By: Dennis Atwood, SCHS Member
February 29, 2008
Leap year day, 2008, provided the opportunity for a "leap back" into history, when Perry Crabill, Jr. and his wife, Harriet, visited the Shenandoah County Historical Society ("Society") office in Edinburg, Virginia, to review photos taken by his father and selections from the Hugh Morrison, Jr. collection. In attendance for the Society were: John Adamson, author of A Pictorial History of Shenandoah County: Fifty Years Through the Lens of Hugh Morrison, Jr.; Phyllis Wright, co-author of Reflections: Early Schools of Shenandoah County, Virginia and photo collection team member; Barbara Adamson, Society President; Diane Ferguson, Society Treasurer, and the author.
Mr. Crabill (right) reviews Crabill photos with his wife, Phyllis Wright, and John Adamson. 
Mr. Crabill, 87 years old and residing in Winchester, Virginia, spent two hours with us and provided numerous identifications and other information about the 259 photos in the "Crabill" collection, most of which are attributed to the camera work of his father and taken circa 1910-1915. Nearly all of these photos were shot on the property, and in the vicinity of, the former house of Perry, Jr's uncle, Samuel Crabill, which was situated on what is now Ridgeley Road, south of Maurertown and east of U.S. 11.
A photo of the Pleasant Grove school, where Perry Crabill, Sr. taught, as documented in Reflections, shows a student holding a slate board with the class year "1910-1911" (see plate H[C]=156 below). A few of the newspaper cuttings used to separate some of the glass plates in their original cardboard storage boxes include the Norfolk & Western Railway, Shenandoah Valley line, schedule effective January 1, 1912.
The Society became aware of these photos in the course of my conversation with Louis Hamrick, while patronizing his Woodstock barbershop in September 2007. I was mentioning the virtues and value of the just-published John Adamson Morrison book when Mr. Hamrick said, "I have some of those glass plate photos at my house." He wasn't sure how many and didn't have many details. I told Louis that I was certain that the Society would appreciate the opportunity to review them and perhaps borrow them for processing as we were doing with the Morrison photos. I passed this information on to John Adamson, who undertook discussions with Louis, who is also his barber.
After subsequent conversations with Mr. Adamson, Mr. Hamrick loaned the collection to the Society in December, 2007. He recollects that they had been moved to the basement of his house, also on Ridgeley Road, in 1983, after they were found in the attic of the Samuel Crabill house, when his father, Dallas Gideon Hamrick, auctioned off that property, which he had purchased in the early 1940s. Perry, Jr., in one of our conversations subsequent to his visit, expressed amazement that the plates survived in such good condition, considering they were stored in cardboard boxes in the uncontrolled attic environment of the Crabill house from approximately 1916 until 1983. High temperatures (above about 130 degrees F), intense light, and moisture do the most damage to glass plate emulsion. They were processed by the Society's photo collection team in the same manner as the much larger Hugh Morrison, Jr. collection (approximately 30,000 plates), an ongoing Society project (please refer to the book by John Adamson).
Mr. Crabill studies a school and a house plate in the Morrison book. 
These glass plate negatives were initially named "The Hamrick Collection," and labeled as "H-xxx," when processing began by the Society photo team. During one of my work sessions with John Adamson in January 2008, I observed a hose or tube extending along the ground from one of the subject's hands towards the camera. It clearly was not a water hose or a rope. John identified it as a remote pneumatic shutter control. We subsequently noticed this object in several other photos, including the clenched fist of this man, who was then identified as the photographer (and nicknamed "the bulb squeezer"). He appeared to be in his 20s and bore a strong resemblance to many of the other people in the collection. Shortly thereafter Phyllis Wright and Barbara Adamson identified him as Perry Crabill, Sr. The collection was then renamed "Crabill." Perry Crabill, Jr. was soon located, informed of the photo collection, and invited to visit.
Perry Crabill, Sr., with remote pneumatic shutter control in his right hand, taking a humorous shot. (H[C]-108)
The Crabill collection consists mainly of: scenes of family, friends, and neighbors, in outdoor posed shots in dress clothes (several indicating a prevalent sense of humor); farm work and harvest bounty; schools, both with students grouped outside, and empty (Perry Crabill taught at one or more of them); horse-drawn conveyances (a notable setting being stopped in shallow water); and, favorite farm animals.
