History Hidden Underneath

The Rufus Wampler Family Home | Wythe County, Virginia | c. 1840s

The Wampler homeplace is nestled in an idyllic holler in rural Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain range. The same mountain range that Wampler ancestors, part of the ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’ traveled along as they came to Virginia, looking for land. As the family grew and spread out across Wythe County, Virginia, they established roots in the small communities that were emerging in this mountainous, often isolated region. The different Wampler branches built homes around the area, and the only one that still stands today is this one.

And although it might not look like much now, a close inspection of the facade of the home exposes details that help us to unwrap the story hidden beneath. In the image of the home below, you can see where the porch has fallen away, revealing the original hand-hewn logs underneath.

The Rufus Morgan Wampler House

In October 1840, Rufus Wampler married Theresa Earhart in Wythe County, Virginia and they soon began to grow their own family. It is thought that shortly after his marriage, Rufus Morgan Wampler, began building the main section of this home. A log cabin that was constructed from trees harvested on this land and then hand-hewn. Over the next 16 years, Theresa had at least 9 children, many of whom were born inside this house. As their family grew over the years, the original log house was expanded to accommodate them.

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Theresa Earhart Wampler and her husband, Rufus Morgan Wampler. Photo courtesy of descendant, Joel Burbink.

According to census records, Rufus was a cattle farmer- involved in the leather industry and very successful at it as well. Between the 1860 and 1870 censuses, Rufus Wampler’s real estate holdings expanded from 300 to 400 acres. According to his death certificate, Rufus Morgan Wampler died of “Brain Fever” at his home in 1878 at age 69. In 1899, Theresa Earhart Wampler passed away here as well.

Austin “Aus” Wampler

As they reached adulthood, many of Rufus and Theresa’s children moved away to Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri as some of the earliest settlers in the midwest. But at least one son, Austin “Aus” remained in the area and continued to live in the home throughout his life. The family shared a fascinating story about Aus. In April 1861, when he was only 16, the Civil War had just broken out and in 1862, Aus Wampler left his home in Wythe County, Virginia to enlist in the Confederate Army.

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According to a descendant: “Aus walked to Red Sulphur Spring, Virginia (now West Virginia) with his first cousin and best friend, San Etter to enlist. They served together in the 45th Virginia Infantry until the end of the war. When they were in the fight at Cloyd’s Mountain, Peter Vaught, a soldier in their unit, was wounded in the knee and evidently could not escape the advancing Union troops. Aus Wampler picked him and threw him over his shoulder and helped him off the battlefield. Both survived the fight but Vaught carried the ball in his knee until his death. When they returned to Wythe County after the war, Aus married his daughter, Mary Jane Vaught.”

Aus lived here until he died in 1917. Emma Wampler was the next in the family to call this place home and a relative recalled looking forward to visits with ‘Aunt Emma’ in this house when he was a young boy.

The Wampler Home in the 1940s

I posted a photo of this house online and a descendant of the Wamplers contacted me after he recognized it. He was generous enough to share the family’s history and old photos of the home that I’ve included below. These images were created in 1940 when a few of the adult Wampler children visited Virginia from Indiana to see the old homeplace where their parents and grandparents had lived. From these pictures, you can see what the home looked like when the front porch was still intact.

Photo of the Wampler House, taken by Kenneth Burbink in the 1940s. The caption reads: “Grandfather Wampler’s old home in Wythe County, VA. ” Photo courtesy of descendant, Joel Burbink.
Photo of the Wampler House, taken by Kenneth Burbink in the 1940s. The caption reads: “Grandfather’s old homeplace. Picture taken from behind the home with ‘yours truly’ standing on the hill.” Photo courtesy of descendant, Joel Burbink.
Photo of the Wampler House, taken by Kenneth Burbink in the 1940s. The caption reads: “Side view of Grandfather Wampler’s home in Wythe County, Virginia.” Photo courtesy of descendant, Joel Burbink.

