TRAGEDY IN CO. "I", 18TH REGIMENT -The Quill Pen- Pittsylvania Historical Society
"Explorers" from The Quill Pen-Pittsylvania Historical Society
"Neighborhood Schools" from Pittsylvania Historical Society
"Long Hunters Were First White Settler Coming to Pittsylvania County."-Star Tribune-6/15/67
"Historical Notes on Pittsylvania-Chatham Once Was Named Competition"-Star-Tribune-6/15/67
"Episcopalians Had Churches Here In 1752"-Star-Tribune 6/15/67
"Interesting Articles and News Items From Tribune Files Star-Tribune 6/15/67
"Town of Gretna Dates to Civil War" Star-Tribune 6/15/67
"Samuel Harris Early Leader in Pirrsylvania" Star-Tribune 6/15/67
"Bannister Academy" Star-Tribune 6/15/67
"Oldest Veteran" Star-Tribune 6/15/67
"Gunpowder Made At Clement Hill During War-1775 Star-Tribune 6/15/67
"Indians Grew Tobacco Before White Settlers" Star-TRibune 6/15/67
"The Chathamn Greys Left In Hig Spirits to Lick The Yankees" Star Tribune 6/15/67
"Mrs. Clements's History Published in 1929, Basis For Becentennial" Star-Tribune 6/15/67
"Pittsylvania County" writen by David Porter from files of the late Mrs. James S. Jones as published in the Star-Tribune 6/15/67
"First Chatham Post Office Established Here in 1794" Star-Tribune 6/15/67
"World Famous Train Wreck Occurred in Pittsylvania County" Star-Tribune 6/15/67
Notice in Confederate Veteran Magazine
it All Began For the City on the Dan-Danville Register and Bee
TRAGEDY IN CO. "I", 18TH REGIMENT
The Quill Pen- Pittsylvania Historical Society
The proud and jaunty "Spring Garden Blues",,
an element of the 18th Regiment of Virginia
Infantry, marched away from their headquarters
on April 29, 1861. They were headed for
Richmond, little knowing the sad fate that
awaited many of their number.
Before the end of the War Between the States
some members of the company had died of
sickness on the field, of sickness while at home,
of wounds in hospitals—while the fate of others
could never be determined; they just didn’t
Here, then, is a company roster denoting the fate
R. E. Withers, Col.
*J.C. Luck, Capt.
*E. D. Oliver, 1 Lt.
F.A. Luck, 2 Lt.
#Wm. Fitzgerald, 3 Lt
#N.W. Walker, 1 Sgt.
#J.S. Wooding, 2 Sgt.
#I.N. Dodson, 3 Sgt.
G. W. Jones, 4 Sgt
J. Jennings, 5 Sgt.
O.F. Terry, 1 Corp.
Wm. Hodnett, 2 Corp
D.N. Adkinson, 3 Corp
J. Fitzgerald, 4 Corp
A. V. Allen private
*W. H. Adams
R. W. Barksdale
Wm. H. Clardy
James T. Clark
#Asa B. Douglas
*W. E. Hardy
B. W. Kirby
T.R. M. Wade
"Long Hunters Were First White Settlers Coming To Pittsylvania County"
Star-Tribune Newspaper Bicentennial Issue Thursday, June 15, 1967
Long before the white man established himself in Pittsylvania, its inhabitants were known to their neighbors to the north and east. To the westward part of Pittsylvania there ran a war trail by which the fierce Iroquois and Mohawks traveled in their maurauding expeditions against the tribes to the south.
The Narhisson, or Monacan Indians, the inhabitants of Pittsylvania were a powerful tribe but gave more attention to agricultural pursuits than to scalp-taking and so they were constantly menaced and harassed by the Iroquois and the warlike tribes of eastern Virginia. This constant warfare finally depopulated the county of its original inhabitants who moved southward and lost their identity by mingling with the other tribes for protection.
The first Englishmeb to visit the county were the "Long Hunters" or trappers, who found this part of Virginia fairly teeming with furbearing animals, bears, wild turkeys, deer and other wild life.
The year 1740 marked the entrance of the white man into Pittsylvania for settlement. Settlements were made on Dan River and Otter Creek (now Bannister River)on which the chief villiage of the Narhissons had been located. The southern boundary of the state and county had been fixed in 1728 when Colonel William Byrd of Westover surveyefd the Virginia-Carolina line.
Halifax County, containing also Pittsylvania, Henry and Patrick, was formed in 1752 with Peytonsburg as the county seat. This is now a small settlement in the eastern part of Pittsylvania, but during the Colonial wars and the Revolution it was an important supply center and military prison. From here the wagon trains supplied General Nathaniel Greene's army with food and munitions during the southern campaigns of 1780. Horseshoes were made for the Continential Armies in the blacksmith shops at Peytonsburg and a canteen factory there produced 500 canteens per day.
The real history of Pittsylvania begins June 1, 1767, with the formation of a new county of the Old Dominion, Pittsylvania, so called in hoinor of the great English friend of the American colonists, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Pittsylvania also contained Henry and Patrick Counties, but in 1777 was cut to its present size. What is now the tiny village of Callands was selected as the county seat and named Chatham in honor of the Earl of Chatham. But the popularity of a young English merchant of the place, Samuel Callands, overshadowed the distant greatness of the Earl and the first town of Chathamn lost its identity in becoming Callands. This village was the center of county activity during the stirring days of the Revolution.
The first County Lieutenant of Pittsylvania was John Donelson, one of the founders of the State of Tennessee and his home, "Markham" was located on Bannister River about twelve miles east of the present town of Chatham. Here his daughter, Rachel, grew into womanhood and later became the wife of President Andrew Jackson. On Stanton near Altavista stands the old home of Captain Benjamin Clement, one of the pioneer settler of the county and the first man to successfully make gunpowder in Virginia. "Oak Hill" (the colonial home of Colonel Peter Perkins and noted for its beautiful boxwood gardens, is in the southern part of Pittsylvania near Bachelor's Hall. It was used as a hospital for Greene's army during the retreat from the Carolinas in 1780.
The part played by Pittsylvania in the Revolution was no small one. Callands was the gathering point for troops, an arsenal being located there for supplying equipment. Down the Franklin Turnpike from Callands marched the "Pittsylvania Riflemen", a volunteer company commanded by Captain Thomas Hutcherings, to compose part of the brigarde of General Daniel Morgan in the Continental Army, and it is probably that they assisted in the seige of Boston. The military census of 1775 shows that the Pittsylvania Militia numbered 1436 men capable of bearing arms. Pittsylvania sent her sons to many battlefields, serving with Washingotn, with Greene in the Carolinas at Eutaw Springs and Guilford Courthouse where they acquitted themselves creditably; and in quelling Indian outbreaks. In addition to her men, Pittsylvania was also an important source of supplies of all kinds for use by armies.
Desiring a more central location for the county seat, on January 1, 1777 the county government was moved from Callands to a place on Cherrystone Creek(the present site of Chatham). But Callands still holds much of interest and veneration for the native Pittsylvanian. While the courthouse at Callands was never completed and a private home was used for the colonial trials, yet county records show that contract was given, and ruins of the stone foundations are still to be seen. The old oak around which the Pittsylvanias stacked their muskets after the disbanding to the Continenial Army is still standing in the village.
Due to a contraversy over the location of the courthouse, the new county seat received the name "Competition" which later became Chathanm after the first county seat. The courthouse was loated in a ravine, but in a few years was removed to its present site and the present building erected. Chatham was a center for travel and a stopping place for wagon trains. The "Hickey Road" running from Chatham, westward to Henry, is still used and was cut through the wildness by James Hickey for his wagons to reach his store in what is now Henry County. Dix's Ferry over Dan River a few miles below Danville,served as a means of communication with the South. The old Beaver Tavern about 15 miles south of Chatham was a favorite resort for travelers and a muster place for county militia.
