In the mid-19th century a stone obelisk was erected to memorialize the heroism of Frank Padget, an enslaved man who lost his life during a rescue effort of some 40 people following the worst accident ever to occur on the James River and Kauawba Canal. On January 21, 1854, the James River had reached dangerous levels and a canal boat, the Clinton, drifted towards the Balcony Falls Gorge. Crew members were stuck on a rock near the falls. The next day Frank Padget, a skilled navigator of the river, launched a rescue boat and worked diligently to try and save the 40 railroad workers from the bateaux. He died while trying to save the last crew member from the rock after the rest had been successfully rescued.
The monument is a four-foot granite obelisk. The inscription on the obelisk is highly eroded and reads: "In memory of Frank Padget a coloured [sic] slave who during a freshet in James River in January 1854 ventured and lost his life by drowning in the noble effort to save some of his fellow Creatures who were in the midst of the flood, from death." Note: a "freshet" is a water flow resulting from sudden rain or melting snow. The monument was originally erected near Lock 16 of the Blue Ridge Canal by Capt. Edward Echols, a local landowner who witnessed the act. In the 1990s, Tom Kastner, a retired pilot for the US Navy, persuaded the CSX Corp. to give him the monument. Subsequently, he relocated the monument to Centennial Park in the nearby town of Glasgow.
Geographical and Contact Information
1760 Blue Ridge Rd