Category Archives: History

Dollar General Progress

The new Dollar General is well on its way to completion. At the end of July, the grounds were cleared and prepped for construction. We have seen quite a few changes over the past two months take place at this spot in our community. The beginning of August, the store began going up and within a day or two, was a skeleton of what will become a Dollar General. A week later, the building had walls and is beginning to look like a DG store.

In more recent days, we have seen periodic closures of Flat Ridge Road off Sugar Grove HWY due to the new drains and water works taking place to accommodate the new store.

This past week, we noticed one of the three crosses had been taken down presumably due to the installation of new drains and hopefully will be placed back as it was when they are finished.

As it turns out, little is known about the three crosses alongside Sugar Grove Highway. These three crosses are one of many sets that pepper the highways across more than 29 states, the Philippines and Zambia. Placed by Reverend Bernard Coffindaffer the first of which were erected about 65 miles north of Charleston in 1984.

Coffindaffer was a WWII Veteran who served in the Marines and fought in Iwo Jima

Our crosses here in Sugar Grove were placed September 25, 1986. The site is #424 according to documentation.

Sugar Grove Yearbook Collection Now Available

For the past few years, Sugar Grove School Alumni have found a small corner of the web on a private Facebook group where a variety of yearbooks, photos and other school related items have been shared and discussed. Our little group has flourished since its creation originating from a small but growing collection of school yearbooks. The group has digital copies of all published Sugar Grove High School yearbooks from 1949-1969 as well as most yearbooks from 1970 to present. Until now, these yearbooks were not available outside of the group except in their physical form at events or by appointment for private viewing.  Nonetheless, these yearbooks are a community resource that should be publicly available to anyone wishing to browse them.

Though the fact that there was a book scanner available for public use at Smyth Bland Regional Library–soon to be the Smyth County Public LIbrary–it only recently came to my attention. Hopefully these yearbooks will be digitally available on the S-B Digital Repository as well as through this website. The S-B site will feature searchable text while the Sugar Grove page here will just provide general browsing options.

Currently the available options are available under the COMMUNITY > ALUMNI GROUP drop down at the top of the page in our YEARBOOKS section.   As the available digital resources of this website grow, they will be further categorized and organized into sections for more efficient browsing.  If you have a yearbook to donate or lend to digitize please email

History of Sugar Grove School Sold Out!

History of Sugar Grove SchoolLast August, 2016, Sugar Grove Alumni hosted a gathering at Sugar Grove School that was attended by approximately 200 people, all having ties to the school. A special alumni edition of “The History of Sugar Grove School” written by Sarah R. Combs especially for this event was part of the ticket price. Everyone who purchased a ticket received a copy of the book with the opportunity to purchase extra copies at a special price at the event.

The alumni edition copies have officially sold out! Only 195 copies were printed prior to the event for purchase. This makes the original alumni edition now a collector’s item. Recently, it’s been noticed that copies of the book have even turned up for sale listed on ebay for prices upward of $50 and some even outside the country! (who would have thought our school would be of interest internationally!)

Over the holidays, several made inquiry as to how they may obtain a copy for themselves. 2nd edition copies are available from Create Space, Amazon and Books A Million.

What’s the difference in 1st and 2nd edition copies? The 1st edition copy features a special Sugar Grove School Alumni page with green lettering in the front cover and the alumni logo. The 2nd edition features a title page with plain black & white lettering and no alumni logo. Only 195 “Alumni Edition” copies were printed. They were printed and sold exclusively at the August 2017 event at Sugar Grove School with all extra copies now sold.

2016 Octagon House Window Tour

[slideshow_deploy id=’1067’]

The Abijah Thomas Octagon House is not only a historic home located in Smyth County but it is an educational and interesting site to visit if you’re passing through. The home is located at 801 Octagon House Road, Marion VA (Thomas Bridge Community) and in recent years was purchased by Derek Orr.  Since then, he has formed the Octagon House Foundation in hope of restoring this once spectacular 1857 Civil War era octagonal home.

