What we’ve got

Eugene Scheel, map maker, at Bonnie’s

Eugene Scheel, map maker, at Bonnie’s

Maybe some don’t appreciate what we’ve got here in Western Loudoun because they just don’t know.

A fun way to cross that divide, and find out what we’ve got, is to get to know Eugene Scheel.

Eugene draws a line on fine paper to record an historic remnant, the ridge of a mountain, a creek or stream, a graveyard, a church, the place a plane crashed, and he does this with precision, and after much person to person historical research, gathering up the memories of eye witnesses, riding the local roads, and then memorializing the event and the date and the geographic spot where it all happened.

Gene, who is originally from Park Chester, in the Bronx, New York, has lived in Waterford, VA with his wife, Annette, since the 60s, and is best known these days as a mapmaker and historian par excellence.

Gene found he had a strong sense of location and direction walking the rolling ground and woods and rocky hillsides in training missions day and night for eight years as a corporal in the U.S. Marine reserves.

Gene “doodled” imaginary maps as a kid, and, after his service in the Marines, he really learned his craft from his tour of duty with the National Geographic Magazine, and his days at Rand McNally.

When he was a High School student, Gene wrote a letter to Dr. Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, the first full time editor of National Geographic Magazine, and told Dr. Grosvenor that he liked to “doodle” imaginary countries and islands and was interested in making maps.

In response, Dr. Grosvenor recommended that young Gene attend Clark University to study Geography, as it was an exceptional educational institution for this concentration of study; Gene did so, studied at Clark, earned a B.A., and later earned graduate degrees for architecture from UVA and American Literature from Georgetown.  No wonder that, after following this advice, and having this skill, Gene was welcome to work at National Geographic.

A pertinent recent map Eugene prepared focused entirely on the Short Hill Mountain and the surrounding area, from the Blue Ridge to the Berlin Turnpike.

Portion of Eugene Scheel’s Map of the Short Hill Mountain

Portion of Eugene Scheel’s Map of the Short Hill Mountain

“I talked to those who remember and know what happened where.  I spoke to Glenn Groves, Renace Painter, Jimmy Spring, Harold Crimm, R. T. Legard, Sam Legard, Bernard Galahan, Edwin Potts, and more.  I went around in my pickup truck, found where the old saw mills were, where battles occurred, historic graveyards were located, and the other points of interest.  I also re-considered how certain roads were named.”


A blow-up of that portion of the Map showing AT&T

A blow-up of that portion of the Map showing AT&T

Civil War devotees will love the map because up and down the Short Hill Mountain, Gene has identified battles that the Union won (in blue), the Confederates won (in red) and those battles that were of uncertain result (in black).

In a way, Gene as a member of the County Planning Commission, probably helped underscore how the public was left in the dark about what was happening up in “them thar Hills” when he asked the representative for AT&T why there hadn’t been public hearings on the siting and activity of AT&T on the Lovettsville side of Short Hill Mountain.

It was that juncture that prompted many citizens to demand details about the siting.  It was that juncture that prompted Gene to begin his “quicky” map.

Gene and his wife Annette have been in the Piedmont in Virginia since 1965.  Gene is widely known and respected for his map-making and his mastery of our history.  He has written nine books and many well-regarded columns for the Washington Post.

So, if you want to know something about where you’re living, you might want to get your hands on one of Gene’s maps.

This Short Hill Mountain map is Gene’s latest contribution to local geography and history.  (If one wants one of Gene’s latest map, you can call Gene directly and get a map for a sawbuck, $20 – 703-727-2946.)