Ray Cox Special at the Roanoke Times
âLearningâ, Leonardo da Vinci would have said, ânever exhaust the mindâ.
Maybe, but the search for easy answers is often tedious. The answer to this reality here at the answer desk?
Q: While researching my grandfather’s career in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Norfolk and Western Railway, I got stuck in finding the origin of the name Shaffers Crossing. What or who does the name refer to? Is it a physical passage or just the name of a geographic area? Does it have anything to do with the old Jefferson Street crosswalk at the railroad offices?
A: The easy ones being absent, we start with the question on the origin of the name.
These many years later, the explanations of the original name and a subsequent transition to a completely different but similar identification are elusive, and for some readers, will be unsatisfactory.
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In the service of education and better understanding, we will strive without being discouraged.
Knowledge comes to us through the good graces and help of our friends at the Norfolk and Western Historical Society and the Virginia Room at the Public Library.
Shaffers Crossing, as it is now correctly called, has had a variety of spelling over the years depending on the medium of communication. Perhaps one of the reasons for this was that it was first known as Shaver’s Crossing. Before trying to clear up some of the labeling confusion, geographic orientation is helpful.
Shaffers Crossing is generally considered to be the part of Roanoke Rail Station that centers on the two 24th Street underpasses, one built in 1919 and the other in 1920, the historical society’s Ken Miller said. There is no connection between the long-closed downtown Jefferson Street crosswalk and the General Office Building.
In a 1977 article titled âA Railfan’s Guide to Roanoke,â Abram D. Burnett and Harold O. Castleman Jr. called the name Shaffers Crossing âgenericâ and described it encompassing the three functions of the facility: motive power, repairs and transport and switching.
According to the authors’ definition, driving force refers to the rotunda, the coal wharf, and the water treatment and pumping station. The repair shop was there for “all repairs to freight cars, except the heaviest”. Transport and switching were handled by personnel working in various buildings and support facilities as well as the necessary equipment.
A map of the complex, which appears to have been carefully handcrafted without further attribution, accompanies the article.
When the Shaffers Crossing real estate became the property of the railroad in 1876, it was part of the John Newton Shaver farm and included a few springs that turned the area into what has been described as a “quagmire” in a reprint. from the Journal of the West Virginia Historical Society in 1999 of an earlier report in a pamphlet from Norfolk Southern (successor to N&W).
The intersection of what had been the old Virginia and Tennessee trails by the old unpaved road from Salem in the then undeveloped part of town was what led to the name Shaver’s Crossing, according to the Journal article. .
So how did Shaver turn into Shaffers? This question was suggested by a February 1938 article in the N&W Magazine.
“There is an argument circulating right now about how the name of the railway shop terminal, now known as Shaffer’s Crossing, came to be,” the article read, note spelling. The writer went on to say that they did not “pretend to know” how the name had changed and sought help from readers. If ever such has emerged, the product is at this stage unknown.
The magazine appeared to pick up on the question in 1951 in an article written by TC Poole Jr. provocatively titled “What’s in a Name?” “
The reporter went into many details about the descriptions of the Shaffers Crossing facilities; the capabilities therein; summarized an interview with Mrs. Mary G. Billmyer, one of the daughters of farmer John Shaver, on the history of the property; dispelled an apparent confusion that Farmer Shaver was in fact that and not a blacksmith; and provided a verbatim picture of Shaver’s neighboring house.
After that, there wasn’t a word of explanation on the name change let alone what happened to the possessive apostrophe. Ms Billmyer expressed her dismay at the perversion of the surname.
At which point is introduced a note of personal regret for my lack of research and maintenance skills as a preteen. My grandfather, T. Glenn Cox, had a career as an electrician at Shaffers Crossing. He was a history buff and perhaps knew something about the evolution of the name.
In any case, it is correct to say that neither he nor the generations of his offspring were exhausted by the rigors of learning.
If you are wondering about something, call out “What’s on your mind?” At 777-6476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to provide your full name (and its correct spelling if by phone) and your hometown.