At a sharp turn of the Valley Pike, close on the bank of the Shenandoah River (north branch), about midway between Edinburg and Mt. Jackson, stands an old mansion, remodeled about 1900, long known and well known as "Red Banks." A hundred years ago (1927) a post office was kept here; and for many years it was a favorite stopping place for travelers on the highway, north and south. There is much evidence for believing that Elisha Parmalee died and was buried here in 1784. Parmalee, it is said, died at the home of Col. Abraham Bird. There were two or three Abraham Birds; but one of them, a man of prominence in Shenandoah County for many years, certainly lived at Red Banks.
The records in Woodstock show that on August 8, 1803, Lawrence Pittman bought 347 acres (evidently Red Banks tract) from Abram Bird and Rachel his wife for $5555.56. The price indicates that the land was well improved with buildings. The said tract is described as being "on the northwest side of the north river of Shenandoah, it being part of 550 acres conveyed to Abram Bird by George Ruddle and Magdalene his wife, February 10, 1776." The sale by Bird was witnessed by Jacob Rinker, Samuel Walton and Lewis Moore.
The records also show that on September 1, 1849, Lawrence Pittman, Sr., sold Red Banks farm (375 acres) and another tract (186 acres), formerly belonging to Abram Bird, to William Ripley for $18,500. William Ripley's son, Valentine, who was the father of Laura Ripley (Mrs. Tiphen Allen, Jr.), whose heirs are the present (1927) owners.
Under date of November 6, 1902, Miss Mary C. Pittman, then of The Plains, Fauquier County, wrote the author as follows:
"Nicholas Pittmann came from Bingen on the Rhine about 1740. The Conrads and Bakers of Winchester came over in the same vessel with him. He bought a farm on the north branch of the Shenandoah River near Fishers Hill and married a daughter of Lawrence Snapp, a vestryman of Gen. Muhlenberg's church at Woodstock."
"All the children of Nicholas Pittmann emigrated to Corydon, Indiana, except Lawrence, who married Catharine Will and became the owner of the noted Red Banks farm, where in 1802 (perhaps 1803 or 1804) he erected the large brick house now (1927) owned by Mr. Tiffen Allen. Red Banks was a favorite stopping place for travelers from Baltimore going to the Greenbrier White Sulphur Springs. Madam Jerome Bonaparte (nee Patterson) always spent the night there on her way to the latter place."
"My father, Andrew Pittman, well remembered Gen. Jackson ('Old Hickory') stopping over Sunday and of his taking the children on his knee"
"Lawrence Pittman had ten grandsons in the Confederate army. Philip Pittman, his oldest son, at the age of 16 served in the War of 1812, and in 1861 at the age of 64 enlisted in the Confederate army, taking with him his youngest son, just 16 years old. The last year of the struggle his friends implored him to come home and be a candidate for the Virginia Senate. His reply was that the army had no soldiers to spare, but if they wished to elect him they could do so, but he would remain in the army until officially notified of his election. He was elected, but remained at his post until the Senate convened."
During the Civil War, in the spring of 1862, Stonewall Jackson's army camped several times at Red Banks -- "Camp Buchanan" was the name of this camp. It is probable that the famous Stonewall lodged in the old mansion at Red Banks on these occasions. If so, one may be curious to know whether he was aware that Andrew Jackson had been a guest there a few years earlier.
Excerpted from John W. Wayland's A History of Shenandoah County, Virginia
Photo contributed by Don Conley.
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