The Octagon House has a fascinating history locally and is on the register of historic buildings. The house has been the topic of historical research as well as urban legend and is thought to be haunted. Contrary to popular urban legends that claim that the house is haunted by slaves who were beaten and died at the hands of their owner, Abijah Thomas was actually documented to treat the slaves he owned very well–so well in fact that a number of them returned to work for him after slavery was abolished.

Today, the Octagon House Foundation hosted its 2nd Annual Open Window Tour fundraising event. This event allows people to come out and see the home with the boards removed from the 1st floor windows so that the interior of the house can be viewed in a walk around tour. The window tour features several historians and docents who provide information about each window you come to so that you may get a better idea of what the house once was.  We filmed a short teaser at the beginning of the tour today to give people an idea of what they could expect when they attend this wonderful event.  In the area of the first window on the tour, a sign is posted where fingerprints of a small slave child can be found in the brick of the home.

The rest of the tour continues around the house showcasing the parlor area, bedrooms, the winter kitchen, dining room and office of Abijah Thomas accompanied by lots of historic facts and research.  The tour is loosely guided but at your own pace. You can take as long as you like at any area, photos are permitted and questions are encouraged.  This is all included for a $5 donation to the Octagon House Foundation.

After the main attraction of the window tour, you can spend some down time just relaxing on the beautiful lawn. At one time this location was known as Mountainview, likely because of the beautiful view of the mountains it overlooks.  There were tents, tables and chairs set up in various locations across the property, merchandise was sold to benefit the restoration of the house that included a variety of t-shirts, original prints of the Octagon House, Christmas ornament pre-purchase, and even some of the original nails from the house that were collected in cleanup. Other volunteers had tables set up displaying artifacts that were found in and around the property thought to be original to the home in the era in which it was constructed.

Food and drinks were available for purchase and a bluegrass band was on site to entertain throughout the day.  At the other end of the yard, a confederate camp display was set up to pay tribute to the historic significance of the Civil War in our area.

Here’s another clip of some of the music and happenings at today’s event

An interview was conducted with Derek Orr, owner of the Octagon House –he says there’s more to come! Check out the interview below!

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Octagon House Foundation, please see information provided at the link above. Donations also accepted online via PayPal.

Troutdale History Tour

If you’re itching to do something new and interesting in the area, why not visit Troutdale VA over in Grayson County and take the upcoming history tour that’s being offered by Ed Clayton, USFS Volunteer. This tour is scheduled to take place over the weekend of May 8 and 9th in conjunction with the 41st Annual Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally.

This will be a drive and talk tour making several stops throughout the former boom town. Clayton will share his research, information and photos as well as others who reside in the area and may have interesting information.  The tour will begin at the former Troutdale Trading Post at the intersection of VA 16 and Route 603, stop at the Troutdale Baptist Church, move to the site of the Troutdale School, then to the cemetery, and end at Sherwood Anderson’s summer home, Ripshin.  At each stop, participants will learn about the historical significance of each area, home or building and have an opportunity to discuss and ask questions. The opportunity to view copies of more than 100 historic photos will be part of the tour.

The 41st Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally provides an environment in which a hands on approach is taken to teach about the highlands region.  This event starts at the Konnarock Community Center where there’s a Friday night dinner and sign up for Saturday field trips. Registration begins at 5 PM on Friday and continues at 7 AM on Saturday for those interested ONLY in Saturday activities.

For more information on the Naturalist Rally, please visit Blue Ridge Discovery Center.

Sugar Grove School Alumni on Facebook

Sugar Grove School Alumni featuring over 6 decades of yearbooksThe Sugar Grove Community website strives to deliver news, information and interesting blog articles on a regular basis but there’s also another portion of this website that you may or may not know about.  Sugar Grove has its very own alumni group on Facebook.

The Sugar Grove School Alumni group is a closed group accessible on Facebook featuring a wide range of resources that have been compiled on the group and are accessible to its members.  The group is closed to help prevent hackers, spammers and to attempt to provide a layer of privacy among alumni. Membership is free and is approved on request. Members should be verified as an alumni or hold some interest in the community or someone who was an alumni. Random people who have no attachment to the Sugar Grove Community are usually not approved. Again, this is to help protect the group from hackers, spammers and maintain some privacy.

