Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Dungannon Past 

Virginia Star, Wednesday, March 25, 1987

By Charlotte Nickels

     When I saw the picture of the old Harry and Josephine Smith house, my mind went back to olden days, old customs and nostalgia recollections.  It once stood like a sentinel over looking a small valley and beautiful rolling hills.  It was a land mark in Dungannon, built in 1890 on a knoll where one wing of the new elementary school was built in 1909 by Joey Honeycutt and Mitt Cousins.  It was three stories – to top one a kind of attic.  The stairs were steep and narrow and a trap door led to the basement.  It was supposedly fashioned after an Irish castle.  The concrete steps leading up to the round entrance was built when the house was built, but in the 1920’s  Edward Horne built the wall and concrete walk in front of the house.  The walk in part is still there, standing firm.  The house and surroundings were always kept immaculately clean by it’s owners.

     A new large high school was completed in 1921 which almost surrounded two sides of the Smith property.  In order to go all way round the school house, you had to go around the Smith property.  The playground which had a fence around it on the other side.

     At that time all boys liked to play baseball and when the would knock a foul ball and it went over the fence in the Smith yard it was gone forever.  This was heart-breaking for young boys for at that time balls were hard to come by money was scarce.

     One time Edward Horne went to the door and said, “Mrs. Smith, please give me some of them balls.”  She gave him an arm full.

     In the front yard were two persimmon trees and in the back yard was a pear tree.  The children were constantly in trouble with the teachers and principal for climbing over or going under the fence to get the delicious fruit when it was in season.

     I thought as a child that Aunt Josephine was “stingy”, but I can see now that she was more patient and kind than we thought, as children would knock them off with sticks and rocks and then retrieve them.  I feel now the thoughtless children aggravated them terribly.  Lots of times she would pick them up in her apron and give them to the children through the fence and Uncle Harry would give them candy.

     Every student that ever attended the Dungannon school from 1909-1970 were familiar with the Smith house.  They were there first, but the school and playground surrounding it made in inconvenient to students and teachers and hard for the Smith’s.  To students, teachers and most everyone the house was a mystery, but not nearly as mysterious as its’ owners’.

     Aunt Josephine Stapleton Smith was a quiet, kind old lady, born in 1857, reared near Hunter’s Valley and everyone knew her, but Mr. Harry Smith was a “man of mystery”.  He came in this area around 1870 with Doc Howard and went to the Hagan Hall then occupied by the Patrick Hagan family.  They stayed there for a while, then were gone for a while, (no one knew where) then came back to the Hagan Hall.

     Patrick Hagan was afraid of them at first thinking they had come to rob him as it was rumored that they came in with the Jessie James gang.

     Later on he, Mr. Smith, told Edward Horne while he was painting the old Vic Cox home at Wood, Va. that he did come in with the Jessie James gang.  Jessie James was killed while they were at Hagan’s and the gang was scattered so they were no longer afraid of Smith and Doc Howard.

     Many children and others also were afraid of him.  He would sometimes go to the school room and count the children, coming in so softly that no one heard him until he was in the room.

     To my knowledge he never bothered a child, but often gave them candy.

     He was a professional artist, painter and paper hanger.  He left his trade mark in the form of a scroll “H. Smith”, paperer and painter done in Old English lettering.  One such scroll is still very plain in Hagan Hall, also the painted ceiling.

     Reverend Ralph Flanary took the pictures of hem and brought them to me, but they were not too plain and couldn’t be used.

     He also left the same trade mark on the old Uncle Dave Osborne house, Uncle Lemuel G. Osborne, the Vick Cox house and others, and left beautiful designs on ceilings.

     Mr. Smith was an educated man, refined, courteous and soft-spoken.

     He and Josephine Stapleton were married in 1882 at the Hagan Hall and moved to their new home in Dungannon in 1890.  She was 25 years old when she married.  So far as anyone knows they lived happily together.  He came here from Walton, Indiana and one time said he was not a “Smith” but “H. Elliott”.  He never would reveal anything of his past.  When someone asked him of family and early life, he would politely brush the off and talk about what he was doing.

     One time he wrote out the history of his life, signed it in blood and gave to the late Dr. Stallard.  Dr. Stallard read it carefully and later burned it.  He said to his wife, “Harry is my friend and neighbor and I will not reveal what he wrote me,” and he never did.

     Mrs. Smith came after Dr. Stallard one time and said Harry was hurt.  Dr. Stallard went to the house and Mr. Smith was upstairs and wouldn’t let the doctor come up.  After talking and persuading, Dr. Stallard went up and he had cut his heel strings with a razor.  Dr. Stallard treated and bandaged the places and pretty soon they healed up and he could walk with a slight limp.

     While Edward Horne was working for him one day, Mr. Smith invited him to come up into the attic.  He went up with him and there were two old trunks full of antiques, guns, arrow head collections and all kinds of  interesting knives and things he had collected and saved, which was a sight to behold for Edward.

    Once Urshall Mayo, Charles Culbertson, Nat and Dale Honeycutt were talking in front of the house after school.  Uncle Harry Smith came up the walk.  He saw a piece of the walk broken off that he had just repaired and thought that they had done it.  He slapped Urshall real hard, struck at Charles as they were closest to him, and said a few curse words and went into the house.  The boys were scared and shook-up and left for home.  Once Mr. Smith told Mrs. That his name was not “Smith”, that he had a living wife and had done her wrong.  She said, “Shoot the fiddle, I think you haven’t.”

     Other houses where he papered and painted were the George Honeycutt house, the Bart and Ella Osborne house and store, our old home and others.

     Uncle Harry was not well in his latter years and died in the hospital at Marion, Va. in the 1930’s.  Aunt Josephine lived several years longer and spent the last years at the home of a nephew, Barney Stapleton, who go possession of the property.  When she died, he wanted to put her in a home-made casket, but the Stapleton family, Rosalie and Andrew bought her a nice casket and buried her beside Mr. Smith at the Stapleton cemetery.

     Barney Stapleton sold the property to the school in the 1960’s.  Known ones living in the house after Mrs. Smith left were Enola Shepherd and family, the Charles Cox family, Cecil and Charlotte Mann, Curtis and Sue Mays, the J. T. Quinns, the Whetsels and others.

     The picture of the old house was given to me by Luther Castle of Blountville.  His father, the late James Castle, who was principal at school, gave it to him.  It was made in the early 1900’s.

     To write this article, I received information from the following people:  Andrew Stapleton, Helen Stallard Austin, Dale Honeycutt, Edward Horne, Ruth Watts, Evelyn Hawkins, Helen Smith, Clyde Honeycutt, Kate Roberts, Mattie Richmond, Lola Farmer, Joyce Osborne, Jack Johnson, Ray Osborne, Jack Johnson, Ray Osborne, Elizabeth Hagan Scott, Rev Ralph and Beulah Flanary and Retha Osborne.

 

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