By Matt de Simone
The Botetourt Historical Society and Museum (BCHS) provide visitors a chance to revisit some of Botetourt County’s history through education, exhibits, and activities. The museum’s 57-year history saw a couple of massive changes last year. One of those changes stemmed off of the county courthouse renovation project, causing the museum to successfully find a new home.
Over the next several weeks, The Fincastle Herald will feature interviews with some of the individuals who help make the Botetourt County History Museum a must-see destination.
Michael Beahm has been a resident of Botetourt County for his entire life. His knowledge of the county’s history and events is a result many years hearing stories on the farm, according to Beahm. He’s a graduate of Lord Botetourt High School and Virginia Tech.
Beahm has spent his time over the years as a member of various organizations including 4-H, the Future Farmers of America (FFA), serving as former chairman of the Botetourt County School Board, and being a recent board member of the Botetourt Historical Society.
“Within the group that’s on [the Historical Society board], I’m fairly knowledgeable of my end of the county,” Beahm said during a recent interview. “In some ways there’s an advantage to being knowledgeable of your area.”
Beahm looks forward to the physical move of the old Botetourt County History Museum. He admitted that, at first, he thought the physical move of the building (and the courthouse renovation project) was a “dubious” endeavor, but understands now that it’s the best choice for the county.
“It’s interesting what can be moved,” Beahm said. “When they were doing a lot of road building on 460 back in the ’60s, they moved a lot of houses… Last house that I knew [that was physically] moved around here was on the intersection of Read Mountain Road and Alternate 220, moved over to Cloverdale, across the road from where Nick of Thyme Bakery & Catering Catering is located now.”
Beahm knows that area of Botetourt well. He grew up off of Sanderson Drive in Cloverdale/Roanoke.
“I lived here all my life,” Beahm said. “It’ll be 72 years in July. I moved up the road, across the road, and up the hill, is the way I describe it.”
Beahm’s family has deep roots in the county. His property is located near the Botetourt-Roanoke County line. On his mother, Irene Sanderson Beahm’s side of the family, Beahm’s grandmother Sanderson was a Layman. Her homeplace was at the divide between the railroad and Read Mountain Road heading toward Route 11. Beahm’s grandmother was the daughter of Caleb Nininger, whose family first arrived in the area from Pennsylvania.
Beahm’s grandparents purchased land in Botetourt and Roanoke in the mid-1940s that stretched from within Roanoke County across what is now Sanderson Drive. After doing some digging, Beahm speculates that his family purchased some of the land from an African-American family who previously purchased the land from the Niningers.
According to Beahm, Caleb was one of six brothers who owned a lot of land in the Tinker Creek, Plantation Road, and Cloverdale area. The house Beahm’s grandmother grew up in was built in 1873. To Beahm’s understanding, the original house burned and was rebuilt on the site. His great-grandmother began living in the home as a small child. Beahm wonders if another home was previously there.
“They (historians) talk about there being an old house site around Cloverdale that was one of the earliest houses in that area,” Beahm added. “When my parents were first married, they lived with my great-grandfather (Layman). I lived there in that same house until I was four and half then we moved where I grew up (off Sanderson Drive). My great-grandfather moved up there with me. We moved there in February and he died in July. Living with him, I have a memory of him. As a 5-year-old, your memory is a bit thin, but being in the same household, there is a memory. So, ancestrally, I’ve been around here a while.”
Beahm’s knowledge of county history came from hearing his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather telling tales of Botetourt County.
“Since I farmed with Pop all the time, we were around and talked a lot,” Beahm recalled. “By living with my great-grandfather, he had the opportunity to sit and talk with Grandpa Layman a whole lot. And Grandpa told him a lot of stuff. In 1939, there was no TV or radio around. There was a lot of time spent talking and visiting rather than being entertained some other way.
“By me being at home and working with Pop over the years, I heard a lot of stories. They say, ‘history’s only accurate if you can document it.’ Well, there’s a degree of truth to that, but there’s also, depending on how things are told and relayed, a lot of stories are accurate. In one of the very early books [of the Bible], something to the effect of ‘speaking about it coming and going from your house so you’ll remember.’ There’s a lot of that that needs to be done. I’ve always been interested in who’s kin and whatnot because sometimes it’s interesting to find out who’s related and I’ve always been interested in who owns what property.”
Beahm made an announcement two weeks ago that he is selling a portion of his family’s farm and farming equipment on the Botetourt-Roanoke County line off of Sanderson Drive.
“‘I seen it with my own two eyes.’ It’s now on Facebook, so it is reality,” Beahm said in a post to his Facebook page on Sunday.
“After 100 plus years our family is giving up the farm,” Beahm wrote. “Collectively, we as a family have decided to sell the remaining land here which includes what our Sanderson grandparents first purchased in 1917. Lillian and I will retain about nine acres and continue a bit of activity.
“We are putting up to auction the equipment and the contents of the buildings which have been there for 85 years so quite an accumulation of stuff. Some valuable, hopefully, some not; some useful, and a certain selection of ‘what in the world is that?’”
Beahm posted pictures of the time and date of the auction and pictures of some of the items he listed. He noted in the post that any interested parties may receive additional information by calling auctioneers Nick McNeil (540-320-6145) and Andy Cullip (540-230-5381) or contact Beahm directly with any further questions.