A Campground in Historical Context
Along the bank of Lake Ruth Ann, on the grounds that now make up Small Country Campground, we have uncovered evidence of rich history in various layers that transpired there. American Indians who lived on these grounds left tokens of their history in the of many arrowheads and artifacts we have discovered in our playground and fields. Beneath the Lake and at the Campground entrance, we have come across the foundations of homes built in the 1700s. By the Old Well, we see flowers and shrubs from that era still in bloom. Prior to the Civil War, in 1823, the Payne Family built a two-story log home that has evolved today into our Manor House. This very same log home was filled to the brim helping injured soldiers, used as a field hospital during the Battle of Trevilian Station, largest all-cavalry engagement of the Civil War. Afterwards, the 50-acre farm sat in neglect for several years, farmed only by a neighbor, Earl Ogg, who was also Chairman of the Louisa Board of Supervisors.
Growth Through Seasons of the Visionary Small Family
It was in this state of neglect when Ruth Small saw a small ad in the March 6, 1968 Washington Post which read “52 acres, more or less, $100 down and $100 per month” and a telephone number. After a quick visit by Bill and Ruth and their three children, the purchase was made and the Small Family had a country get-away from the daily grind of Washington, DC, while Ruth and Bill both worked in and around the Capital until 1996. The Small kids Suzy, Billy and Bryan began what became a farm enterprise, starting with raising game chickens and goats during their weekend visits to “Small’s Back Acres.” This grew, next with rabbits, and turkeys, pigs, horses, cows, and then a young bull buffalo named Ralph! Many campers still remember Ralph and the horses from the first few years of the campground. Within a short time, a vision was born – of the Small Family sharing this inspiring getaway with others in need of a getaway and an experience in nature. By the fall of 1975 ground was broken for the first 55 campsites (water and electric only), the store and bathhouse, the electric building and pumphouse. On the weekend of May 14, 1976, a momentous time in our story, the first campers poured in to fill our campground! In celebration of our grand opening, visitors gathered around (in a mist!) to hear Suzy Small and a friend play a two hour serenade of song and guitar accompaniment. Within a year of opening, we ventured further into our wonderful and exciting dreams by building Lake Ruth Ann, our beautiful 25-acre lake.
New Vision for the Campground
Young Bill and new wife Kathy moved to the campground and took over management in the late 80s starting a new season of fresh vision and new expansion. The next few years saw the campground debt paid off and new financing arranged. A pool and pavilion were built. Fifty more sites – the first with sewer – were added. A whole new tenting section was developed. And family grew along with Small Country Campground — two granddaughters – Brady and Stephanie — were born while living at the campground. Two grandsons were added by daughter Suzanne and her husband, Matthew Brady; the boys are Matthew and Nicholas. The family and Campground continued to grow as it shifted to Bryan’s management, along with wife Marla. A third granddaughter was born at the campground; Megan. And then the caboose, Andrew, came along. Meanwhile the campground added a few more sites and boat rentals. In 2007, just before the Great Recession, Bill and Ruth cashed in much of their remaining retirement funds and applied for permits to double the number of sites, put in two more bathhouses, and add amenities. The gamble paid off in several ways: first, those retirement funds would have been wiped out in the crash; second, the wire and boxes and plumbing fixtures purchased that winter went up severely in price, saving thousands of dollars; and finally drawing many more campers. We have enjoyed the growth we have experienced since then — giant lake toys and a giant jumping pillow have been entertaining kids and adults alike since 2009. More brightly colored playground equipment has been added. In 2014 we opened a championship 18-hole mini golf course that is 100% ADA accessible. Small Country Campground has grown and evolved in the seasons since it’s purchase into one of the premier destinations in Central Virginia, hosting visitors and groups, large events, and intimate weddings, and families of regulars through its decades of exciting growth. And yet, the vision is far from complete — more fun things are slated on the horizon! In June of 2016, we added two new members of the management team – our granddaughter Brady signed on as our Campground Manager, and the BIG BOSS – Brady’s sweet son Timmy – has taken over everything else! We are excited and proud of the growth of our cherished family owned and operated adventure. Stay tuned for more on the Small Country Campground, and come be part of our family — enjoy our beautiful lake, experience wonderful nature in our many ways to stay, and dozens of amenities and entertainment for the whole family to love.