The first half of the nineteenth century was a period of growth and development for the county. Pittsylvania had no public school system but scattered throughout the county were private academies in which the young people received their early trainning. An example of this type of school was the academy of Mr.Godfrey at the village of Whitmell. At this period Pittsylvania had been reduced to the present size of 1015 square miles and several important towns were growing up within her borders. Danville having been incorporated in 1792.
On April 17, 1861, when Virginia passed the Ordinance of Seccession, Pittsylvania men rallied to the cause of their State and marched from Chatham to serve under the flag of the Confederacy. The "Chatham Grays", Company 1, was one of the first to march and went into camp at Williamsburg where measles played havoc in the ranks. Danville also sent many men. There were also many county men scattered in different other organizations. Ten Pittsylvania Companies distinguished themselves in the memorial charage of Pickett's Division up Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg and suffered severe losses. At Chatham a Confederate memorial stands on the Court Green in honor of the 53rd Virginia Regiment and its Pittsylvania members.
Located in Danville is the Sutherlin Mansion, now Danville's Public Library. "The Last Capitol of the Confederacy" which Jefferson used as headquarters following the evacuation of Richmnond before the surrender of Lee at Appomattox. It is now kept as a memorial to the Lost Cause
The public school system of Pittsylvania was not founded until 1870, but since that time it has made rapid progress.
Within the past few years Pittsylvania has made rapid progress in industry, education and agricultural interests, the majority of Pittsylvania farmers being property holders. Danville, Chatham, Greta and Hurt, her three towns, each holds an important place in the life of their adjacent rural sections. While tobacco is still the chief money crop, corn, wheat, and other grains and livestock are increasingly inportant as income sources. Industrial development has also openned up new avenues of income, which has contributed to the progress of the county
"Historical Notes on Pittsylvania ---Chatham Once Was Named Competition"
In 1791, in the official capacity as President, the Father of our Country, made a tour of the Southern States. He kept a diary of his trip and records that he spent the night at Petonsburg. He wrote that after leaving Guilford (now Greensboro) and traveling all day he came to "one Gatewood" (near Danville), where he spent the night, then continued on his way to Petonsburg.
Two hundred years ago Pittsylvania was a part of Lunenburg County, which occupied a vast territory of southern Virginia, all the way from Brunswick County to the Blue Ridge.
In 1752, because of the great influx of new settlers to this beautiful and productive domain, the General Assembley forned a new county, Halifax, and its county seat was named Peytonsburg.
The population grew. The land was rich and promising, and once again the Legislature had to divide the county. In 1776, Pittsylvania was formed extending westward from its present boundary to include what is now Patrick, Henry, and part of Franklin.
The place selected for the new county seat was the present site of Callands, chosen because of the springs from the headwater of Sandy River.
A young man by the name of James Roberts agreed to build a courthouse at this site, and in November, 1769, the General Assembly established a town there and conferred upon it the name of Chatham, in honor of William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham.
In 1776 petitions were made to the General Assembly to divide Pitttdsylvania County once more. Petition was granted. So on January 1,1777, Pittsylvania assumed its present boundaries, the new county formed being named Henry. In spite of its divisions, Pittsylvania remains to this day the States's largest county.
Now it so happened that young Roberts, who was to build the new Pittsylvania CourtHouse had met with financial troubles and the courthouse originally planned for Chatham (which is now Callands)was abandoned. Court was held instead in homes of prominent citizens. War was in progress and so no court house was built at that time.
The most convenient site was Cherrystone Meeting House Spring, situated in the ravine between Depot Hill and the present residence of Mrs. Jodseph Whitehead, Sr. in Chatham. The present day Chatham that is.
Since what is now Callands was at that time officially named Chatham, the county seat pro tem was known simply as Pittsylvania Courthouse.
In 1782, a courthouse was erected, not in the ravine, but on top of the hill where Mrs. Whitehead now lives. The new courthouse was a brick structure fronted with tall, white columns and built by one David Hunt at a cost of 4000 pounds of tobacco.
The courthouses were in those days the center of county life, politics, society and a general meeting place. Come court week, everybody hitched up his wagon and rode to the county seat.
Since travel was accomplished almost entirely on horse or on foot, many people had to stop for the night along the way. Consequently conveniences of taverns to court was a matter of general concern. Thus, certain prominent citizens wanted a court house near a tavern. In 1806 the dispute was hot and feeling ran high. Argument flew thick and fast and finially it took the State Legislature,Jan 8, 1807 to settle the matter.
The General Assembly authorized another court house to be erected at its present site on Main Street, at the same time establishing a town naming it Competition on account of the contention between the factions.
The county seat of Pittsylvania bore the name of Competition for 67 years.
Then in 1874 a resolution was submited to the General Assembly to name the town Chathan in view of the fact that what is now Callands was never really called Chatham. The reason for this was that a young Scotsman named Samuel Calland had opened a store there during the Revoolutionary War. He proved to be a man of many interests and amassed a large estate. His influence was so great that it overshadowed the namne of Chatham, and so the settlement has always been known as Callands.
To honor William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, the General Assembly approvied the resolution and so Chatham was therefore called Chatham, and Callands residents went on calling their hometown Callands.
When this resolution was approved by the State Legislature, Henry St. George Tucker, then Clerk of the House of Delegates, wrote on a blotter:
"Immortal Pitt! How great thy fame,
when Competition yields to Chatham's name"
by Arthur DePonceau.
"Episcopalians Had Churches Here in 1752"
Star-Tribune Bicentennial Issue 6/15/67
The Episcopal faith in Pittsylvania County dates back to late colonial days. In 1752 when this county was a part of Halifax three churches were established within its area.
The vestry meetings of the first Episcopalians, Antrim Parish, were held at the Court House in Peytonsburg. In the list of early vestrymen of Antrim Parish organized in 1752 eight were members whose homes were in the western part of the parish which later became Pittsylvania and Camden Parish. They were Thomas Calloway, Thomas Dillar, James Dillard, John Donelson, Peter Wilson, Samuel Harris, Hugh Innes and Archibald Gordon. Harris later became a famous Baptist minister.
Upon the formation of Pittsylvania County and Camden Parish in 1767, four new churches were built located near Chalk Level, Rondo, Toshes and Leatherwood. The home of the colonial minister, known as the Glebe, was a plantation of 588 acres, also situated near Rondo. Early ministers who served the parish were the Rev. Alexander Gordon, the Rev. James Stevenson and the Rev. Lewis G.William.
The Church of England was so closely associated in the minds of the people with the English government that after the successful close of the Revolutionary War these congregations of Pittsylvania died out. But Camden Parish was represented at the Convention which met in Richmond on May 18, 1785 for the purpose of organizing the church. The last recorded meeting of the Colonial Vestry of Camden Parish was held at the home of James Roberts when Colonel Haynes Morgan, a lawyer living near Riceville and Abram Shelton who lived near Chalk Level were appointed to represent the parish at the Richmond convention.
Although the church was at a low ebb throughout Virginia, there were faithful church families here and there through the county, like thr Smiths, Coles, Abram Sheltons, Millers, Fitzpatricks and Slaughters of the Mt. Airy and Chalk Level neighbors, who built St. Andrews Church in 1832 that they might have an occassional service.
The Chatham Emmanuel Episcopal Church was officially founded in 1844, on a lot on Main Street purchased for $250 from William H. Tunstall, Clerk of the county, and was deeded to Charles Calloway, William Rison, James L. Poindexter, George H. Gilmer, Joseph M. Terry, Walter Coles and Benjamin Rives.
"Interesting Ad and News Items From Tribune Files"
"Whiskey By The Drink Sold at 23 Saloons In Chatham Years Ago"
Star-Tribune Bicentennial Issue 6/15/1967
Turning back the pages of time makes interesting reading in old issues of the Pittsylvania Tribune-when whiskey by the drink was sold in town on almost every corner.
