Down a narrow, winding road in Augusta County, Virginia, near Middlebrook, lies a very special place called Dutch Hollow Cemetery. There, on a hillside overlooking meadows and farms, is the final resting place of some of my earliest Hanger Ancestors. The landscape has changed little in the more than 200 years since the first graves were established.
I learned of the cemetery and visited it for the first time in the summer of 2022 as part of my trip to the Valley for the Hanger reunion. My Hanger relatives all live in neighboring Rockingham County, Virginia and my husband’s Hanger relatives all live in Augusta County. (more on that interesting connection can be found in my Visiting with My Ancestors blog post!)
My great-grandfather, Franklin Bismark Hanger was the first of the Hangers to leave Augusta County and settle in Rockingham County sometime in the 1900–1910. The Hanger reunion has always been just the folks descended from him in the past. This year we decided to open up the reunion to include all descendants of Frederick Hengerer, our immigrant ancestor, and my six-times great-grandfather.
As part of this year's reunion, we took a field trip to the cemetery to share what we had discovered with our extended family. We could not have asked for a better day. The weather was beautiful with just enough of a breeze to keep us comfortable.
For about a hundred years, the cemetery lay in ruin, forgotten and overrun by trees, brush and bramble. You can see from the photo below just how overgrown it was. It is only due to the herculean efforts of my cousin, Glenn Hanger, that we are able to visit there once again and learn of our ancestors’ final resting place.
When Glenn learned of the cemetery that lay just across the road from his home, he took it upon himself to clear it out and bring it back to life. He spent many hours there, carefully removing what nature had taken back in those last 100 years.
He has painstakingly dug out tombstones that were barely visible and put broken tombstones back together. The tombstone of my four-times great-grandmother, Catherine Wehrle Hanger, was beyond repair. Glenn had an exact replica of the stone made and put back in its original location in the cemetery.
He has had a professor from James Madison University perform multiple surveys with ground penetrating radar and cadaver dogs, and have located 29 more gravesites that hopefully still have tombstones that can be uncovered in the years to come.
And he didn’t stop there! Glenn has researched the names on the tombstones he uncovered and all of the information he has for them can be found on his website: The Dutch Hollow Hanger Cemetery. Other researchers, including myself, have also contributed documents and research information and it continues to grow. It is an invaluable resource for anyone researching the Hanger family of the Shenandoah Valley!
For those of us who have ancestors buried there, we owe Glenn Hanger a huge debt of gratitude for uncovering this beautiful cemetery and bringing it back to life. We can once again commune with those who came before us.
If you have Hanger family in the Shenandoah Valley, definitely check out The Dutch Hollow Cemetery website. If you need more help with your Hanger family research, I’d be happy to help!
Last year during our trip to the Shenandoah Valley, my husband and I visited the Menno Simmons Historical Library at Eastern Mennonite University. There I discovered Peggy Joyner’s book, Frederich & Peter Hanger of Virginia: 1740 Immigrants Some Ancestors & Descendants. Frederich is my 6x great-grandfather. He and his father, Melchior, were the first of my ancestors to immigrate into the Shenandoah Valley from Württemburg, Germany.
You can read about last year’s trip in my blog, “Visiting With My Ancestors”.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Peggy, who conducted extensive research into the Hengerer/Hanger families. She also had translated important early church records that were in German. Her work has made it possible for others to learn about their roots in the Hanger family.
In her book about Frederich and Peter Hanger, she wrote about an artifact that Frederich and his wife, Eva, had donated to a Lutheran church in Woodstock, Virginia . This is what she wrote about it:
Frederich Hanger's name is also a matter of history in Woodstock, the county seat of Shenandoah County. Jacob Miller of Woodstock donated lots 140 and 141 to Martin Fulse, Frederich Dellinger and Frederich Hanger for the Lutheran congregation to "Erect and Build a Church thereon and a school house if necessary" on 6 Nov. 1764. This church is Emmanuel's Church. An altar cloth embroidered in German was donated by Eva and Frederich. The translation, "Friederich Hengerer, Eva Maragreda Hengerin, Woodstock To God Alone the Glory 1767. Klaus Wust, author of The Virginia Germans, commented in 1975, "The Woodstock Lutheran Church has a table cloth that was a wedding gift to Friederich Hengerer and Eva Margreda Hengerin in 1767. It has been labeled altar cloth in recent years but is actually nothing but a typical wedding gift for a young couple and the embroideries are very much like the fraktur designs."
After reading about it, I knew I would have to visit it! This summer during our annual trip to the Valley for the Hanger reunion, my husband, his parents and I all made the trip to Woodstock to check it out. My husband’s mother is also a Hanger (for more information on that, you should really check out my “Visiting With My Ancestors” blog).
Even if it was originally "nothing but a typical wedding gift," the church definitely used it as an alter cloth since then.
The alter cloth is framed and hangs in a social hall at the church. There, in the presence of this fragile cloth, I felt a momentary connection to my 6x great-grandparents, Frederick and Eva. It made the past come to life for me as I imagined them in their church gathered around that very cloth.
This is why it is so important to preserve not only the stories and histories of our ancestors, but also the artifacts we find as well!
Unfortunately, the cloth is not aging very well and is in need of some attention in order to preserve it for future generations. With the help of my cousin, Glenn Hanger, plans are underway to do just that!
It is so important to preserve those rare artifacts that connect us to our past and provide a touchstone to those who came before! What stories and/or artifacts do you want to know more about in your family’s history?
If you have ever wondered about your family history, or heard stories about certain family heirlooms, and would like to find out more, you can always contact me to start a conversation about how I can help you.
The Shenandoah Valley, nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west, is a region steeped in history and rich in genealogical treasures. This picturesque valley in the heart of Virginia has witnessed centuries of human migration, settlement, and cultural fusion.
Its history as a melting pot of cultures began with its earliest inhabitants. Long before European contact, various Native American tribes, including the Shawnee, Cherokee, and Iroquois, called this fertile region home. They cultivated crops, and established vibrant communities, leaving a profound cultural imprint on the valley's landscape.The Great Warrior's Road, a historic pathway through the Shenandoah Valley, served as a vital link in the development of the Great Wagon Road. Originally established by Native American tribes for trade and communication, this ancient trail evolved into a significant transportation route.
In the 18th century, European immigrants from various countries used this critical thoroughfare to venture into the uncharted territories of the American South.
The majority of these early immigrants came from the following regions:
My ancestors were among some of those early immigrants into the valley. My German ancestors, the Hengerers (now Hanger) arrived in the 1750s and eventually settled in Augusta County around 1769. The Scots-Irish side of my family, the McCalls, arrived sometime in the mid to late 1700s and settled in Rockingham County.
Indeed, my roots run deep in the Shenandoah Valley, the beautiful backdrop to my childhood and the heart of my family's history. Growing up there gave me a profound appreciation for its ancient mountains and the warmth of its people. The people here are rooted in tradition, kindness, and a strong sense of community.
If you share a connection to the Shenandoah Valley, whether through your ancestors or your own life experiences, I invite you to embark on a journey of discovery. Its history is not just a story of the past but of a living tapestry of families, traditions, and legacies waiting to be uncovered. Contact me to get started!