June 2, 1913 was a beautiful Monday. It had been a late spring in West Virginia and the trees on the mountains and hillsides all around the town of Walhonde were not yet in full foliage and the morning breeze pulled on the young branches and lifted them up like green skirts, giving the happy onlooker a glimpse of their snowy undersides. weeks before Isaac and Rebecca Martin had settled on this day for their own picnic. They had sent the cook and maid away to their families for two weeks together while they received and managed the three red trunks. The servants would be returning the following day. The work done to hide the trunks had been hurried and there were concerns about the too-wet mortar that the workers had used in the effort. But the time was up, all was put away, and whatever might need to be corrected or repaired could be done later, when circumstances were not pressing. However happy Isaac might have been with Rebecca as a wife, she was no cook and no housekeeper. The servants were needed immediately to restore order to the house and to their lives.
Isaac had ordered their picnic lunch from Nick Corey’s Confectionary on Main Street, only a block from the house. Mr. Corey rarely had such a blank check and he knew that pleasing Martin would mean nothing but high dividends for his business and life in town and so he sent to Charleston for the best pickles, olives, peppers, and cold meats. He fried two chicken thighs and two breasts and made a lovely plate of deviled eggs and hand packed a quart of vanilla ice cream and put four bottles of cream soda on ice and wrapped it all in white cloth and put it in a woven basket for the day.
Rebecca packed only their second-best china plates and silverware and glasses in thick cloth and wrapped it all in a blue wool Hudson Bay blanket. She wore a wide-brimmed straw hat and a white cotton dress and they packed the Duesenberg, removed the top and headed up the river road under the morning sun.
Isaac knew the place he wanted to take his beloved girl. His company had timbered much of the Walhonde valley already, leaving many hillsides bare and so in spring, when rain was frequent, most of the feeder streams ran muddy for days on end. He had preserved one entire watershed. Henley Creek, eleven miles upstream from the town of Walhonde, had not seen a single lumberjack’s saw or axe. The timber on the mountains of the five hollows that drained into the brooks and branches that fed Henley Creek was virgin oak, beech, poplar, elm, maple, hickory, walnut, cherry, hemlock, pine and chestnut and the soil there was held firmly by the deep and spreading roots and the ferns and mosses that grew in the shade of the ancient giants. Isaac knew that on June 2, even if it had rained the day before, Henley Creek would be running gin clear and that the wide turn in the creek where the dirt road ended would be sparkling blue and the air beneath the stand of hemlocks there would be cool and fresh and carry the fragrance of the forest blossoms. It was a fitting place to bring a princess and Isaac Martin intended to keep it that way.
Only Martin and the Henley family, who maintained a homestead at the head of the last hollow, had keys to the gate barring the road up Henley Creek. Isaac left the car idling as he got out and swung the gate wide. In only moments, the car was parked in the last wide space the road afforded and the two of them were seated on the blue blanket beside the bend in the gurgling stream.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “So much like home. I didn’t know such a place existed so near.”
“Nobody else does, either,” said Isaac, “and I hope to keep it that way as long as I can.”