You would think the people of Chatham, during the 1877-90 period, lived it up-that is if you took a look at the advertisements in the Tribune of these years when there were 23 saloons at he county seat.
Along with the lively news of those days, here are samples of liquor ads published in the Tribune, taken from issues of 1877-90.
Take a look at these advertisements which were printed on the front page.
"W.T. Hardy, dealer in fine whiskies and brandies, main street, Chatham. You will find me at my place of business at all hours, day or night."
Other advertisements read: "For the best whiskey, brandy, wine or beer, call at J.R. Yates saloon, spposite Carter's Hotel, Chatham, and you can be supplied by John L. Cary, who is managering for me. John R. Yates, owner."
"Wm. E. Goolsby Saloon at the depot. A barrell of pure country brandy just received!"
You might get the idea that the Tribune was filled with whiskey ads, but there were many other public notices. The lawyers advertised in those days, and those listed in Chatham in 1885 were: James L. Tredway,B.B. Munford, George R. Rison and John Gilmer-all famous names in Pittsylvania's past history.
The July 20, 1877 issue of the Tribune announced "The firm of H. Davis, L. H. Pigg, and J. J. Hardwicke dissolved, and Pigg and Davis will continue as publishers of the Tribune".
In the same issue, Dr. R. W. Martin, Chatham physican of Civil War fame, reported diptheria raging in the rural areas of Pittsylvania county.
In a Feb, 1885 issue, local merchants and business firms advertised in the Tribune, as follows:
"B.S. White livery and feed stable, main street, Chatham. Driver will find convenient lots and good accomodations for horses and mules."
"R.F. Luck opened on Nov. 1, 1884 in Chatham to do roofing, guttering and spouting on short notice."
"W.W. Motley & Bros, confectioners. We promise to sell you nothing but what is pure and fresh. We have fine quality cheese, try a pound or two."
"J. H. Watson & Son. Dressed and undressed lumber. Whittles Station."
"J. H. Hargrave Sr., Chatham, keeps a full supply of Old Hickory and Tennessee wagons for sale."
"Just received 5000 yds 4-4 yard wide, best plant bed cloth at only 2 1/2c per yd. Willie R. Terry, Shockoe"
"Tin Roofing 5 1/2 c per foot, guttering 10c-opposite drug store, George White"
"I have twenty barrels of choice family flour for sale. W.H. Crews"
"Full line of garden seed at S.J. Turner, druggist, Chatham"
"C.D. Mott, Chatham, has coffins, burial robes. Just received a fresh supply of walnut coffins from longest to smallest. Also burial robes for ladies and gents. My stock can be seen over Jones Store"
A big news item on April 25, 1890 told that "the chances of Chatham being selected as the site of the Virginia Baptist Orphanage are very good."
The news item went on to tell "A delegation came to Chatham this morning by train and inspected the homes of Dr. R. W. Martin and John Gilmer as possible sites for the Virginia Baptist Orphanage."
"The Chatham Committee waited on the visitors and told of the advantages of the town; pointed out that the drinking water comes from a reservoir and pours from the hydrant spouts in a strong clear and pure stream.
The warm and --- spectors were refreshed from pitchers of cool lemonade, and then taken to the station and thet left Chathm at 5 p.m. enroute to Liberty."(Editors note; Chatham didn't get it-the orphanage was located at Salem)
"On February 20, 1885 a meeting of subscribers was called by the joint stock company to plan for the erection of a tobacco warehouse and tobacco factory in Chatham. The notice was signed by J.J. Lamkin, chairman."
A correspondent from Berger's Store reported "Born to Dr. and Mrs. John Jones, Jr., a son, on the coltest day in many years."
Editor Pigg wrote: "At the recent session of the Legislature, an act was passed March 1885 requiring all rail roads to establish depot ten miles apart and telegraph offices at each depot, and to use spark arrestors on the engines."
"Supervisors had problems in 1885, according this news in the Tribune: "The supervisions will meet to discuss the controversial fence law, and likely will submit the question to a vote of the people this spring."
Income taxes were problems too in those days: "Judge Davis this week decided in a court decision that the income taxes must be paid even if the income was invested in property which was also listed for taxation."
The modern penal laws would have prevented this: "Sheriff Overbey had some of the prisioners of the jail at work leveling the ground in the front of the jail this week."
The Tribune of April 1890 showed that modern science had come to the dentistry practice, according to this adv: "Dr. W. T. Canada, dentist, has a preparation for extracting teeth without pain. Mnay patients can testify from personal experience."
A train wreck was reported thusly: "The mixed train on the Franklin & Pittsylvania RR coming south on thrmorning of the 21 (1890) jumped the track near Union Hall and the engine and 3 cars wrecked. No loss of life."
Pessonal Notes 1890: "Mr. J. P. Hunt is planning to visit a handsome residence adjoining the Presbyterian Church."
Happenings at the courthouse: "Mr. Duval Porter delivered an interesting lecture on the "Flea" here Monday night to a small audience."
From the clerk's office: " C. H. Pickeral appointed surveyor of road from Signboard near Harmon Cook's to the Pocket Road near Henry T. Dalton. James V. Mahan appointed surveyor of Road from Cook's Mill by Anderson's mill to Green-pond-Museville Road."
Marriage license issued 1890 to Thomas D. Saunders and Mary R. M. Poindexter; George M. Neal and Elize J. Dalton; Columbus Mitchell and Dollie C. Mitchell.
Louisiana State Lottery advertised a mammouth drawing for a grand prize for $300,000.
On the front page of the 1890 Tribune;"Restaurant and Boarding House. I have rented the building formaerly occupied by Mrs. Adelene Selden, dec'd., and will conduct a first class boarding house for white people. All the delicacies of the season. Mary Ivy.
John O. DeMott had this adv in the 1890 Tribune "I have purchased a full set of plumbers utensils, and have stocked full supply of all sizes piping, both galvanized and plain. I am prepared to furnish anything connected with the waterworks business. No pay unless satisfaction given. My price will be as low, or lower, than the work done by any other firm. Signed: John O. DeMott, Chatham"
Editor Pigg's note to merchants on the value of advertising wrote "To discontinue advertising,says John Wannamaker, is to take down your sign. If you want to do business, you must let the people know Wannamaker said-I'd just as soon do business without clerks as without advertising."
J. H. Bolanz & Co, confections, fruits, nuts, was a regular advertiser in the Tribune.
Other advertisements in 1890:
R.M. Fox, watchmaker and jeweler, Chatham, at J.R. Whitehead & Son Store.
A large block ad in the Tribune attracted attention, and read "Run to Hugh Shepherd. Walk to Hugh Shepherd, Roll to Hugh Shepherd, Crawl to Hugh Shepherd-come anyway-Come every way . . . the best bargains, the prettest goods ever before in Chatham at Hugh D. Shepherd store"
Jesse I. Overbey Hardware was a regular advertiser. One ad read: "Come to Jesse I. Overbey for McCormick's mowers, reapers, and binders. They are the best on earth."
In the 1890 issue, the news from the circuit court reported that liquor licenses were approved and issued by the court to the following persons to sell whiskey: to Wm Cousins of Callands, G. A. Crews of Mt. Airy, G, W. Crist of Chatham, R. L. Dodson of Chestnut Level, C.T. Davis of Whittles Station, J.R. Glidesell of Dry Bridge, G.T. Johnson of Chatham, J.M. Marshall of Marshall's Store, T. F. Motley of Cedar Hill, J.J. Motley of Shockoe, and S. W. Mustain of Chalk Level, G. W. Oaks of Swansonville, S. H. Reynolds of Worlds, S. J. Shelton of Elba, S.S. Spruce of Chatham, C. G. Sours of Chatham, J.R. Yates of Chatham and Lola. The news item stated that other licenses would be considered at a later date.
