Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Duffield

By June Fannon

     Duffield is located in the western tip of Scott County, near the Lee County line. It is the only town in the United States bearing the name, but there is a small Indian outpost in western Canada called Duffield.

     Duffield was named for Sam Henry Duff who along with his family came to this area in 1818 from Mount Airy, N.C. They were joined a few years later by Henry Kane and his family who purchased a portion of their land. The present Duffield-Pattonsville Elementary is located on a 12 acre tract of the old Kane farm.

     One of their nearest neighbors was John McKinney who had migrated to this area sometime between 1795 and 1800. He and his family settled on what is called Red Hill near Pattonsville. Mr. McKinney was a brother-in-law of the early pioneer Daniel Boone.

     The first public school came to Scott County in November 1870, but the children of this area had to wait 14 more years before they were offered an opportunity for an education. In 1884 a log structure was built at the mouth of Spurlock Hollow. This building was used for worship services on Sunday and as a schoolhouse a few months each fall until the weather turn cold.

     In 1899 the Scott County School Board rented the Methodist Church for use as a school building. Most of the early teachers were from other communities, thus they either rode horseback to school each day or boarded with a local family for a small fee.

     On land donated by a local citizen, a four room two story brick building was constructed in 1918 at the mouth of Devil's Race Path. This building was used for an Elementary and Junior High School. The Senior High students walked or rode a mule or horse to Pattonsville. With the purchase of school buses (usually by someone in the community) the high school students were transported to Clinchport Junior High School or Rye Cove Memorial High School.

     In 1955 the schools of Duffield, Pattonsville, Dry Creek, Purchase Ridge, Mountain, and Mabe were consolidated. The school was located mid-way between Duffield and Pattonsville. Duffield-Pattonsville Elementary School is located in a pleasant setting surrounded by rolling hills and a broad valley in between. The school faces the industrial park. The school is served by a staff of 21full time teachers, 5 part time teachers, a principal, secretary, 2 full time aides, 2 custodians, and a part time custodian helper. An active PTA has served the school for almost 40 years.

     The South Atlantic and Ohio railroad was built from Gate City to Big Stone Gap between 1888 and 1890. This railway sold out to the Virginia Southwestern and later to the Southern Railway. In recent years the Southern has merged with the Norfolk Western to become known as the Norfolk Southern.

     With the corning of the railroad this became a very busy place. A broad scope of Scott and Lee Counties was served by the railroad at Duffield. Goods were shipped here to merchants within fifteen or twenty miles and hauled to their stores by wagons. In later years boxcar loads of fertilizers were shipped here from Norfolk, Va. to be distributed to area merchants by trucks.

     For many years three agents were required to do all the business at the Duffield Depot. About eight years ago the depot (which had had a single agent for several years) fell victim of the times and was vacated. After being vacant for about two years it was moved to Hiltons to be used as a museum.

     By an act of the Virginia General Assembly in January23, 1894, Duffield was incorporated in the hopes that it would become a thriving industrial center since there was a large sawmill, a brick plant, grist mill, two blacksmith shops, two or three stores here and the railroad ran through the  heart of town.

     Until the beginning of World War II, a thriving tanbark and produce (rabbits, turkeys, chickens, eggs, walnut kernels, etc.) business was carried on between Duffield and Baltimore, Md. Herbs of all kinds were sold to a herb doctor in Pennington Gap or to a warehouse in Bristol.

     In September 1915, my grandfather, J. B. Robinette moved here from Canton and established a general mercantile business. He "bought and sold" everything including casket handles, horse collars, household staples, hats and silk dresses from New York. In season he bought blackberries for 10 a gallon. He also bought ginseng, bloodroot, may apple, all kinds of herbs, chickens and turkeys on foot, eggs, cowhides, and dozens of other things. Almost daily the trains would stop at the depot a trainmen would come across the road and purchase butter, eggs and chickens to deliver to someone in Appalachia.

     After Granddaddy's retirement in 1949, the store operated as Fannon's Grocery until 1962.

     Cecil G. Robinette started a junkyard here in 1932 on land he leased from the Southern railroad. He Collected Scrap metals locally, throughout eastern Kentucky, and as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio. During World War II, he shipped at least one carload (if not two) of scrap metals weekly to help the war effort. Mr. Robinette moved his operation to Big Stone Gap shortly after the war where he had more room to expand.

     The area around Duffield is predominantly a farming area, but a little over three decades ago industry came to this area. Foote Mineral Company was completed in 1953 and was billed as the worlds largest lithium plant at that time. For the next six years, the Atomic Energy Commission was the plants biggest customer. The plant is still in operation but on a smaller scale.

