Wampler Business Records
Scope and Content
The Wampler Family Business Records, 1916-1972, consists of 11 cubic feet and 31 boxes of material documenting Wampler Foods Incorporated. The collection is primarily comprised of personal and business correspondence of Charles Wampler Sr. The collection includes bound ledgers, financial documents, print material, reports, memoranda, and pictures. The collection is arranged topically into eleven series. Series include Administrative Files, Correspondence, Date Books, Farm Ledgers, Financial Papers, Philanthropy and Professional Organizations, Photographs, Press and Advertising Files, Print and Ephemera, Reports and Studies, and Business and Organization lists.
- Creation: 1916-1972
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The Wampler family emerged upon the American poultry industry in the early twentieth century changing the industry practices and beliefs. As a result of their success, the Wamplers became one of the most influential families in Rockingham County, Virginia and helped the Shenandoah Valley garner the moniker "Turkey Capital of the Nation.”
In 1811, John Wampler and family, members of the Brethren Church, moved from Pennsylvania to the Timberville area of the county during a period when large groups of Brethren were migrating south. During the Civil War, John Wampler III gained notoriety for supposedly thwarting Union General Philip Sheridan’s attempt to burn his family’s barn. After the war, in 1871, John Wampler III purchased a farm in Dayton that he named Sunny Slope and built a house there. Under the setting of Sunny Slope, John Wampler III’s children and grandchildren made their many significant contributions to agriculture.
Charles W. Wampler Sr., third son of John Wampler III, was born in 1886 and took quickly to the agricultural development of the county. He became a county agricultural agent and was an accomplished livestock farmer raising chickens and cattle. Eventually, he settled into turkey farming and started Rockingham County’s first turkey hatchery. It was during this time that he became known as the “Father of the Modern Turkey Industry” because of his success in various agricultural experiments that changed the face of modern turkey farming. One of his earliest experiments was using chicken incubators to hatch turkey eggs. Starting with only ninety eggs, Wampler Sr. was able to hatch fifty-two poults. Another Charles Wampler Sr. innovation all but ended the wide spread practice of free-range turkey farming in commercial operations. Wampler Sr. believed, and was able to show, that free-range turkeys were less cost effective to raise as they expended more energy and required more feed at the expense of the farmer. Wampler practiced “incubation and confinement” which soon became the standard among successful poultry growers.
Charles Wampler Sr. also served as the first Rockingham County Extension Agent and founded the Wampler Feed and Seed Company in 1927 with two of his brothers. The company mixed feed for distribution to livestock and turkeys. Wampler Feed and Seed was the first in the nation to contract with farms to grow poultry. Wampler also helped found the National Turkey Federation. Among his many philanthropic activities, Charles Wampler Sr. served on the Board of Trustees for Bridgewater College, on the Board of Visitors for Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Home Society of Virginia.
Charles Wampler Jr. was born at Sunny Slope on November 25, 1915 as one of nine children (six daughters and three sons.) He attended Bridgewater College for two years and Rutgers University for one year. His early indoctrination in the poultry business began at the age of seven when he and a sister, with the aid of their mother, prepared feed for turkeys in the family business. Crushed eggs and oatmeal were the two main components of the feed. In 1936, his career officially began as a “field man” for Wampler Feed and Seed - traveling to various growers and inspecting livestock. Eventually, Charles Jr. became the company’s general manager when Charles Sr. retired. In 1969, Wampler hatcheries, feed mills, and grower operations joined with Virginia Valley Processing to become Wampler Food Incorporated. Poultry processing, hatcheries, and growers were combined as a single corporation with Charles Wampler Jr. as president. In 1984, Charles Jr. oversaw the merger between Wampler Foods and Longacre Farms out of Franconia, Pennsylvania. By 1986, Wampler-Longacre acquired the Rockingham Poultry Cooperative and formed WLR Foods Incorporated with Charles Jr. as chairman of the board.
In addition to his business career, Charles Wampler Jr. had an equally distinguished career in service. Charles Jr. was a district representative for Rockingham County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1954 until 1965 serving on several committees including Agriculture, Finance, and Labor. In 1957, he co-founded the United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. From 1971 to 1984, Charles Jr. served as president and chairman of the board for the Rockingham Memorial Hospital. He has also served on James Madison University’s Board of Visitors and the Rockingham County School Board. In 1990, he received James Madison University’s Common Wealth award in recognition of outstanding contributions to the community. In addition, Charles Wampler Jr. was a member of the Church of the Brethren in Harrisonburg.
