By Kevin Slimp
I like to tell people that Lennox Valley rests in a lovely place where two mountain ranges meet. The truth is that there are no mountain ranges. At least not within a few hundred miles of Lennox Valley. The area was first settled in the mid 1800s by European immigrants in search of a better life. What they found was land that seemed fertile for farming, although the winters were considerably harsher than what they were used to back home. Not the temperature so much. The wind, which never seemed to rest, made this a challenging place to call home.
But home it was. And soon the beginnings of a town square started to take shape. The first church was built. Lutheran, of course. A livery, along with a general store, were the first businesses.
Lennox Valley wasn’t the original name of the community. The first European settlers called it Varnyahem (from “Var nya hem”), which in their native language meant “our new home.”
In the 1870s, a banker took up residence in the village and soon owned a sizable portion of the town. He had two sons when he arrived and soon a third was born. Eventually, he and his wife celebrated the birth of their daughter, Lennox.
To this day, no one is sure how the village of Varnyahem became the town of Lennox Valley. Old-timers tell various tales that they heard from their parents and grandparents. One particularly humorous version claims that the banker agreed to pay for signs that would adorn both entrances to the village. When the signs were unveiled, they bore the name Lennox Valley. The local citizenry, being the kind, timid people they were, decided not to make a fuss.
Another story, more likely true, finds the banker making major contributions to both of the town churches in honor of his beautiful daughter. The pews and stained glass windows adorning All Saints Catholic Church are still in place to this day. And, according to this story, the thankful villagers renamed the town in honor of young Lennox.
Whatever the real story behind the name, Lennox Valley does not sit in a valley. Nor does it rest near any mountain range. It is a quaint place, though. A lovely place to call home. With a town square, four churches, a Hofbrau (where one can find a fine Reuben sandwich), both VFW and Ruritan clubs, and thirteen hundred and forty souls who call it home.
In my younger years, Lennox Valley was home to one radio station, FM 88.3, featuring Renderings with Raymond “each weekday from noon till 3.” While the rest of the country seemed fixated on Friends and The X Files, the most popular TV show in the Valley was Walker, Texas Ranger in 1998.
To outsiders, life moved very slowly in Lennox Valley, but with a traffic light on Bearden’s Corner, a new Methodist pastor to be announced any day, discussions surrounding the Federal Reserve System reaching near-fever pitch and a yet-to-be-announced protest of the First Baptist Church Annual Men’s Breakfast and Turkey Shoot on the horizon, life in the Valley was anything but slow in April 1998.