists using stop signs and other landmarks, and warns them of some of the pitfalls.

"West Virginia backroads often lack road signs, so look for the landmarks mentioned here," Sutcliffe writes as she leads travelers through the Bunker Hill area.

The book includes photographs of local attractions like the B&0 Roundhouse and Belle Boyd House in Martinsburg and homes built by the Washington family in Charles Town.

Sutcliffe uses Interstate 81 as the main route of travel, taking readers off at different points for the tours.

Sutcliffe grew up in San Antonio and moved to Washington, D.C. in the mid-1970s, where she worked as an editor for various publishing services and high-tech companies.

"I always wanted to be a free-lance writer, and this is what I decided to do for my first project," Sutcliffe said Friday in a telephone interview.

She currently lives in Basye, Va., located near Mount Jackson, Va.

The book, which was released last month, is available in most major book stores.

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