"Town of Gretna Dates to Civil War-Name Changed From Elba In Year 1916"
Star-Tribune Bicentennial Issue 6/15/1967
In the days Piattsylvania County was being born politically, the site of Gretna was a wilderness. There was,however, a tavern just outside of what is now the town.It is sure to be more than 200 years old for it was known as Yates Old House in 1778.
Near the tavern can be seen the old road bed which ran from Peytonsburg to Smith Mountain and it can be assumed that the tavern was a most welcome site to worn and weary travellers.
Gretna's actual traceable history begins during the war betweeen the states. A young man by the name of Edward Dillard, being the happy go lucky pleasure loving soul (and just married) that he was could not bear the idea of having to leave his home to fight what he considered a commoner's war. So as was sometimes the custom for wealthy men, Edward deeded to Jeremiah Tolbot 408 acres of land (where the town now stands) in payment for services rendered as substitute for Dillard during the Civil War.
Tolbot survived the war and returned to his newly acquired land. The house that he built is still standing in part. It is located across the street from the old hotel building which has been demolished, and was occupied until just a year or so ago.
Our Mr. Tolbot turned out to be a pretty shrewd business man for from time to time he sold off these acres at a considerable profit to himself.
Railroads Locate In Gretna
In February of 1872, Jerimiah Tolbot deeded to the Lynchburg and Danville Railroad, the then proposed right-of-way in consideration for the benefits to be secured from the railroad. The railroad was completed two years later, and the first freight and passenger station was located at Wards Springs a mile north of Gretna.
In 1879 Pittsylvania and Franklin Counties together with private capital completed the Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad, connecting the two counties, one terminal at Rocky Mount, the other at Gretna, then named Franklin Junction, the post office being called Elba.
Part of the original track is tracable-at Swanson-Shelton Feed Mill, formerly Galveston Mills. The track runs across Route 29 and behind the mill. There were severaltrain wrecks during the time of the old F&P. Often when the little engine derailed, the train crew would enlist help of nearby citizens and hoist it back onto the track.
First Store Erected
After completion of the railroad, the little town of Elba began to grow. A. Hunt Tardy purchased 3 3/4 acres of land from Mr. Tolbot and erected a frame store building with a residence to the rear. The residence is today standing and occupied by Mrs. Black Shelton. The original store building was torn down and the site is now occupied by Gretna Tractor and Implement Company.
The land where upon City Market now stands was purchased by Thomas C. Creasy from Jeremiah Talbot in 1881 Herein lies a quaint story.
When Hunt Tarady purchased his land from Jeremiah Tolbot there was a provision in the deed that stated Tolbot could sell no more of his land for mercantile business. The deed to Creasy from Tolbot took cognizance of this provision.
When Creasy began work on his building, Tardy institued court proceedings; the court ruled in favor of Creasy. Had the court ruled in favor of Tardy, the future of the present Gretna might have ended there.
Samuel Harris Early Leader In Pittsylvania Star-Tribune Bicenttenial Issue
Samuel Harris, born in Hanover County, 1724, came to this section when he was 24. He obtained land on Sandy River in 1748 in the southwest portion of the county and close to Strawberry Creek where still stand the two story house in which he and Lucy Camp lived their useful lives.
Harris became a man of means and family presitige. He was well educated, and an acquaintance and associate of celebrated personages of colonial days. He was a friend of George Washington. He served as deputy sheriff, justice of the peace, as surveyor of roads, as post rider with the mail, as church warden, and as a member of the vestry of Antrim Parish in the Established Episcopal Church, was a representative to the House of Burgesses and Colonel in the Revolutionary War.
He became a Baptist convert in May of 1758, and under his leadership the Baptish flourished in Pittsylvania. Records show that he organized at least 26 Baptish churches in Virginia, among which are County Line in 1771 and Old Banister in 1773. While he went about preaching, although his excellent reputation somewhat softened the blow of persecution, he was accused of being a vagabond in Culpepper, and ordered not to preach anymore or go to jail. In Orange he was set upon by a state-church inspired mob of ruffians.
During the American Revolution, Harris operated a wagon train, hauling produce from Peytonsburg to Petersburg bringing back salt and other necessities for his neighbors.
When Washington was inaugerated as the first President of the United States, according to tradition, Samuel Harris rode horseback from his home at Callanads to New York City.
The Samuel Harris Home is located on Route 816 near Callands. Here Colonel Harris lived from 1748 to 1799. His grave is marked by a stone, giving a brief resume of his activities.
"Bannister Academy" Star-Tribune Bicentennial Issue June 15, 1967
Bannister Academy was one of the earliest schools of higher education was built in 1802 near the present Pine Crest Farm, the home of Mr. and Mrs. William B. Crawley. The name was changed to Pineville in later years. The Academy did not operate after the War Between the States.
"Oldest Veteran" Star-Tribune Bicenntennial Issue June 15, 1967
Henry J. Scarce of Whitmell was the last living Confederate veteran. He celebrated his 98th birthday on August 14, 1944.
"Gunpowder Made At 'Clement Hill' During War -1775 Star-Tribune Bicentennial Issue 6/15/1967
Captain Benjamin Clement, one of the early settlers made a contribution to the Revolutionary War by making gunpowder for the Continental army.
When he was an old man and living at 'Clement Hill' in northern Pittsylvania , he and a neighbor, Colonel Charles Lynch who lived across the river in Bedford County, worked out a formula to make pure salt-petre to produce good gunpowder badly needed in the American cause. A historical marker to this effect is erected on Highway 29 near Clement Hill'.
Captain Clement had the neighbors save their drippings from the smokehouses which was distilled in a manner to produce the ingredient for gunpowder. The gun powder supplied Greene's Continental army. Captain Clement's house, which stands today overlooking a high bluff on Stanton River, has been left to the town of Hurt by its last owner, John L. Hurt, Jr.
"Indians Grew Tobacco Before White Settlers" Star-Tribune Bicentennial Issue-June 15, 1967
The Indians had a native tobacco plant classed as nicontinia rustica.
However, the white settlers imported the more refined plant nicotina tobacum which was grown in the Spanish colonies in South American and introduced in Europe where smoking became quite a fad. Tobacco was planted in England and France before the founding of Virginia. The first planting in England were of seeds that had been brought from Trinidad.
John Rolfe, husband of Pochantas, who noticed with what ease the Indians had cultivated their tobacco plants, is thought to have firmly entrenched tobaccco in Virginia with his sucessful experiments on growing and curing it in the colony.
The spread of tobacco in Pittsylvania County was hastened by which is termed grasshopper farming. The term applied to the farmers moving from Tidewater into the Piedmont in search of new lands to clear because of the soil depletion of their old fields; which would field good crops for only six or seven years. This westward migration into the Piedmont around 1700 even reached as far west as Missouri. The earliest accounts of tobacco being produced in Pittsylvania seems to have been around 1756.
Chatham Greys Left In High Spirits to Lick the Yankees
Pittsylvania contributed twenty companies to the Civil War, some ten companies in the northern half and the same number in the southern part of the county.
Places' names were often chosen for the individual companies---Tuckey Cocky Greys, Pigg River Invincibles, Spring Garden Blues, the Danville Blues, Pittsylvania Dragoons, the Chatham Greys and others.
When Virginia decided upon secession from the United States, and sent out a call to arms, Pittsylvanians responded from all walks of life-the cream of southern manhood left home to defend the land. The impact of the war with the loss of many promising citizens, the wounding of others was felt for many generations in Pittsylvania. While no official record of Confederate soldiers from the county exists, many were compiled by the soldiers themselves after returning from the war.
Twenty companies were listed by the veterans as having been organized in Pittsylvania County. In the clerk's office at Chatham is found the rosters of four of these companies, compiled from memory.
