“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” Proverbs 31:10 (KJV)
Lorene Moxley Sturgill traces her family lineage back to Scottish born, William Black who came to America around 1817. After hearing there were Scottish people in North Carolina, Black made his way to Alleghany County. While visiting the Allison family, he became ill and was nursed back to health by one of the daughters, Nancy. The pair married and settled into life in Alleghany County.
In 1961, descendants of William Black gathered at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Alleghany County. There were family members present from Scotland, South Africa, and the United States. It was determined that the family’s history should be preserved and a committee was formed to begin that process. Lorene Sturgill was asked to serve on that committee. Together, they compiled the family’s history and published a book on the Black family.
Those two paragraphs go a ways toward describing Lorene Sturgill – a strong love of family, an deep appreciation of history, and a curiosity of what lies beyond the horizon.
During the Great Depression, as the economy tightened, Mrs. Sturgill’s father looked beyond Alleghany County to provide for his family. He took the family to Pennsylvania where he found work on a dairy farm. He worked there a year before returning to Alleghany. After a year of struggle back home, he returned to Pennsylvania for another year. He then returned to Alleghany for good and started a dairy in the Topia community near the South Fork of the New River.
Mrs. Sturgill describes her childhood years in a way that seems both nostalgic and difficult. She attended Rocky Ridge School, a one room school house. In sixth grade, Rocky Ridge consolidated with the larger Piney Creek School. Until the roads were upgraded to allow for bus traffic, she walked three miles to catch the bus to school. In those years prior to and during World War II, electrical service was scattered around the county. She recalls carrying water from the spring to their home and visiting neighbors to listen to a battery powered radio. She says that we take for granted that we can now turn a knob and have water available in our kitchens or press a button on a remote to access hundreds of television channels. Her earliest memory of the telephone were those that were hand cranked which evolved into party lines and then to phones we can carry in our pockets.
Mrs. Sturgill graduated from Piney Creek in 1943. Her cousin was working in Baltimore and sent word that there was work available in the city. Mrs. Sturgill caught a bus in Sparta that took her to Wytheville, Virginia and then on to Maryland. During those war years she worked at aircraft manufacturer, Glenn L. Martin Company as a file clerk. “Baltimore was quite a change from Piney Creek,” she said recently with a laugh. Due to the war effort, many staple items were rationed. She said that her paycheck included ration stamps that allowed for the purchase of items that were not otherwise available.
After the war, aircraft production slowed and Mrs. Sturgill returned to Piney Creek. In 1946, Sid Sturgill was discharged from the military where he had served as an aircraft mechanic in England, France and occupied Germany. He also found his way back to Piney Creek. Lorene and Sid rekindled their friendship and were married in 1947. Their daughter, Ellen Sturgill, writes in the book of the Black family history that, “I have often heard my father say that my mother was the most beautiful woman in the county.”
Sid and Lorene settled into life in Piney Creek. Sid took over the family farm that had belonged to his father and grandfather. Lorene worked briefly in Independence and then at the Hanes plant in Sparta. She left public work to tend to ailing family members and raise their two children.
Those years were also filled with community service as a 4-H leader and an active member of the Piney Creek Homemaker’s Club. She is a member of the Alleghany Historical and Genealogical Society and a past member of the Alleghany County Library Board of Directors. In addition to the Black family history, Mrs. Sturgill authored a genealogy book of the Moxley, Hopper and Toliver families. She and Sid were active collectors of Native American artifacts and spent many hours walking the plowed fields along the New River looking for arrowheads.
And they traveled. They bought a motorhome and traveled all over the country. They later switched to bus tours. Over time, they visited 49 of the 50 states in the union.
Lorene Moxley Sturgill is anchored in a community occupied by family for 200 years, in a house that she moved into in the early years of her marriage. She and her husband played a role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. She has preserved her family’s history and experienced tremendous technological changes over the course of her life. Her family adores her and holds her in the highest esteem. She has a richness and depth to life that is Absolutely Alleghany.
The books referenced are available from Imaging Specialists in Sparta.