Scott County Historical
Scott County, Virginia
Mildred McConnell's Scrapbook Articles
Courthouse Sports Strange Ornament
GATE CITY - There's a still and a gun barrel atop the county courthouse here.
How long it's been there and how it happened to be placed atop the cupola seems to have been lost in distant and unrecorded history.
One of Gate City's oldest residents, Roy Wolfe Sr., recalls that the decoration adorned the courthouse spire when he made his first trip to town from near Nickelsville in 1908.
Wolfe, and most of the older residents of the town, recall that the old government issue copper whiskey still (that looks like an over-sized hornet's nest or a large ovoid ball) rests atop a hexagonal rifle barrel, and that the ornaments were placed there by some (name now unrecalled) former sheriff.
That early sheriff, whoever he was, took a pick and knocked holes in the still so it could never again be used for its original purpose.
And after the still was in place, a number of citizens decided to improve on the sheriff's handiwork by adding a few holes of their own, fired from their own rifles.
Bob Minnich, who has painted the still, steeple, and cupola twice, recalls that the federal registration numbers are raised on the side of the still, but he can't recall what they are.
It is sure that the courthouse here is one of the oldest in the state. Built in 1828, the center part of the building (the original building) survived the Civil War unscathed. A number of courthouses and their records throughout the south were burned and records destroyed during that period.
The building was remodeled in 1932, when the porch and large columns were added, again in 1946 when the west wing was added, and finally in 1969 when the east wing and the district courtroom and air conditioning were added.
But who placed the still where all could see, when and why seems to be one of life's little unsolved mysteries, since it all happened so long ago.
(Margin note by Mildred McConnell: Placed on dome by Wilmer Whited.)