The incomplete roster of company A (Chatham Greys) is: E. A. Barber, Samuel D. Berger, F. M. Blair, Charles Bilharz, Henry Berger, Ross Carter, James Carter, John T. Carter, Walter A. Dyer, James H., Echols, R. D. Ferguson, Abraham Fackler, Q. L. Finny, Wm R. Fitzgerald, John J. Glenn, Henry M. Glenn, D.S Graves, John Gilmer, John M. Hutchings, William G. Harris, John B. Halley, W.F. Holley, George W. Hall, John W. Haden. W. C. Haden, Dr. R. W. Hall.
Thomas S. Jones, John E. Jones, John B. Jones, James P. Johnson, John H. B. Keatts, J. T. Lewis, J. A. Lovelace, Wm H. Lucke, S. S. Lucke, R. W. Martin, Francis Myers, Walter C. Mills, John V. Mitchell, Richard Parker, Thomas E. Pugh, Elijah Pruett, James M. Redford, Wm H. Robertson, Wesley Sours, Tandy R. Shepherd, Thomas B. Tredway, Wm M. Tredway, Jr., N. I. Terry, H. Viccellio, Samuel D. Wooding, C. E. Wiley, J.W. Wilson, J.,W. Whitehead, Wm. B. Wright, William H. Werth.
Enlistment got underway is 1860, and Wm M. Tredway, Captain of his company, wrote of the first days..."The mail which brought marching orders for the Chatham Greys created no little sensation in the quiet and peaceful village and the news was soon heralded throughout the communtiy.
"To the young and thougtless soldier boy, the tidings were joyful and he entertained the firm belief that in less than 30 days, Abe Loncoln would rue his rash proceedings and sue for peace, not doubting in the least that the Dixie boys would dictate their own terms and return home. They feared, without even an opportunity of firing a shot at the impriudent Yandees who dared invade our southern soil...The news spread rapidly and lighthearts and heavy hearts alike were busy whiule all were aranging for the departure of the company. Fond mothers, loving wives and sisters lost no time in over looked nothing in the preparation of everything for the comfort and convenience of the dear ones from whonm they were to soon be separated.
"Ah!" who can tell the piercing anguish which was endured though suppressed by many an anxious mother as she bade her youthful son, unused to hard ships and a stranger to the trying scenes of war, go forth to battle for the right... . . Noble women, to her belongs the honor of having sacrificed a thousand fold more for the Southern cause than ever they who shed their blood in that behalf.
"The 24th day of April, 1861, was a sad day in Chatham, Many parted that day never to meet again on earth. Early in the day vast crowds of men, women, and children assembled on the streets, noble old citizens were freely spending their money to supply comfortable clothing and blankets for those in need . . .'The company formed in the brick factory,where they had usually drilled, and after a solemn prayer by Rev W. S. Penick, was marched down and halted in front of Carter's Hotel.. . . .Refreshments were furnished, and was the saddest scene of all. Loving wives and children kissed husbands, parent and brother the sad good bye; friendly hands gave a parting grasp to the soldier in the line, and all things being in readinesss, the Chatham Greys, escorted by Captain Cabell Fournoy's cavalry company, amid the tears, the huzzas, the waving of handerchiefs and kissing of hands started off with banner flying and music playing and took up the march for Danville enroute to Richmond.
"Generous and sympathizing citizens furnished conveyances and well night loaded them with commissary provisions. . . Speaking of baggage, it was amusing that each man had at least one large trunk well packed as if taking a trip, but how the bulk dwindled down to a knapsack with one change of clothing and a blanket was a lesson which was soon to be learned and will serve to caution them hereafter should they be called on to enlist in another war.
"The site of troops was a novel one and excited great interest along the route. A few other companies had preceeded us, and at every station expectant and excited crowds greets us ... . . It was generally understood among us that if the Grays got a chance, and we feared we would not, the Yankee army would be literally cleaned out and that we would be occupied only a brief season.
"At least two thirds of Company A's members were about 140 miles farther from home than they had ever been before. The sites were so novel that it was rather more difficult for the command to form in line.The commander had warned his men that tall steeples, fancy windows, magnificient mansions and strange crowds should be utterly disregarded and be passed without notice as they knew what heavy penalities attached to him who dared look to the left or the right after the music struck Dixie to the command of "forward march".
Another member of Chatham Greys, Lt James Wyatt Whitehead, wrote of the pleasant stay in Williamsburg in the summer of 1861. . .
"And those pretty Willimsburg girls, there was not a one of us but what fell in love with them and we were most constant in our attention. The young ladies would meet at the churches to sew for the soldiers. We were always on hand to talk to them and entertain them. . . During the time an epidemic of measles broke out. At one time there were 35 of our men down. A venerable old lady, Mrs. Hansford, lived nearby and she tended and nursed our sick boys as though they were her own. . . .
Cptain Issac Coles, member of Co E, 6th Virginia Cavalry, was able to catch some humor which he recorded of his travels over the battlefields. He wrote " Our company met some of the Yankees (in West Va) and we began retreating as hard as we could, when we came upon some of our pickets inside the lines. The pickets halted us and our scouts called our promptly, "Pittsylvania Calvary." The pickets understood us to say "Pennsylvania Calvary" and had raised their guns to fire when Bill Clarke excitly yelled "Don't shoot! Don't Shoot! It's us." We felt so important that we thought everybody would know us. Thereafter we were always "Virginia Calvary."
In another instance he wrote: "The Captain ordered me to forward to hundred yards ahead and draw the fire---very comforting orders and through new light on the business of the cavalry. I had thought the infantry got the shots and the cavalry picked up the prisioners, but I managed to go. When I areached the woods, I found the Yankees were as much scared as we. They had blocked the road and disappeared.
Dr. Rawley W. Martin in recounting Picketts charge at Gettysburg said . . . . Both sides felt that the tug of war was about to come, and that Greek must meet Greek, as they had never met before. .. .Right shoulder, shift arms, forward, march . . . .then the Confederates, the long line of blue nearly a mile distant, ready and awaiting their coming. The scene was grand and terrible, and well calculated to demoralize the stoutest heart, but not a step faltered, not a face blanched. On they go; at about 1,100 yards the Federal batteries opened fire; the advancing Confederates encounter and sweep before them the Federal skirmish line. Still forward they go; the hissing, screaning, shells break in their front, rear, on their flanks, all about them, but they press forward, keeping step to the music of the battle. Suddenly the infantry behind the rock fence poured volley after volley into the advancing ranks. The men fell like stalks of grain before the reaper, but they closed the gaps and pressed forward, through the pitiless storm. Great gaps have been torn in their ranks, their field and company officers have fallen, colorbearer after color -bearer has been shot, but they never faltered . . . .and all that was left of them---the few of the five thousand."
J.W. Whitehead, Sr. said of the Battle of Gettsburg--"We had driven the Yankees from behind the stone wall, captured all artillery in front of Armistead's Brigade, and the victory up to this point was complete. But reinforcements arriving for the enemy and none for ourselves, that was the end of our dearly bought victory. I lay on the battlefield two nights and a day before my captors removed me and no one will know what I suffered both physically and mentally. I think one could have walked 50 yards in any directions from where I lay on the field stepping from one dead man to another without putting foot to ground. I have read many accounts of this battle, but none I have ever seen begins to give one idea of the dreadful horrors of this fight.
"Pittsylvania should be proud of her record on that battlefield for she furnished very many more soldiers for Pickett's charge than any other one county in Virginia. No braver man ever fell on a field of battle than Col. R. W. Martin, still no braver than H.L.Carter, James Carter, Jabe Cousins, Bilharz, Coleman, Walker, White, Tredway, Joe Corbin and many others."
Rawley W. Martin spoke for many Southerners when he wrote to a Northern officer 30 years after the war " . . there is no reason why those who once were foes cannot now be friends. The quarrel was not personal but sectional, and while we tried to destroy each other thirty odd years ago, there is no reason why we should cherish resentment against each other now. I should be glad to meet you should your business or pleasure ever bring you to Virginia."