     On June 6, 1970, the Duffield Industrial Park was dedicated and ground was broken for the construction of the park. The Honorable Linwood Holton then Governor of the Old Dominion, was assisted in the ground breaking by other state and local officials. The 260-acre park is under the auspices of the Duffield Industrial Authority and functions as a branch of Lenowisco Planning District Commission.

     The park has grown until it (and the Thomas Village Complex) now has twenty businesses and employs 1200 people. We are proud of the industry, the doctor, dentist, nursing home, Ramada Inn, the bank, floral shop and the other facilities that have brought growth and a better way of life to many of our citizens.

     When the town of Clinchport was it by the flood in the spring of 1977, the Tennessee Valley Authority re-located several of the residents in an area west of Duffield known as back valley Most of the land was purchased from the Nickels or Thomas farms, thus the new residential section became Thomas Village. There many beautiful homes, two housing projects and other facilities where blackberry briers grew in abundance.

     Most of the old landmarks are gone except the old bank building and at least three homes that are over one hundred years old. The bank was built in 1921 and did a thriving business until the depression hit in the fall of 1929. The building has since served for many years as the post office and as a carpet store.

     Before the turn of the century, Isaac Goble came to defiled to visit his brother and to look around. He landed a job with Mr. Morrison working in a hotel. Within two year he was owner of the Duffield Inn and remained in the hotel business for the next 67 years. Uncle Ike was born on Feb. 1, 1855 and lived to the ripe old age of 95.

     In the fire that destroyed most of the town in 1916, the Inn was saved by local residents wetting quilts and covering the large two story, eight-room structure. Many salesmen (called drummers then) spent the night with Uncle Ike and Aunt Sally for their good food and Southern hospitality. Many aspiring teachers on their way to or from Radford College, who couldn't afford the price of a meal or a night lodging would spend the night next door at the Robinette household.

     The names of many stores and storekeepers of yesteryear have made/left a mark on this area. Among those who come to mind are: Alfred Edwards, Uncle Jimmy Tomlnson, the Harris Brothers, Sam Carter, H. P. Bledsoe, J. B. Robinette, Will Gobble, Moscoe Minton,
Carl Cole, B. F. Dishner, J. L. Hill, Bryan Moore, Lee Dishner Garage, Ross Stokes Garage, Neece's Store, Holbrook Fruit Stand, Ira P. Robinette Store, the filling station (served as a bus station and later as the first fire hall), that had many, many operators.

     In more recent years there were stores operated by L. C. and Claudia Kern, N. C. Bishop, Lillie Kern, Ella Bowen, and Shupe & Jessee. There are still many businesses scattered throughout our area.

     I stand in awe of the many changes that have taken place in our area in the past twenty to thirty years. I wonder what Daniel Boone would think if he were able to come back and travel again through Devil's Race Path on through Kane's Gap in Powell Mountain. Mr. Boone is said to have traveled this route many times on his way to Kentucky. The Daughters of the American Revolution placed an eagle in his memory at the west end of Duffield in the 1930fs. The eagle was destroyed or was taken by vandals sometime later. The Duff-Patt Ruritan Club replaced the memorial about ten years ago at the intersection of US 23 and 58.

     I wonder what he would think at seeing all the lights brightening up the place he called Little Flat Lick. An ordinance proposing to sell and grant a franchise for an electric light, heat and power transmission and distribution system in the town of Duffield was passed by the town council on September 26, 1938.

     What would he think about the modern four-lane highway? Be he wouldn't like the intersection of US 23 and 58. I don't believe he would have liked it any more than we who travel through the dangerous road daily. Maybe he would be the leader in a campaign to help eliminate the traffic problems there.

     I dare say Ole Daniel would have enjoyed spending the night at Ramada Inn in a nice warm bed instead of sleeping in a "holler" tree or somewhere on the ground. He would enjoy having a good meal and not having to eat bear meat or other wild game.

     On Sunday morning he would have enjoyed worshiping at new of the seven churches located within a mile radius. Maybe he could visit Faith Freewill Baptist Church, Three Bells Methodist Church, Thomas Village Baptist Church, Flatlick Community Church, Horton's Summit Church or Peterson's Chapel Baptist Church.

     I'm almost sure that Ole Daniel would like our new radio station WDUF, especially if the Ole Ridge Runner (Jimmy Smith) were to play Cumberland Gap for him. The station opened on August 12, 1986.

     We in this area have a great heritage and we need to work to preserve it for the future generations!

 

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