This group features Sugar Grove School yearbooks dating back to 1950. The first yearbook from the school was published in 1949 so we have a great start on early yearbooks. The group is only missing a minimal number of yearbooks spanning over 6 decades. In addition to the extensive yearbook collection that you’re not likely to find anywhere else online, there’s also a variety of other photos that have been largely contributed by the members of the group to include old class rings from the school’s high school days (1969 and prior) and Letterman letters in the school’s original colors, purple & gold.

There’s a variety of old photos consisting of class photos, historic photos of churches and other significant locations around the community and frequent discussions about these items.

The Sugar Grove School Alumni group is a great place to start learning about Sugar Grove’s history and heritage or to gather information if you’re researching a family or topic that’s relevant. Our members span many, many generations and decades and they are very willing to share their knowledge when asked.

The group is not only open to alumni of Sugar Grove High School but anyone who has attended school in our community.

The alumni group is always looking for new information to share and new materials. Already, some of the older yearbooks that were in poor condition have been replaced by some that were in much better shape thanks to members who had nicer copies than the originals that were first accessible to the group.

Abijah Thomas Octagon House May Finally See Restoration

Abijah Thomas Octagon HouseThe Abijah Thomas Octagon House stands vacant on a hill just outside of Sugar Grove in the nearby Thomas Bridge community and demands the attention of anyone who may be passing by due to it’s interesting octagonal shape and rich extensive history. This historic home was built in 1856 and has been somewhat of a paranormal attraction for decades.

The house has not had any occupants since the early 1940s and was condemned in the early 70s at which point it was used for storage. Consisting of nearly 6000 square feet, this two story home had as many as 10 bedrooms and perhaps 5 additional rooms. The house has also been made the topic of several local ghost stories over the years however, no paranormal activity or abuse of slaves was documented in Mack Sturgill’s 1990 publication “Abijah Thomas and his Octagonal House.”

Nearby, you can visit the Thomas Cemetery and the graves of Abijah Thomas, his wife and his family. The cemetery is a very old and interesting one featuring some beautiful tombstones.Thomas Tombstones

Derek Orr is the present owner of the house. He purchased it at auction in 2003. It’s taken that long to arrive at a point where The Octagon House Foundation, Inc. was formed.

This is very exciting news for those of us who have never had the opportunity to explore the inside of the house and would like to see it. Orr hopes to open the house to the public in the future after securing enough grant funding to restore it to its original splendor.  I look forward to more future updates on this potential historical attraction near our community.

If you would like more information on the Octagon House or becoming a member of the Octagon House Foundation, please write to: The Octagon House Foundation, P.O. Box 1701, Marion, VA 24354, call 276-783-3723 or email

Once Again Smyth County School Board Fudges The Numbers

school name petitionOnce again, Smyth County School Board has admittedly fudged the numbers associated with a recent poll having to do with renaming Sugar Grove Combined School and this has once again resulted in them having their way rather than us having ours.

Let’s take a look at what’s been going on here for the past little while.

The idea of renaming our school was first noted in a statement from Rye Valley District school board member Jesse Choate in a statement he made to Smyth County News & Messenger in July 2014 that was as follows: “Chairman Jesse Choate asked if there would be a name change for Sugar Grove Combined School since the middle school division has closed. He asked what it would take to change the name to Sugar Grove Elementary School.”

This statement was buried in an article with an unrelated headline and slipped by under the radar like so many other statements made by the school board in their recent history of events.  The statement was indicative of the board’s usual “good ole boys” manner of operation and quite obviously should have been and was addressed at the next school board meeting where the opportunity of public input was proposed prior to any name change.

Sugar Grove was assured that their voice would be heard and considered in the matter of renaming the school in our community but what we ended up with was a very unprofessional online poll that allowed unlimited voting from any location worldwide.

Whenever this situation was discovered and quickly brought to the Superintendent’s attention, his response was as follows: “We have set up the poll so that it logs IP addresses so we can adjust the numbers to accurately reflect the votes.” and “to better control this, we listed the poll only on the school’s webpage which would significantly reduce traffic to the poll from people outside of Sugar Grove.” There are issues with both statements–first of all, Smyth County School Board employs IT Professionals. These “professionals” should be able to better control the content of the websites they maintain without having to manually alter anything. It is also implied that more than one person would be involved in altering these results. Next, throughout the whole duration of the poll. Sugar Grove Combined School’s webpage within the Smyth County School Board’s website was not updated. In fact, the website has not had new information posted to it since last school year up until this past week when they changed the name of the school at the top of the page and the URL!

