A little history of Rich Patch
Rich Patch is the narrow elevated area lying east of Carpenter’s Mountain about seven miles southeast of Covington. The name “Rich Patch” was first used to describe about ten acres of land near what is today the intersection of routes 671 and 616. Mrs. Homa Wolfe now lives at this location.
In 1749 two Moravian missionaries traveled on foot through Rich Patch from Covington on their way to Craig’s Creek. As they did, they noted the “mountains all around” and the “awful howling of wolves.” The first settlers in Rich Patch were the Hooks, and soon the Bennettes, Fridleys, Humphries, Kings, and Stulls were living there also. Matthew Hook constructed a bank at the present residence of Mrs. W. C. Bilbro. The Hooks also opened a water mill where Lester Fridley now lives. The fee for the grinding done was a portion of the wheat brought by a farmer.
The Rich Patch post office stood where Mrs. Homa Wolfe now lives. Since no deliveries were made, each resident would to the post office to get his own mail. The first schoolhouse in Rich Patch was the land Mrs. Raeburn Stull now owns. It had only one room, and classes were held just three months per year. There were several other small schoolhouses built in Rich Patch in the following years; one was where William L. Tingler now lives.
In the late 1770s Dick Fridley operated a distillery on what is today Karnes’ Run. The whiskey sold for $1.25 per gallon, or 20 bushels of apples. There was a powder mill on blue Spring run in 1819, the second mill of the area. Saltpeter was also available at the mill.
In 1824, two years after the formation of Alleghany County, John Callaghan was given permission to build a road from the Jackson across Rich Patch Mountain to Botetourt County. The remains of this road can still be found at Harry Bennett’s farm and behind the falls on Roaring Run.
Two mines, which were famous for iron ore, were located there. Although mining has been halted, this area is still rich in iron ore. The Rich Patch Mines furnace and school are no longer operating.
About the year 1879, plans were made to build a church for the Christian people of Rich Patch, and in a short while $300 was raised. One of the schemes was a picnic, and although it rained upon the picnickers, the event was a brilliant success. An appeal was made to the adults of the neighborhood and soon enough money was on hand. The building was finished and first used in October, 1890, and was dedicated in 1894.
Mrs. Sally Hook donated the land for the church with the requirement that the church be used for all four Protestant denominations: Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Dunkard. If it fails to be used in this way, it is to be given back to her heirs. The church was named the Rich Patch Union Church. Sunday school rooms were added to the main building in 1960, with money donated through a building fund collection taken once a month for a number of years. Today the church is still used, with a regular attendance of about thirty members.
Although ore was mined for a while in rich Patch, it is today as it has always been: an area of farms, mostly small and owned by the tenant. There are several dairy operations and the land itself is dotted with caves, including a large one on the Bilbro property.