As the family aged out, it was sold to distant relatives in the 1980s, and from what I have gathered, it has been empty ever since. The land is still farmed as it has been for so many years but now, the cows are the only residents.

The years of disuse have taken their toll and the future of the home is uncertain, although some descendants hope that one day, they can relocate the original log cabin portion of the house to save it.

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18 thoughts on “History Hidden Underneath”

  1. Fabulous story., especially the fact that I descendent purchased a house and land after seeing the article..Great Job!
    I love old houses, and to think that you can connect them with family is amazing!!
    Thank you!!

  2. This is awesome keep up the good work so much history in the mountains I’m 64 years old and my mother and father both are from them that way my mother grew up in Bristol and my father over around Pocahontas Virginia in the cold fields I love the old history and the old homes remembrance of a much simpler life

  3. Wonderful story. Love to read the history of these early settlers but so hate to see what they strove for go to ruin.

  4. Thanks for writing this blog. It’s really fantastic that you’re documenting history like this before it literally crumbles into the ground. I love reading the stories!

  5. The picture taken from behind the house reminds me of my grandparents’ old home place in the hills of Jackson County, Tennessee. Sadly, it no longer stands and a new modern house stands in its place. One of my cousins said that the new house was the ugliest house she ever saw! Lol

  6. The family that owns the cabin should watch an HGTV show called “Barnwood Builders.” These men have been saving log cabins for some years now, and they are very impressive. Based on what I’ve seen on the show, the original cabin here seems to be in good shape and may be a good candidate for rebuilding.

  7. My family settled in the New River Valley. My Uncle lived on the farm down from Back Creek, the site of the hospital for the Union troops at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain. Back Creek was built by my great, great, great, great Grandfather, Joseph Cloyd in 1742. The land that my uncle’s farm was on was called Battle Ridge, about a mile from Back Creek. Until my uncle died in 1975, the land had never been sold. Cloyd’s Mountain is named after my mother’s family and most all are buried at the Dublin Presbyterian Church.

  8. happy that the family member has purchased the property. Hopefully to restore it or stablize it at least so it continues on. Great story and history of the old place.

  9. Joan Wampler Smith

    I am a Wampler. My father’s family was from Virginia. As I have found out all the Wampler’s in the United States are descendants of two brothers from Switzerland. So surprised to read about Wampler’s in this newsletter as not a common name.

  10. Thank you for this wonderful story. I love the pictures I always say if only I had money I would have it all fixed up for one of the family members . Thanks again for that. Wonderful story of those nice pictures.

  11. I loved this story. I agree with the person on this site that said how amazing that you are able to find family members and get more information. Loved it that a descendant purchased the house and land after seeing your article. Such a wonderful feeling to know you might have saved this beautiful property.

  12. Nelda Belle Turner

    A fantastic story. More “Homes in the country” like this one should be on The Historical Homes Registry so they are saved for many, many, more years to come. We must all work hard to save our family histories. The future generations will have their own stories to tell, but the brave, bold and hardy built America with the sweat of their brows. Please, everyone find your ancestors back before they came to America. More records are being recovered every year. Blessings!!! Nelda Belle Turner of The Floyd Turner’s, Bellevedora Fults, Emery Davis, and Rev. James S. Murphy and wife Mary Jane McCary; Center, Texas back to England, Ireland, and Germany. Glory

  13. Beautiful to know the homes story and that it was well loved for generations.
    Sad it has had to deteriorate. But, at least it is somewhat still in the family.

  14. I get so excited when I see one of you msg inu box!!
    Love seeing the pictures and readings
    I wish I was near you so I could go on your retreats!!!
    Keep up the good work

  15. Did a family member, in fact, purchase or repurchase it. Some posts say that but I am not sure. I love this old place. I am not a Wampler (sp) but I would honor this old house and its spirit. It sheltered a lot of that family.

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