11 cubic feet (31 boxes)
Language of Materials
This collection contains correspondence, reports, photographs, business documents, financial statements, publications, and other documents that relate to the businesses of Charles Wampler Sr. (Wampler Feed and Seed Company) primarily and to a lesser degree his son, Charles Wampler Jr. (Wampler Food Incorporated). Correspondence comprises the bulk of the collection.
The collection is arranged chronologically by topic in the following eleven series:
- Administrative Files, 1937-1972
- Correspondence, 1918-1971
- Date Books, 1939-1965
- Farm Ledgers, 1932-1951
- Financial Files, 1941-1971
- Philanthropic and Professional Organizations, 1939-1971
- Photographs, 1939-1971
- Press and Advertising Files, 1920-1963
- Print and Ephemera, 1916-1971
- Reports and Studies, 1927-1969
- Business and Organization lists, 1941-1967
The bulk of this collection came from the Wampler family’s Sunny Slope Farm Property near Dayton, Virginia. In 2009, James Madison University history professor Daniel Kerr was in communication with Barbara Melby, daughter of Charles W. Wampler Jr., who occupied the Sunny Slope property at that time. Mrs. Melby identified the storage of documents within the barn. After an initial inspection of the material, arrangements to transfer the material to Special Collections for cleaning, rehousing, and processing were made.
Donated by Barbara W. Melby, daughter of Charles W. Wampler Jr., and Lawrence D. Bowers in May 2009.
Several publications relating to local matters were pulled from the collection, cataloged individuallly, and added to Special Collections’ rare book holdings.
- Charles W. Wampler Jr., interview by Jessica Silveri, March 15, 2007, transcript, Shenandoah Valley Oral History Project, Harrisonburg, VA. Virginia House of Delegates.
- Historical Bio for Charles W. Wampler. Virginia House of Delegates. http://dela.state.va.us/dela/Membios.nsf/94f6e9b9c9b5678f85256b1b00732227/024c8d9337c5d82485256d780068407b?OpenDocument&Highlight=0,charles,Wampler (accessed May 04, 2011).
- Wampler, Charles W. My Grandfather, my grandchildren and me; an autobiography. Harrisonburg, VA; Dayton, VA: Shenandoah Press, 1968.
In order to streamline the process of applying collection numbers, Special Collections staff completed a large-scale renumbering campaign in 2017-2018. This collection was previously cataloged as SC 5024. During this time the collection was minimally reprocessed meaning that it was physically rehoused to eliminate the previous arrangement of housing according to series and the description was updated and enhanced where necessary.
- Wampler family (Family)
- Wampler, Charles W., Jr., 1915-2017 (Person)
- Wampler, Charles Weldon, Sr., 1885-1976 (Person)
- Wampler family -- Correspondence (Family)
- WLR Foods, Inc. -- History (Organization)
- Wampler Feed & Seed Co. -- History (Organization)
Genre / Form
- Administrative records
- Business records
- Letters (correspondence)
- Printed Ephemera
- Publications (documents)
- Dayton (Va.) -- Industries -- History
- Rockingham County (Va.) -- History -- Sources
- Sunny Slope (Dayton, Va. : Estate)
- Virginia -- Genealogy -- Sources
- Virginia -- History, Local -- Sources
- Agricultural extension workers
- Agricultural industries -- Equipment and supplies
- Agriculture -- Economic aspects
- Broilers (Chickens) -- Economic aspects -- Virginia
- Family-owned business enterprises -- Virginia
- Farm management
- Farm supplies
- Poultry -- Breeding
- Poultry -- Hatcheries
- Poultry -- Management
- Poultry -- Processing
- Poultry -- Shenandoah River Valley (Va. and W. Va.)
- Poultry -- Virginia -- Rockingham County
- Poultry industry
- Seed industry and trade -- Equipment and supplies
- Seed industry and trade -- History
- A Guide to the Wampler Business Records, 1916-1972
- Trevor Alvord, Kathryn Barela, Gabriel Camut, and James Dennis; Tiffany Cole
- May 2011, September 2018
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2018-09: Collection was minimally reprocessed. Scope note was added to folder "Correspondence, September-October 1971" to include excerpt of racist comments made by Wampler in October 11, 1971 letter.
- Fall 2020: Scope note for folder "Correspondence, September-October 1971" was revised to remove excerpt of racist comments made by Wampler in October 11, 1971 letter.