. . . Hagan Hall – Rufus Ayers Estate
Scott County Herald-Virginian, July 2, 1980
Sites of two elegant homes owned by prominent Scott Countians
during the late 1800's were chosen because of giant sulphur
springs nearby. The springs were recognized for their medicinal
taken their toll on the Hagan Hall mansion, built in 1860 by
Patrick Hagan in the Hunter's Valley section between Dungannon
and Ft. Blackmore. Fire destroyed the majestic Rufus Ayers home,
owned by the famous Southwest Virginia developer in the 1870's.
Rev. and Mrs. Ralph Flanary, own the
Hagan Hall at the present time. The high cost of heating the
huge building, forced the Flanarys to move into a mobile home
situated near the historic landmark.
The mansion, constructed from bricks
molded and burnt on the premises, contained 17 rooms, 2 baths,
and was heated by steam. Elegant furnishings consisted of an
ivory piano, Persian rugs, expensive velvet drapes, and an
impressive library. The original painter and paperer, Harry
Smith, signed his name on the bared, plastered wall in the top,
front bedroom in 1864. Patrick Hagan built the house in front of
a log house built by his uncle Joseph Hagan. Additions to the
original house were added some four years later.
Patrick Hagan, born in Ireland on
February 2, 1828, came to America at the age of 16. He stopped
at New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk, and Richmond before
following his uncle Joseph into Virginia.
Patrick is said to have inherited his
Uncle Joseph's vast tracts and during his lifetime owned thousands
No record of Patrick Hagan's inheritance from
his uncle have been found in the long listings of deeds to and
from the nephew and his uncle.
Patrick Hagan studied law in the office of Co!.
Joseph Strass in Tazewell, Va. He began law practice in
Estillville in 1854. Be was admitted to practice law in Wise
County's first county court in 1856. Patrick Hagan became known
as one of the foremost land lawyers in Virginia. Through his
practice, he added to his inherited wealth and invested in other
coal and timber lands.
The town of Dungannon was named by Patrick Hagan
after his home in Ireland. Hagan married Elizabeth Young Grubb
to whom were born four sons and four daughters.
He died at 90 in 1917 and is buried in the
family cemetery about 300 yards from the Hall on a little knoll.
It is enclosed by a wall about 5 ft. tall, madeof rock and
concrete. Steps go up and down to get inside but with a large
gate at back for burial services.
Patrick Hagan's monument has a Celtic cross on
it and unusual inscriptions.
Judge Bond once wrote an interesting article
about the cemetery and the Roanoke Times borrowed it from
Mrs. Hagan and never returned it. Several members of the Hagan
Family are buried there.
Time and weather are catching up with the
monuments of one of Scott County's famous
The worn monuments--those
of the Rufus Ayers family--are found in the historic Estill
Cemetery. Estill Cemetery, with its graceful iron archway, is
situated on a gently rolling knoll on Walnut Street in Gate
City, once known as Estillville.
Rufu s Ayers, a lawyer of renown, was a
Commonwealth's Attorney, a member of the House of Delegates, and
Attorney General of Virginia. He rejected strong encouragements
to run for governor, choosing to return to the area to further
his development of the Southwest
Ayers, born in Bedford County May 20, 1849, was
the eldest child of Maston J. and Susan Lewis Wingfield Ayers.
His ancestry included General Andrew Lewis, commander of the
American forces at the Battle of Point Pleasant, and John Lewis,
first settler of Augusta County.
In 1855, his
father set out with the family to Texas. At Goodson, now
Bristol, however, he stopped to visit relatives and liked the
area so well that he gave up the idea of going farther.
Rufus started to
school at the Goodson Academy, and not long afterward, in 1858,
came the death of his father, leaving his mother with six small
children. The War between the States brought on the next
misfortune, closing . the academy and ending his days in school.
In April, 1864,
before he was 15 years old, he ran away from home and joined the
army, serving with a detached command of scouts in East
Tennessee. After the surrender, he came back with a horse and
began to cultivate a crop of corn. His nights
were spent in study of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, of
English, Caesar, Cicero, and Virgil.
He soon turned to
the mercantile business and spent two unsuccessful years in this
field, except for the knowledge he gained from continued study
both of elementary subjects and of law books sent him by his
uncle, Judge C. A. Wingfield of the Lynchburg Circuit.
After leaving business as a merchant,
he moved to Scott County and turned to the study of law more
seriously in the office of Henry S. Kane, one of the most
distinguished lawyers of Southwest Virginia. In 1872, he was
admitted to the bar, and soon afterward, hung out his shingle at
Estillville. He had practiced only a couple of years or so when
he was elected to Congress.
In 1877 he was
appointed by President Hayes, under the statute requiring
nonpartisan appointees,supervisor of the census for the Fifth
District of Virginia.
In 1883, as a member of
the State Committee of the Ninth Congressional District of the
Democratic party, he took personal charge of the Second
Senatorial District, then composed of the Counties of Scott,
Lee, and Wise, and succeeded in reversing a Republican majority
of 2,000 to elect the Democratic candidate. The next year, he
was vice-president of the Virginia delegation to the Chicago
convention, at which Grover Cleveland was nominated, and was
chairman of the Ninth District Committee that elected C. F.
Trigg to Congress. Continuing his
rapid climb, he was nominated for attorney-general of Virginia
over General James A. Walker and was elected on the ticket with
General Fitzhugh Lee and John E. Massey.
In 18 77, despite
the time required by his legal battles, the attorney-general
fled from his desk long enough to deliver the annual address at
the commencement exercises at Salem College, the little North
Carolina institution from which his wife had been graduated. In
this talk, he foresaw the emancipation of women, telling his
audience that "man furnishes the mind and muscle, but woman
often puts into motion the power which accomplishes results . .
It is a close partnership in which each contributes to the
common stock and . . are equally entitled to participate in the
dividend of results."
After four years in office, at age 40, Ayers, turned his back
upon the Capitol of Virginia, returning to this area.
His elegant home was on
a 2,500 acre estate on the banks of the Holston River, known as
Holston Springs. He remodeled the once resort house, containing
24 rooms. The grounds consisted of a 20 acre lawn, a large fish
pond well stocked with native fish, while the farm surrounding
the home at the base of Clinch Mountain nurtured more than 100
purebred registered Jersey cows and a large herd of hogs of
various breeds. Among the prominent persons who availed
themselves of his hospitality were the Duke and Duchess of
On May 14, 1926, Rufus A. Ayers died at the age of 77. His wife,
Victoria Louise Morison and other members of the Ayers family
are buried along side of the famous statesman.