This poll was openly available on the school board’s main page and was at the top of a list of updates appearing on the page for almost a month. This made it easily accessible. You can view a similar statement in print from the Superintendent in this recent article from Smyth County News & Messenger.

The reason that this poll is another number fudge on the part of the school board is simple–they can’t even claim that the numbers represented in their results are anywhere close to accurate based upon their own process of elimination and protocol for determining the validity of incoming online votes. For example, let’s say that you have a household consisting of 4 people who wish to vote and cast their votes from the same computer/internet connection. Those 4 people would have the same IP address and therefore 3 of the votes that were legitimate would be discarded. How many legitimate votes were thrown and not counted? If you apply this scenario, more than 50% of votes that should have been valid were not even counted.

The end result was that Sugar Grove Combined School was renamed to Sugar Grove Elementary just as a school board representative suggested previously to the Superintendent but the votes only reflected a slim preference for this. It seems that the general preference of the community on the other hand was in fact “Sugar Grove School” over the selection that seemed to win the poll.

This is another slap in the face for Sugar Grove from the Smyth County School Board and the question begs to be asked–If they are going to fudge the numbers openly in this manner on something as simple as a name change for a school, where else are they going to fudge numbers to get what they want? Might I suggest that the numbers were fudged to show a one million dollar figure attached to Sugar Grove Combined School on a budget reduction sheet while only half that figure was shown for two other schools? That didn’t add up and neither does this.

What can we do about it? An online petition has been set up that will run until the next school board meeting. The petition directs Smyth County School Board to discard their admittedly altered poll results in exchange for the more accurate collection of signatures that represent actual legitimate community input suggesting “Sugar Grove School” as the name for our school. By signing this petition, you are taking a stand to preserve and protect our community’s resources, history and heritage. Even though the name of the school may seem like a minor thing now, I assure you that it is a big deal. If we do not exercise our rights as a tax paying community, we will continue to be on the receiving end of the school board’s agenda based activities. These activities do not have the best interest of our community or tax base in mind. The only interest they have in mind is creating additional cash flow for the Superintendent’s reckless spending.

Please share the petition with your friends–additionally, because the school board’s poll was open to everyone (including the student body) this petition is also open to everyone who would like to sign it.  Our goal is 447 signatures by next month’s school board meeting because that’s how many total results the school board reported before they altered their results. We need at least that many to reverse their decision.




Kicking off 90s week

Sugar Grove School Alumni Group to Kick off 90s Week on Facebook

Beginning on August 11, Sugar Grove School Alumni, a popular and growing group for Grovers on Facebook, will be kicking off a special presentation! A variety of yearbooks from the 90s will be added to the site along with other popular 90s factoids and information familiar to the targeted age group.

The yearbooks that will be featured are as follows:

Several yearbooks from the early 90s are already available on the group but will be re-shared so that they are brought up to the top of the page for this project. Those include 1990-94. The schedule for the posting of yearbooks is set to be daily however, this may take more or less time than anticipated because these yearbooks are still being processed for their digital debut. Other yearbooks featured on the group date back to 1950. In fact, most of these yearbooks from the 50s, 60s, and 70s are available with few missing in between.

Here on The Maple Leaf Blog, we are kicking off 90s week a bit early with some fun and interesting things you are sure to remember if you were a child of the 90s.

You Watched….


Continue reading

1990 Gathering of the Maple Leaves

[youtube]In 1990, an event took place in Sugar Grove that has not since repeated. “Gathering of the Maple Leaves” was a community organized Sugar Grove High School reunion that experienced a great turn out of alumni currently residing in the community and returning to the community from as far as Alaska as indicated by one in the above video.

Of course this event was documented in a book containing various information about the history of the school along with the people who shaped this history. What was unknown until recently is that a video of this event still existed in storage at Sugar Grove Combined School and had literally not seen the light of day since its creation in the form of an old VHS tape.

Continue reading