Pleasant Grove School, class of 1910-1911. Perry Crabill, Sr. was the teacher and almost certainly took this photo. (H[C] 156)
There are also several shots of an unidentified U.S. Army element, consisting of approximately 50 soldiers and horses, with equipment wagons, in movement along a road, and encamped. The Society is interested in identifying this military activity, especially considering the likely preponderant local attitude, around 1912, regarding the presence of "Union" troops in what had been, a mere half century earlier, the granary of the Confederacy. A potentially fruitful lead is the fact that the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps established the Front Royal, VA, Remount Station in 1911, as described in a September-October 1930 Quartermaster Review article:
"THE Front Royal Remount Quartermaster Depot is situated about two miles southeast of Front Royal, Virginia on the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Depot was acquired by an Act of Congress, March 13, 1911, and was officially organized August 30, 1911. The land was acquired for the purpose of concentrating animals purchased for the Army before shipment. Construction was immediately commenced, and by the fall of 1915 the depot was in operation with adequate water supply, blue grass pastures and modern equipment for a remount depot."
Perry Jr.'s identifications of the Crabill images were somewhat limited as he was taken by train from Waterlick to Washington, DC, where his parents lived, three and one-half weeks after his birth on September 9, 1920, in the Fort Valley. He mentioned that his mother, Ethel Clara Barr Crabill, was assisted in birth by his grandmother, who was a midwife. In 1916, his parents had moved to DC for employment, separately, before their marriage. Perry started with the Post Office and a streetcar company, and was then hired by the U.S. Pension Bureau. Miss Barr was employed as a nanny. They were married in 1919.
Jasper Hottel, 1911 RFD mail carrier, Route 1, Woodstock, at the Samuel Crabill farm. Identified by Perry Crabill, Jr., during his SCHS visit. (H[C] 067)
John Adamson assesses Perry Crabill's photography as the product of a very competent and skilled amateur. Perry, Jr. has no recollection of why, or how, his father came to be a photographer, but mentioned that his father continued his hobby for many years in DC, first developing the glass plate negatives in the basement of their house, "progressing" to a Brownie camera, and then a modern roll-film camera, finally surrendering the film developing to commercial processors.
Two scribes are required (John Adamson and Phyllis Wright) for Mr. Crabill's commentary. 
The Washington, DC locale provided two ancillary connecting points, discovered during our discussion. Mr. Crabill graduated from Eastern High School in 1938, one year after Robert M. Atwood, my father. In addition, Mr. Crabill worked for the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company (1939-1981), also the employer of John Adamson (1969-1999), although they worked in different parts of the company and in different locations - Perry in DC and John in Richmond, Virginia.
While delving into history with us, it was obvious that, reflective of his career with a large information technology company, Mr. Crabill is current with personal electronics as evidenced by his use of a digital voice recorder (in his right hand in the pictures 3 and 4). When he provided his e-mail address -
- he was asked if it was an amateur radio call sign. He answered "yes," and that "ARRL" is the Amateur Radio Relay League. He uses his hand-held radio to conduct a trivia contest with friends in the DC area during his daily one mile morning walks.
A bountiful berry harvest. The two women with gloves had the right equipment. (H[C] 235)
A highlight of the session occurred near the conclusion, when Mr. Crabill mentioned that his mother, Ethel Clara Barr Crabill, had attended school in the Fort Valley and described its general location. A copy of Reflections: Early Schools of Shenandoah County, Virginia (2nd edition) was immediately pulled off the shelf and Phyllis Wright found the extensive information therein on the "Slate Hill School," including the attendance lists, 1904-1907, which included Miss Barr. Mr. Crabill was elated and purchased a copy of the book at that moment.
Mr. Crabill finds his mother's name in Reflections - Barbara Adamson fills in receipt. 
It was a very informative and pleasant session for all. We look forward to additional information exchanges with Mr. Crabill. He mentioned that when he culls his collection of about 1,000 books he will make available any which he believes would be of interest to the Society, but cautioned that this would likely not occur soon, as one of his most frequently expressed mottos is, "If you don't procrastinate, you have nothing to look forward to." When this culling does (eventually) occur, our local lore will continue to be enriched by a primary "living history" source.
Trio in finery. Shenandoah County women were known to keep up with fashion trends. (H[C] 164)
1. In the preparation of this article, I relied heavily on follow-up communications with Perry Crabill, Jr. and Louis Hamrick. Invaluable review and fact-checking were provided by Phyllis Wright, John Adamson, and Barbara Adamson. Any remaining errors originated from my keyboard.
2. Contact the Shenandoah County Historical Society:
On the web: http://www.shenandoahcountyhistoricalsociety.org
By Phone: 540-984-7842 or By Mail: P.O. Box 506, Edinburg VA 22824
3 . The two books mentioned are for sale by the Society.
4. Color photos (newfangled Olympus C-60 digital camera, 6.1 megapixels) by the author.