Mrs. Clement's History Published in 1929, Basis For Bicentennial Star Tribune Bicentiennal Issue 6/15/67
Mrs. Maud Clement is the author of the "History of Pittsylvania County", the basis for the bicentennial celebration. The history book was published in 1929.
Of Pittsylvania ancestry, as a small child she listened in her elders talk, and when she was older she sought them out. She soon began writng down what they said, and that is how she was able to obtain much of the information for Pittsylvania County history. She married a young attorney Nathaniel Elliott Clement in 1902, and although she had three children she was not emprisoned by domesticity.
She continue to searcn records and to seek information and write down details of the past. In addition to her history of Pittsylvania, she has written several other booklets of historical character, includinag a compilitation of first account of Civil War experiences by County Confederate Veterans, an Early History of Antrim Parish, dealing with what is the Episcopal Chuch in pre-Revolutionary times; a collection of sketches on life in Southern Virginia, and the early homes in Chatham.
Now 88 years of age, Mrs. Clement is enjoying the bicentennial and seeing her history book come alive.
Pittsylvania County written by Duval Porter From files of the late Mrs. James S. Jones
Grand old Pittsylvania deserving every way
Of pride of all thy children and homage they should pay!
The record bright and glorious shines out at every stage
And merits place the foremost upon Virginia's page.
Though other states and counties have found a willing pen
To sing the deeds of daring of their heroic men,
Yet grand old Pittsylvania, who second stands to none,
Finds not a single spokesman to tell what she has done.
Hence grand old Banner County, inspire me today
To sing of they true greatness, deserving every way
A poet's highest praises and the historic pen
To chronicle the achievements of Pittsylvania men.
Before the revolution, aye, in Colonial Days
Her sons were ecer ready, for so the record says
To brace the trackless forest when duty bade them so
To fight the cunning savage who sought their overthrow.
And when the Revolution, that stubborn strife began
The sons of Pittsylvania fought for the right of man
As bravely as the bravest, on many bloody fields,
Until the haughty Briton at Yorktown humnbly yields.
Nay, more, who furnished sinews for that protracted strife
By giving to Green's army its nourishment and life,
For Peytonsburg supplied him with food for man and beast,
Else they must have perished, or given up at least.
And yet what is far greater remains as yet unsung
Surpassing all achievements of days when she was young.
To Virginia of the "Sixties" no other county gave
So many to defend her as Pittsylvania brave!
Yet sons of Pittsylvania; come listen as I tell
Of Gettsburg immortal, well may your bosom swell
At the glorious charge of Pickett upon that bloody day,
Your fathers were the foremost in that terrible fray.
Who are those few brave heroes, with Armistead at the wall!
Through shot and shell they've fought their way, and with their leader fall!
"Tis Carter, White, and Tredway, their names will ever shine
With Rawley W. Martin's, that dautless son of thine!
And in the living present thou has another son
Bestowing now upon thee, the fame that he has won;
Beginning life a plow boy, unaided and unknown,
By virture of his talent he came into his own.
The name of Claude A. Swanson, thy most distinguished son,
In halls of State and Congress with many honors won,
Will shine as one belonging to that illustrious roll
Whose brilliance the historian will on his page extol.
Be proud, ye sons and daughters, of the historic worth
That crowns your grand old county, the county of you birth!
Resolve that never, never shall any act of thine
Dim the brightness of the glories that on Pittsylvania shine!
First Chatham Post Office Established Here in 1794
The Chatham Post Office was first established " Pittsylvania County House" in 1794. Thomas Murdock, according to the records, served as first postmaster. He was chosen by authority of Postmaster General Timothy Pickering, who directed William Clark of Pittsylvania Court House to choose "a fit person" for postmaster.
At the time the post office was established the main mail road (the pony express) was Scoodic in Maine to St. Mary's in Georgia, and passed through Virginia, with Piattsylvania Court House mail being picked up at Prince Edward cross roads.
Rates in effect in 1794: letters not exceeding 30 miles, 6 cents; over 30,8 cents; up to 100 miles, 10 cents; 150 miles 12 1/2 cents; 200 miles 15 cents; over 450 miles, 25 cents.
Serving as postmasters ( with dates of appointment) up to the present are: Thomas Murdock, 1795: James Hinton, 1801; Samuel M. Lovett, 1802; Josiah Ferguson, 1805; Francis Dabney, 1808; Thomas Rawlings, 1813; David H. Clark, 1814; Jno. Clark, 1817; David Haley, 1818; David H. Clark, 1822; Coleman D. Bennett, 1824.
Milton L. Lovell, 1826; Coleman D. Bennett, 1827; Jones W. Burt, 1832; Icahabod Q. Watson, 1839; Daniel C. Ragsdale, 1848; James K. Blair, 1854; Jesse T. Carter, 1856; James P. Johnson, 1859; Samuel P. Motley, 1865; John E. Mattox, 1869; John W. Jones, 1870; W. W. White, 1870; John W. Cole, 1871; John W. McKinsey, 1874; John W. McKinsey, 1876; William B. Hurt, 1880; A. J. Ramsey, 1881; James Carter, Jr., 1883; William B. Hurt, 1885; James Carter, 1889; Mollie D. Goolsby, 1896; James Carter, 1903; James S. Haile, 1913; Grief C. Giles, 1922; Leon H.Law, 1929; Judson F. Patterson, 1934; James Payne (acting) 1952; Homer J. Amos, 1953; Present Post Master.
The Pittsylvania Court House Post Office was changed in 1867 to the Chatham Post Office
The first record available of salary for the Pittsylvania Postmaster was $69.46 per year for 1816.
The post office now serves 10,387 patrons from its 566 boxes and eight rural routes in a building constructed in 1935.
World Famous Train Wreck Occurred in Pittsylvania County
The Story About Old 97 and Man Who Wrote Song
What man, woman or child in Pittsylvania hasn't sung or hummed the song, "The Wreck of the Old 97".
It is a song about the tragic railroad wreck that occurred 1903 at what was then Pittsylvania County (before annexation) just on the outskirts of Danville.
'When we cross that White Oak Mountain . . . " has been sung in every language and made this part of the country world famous.
The song "Old 97" was written by David Graves George of Gretna, who later went through a long law suit seeking to claim royalties from a recording company.
The verse composed by George was brought to the Pittsylvania Tribune and first published in the Chatham paper. The words were later set to music and became known around the world when it was put on photograph records and sold five million copies.
"The Wreck of Old 97" is part of Pittsylvania's past, and the story is fascianating, and we are publishing this account of the background of the old ballard
Mail and express train No.97 of the Southern Railway System was placed in service between Washington and Atlanta. Georgia (via Monroe, Lynchburg, Danville) in December 1902. It consist, in addition to locomotive No. 1102, was two postal cars, one express car, and one baggage car, the later being used for the storage of mail.
On Sunday , September 27, 1903 "Old 97" derailed just north of Danville as it approaached "Stillhouse Trestle" According to the information, a total of eleven persons were killed and seven injured, all of them being either railroad or mail and express employees.
The train was taken out of service on January 6, 1907 apparantly because Congress failed to appropriate funds for the continuance for this special mail service, however, the rebuilt locomaotive continued to render valiant service and it was not until July 1935 that it reached the southern scrap pile at Princton, Indiana.
In the intervening years fact and ficton became interwoven to form a colorful chapter in railroad lore.
A chapther of Freman H. Hubbard's book, " Railroad Avenue" devoted to the saga of "Old 97" is quoted as being fairly representative of the train's history.
Like most of the folk songs that have emanated from stratum of life known as Railroad Avenue "The Wreck of old 97" is based on a tragedy. In this case the wold "old" signifies endearment rather than age; the fast mail described as Old 97 had been operating only about a year when she met the fate that the ballard wtiter used as his text in his preachment to wives. The train started her meteroic career in December 1902 (about two years after the death of Casey Jones) on the Southern Railway running between Washington and Atlanta with expedited mail and express. Her discontinuance January 6, 1907 had nothing to do with the wreck. In as much as No. 97 was a mail train carrying no passengers, the run was pulled off when Congress failed to renew the appropriations for this special service. Ninety-seven's average speed of 37 1/2 miles per hour, including stops, was something to brag about over single trackage, roadbed that was not too well kept, sharp curves rather steep grades and wooden trestles and sometimes, when the engineer really let her out, she is said to have stepped through the dew at 90 per, although this speeed was probably a figment of the song writer's imagination.
