This sign will interpret the history of the circa 1840 structure that still stands in the park. While there have been many stories related to this property, its history has not been definitively told in a manner that will inform the community of its significance.The house is thought to be one of the oldest surviving structures in the City of Roanoke, and may be associated with the Evans family and their mill. The existing structure is in poor condition, and will not survive much longer.
Persinger Cemetery Historic Marker
When James and Doris Neal moved to their quiet neighborhood off Roanoke's Memorial Avenue in the mid-1960s, they didn't even know there was a cemetery behind their house. There was a spacious vacant lot, which was covered with weeds, fallen trees and trash. When they cleaned the mess up, however, there it was: a century-old family cemetery, with the tombstones of two Confederate soldiers who had died in the Civil War.
One of the soldiers was William Persinger Jr., who died at home of wounds suffered at Chancellorsville in 1863. His younger brother Adolphus died at a Northern prison the following year.Their tombstones, along with the tombstones of their parents, William and Esther Persinger, and other family members, can be seen in this family grave site. The Neals have looked after the cemetery for decades.
Who were the Persingers?
Long before Roanoke became a city in 1882, John Persinger acquired land around the Roanoke River in the vicinity of what is now Norwich. His son, William, born in 1800, built a big brick house on the site in 1825 that stood for more than 100 years. The Persingers owned a gristmill and William Persinger and his wife, Esther, had at least nine children. According to war records, William enlisted in the Confederate Army in Salem in June 1861. Adolphus enlisted in March 1864, and served with the 5th Virginia Calvary, Adolphus was captured and sent to the Union prison at Point Lookout, Md., where he died in August 1864. The old Persinger property was broken up in the late 1890s, when developers acquired the land and began to lay out lots and streets. The cemetery looks far different now, with its straight wrought-iron fencing surrounded by well-trimmed grass. In November 2017 RVPF awarded the Neals with a Preservation Award for Community Stewardship. We plan to take that recognition one step farther by installing a historic marker that tell the story of the cemetery, as well as the Neal's 50 years of dedication.
Preston Place Historic Marker
Preston Place, the oldest house in Salem, is now under the stewardship of the Salem Museum & Historical Society. Thanks to significant community support, the organization has successfully preserved and restored this nationally recognized historic landmark! Today Preston Place stands as a testament to the Roanoke Valley that once was – not only the oldest house in Salem by most accounts - but also likely the fourth oldest house in the entire Roanoke Valley and it is one of only fourteen historic landmark listings in the City of Salem. Today Preston Place has become an economic driver, the White Oak Tea Tavern is located there and open for business.
Dr. Esther Clark Brown, one of the first female physicians in the Roanoke Valley and a Preston family descendant, was the last to live in Preston Place. Her heirs donated her home, built in 1821, to the Salem Museum & Historical Society in 2014. Prior to 1821, the property was most associated with blacksmith John Cole, who owned a house on the site. Interestingly, some original materials from that earlier home may be incorporated into the existing structure, such as floor joists from the earlier log cabin. Thus, Preston Place may contain some of the oldest building material in the Valley. Cole’s house seemed to be a way station for travelers along the Great Road, and it is pretty well attested that Davy Crocket, Louis Philippe (future king of France) and perhaps Andrew Jackson stayed on the site (though most likely not in the home that currently stands).
In 1821 or so the entire extended Cole clan (including John Cole’s sister Susannah, Salem’s “founding mother”) seemed to have packed up and moved to Missouri. Cole sold his tract for $10,000 to the John Johnston family and the Johnston family owned the property until 1879, when it was sold to Charles I. Preston. Preston was a Confederate veteran and he later served as sheriff of Roanoke County. After his death (1894) and the death of his wife Mary (1924), their children kept the home until 1974. In that year Mary Preston Clark bequeathed the house to her daughter Esther Clark Brown.
RVPF has worked closely with the Preston Place Committee on the history and restoration of the home, and presented a Preservation Award to the Salem Museum in November 2017. As part of our collaboration we have researched, written, and designed a historic marker - all that's left is fabrication and installation to commemorate this import landmark in Salem.