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Reprinted from the Daily News Record February 8, 2024

By HARLEIGH CUPP Daily News-Record


BRIDGEWATER  Wednesday marked an important milestone in the town of Bridgewater's history, that is, 189 years since its founding.


According to historic records, the first settlers in the area now known as Bridgewater arrived in the 1740s and were of Scotch-Irish descent. They were soon followed by German settlers and the area became known as McGills Ford around 1759. Several families including John and William McGill who owned approximately 350 acres on either side of the North River built mills and established farms.


Over the course of the early 1800s, the name of the settlement along the North River was changed from McGill's Ford to Dinkletown to Bridgeport as new roads made different parts of the Valley more accessible and population of the soon-to-be township surged.

The bridge from which Bridgewater's namesake is derived was constructed in 1820. Six other bridges have taken its place in the generations following.


On February 7, 1835, the settlement was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly as the Town of Bridgewater. The name was derived from its proximity to the North River, the bridges prominence, and the ports ceasing to be a major part of the community. The original land area within the town was approximately twenty acres.


So on each February 7, the town of Bridgewater sets aside a day charter day to remember its heritage and look forward to its future.


This year's charter day festivities included the town's second annual "big block of cheese day" where residents were encouraged to stop by town hall and solicit their questions, comments or concerns to town personnel. In return, town officials had pieces of locally made cheese for residents to snack on.


This tradition hails from then-President Andrew Jacksons custom of setting aside a day for the public to speak with his cabinet and be served with a slice of cheese in the process. Last year's "big block of cheese day" was such a success, Bridgewater decided to bring it back. Police Chief Philip Read was slicing cheese and taking questions all afternoon.


A block of locally-made Cheddar cheese from Mountain Branch Creamery served as the centerpiece for the Town of Bridgewater's second annual Big Block of Cheese Day as part of their Charter Day celebrations.

Read reported that about a dozen or so residents participated in "big block of cheese day" this year. While everyone had suggestions for improvements to the town, no major items of concern were brought to attention and most people gave praise to Bridgewater staff for a job well done.


Naturally, it was hard for a dozen people to work through an eight-pound block of cheddar and Read noted that there were plenty of leftovers.


During the afternoon hours, Generations Park hosted a special round of Shufflecurl for

community members to watch or participate. By the time Sipe Center was opening for charter day's main event, however, the rink had transitioned to an all-skate once more.


At 7 p.m., roughly 50 people filtered into the Sipe Center theater where they heard selections of song performed by the Bridgewater College Chorale and Turner Ashby Chamber Choir and were entertained by Larry Elkins of the Bridgewater Historical Society with a brief round of town trivia. Sweet treats prepared by Sugar and Bean Cafe were also served.


The icing on the cake for this charter day, however, was a presentation of Bridgewater's first-ever ABLE award to former town mayor Hallie Dinkle.


Mayor Ted Flory explained that the town created the award in order to honor someone who stands out as "a better life exemplar." The ABLE award will be given annually to someone town staff and council feels has devoted their time and resources to making Bridgewater a better place to live much like the settlers who came so long ago.


"It is no easy task following Hallie Dinkel as mayor," Flory remarked. "In terms of civility, professionalism and plain common sense, Hallie set the bar high for all who come after him. Even after stepping down as mayor, he has continued to serve the town on the planning commission offering both his knowledge of the town and his expertise in real estate. There simply was no better choice for our inaugural ABLE award than Hallie Dinkel."


Dinkel grew up in Bridgewater, and after serving 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, he returned home to raise a family of his own. For the last 37 years, Dinkel has served the town in a variety of capacities.


After Flory's announcement, Dinkel approached the stage where he took the heavy plaque in his hands and received a standing ovation from those in attendance. With tears in his eyes and a slight choke in his throat, Dinkel expressed his gratitude for being named Bridgewater's first ABLE honoree.


"It's an understatement to say that I'm honored," Dinkel said. "Anybody that knows me knows how much I love this town and how proud I am of it. I'm totally unapologetic when I say how great this town is it's the best little town in the state of Virginia."


Contact Harleigh Cupp at 540-574-6279 or