Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Carter's Store

By Virgil Craft

Three Generations of the Carter Family: Stonewall and Frances Carter with grandson Glen. Back, left to right: Glenn's father, Conley, his mother Kate;  Elizabeth Street Cox, who was reared by Stonwall and Frances, and Frances' husband, Jub Cox.

     When Southwest Virginia's first Big Game season opened in the mid 1940's Carter's Store became one of Scott County's first checking stations for big game. This was a service the Carter's continued to give the public until the end of the 1981 hunting season, a service that paid them not one cent, although it did bring in a few dollars in trade.

     When deer and turkey season opened in the fall, it also ushered in the opening session of the Hot Stove League, as local and visiting hunters alike sat around and told how many big bucks they had seen, or how the biggest buck they had ever seen barely got away. Tall tales and true stories were so inter-mingled it was hard to learn the truth. Many of the meetings of the Hot Stove League, or Tall Tale Society, were presided over by Victor Bates. Vic was the acknowledged king of hunters, trappers, snake hunters and seng diggers. Many were the stories he told to his spell bound audience. Most of his stories were true or at least had a small grain of truth in them. It kinda irritated Vic when anyone questioned the truthfulness of his stories.

     It was while trout fishing in the spring of 1938, in Big Stony Creek, that I first saw the old Carter Mill. I well remember taking two beautiful, brightly speckled, brook trout, each of them thirteen inches long, right out from under the old mill house.

     It was on that day that I first met Glen and Mary Carter and we have been friends ever since. From time as I fished Big Stony I would stop and visit with them. As I got to know them better and began to learn their family history, I became fascinated with the record of this pioneer family. The Carters were one of the earliest families to settle in the area.

     It was with the death of Dale Carter in 1774 that we pick up the first record, and the first Carter to settle on Big Stony Creek. It was in 1774 that Dale Carter was killed, he was tomahawked to death by the Indians when they caught him before he could gain the safety of Fort Blackmore. Dale Carter left four orphan children, John Ray Carter, who was born in 1769, the oldest child. Little is known of his early childhood, but we do know he was perhaps the first of the Carters to build a home on Stony Creek.

     It was John Ray Carter, Jr. who was born in 1796 who opened the first Carter Store on Big Stony Creek. This small country store, opened some time before the Civil War, wasn't an elaborate affair, it didn't have a big stock of merchandise. Pioneer settlers could afford only the barest necessities and those were what the first store offered. Gun powder, lead for bullets, lead shot, a few steel traps. Salt, pepper, needles and thread, and a few simple hand tools made up most of the stock.

     It was in 1832 that John Ray Carter Jr's son, Pinkney was born. Pinkney was to become one of the best remembered of all the Carters.

     Thirty years after his birth Pinkney was a Confederate soldier, fighting along with his company in several of the battles that were fought in Eastern Virginia. In his letters home, letters still in the possession of Glen Carter, Pinkney described the hardships he and his fellow soldiers had to endure.

     After the war was over, Pinkney, like many other Civil War veterans, didn't have very much money, the war had taken its toll and times were extremely hard, but Pinkney had a dream. He was a skilled wood-worker, a good carpenter, a cabinet maker, a millwright, and he had a will to work.

     When he came home the first thing he wanted to do was to build a good house for him and his family. He found the kind of place he wanted was a few hundred yards below the confluence of Straight Fork and Mountain Fork of Big Stony Creek. Here he built a big two story log house, a house that would be a home to several generations of the Carter family. Today, more than a hundred years later, Pinkney's great, great grandson, Glen Carter still lives in part of that house. Not all of the original house still stands, part of it was blown away years ago when Rye Cove and other parts of Scott County were hit by a tornado, but the ground, floor of huge logs, held together by wooden pins withstood the cyclone winds and stands today, a monument to Pinkney Carter's skill as a carpenter.

     When Pinkney came home from the war and settled here, the surrounding mountains were still covered with virgin hardwood forests. The sound of axe and saw had never from hill to hill.  Huge poplar trees soared up for a hundred feet or more , down in the deep hollows, streams, towering hemlocks pushed their green fingers to the sun. In early spring big sugar maple trees furnished gallons of sweet sap to make maple syrup and maple sugar; in the fall it's leaves of red and yellow mixed with the bright yellow of beech and hickory and the red leaves of sourwood and and black gum to turn the hillsides into a riot of color.   Massive oak trees scattered their nuts on the forest floor; thousands of chestnut trees showered bushels and bushels of sweet tasty nuts on the ground.  Hickory and beech nuts were food for small game, wild grapes and persimmons were food for opossums, coons and wild birds.  Farmers didn't have to worry with feeding their herds of hogs or flocks of turkeys, they let them run free in the woods and the mast was all the food they needed. Wild game was there for the taking: bears , deer, squirrels, coons, and wild turkeys for food and foxes, bobcats, mountain lions (panthers) and mink furnished an odd dollar or two for their pelts.

     Little wonder Pinkney settled here, the area was what a pioneer dreamed of: abundant timber, plenty of large and small game, and enough level or rolling land for acres of corn and pasture for livestock. It was a land of promise for any man.

     Not long after his home was finished, Pinkney, millwright that he was, decided the fast moving water of Stony Creek was just what he needed to run the saw mill and gristmill he wanted to build. A few hundred feet above his home he found an ideal place to build a dam to impound the water of the creek. It wasn't too long until the mill had been built, from the dam down to the mill an elevated sluice way carried the water to the mill wheel, and the first of Carter's mills on Stony Creek was in business.

     A few years later fire destroyed most of the mill, and Pinkney decided to replace it with a bigger and better mill with more power to turn the wheels. The second mill, after it was finished included a wood working shop with a power drive lathe.

     After the new mill was built more and more people began using it. From over the hills, and up the creek, they came. Some walking and carrying a sack of corn on their back, others on horseback with a sack or two of corn or wheat. Walking and riding they came. As they waited their turn at the mill they spent their time visiting, finding out how the neighbors were getting along, finding out who was sick, who had been in an accident, who had died, who had got married, who had a new baby. The mill soon became the place where neighbors met and socialized.

     The saw mill furnished the few boards they needed, the carpenter shop made simple furniture, tables, chairs and beds. Many of the people who died were buried in a coffin made in that shop. Sometimes the shop and mill would shut down while the workers took picks and shovels and went to dig a grave in one of the tiny family grave yards. Many was the time when the neighbors went to a home where death had come and sit up all night in the room with the corpse. Neighborly concern was a way of life with these early mountain people, hospitality knew no limit as neighbor shared with neighbor from what ever they had. Back then people just couldn't get along without each others help.

     Soon after the end of World War I, or about 1922, one of Pinkney's sons decided to open another store, the old one had been closed during the war years. The new store was located a little way below the mill and home. The new store did well until the depression of 1929 forced it to close. It wasn't until the mid 1930's that the store reopened under the name Glen Carter's Store and Glen

(At this point, the newspaper article was cut off and no additional information available.)

Ted Carter is pictured with the long rifles made by his great, great, great grandfather, Pinkney Carter. It is amazing that anyone could carry the heavy steel guns much less fire them.

 

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