For those that have lived in Christiansburg and the surrounding area for several years, most have probably heard of Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church on High Street.
It was named after Captain Charles S. Schaeffer who was born Nov. 16, 1830 in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
He was the commander of a company in the Federal Army during the Civil War, and following its end, he was sent take charge of the Freedmen’s Bureau, or commonly known as the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, established in 1865 by Congress to help former slaves and poor southerners in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Capt. Schaeffer was able to secure a tract of land on the summit in Christiansburg where the Veterans of Foreign Wars building is now located on High Street. He organized a parsonage, a small church and a school at the location, and served as both the general supervisor and administrator.
In 1869, he became the church’s minister and served at the position for nearly 20 years.
A small bust statue sits on the lawn of the church honoring the reverend.
But a recent discussion of a bigger cell tower to be located behind the church brought out more than just the tower’s critics. Several people asked whether the nearby roadway of Shaffer Street and Shaffer Drive were named after Schaeffer.
Initially, town staff said they did not know for sure. The research that has been done, according to Acting Town Manager Randy Wingfield, is that the streets are indeed named after Schaeffer.
That’s where the problem lies—the street names do not match the historical figure’s name or the church that was named after him. Or should we say, they were not spelled accordingly.
Town spokesperson Melissa Powell said staff has researched the street name and discovered the “Shaffer” spelling shows up on a 1966 map, meaning the street has been misspelled for at least 50 years. “Whoops” was a word some members of the community used to describe the blunder.
Earlier in the week during, during a regularly scheduled meeting, council asked Wingfield to correct the problem and change the street name to the correct spelling.
Approximately 12 homes will be affected along the streets. The local 911 center will have to adjust. The Post office will have to recognize the correction, and the Virginia DMV will have to change their records. Most of all, the reverend will now be remembered as a person who could correctly spell his family name.
Powell said the town is sending letters to residents on Schaeffer Street and Schaeffer Drive alerting them to the change.
“We’ll then update the existing signage in November, after residents and the appropriate contacts (GIS, 911 Authority, etc.) are notified,” she said.
The correct spelling for the street is the way local leaders believe it was intended.