On the night of the wreck, Old 97 consisted of a large tenwheeled locomotive, the 1102, and two postal cars, one express car, and one baggage car, the baggage car being used for mail storage. Like Casey Jones's famous engine, the 1102 had a distinctive whistle note with a nostalgic qualtity that folks in the towns, villages, the lonely house along the line recognized and respected.
Like many another wreck, the one that occureed on Sunday, September 27, 1903 was due in large part to fast running. That day, various delays along the line caused the Southern's pet train to reach Monroe, 165 miles south of Washington, an hour behind time.Since Monroe was a divisional point, the crew was changed there. The man who mounted the deck of the 1102 for that run was Joseph A. Broady of Saltsville, Virginia. Joe bore the nickname Steve, after the much publicized Steve Brodie, who had won a bet by reputedly jumping off of the Brooklyn Bridge midway between Brooklyn and New Your several years before.
In the cab with engineer Broady that afternoon was his fireman, A. G. Clapp of Greensboro, N.C., and a student fireman named Dodge, who was learning the road. The conductor was Thomas J. Blair of Spencer, N.C. and the flagman S. J. Moody of Raleigh in the same state.
Old 97 was an hour off schedule when the fresh crew took charge at Monroe. A trip of this kind may be compared to a relay foo trace; if one runner made a bad showing, the members of his team who carry on for the remainder of the race, try to make up for the poor start. Joe, according to the ditty, was instructed to "get 'er inSpencer on time." From Monroe to Spencer is 166 miles, and the fast mail's normal running time between the two points was about four hours and fifteen minutes. The throttle artist was comparatively new on the job, was willing to gamble, and had two fireman on deck to supply all the steam pressure he would need. He figured that if he couldn't put her back on the timecard, it would not be for lack of trying. As soon as he had read his orders, Joe Broady took the bridle off the 1102 and let her rom, passing through Lynchburg, Gretna, Chatham at high speed.
On the outskirts of Danville in what was then Pittsylvania County, a wooden structure known as Stillhouse Trestle carried the track over a ravine about 75 feet below. The combination of a curve and a descending grade made Stillhouse Trestle the danger spot after passing over White Oak Mountain. On both sides were painted signs which warned, "Slow Up. Trestle!". But Joe wasn't paying much attention to signs that day-he had a lot of time to make up, and he is said to have taken the curve a full speed. At three o'clock precisely he yanked his whistle cord. People within ear shot checked the time with their clocks and watches, noting that Old 97 was awayoff schedule.
At that moment the flanges of the locomotive wheels let go of the rails and hurtled down into the gully. So fast was the ten-wheeler running that she leaped a full 100 feet ahead of the place where she left the track before coming to a halt, her nose buried in the muddy bank iof the stream in a cow pasture. The five cars followed, of course, trearing off the corner of a brick building in their mad plunge.
Engineer Broady, the songs says "was found in the wreck with his hand on the throttle and a-scalded to death with the steam" Both firemen were mangled beyond recognition. Conductor Blair died soon after he was dug out of the wreckage. Seven or eight other persons, including flagman Moody, also pershed.
Seven postal clerks were injured. Three of them attributed their survival to the fact that they had jumped just as the train began its fatal plunge. Farm wagons were used as a ambulance in rushing the wounded to the Danville Hospital . An express messenger, W. F. Pinkney, escaped without a scratch. Pinkney decided that one wreck would last him for a whole lifetime -he wasn't going to take any more chances-so he went directly to his home in Charlotte, N.C. and wrote out his resignation the same day.
Flames from the locomotive ----------- debris of wooden cars adding to the horror of the mild autumn afternoon. This blaze made considerably headway before the local fire department could put it out. Not a singe member of the train or engine crew lived long enough to testify although half a dozen postal clerks and the unscatched messenger were called upon for their versions of the affair.
The track was found to have been in perfect alignment. The engine and cars were persumed to have been in good condition before the wreck, the train orders were not at fault, and everybody involved appeared to have a satsfactory alibi-that is everybody but Joe Broady., Consequently, blame for the tragedy was heaped upon the dead engineer who made the mistate of running as fast as he could.
Part of the mail was saved. but the four cars had been demolished beyond hope of repaor. For 18 hours the track was blocked while wrecking gangs cleared the debris, Service over that line were not resumed until 9:10 a.m. the following day. Engine 1102 was hauled out of the mire and rebuilt to give many more years of service, being finally dismantled at the Princton, Indiana shops of the Southern Railway in July 1935
A curious incident lent sharp contrast to the horror of the scene. The terrific impact had broken open a large case of canaries in the express car, and hundreds of green and yellow birds, phoenix-like, flew from the smoldering ruins to safety on nearby jackpines and perched there letting loose a flood of melody as if to express joy at their liberation.
News of the wreck spread quickly. People from miles flocked around to gape at the ghastly site and assisted in rescue work. Among them was the 40 year old David Graves George, who had dabbled in various jobs, such as brakeman, farmer, boxer, and "re" noo agent. The railway post office claims that, at the time of the wreck, Dave was working as a telegraph operator in the Souther station of Franklin Junction (now Gretna) 43 miles south of Monroe and tradition states that for some years prior to 1903, he had been employed as a brakeman on the Franklin & Pittsylvania Railroad (later a part of the Southern system)but the Southern has no record of Mr. George's alleged rail career. There is good reason to believe that in 1903 he was serving as town constable of Gretna. Dave arrived while the canaries were till warbling and the wounded clerks still groaning and according to a statement he made many years later in court, was doing what he could to make himself useful, when he was inspired to compose the ditty we know today as "The Wreck of old 97". The thing that impressed him most, David testified, was the singing of the birds-they promoted thoughts that shaped themselves into verse. It seems that he narrated the words in his head right then and there wrote down the first draft of the poem as soon as he got home and spent the best part of a week in publishing it. Then proud of his creation, accordingto his own statement --------time to gather in barbar shop at Franklin Junction. He had it published in the Pittsylvania Tribune at Chatham. Later on someone at the barbar shop suggested that it be set to music. Dave had no talent.for musical compositions so one fellow ventured , "how about the tune of 'the ship that never returned'. It is a right purty tune."
Whereupon Dave declared he tried singing it in that air, and the piece was received so well that one of his daughters afterwards sang it on numerous occassions. It seemed that Georges got real pleasure out of entertaining their guests with "The Wreck of the old 97." Here is the song.
"On a cold frosty morning the month of September when the clouds were hanging low, 97 pulled out of the Washington Station like an arrow shot from a bow.
O they handed him his orders at Monroe Virginia saying," Steve you are away behind time. This is not 38, but it's old 97 You must get'er in Spencer on time". Oh, he looked around his cab at his black greasy fireman, saying shove in a liottle more coal and when we cross that White Oak Mountain you can watch old 97 roll.
It's a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville and the lines on three mile grade. It was on that grade that he lost his air brakes, and you see what a jump he made.
He was going down hill at 90 miles an hour when the whistle broke into a scream. He was found in the wreck with his hand on the troutle and a-scalded to death with the steam,
Now, ladies, you must take warning, from this time evermore, never speak harsh words to your true loving husband . They may leave you never to return"
Discovering the great "South Sea" and using it to trade with far
eastern countries seemed just a matter of months. The initial
exploratory trips up the James and Chickahominy Rivers to their fall
lines made the South Sea appear "just over the mountains". In fact,
Indians encountered on these trusts into the interior said that a
short trip across the Alleghenies would bring the party to salt water.
