Events & Activities

Salem Museum Speaker Series
Salem and the Iron Horse
Monday, September 24 at 7 pm

The Iron Horse, as railroads were called, came to the tiny village of Big Lick, Virginia in 1881 due to a combination of citizen effort and sheer good luck. The railroad launched such swift growth that the new town of Roanoke came to be known as the Magic City. Ever since, however, a rumor has persisted that the much older town of Salem was content to be a sleepy hamlet, and didn’t want the railroad with its noise, ash, and commotion. By delving into the real story, historian John R. Hildebrand will explain why nothing could have been further from the truth. Salem tried hard, not once but twice—even putting a locomotive on the town seal—but unlike in Roanoke, the luck ran against them.

John R. Hildebrand is a civil engineering graduate of Virginia Tech. His civil engineering career spanned more than 40 years and involved many highway, airport, railroad, and rapid transit projects. His engineering background and interest in the history of the Shenandoah Valley and southwest Virginia led to his research into the early histories of the Valley and Shenandoah Valley Railroads. Mr. Hildebrand is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil War Engineers and the author of Iron Horses in the Valley: The Valley and Shenandoah Valley Railroads, 1866-1882; The Life and Times of John Brown Baldwin, 1820-1873: A Chronicle of Virginia’s Struggle with Slavery, Secession, Civil War, and Reconstruction; and  A Mennonite Journal, A Father’s Account of the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley, 1862-1865.

He has also contributed articles to the Proceedings of the Rockbridge County Historical Society, the Journal of the Historical Society of Western Virginiaand most recently, an article for the Smithfield Review, “True Friends of the Confederacy,” the story of those members of the Second Confederate Congress who proposed negotiations with the Lincoln administration to reconstruct the Union. A special project was an article for Air Power History, a periodical published quarterly by the Air Force Historical Foundation. The essay was a history of the Army Air Corps communications station located at Naples, Italy from 1943 until 1947, a unit in which he served in 1946. He has also written two family histories, The Shank and Jeter Families of Salem, Virginia and The Hildebrands of the Barren Ridge.

The Ghost Walk returns for its 20th year!
October 4-6 at East Hill Cemetery
October 11-13 at Sherwood Memorial Park

Visit two of Salem’s most “populated” graveyards to meet characters from Salem’s past and learn about our region’s history! Tickets are available online or at the Museum.

Buy tickets for East Hill

Buy tickets for Sherwood

It’s the 20th year for the Ghost Walk at East Hill and East Hill North Cemeteries! On October 4-6, walking tours will leave the Salem Museum every fifteen minutes between 6 and 8 PM.  The East Hill tour will introduce visitors to a number of new spirits this year. Meet dearly departed residents of the Williams-Brown House, the Fort Lewis Mansion, and the historic Water Street community, plus Salem’s Civil War mayor, a few of Salem’s brave WWI doughboys, and get the scoop on General Andrew Lewis!

Tickets for the Ghost Walk in East Hill are limited and expected to sell out again this year. Good walking shoes are recommended: this is a walking tour of just over a half-mile. As the name “East Hill” implies, the route goes up and downhill, although the walk is not strenuous, and has a number of stops along the way. There are curbs crossing Main Street and a short stretch that is a gravel path. In case of rain, the event will be held at the Salem Museum. Buy tickets for East Hill.

On October 11-13, Sherwood’s ghosts will tell their stories in the cemetery’s outdoor Amphitheater at 7 PM. Guests travel deep into the cemetery to reach the Amphitheatre, but will be seated for this performance under the stars. You will be entertained by ghosts including a Roanoke College president, a faculty member at Salem’s Elizabeth College, a Salem soldier who was part of the invasion on D-Day, owners of Lakeside Amusement Park, and the mayor for whom the Moyer Sports Complex is named.

The Sherwood Amphitheater has concrete risers, so guests are invited to bring folding chairs, cushions, and/or blankets. Parking is in the cemetery, and a flashlight may be handy when returning to your car. There is limited handicapped parking at the Amphitheater with an area for wheelchairs in about the midsection of the audience. Sherwood’s address is 1250 E Main St, Salem, VA 24153. Rain location is Riverside Evangelical Methodist Church, 1920 Lucas St, Salem, VA 24153. Buy tickets for Sherwood.

All events are family-friendly, fun and informative, and not scary. Tickets are nonrefundable: $10 adults; $5 students; age 3 and under free. All proceeds benefit the Salem Museum & Historical Society.

Salem Museum Speaker Series
Lon Savage’s Last Manuscript: Never Justice, Never Peace
Monday, October 15 at 7 pm

Lon Savage was a beloved Salem historian, and a past president of the Salem Historical Society. In 1986, he published Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-21, a popular history now considered a classic. When Lon passed away in 2004, he left behind an incomplete book manuscript about a lessor-known Mother Jones crusade in Kanawha County, West Virginia. His daughter Ginny Savage Ayers drew on his notes and files, as well as her own original research, to complete Never Justice, Never Peace—the first book-length account of the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike of 1912-13.

Lon Savage (1928-2004) grew up in Charleston, West Virginia. He worked as a reporter for the Richmond Times Dispatch, a bureau chief for United Press International, and an administrator at Virginia Tech. Ginny Savage Ayers has worked for many years in scientific research and teaching. She resides in Maryville, Tennessee.

Deadline to Order Brick Pavers for Engraving for the Holidays
Friday, November 2

Engraved brick pavers create a lasting legacy. Add your name, or the name of someone special to you in our Main Walkway or Veterans’ Plaza. Each engraved brick paver is $150, which includes the cost of the paver, the engraving, and a donation to the Salem Museum & Historical Society. Your gift ensures that both your legacy—and our community’s rich history—are preserved for future generations. Download a form to place your order.

Salem Museum Speaker Series
The Surprising Role of Virginians in the Great War
Annual Meeting: November 19 at 6:30 pm
Talk: November 19 at 7 pm

In this illustrated lecture, Lynn Rainville reveals the crucial roles that Virginians played in the Great War. These individuals ranged from soldiers to politicians, and from locally born horses to their ferriers. These patriots also included female stenographers, African American doctors, domestic gardeners, National Guard troops, and army chaplains. Of these hundreds of thousands of volunteers, more than 3,600 lost their lives as a direct result of the war, yet many of their sacrifices have been forgotten. Rainville will conclude her talk with a study of statues erected in Virginia after the war to reveal a more complete story of service and sacrifice during the Great War.

Dr. Lynn Rainville is Acting Dean of Sweet Briar College, the Director of the Tusculum Institute and a fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She is the author of Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia and Virginia and the Great War: Mobilization, Supply and Combat, 1914–1919.