News from JRBF Chairman, Ralph Smith – December 26, 2014

I sincerely hope everyone had /is having a Merry Christmas and Joyous Holiday Season.  It is now possible to remind you with some level of excitement that we are now over the hump and the 2015 JRBF is less than 6 months away!  Remember that although the JRBF always begins the Saturday of Father’s Day Weekend, this year that is a little later and the festival will begin Sat June 20th and end June 27th.
This being our 30th year I’m anticipating that we’ll do a few “special” things as we enjoy what for many of us is certainly one of the best weeks of the year.  I’m hopeful that we’ll have a good fleet this year and have a few additions to the festival group.  Nothing’s ever for sure on boatbuilding as we all know, but there’s all indication that we’ll have a new “Miss Debbie” boat, and potentially several new boat programs with a groups in Charlottesville, Richmond, and Slate River hoping to build new boats.  If you’re aware of any group which is considering building please feel free to give them my contact info and I’ll endeavor to get them information and hook them up with batteau types in their area who can provide advice and assistance.
Most of you are aware that the parent organization of the James River Batteau Festival is the Virginia Canals and Navigations Society.   The JRBF operates within the structure of the VCNS and a strong VCNS gives confidence that the JRBF will continue well past our 30th year.  In all honesty I believe that current steps being taken by the VCNS Board of Governors, plus the inherent allure of the James River and Batteau Era make it now likely that the Batteau Festival will continue indefinitely to the benefit of all those who come after us.  
The step the VCNS has taken which for me bodes well for our future is to finally secure a home.  Forever, the VCNS has met in homes, Library meeting rooms etc, records have been in boxes moved from one basement to another as leadership changed, archives have been in file cabinets in individual’s home, artifacts have been in barns, garages, basements spread over several states.  The VCNS home will now provide stability to the organization in a way never before possible, in addition to being the secure and central location for archives and artifacts.  And by artifacts I’m referring to items saved from the Canal Basin Dig in Richmond as well those taken from rivers and canals over the past years.  Once gathered, restored, and displayed these items will be of tremendous interest to those of us who are “batteau junkies” and will be of at least casual interest to anyone with an appreciation of batteau and canal history.  I for one am anxious to hold in my hands the sweep mount of an actual batteau which plied the James in the late 1700’s, and to see and appreciate the many thousands of artifacts Bill Trout and others have collected.
The home I refer to has been named “Batteau House” and is located at 3806 South Amherst Hwy in Madision Heights Va.  The house is a 4 br brick home built in the 1940’s, the purchase of which was made possible by an extremely generous donation from Bill Trout who will live in a portion of the house. 
Over that past 3 months a group made up primarily of the VCNS/JRBF leadership has undertaken a signficant renovation of the house to bring plumbing, electricity, roof, HVAC etc to a position where the house is in very good condition.  Much cleaning, painting etc has been done and there is still more work to be done.  In the next month we need to put on the final push to get the house ready for Bill to move in and bring the first wave of archives/library/records into the house.  If you are able to give time to this endeavor, it will greatly be appreciated.  We are having another work weekend Jan 10th-11th and the job tasks involve primarily painting.  If you are able to help that weekend or any other time please contact me ( and we can work out a time which suits you.
When the actual move takes place we’ll also be hoping for volunteers as the books and records alone will involve I am guessing well over 500 boxes. The exact date for the move hasn’t been decided but will likely be in the month of February.
One other activity on the horizon is the VCNS Spring Meeting, the following paragraph from Terry Zimmerman contains info about the meeting in addition to a request that we have 2 batteaux participate.   
The VC&NS annual conference is next April 24-26, 2015, in Petersburg, VA. We will be partnering with the Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR). As part of the weekend events FOLAR is planning to host a festival at Ferndale Park on Saturday.We plan to educate the public to the history of the area and to especially give kids an idea of how folks lived during the period when the canal was an active means of transportation. We plan to invite artisans, crafters, wood workers, blacksmiths, etc. As part of this education we would like to have one or two batteaux on the Upper Appomattox Canal, which is still watered in the park. The participants in our meeting will have a batteau tour of the canal, and when we™re off on our automobile tour of other historical sites, the batteaux would give rides and demonstrations to the public. The canal is almost still so batteaux can be poled up and down it.  The distance of each ride will be determined at the time based on the number of people interested. The put-in location in the park is fairly tight, but there have been batteaux there in the past, and I know there are some great drivers out there. The park is closed at night, but crew members will be able to camp at the park overnight if they choose. Funds are available to reimburse for the cost of transporting up to two batteaux. Please contact Terry Zimmerman, Conference organizer, at
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    Tireless James & Fall Meeting for JRBF held at Howardsville – Sept. 12, 2014

    The 2014 “Tireless James” event was held between the Wildlife Management Area down-river from Wingina, to Howardsville. Several Batteaux participated in this event which was sponsored by the James River Association. There were a lot of tires removed from the river that day! Good job everyone!!!

    Later in the evening the annual meeting of the JRBF was held at the Howardsville campsite owned by Mr. Jimmy Crews. A nice fire was in the center of the ring as everyone gathered around to hear Chairman Ralph Smith announce several items of interest to JRBF participants.

    Ralph Smith, JRBF Chairman will continue on through the 2015 JRBF, the 30th annual. We are proud to announce that Mr. Andrew Shaw will take on the leadership role and become the next JRBF Chairman from that point forward. We are confident that Andrew will help lead the JRBF into the future. We thank Ralph for the many many years and next year that he has been Chairman.

    Holt Messerly stood up to announce the publication of the newest VC&NS Atlas “The Chickahominy River Atlas”. Capt. Don Bright bought the first copy which isn’t going to be officially released until a Pow-Wow later this month.

    Don Bright spoke about his vision of an event in downtown Richmond next Summer after the JRBF. Batteaux would come and put into the Canal and participate in the event. Details are being worked out at this time.

    Brian Coffield, VC&NS President, spoke of the many great things going on in the VC&NS and praised Dr. Bill Trout for his many contributions to the society. Brian announced the new “Home” building in Madison Heights that is being purchased by Dr. Trout. More about this home place for the VC&NS to come.

    The night wound down and good friends enjoyed the warmth of the fire into the night.

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      Posted in Batteau, James River Association, JRBF General Information, JRBF Meeting, River Cleanup Event, Uncategorized, VC&NS Atlas's, VC&NS Home Fund | Leave a comment