In the fall of 1608 Captain Christopher Newport and 120 able-bodied
men penetrated some 40 miles beyond the falls of the James River,
bringing them to two Monacan Indian towns. But no glimpse of the
mythical sea was to be seen.
Many years later, when an explorer stood atop a Blue Ridge peak,
viewed the misty landscape below him and declared it to be the
much-sought-after body of water.
The princepal rivers in eastern Virginia—the main travel routes of
colonial explorers—course from the northwest to the southeast, an
item of importance to persons studying the history of Pittsylvania
County and the southside. It was easier and safer to travel by
water,, hence the discovery of the area southwest of the initial
settlements was to come later.
An increasing numbers of Englishmen sought a better life in the
colony, settlers took up land to the west. Contrary to the custom in
their homeland, these farmers did not gather in small settlements.
Tobacco, and the crops of corn which followed, dictated that larger
holdings be used for crop rotation. Thus tobacco might be grown
for three or four years, then corn could be harvested for perhaps ten
more. Following this land was abandoned to the trees.
It is interesting to see that, in spite of this expansion, the tide
civilization did not encroach even 100 miles to the south and west
during the next 100 years.
Nor were the trails to the west and south worn by hardy souls
search of adventure and discovery. If some did venture forth, then
the pages of history show nothing of their travels. From the
direction of French settlements, however, it is recorded that a party
made its way into the area of western Virginia in 1625.
A desultory effort to penetrate new lands and waters, where never
an Englishman had trod, was begun in 1641. Joseph Johnson, Rice
Hoe, Walter Austin and Walter Chiles petitioned for permission and
encouragement to discover and develop the area south and west of
the Appomattox River. Exclusive rights to the profits from this
venture were guaranteed for the next fourteen years, but the
agreement was cancelled prior to its expiration date.
Captain Abraham Wood, having arrived in the colony as an
indentured servant, amassed a considerable holding in property and
money by trading with the Indians. His experience and vigor landed
for him the command of Fort Henry )Petersburg) on the Appomattox
Wood reckoned that his trade with Indians must be sought out. He,
with his partner Edward Bland, made his way southwest into North
Carolina and to the rapids of the Roanoke River. In 1653 they were
given exclusive access to the profits in this area for a period of
fourteen years. However, a similar permit was issued at the same
time to William Claiborne and Henry Fleet.
And that did not end the matter of permits! In the same year a
blanket permit was issued t all who were interested in making trips of
discovery—provided they went with sufficient manpower and arms
to ensure their safety.
Some 20 years later other exploratory trips were being planned.
A German explorer and physician, John Lederer, began in 1669, a
series of three trips into the interior.
The first was in a party headed by Major William Harris and was
made at the bidding of Governor Berkeley. All went well until the
gnawing fear of an Indian attack prompted the party to give up the
quest for new discoveries and return home—all, that is, except
The physician-explorer had kept a meticulous diary of his
observations but, in its original form did not attract a host of
readers; it was written in Latin.
Even when translated into English, the account of Lederer, as well
as other explorers, was difficult to decipher. The names of Indian
tribes were changed as one group merged with another and the
names of landforms and watercourses were given various names by
resident Indians and traveling white men. (A explorer, crossing the
same river at three places, gave it three names)
Lederer’s journal included valuable information about the Indians
and their way of life. His manner soothed the suspicion of otherwise
hostile tribes and he was invited to membership in the Nahyssan
group. He had trod the soil of (now) Pittsylvania county.
Lederer was the unfortunate venturer who viewed the misty valley
from a ridge in the Blue Ridge and thought he was observing an
Abraham Wood again enters the picture when, as an elderly man, he
sponsored the trip of four woodsmen headed by Thomas Batts. This
1671 outing included Thomas Wood and Robert Fallan and was
made for "the finding out the ebbing and flowing of the waters on
the other side of the mountains in order to the discovery of the
After reaching waters that flowed west into the Mississippi the
group returned with a glowing report for Abraham Wood. This may
have impelled Wood to again send out a party to the southwest;
James Needham and Gabriel archer in 1673. They made the first
known entry by white travelers into the area of Tennessee.
Needham later was slain by his guide.
"The Changing Scene" published in The Quill Pen
Pittsylvania Historical Society-February 1983
An early casualty of improved roads and better transportation in Pittsylvania County was the neighborhood school.
The disappearance of these simple structures, whether they were one-room log cabins or buildings with several rooms, created a void in the areas they once served.
Other than sources of education, these venerable institutions served as community centers where social and business activities were staged. Patrons already closely allied by common interests in a neighborhood found pleasure and profit in the picnics, socials, community meetings and dances held at the school.
Chestnut Level Elementary: On SR 640, one mile east of junction of SR 640 and 825. Closed in 1930’s.
Dry Fork Elementary: At US 29 and SR 718 across from Oakland United Methodist Church. Closed in 1940’s.
Dixie: In Blairs, S side of US29 c. 300yds N of railroad bridge. Closed in 1940’s
Pairview: Some 1 ½ mi. E. of junction of US29 and SR 703. Closed in 1932
Mill Creek: S side of SR685, adjacent to Mill Creek Baptist Church. Closed in 1930’s.
Sonans: Near junction of SR685 and 649 in the Sonans community, Closed in 1930’s. May have included junior high school classes.
Oak Grove: On E side of SR713 N of its junction with 360 adjacent to Oak Grove Baptist Church in Keeling. First, it included junior high classes; later downgraded to elementary in the 1920’s. Closed in the late 1940’s and converted to apartments.
Ultramont: On SR863 just W of US29, Northside. After closing in 1926/27 material from school was used to erect a dwelling. ( My great aunt taught here for many years and my mother and aunt both attended. At first a one room school on land of Lawson Carter. My grandfather, Ben Blankenship and grandfather, George Townes Carter, got the people who had children in the school together and they expanded the building to a two room school. The teachers were boarded at the home of my grandfather Blankenship.)
Piedmont: On SR834 300yds S of 718 near Hopewell United Methodist Church. Closed in early 1940’s and replaced by home of Mr. Harry Stowe.
Riceville: In Riceville community on E side of SR 640. Early on was junior high but downgraded in 1920’s and closed in 1962. Now a storage facility.
Forest: In Java on SR640. The two-room school was closed c.1935 and made by John Coles into a store. Now operated by Glenn Adams.
Terry: in Keeling at jct. of SR701 and 662. Because a Negro school in early 1930’s and closed in 1940’s. Purchased locally and still stands.
Hinesville: In Hinesville near jct. of SR845 and 844.
Two schools for Negroes were near Dry Fork. One called "the mountain school" was on White Oak Mountain W of the Southern Ry. The other was in rear of White Oak Grove Baptist Church near the jct. of SR718 and 835.
Two high schools for Negroes were operating in 1947. South Side,
on Piney Forest Rd., was annexed by
Danville and became Irvine Taylor Middle School. The other, Gretna Training School, later was absorbed into the county school system.
Written by Col. C.E.H. Jones
In browsing through some back copies of
"Confederate Veteran" magazine, I
came across this interesting clip about a Pittsylvania County soldier
(soldieress?). I'm not related to any of the names in the article, but I
thought one of the Perkins descendants might see their relative in an
entirely new light!
The following appeared in the November, 1898, issue of "The Confederate
Several women served as soldiers in the great Confederate war.
A chapter on
this subject would be interesting. G. N. Saussy, of Tallahassee, Fla. writes
in such connection:
"The misfortunes of war made me a guest of the United States for
months. While enjoying the hospitalities of Point Lookout, Md., there was
brought into our prison one day a captured Confederate, a member of the
Pittsylvania, Va., Battery, who revealed to the authorities the female sex,
and gave her real name as Jane Perkins. Arrangements were made for her
release, and she was removed from the prison; but whether sent back South or
retained within the Federal lines, I never knew. Who can tell further about
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