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Scott County, Virginia

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The Way It Was .... By James Wood

From 1924 to 1930 Mendota, Virginia was a small village with a population of about 200 people. It is located in Poor Valley, about eighteen miles east of Gate City.

In that period there were three or four grocery stores, two churches, a Baptist and a Methodist, a bank operated by Mr. William Vermillion with help from Mr. Hiram Vermillion.

There was a depot with a waiting room for whites and blacks and a large freight room. It was operated by Mr. Charlie Smith.

The post office combined with a small store, was operated by Mr. James Ellington, postmaster.

There was one doctor, Dr. James O. Meade, two dentists, Dr. John Pruner and Dr. Arthur Pruner, father and son.

About one half mile west of the town was a grist mill powered by the Holston River, operated by Mr. Hendrix Barker.

Wheat and corn were ground there. At the same spot, Mr. Barker operated a sawmill. The mill building was three or four floors high.

Near the mill was a building where sand was hauled from near the top of Clinch Mountain. There was a narrow gauge railroad running from the railroad to near the top of the mountain.

Two cars with a capacity of a few yards of sand each were used to bring the sand off the mountain. The cars were attached to each end of a wire cable. One car would leave the top of the mountain, filled with sand or sand rock, and pull the empty car up. There was a switch at the midway point where the cars could pass.

Another sand company was located about three miles west of Mendota, known as the Silica Sand Company.

This was a different type operation. It consisted of a large wire cable stretched from the railroad to near the top of Clinch Mountain and back to the railroad. On this cable large buckets were hung. There were several buckets on the cable, each with a capacity of several hundred pounds of sand rock. As the full buckets came down the mountain the empty ones returned to the top.

There was a building at the railroad known as a Tipple, where the sand was loaded onto railroad cars.

Some of the merchants at that time were Frazier Shepard, Joseph Statzer, James Ellington, C. A. Litton, and Hiram Vermillion.

Hamilton High School was situated in the town. The school was founded in 1874.

Two professors at that time were Mr. Robert M. Dougherty and Mr. Fred O. Wygal.

Two local teachers were Mrs. Mamie Barker and Mrs. Susie Lee Martin.

There was a lawyer, Mr. Vernon Barker. He was a local boy, a very good man and was never married. During this period there were two local tragedies occurring . . Two of Mr. Charlie Smith's sons, Max, and Ross Smith, were drowned in a boating accident.

The two were in a boat, along with their sister; Emma Smith and a neighbor Mary Faye Dougherty. They were on the Holston River directly below Mr., Barker's mill dam.

A lot of water was pouring over the dam at that time, they got too close the dam and the undertow drew them under the waterfall and the boat capsized.

Max didn't come to the surface, prompting Ross to dive for him and neither came to the surface.

Some of the neighbor men brought their bodies out of the river.

The only motorcycle in Mendota at that time was owned by Bufford Nickels. He was killed instantly while riding the cycle.

On Sunday and other days, young people would meet at the Depot when a passenger train was due to see who might arrive or depart on the train. The mail was also brought in by train.

When the train departed the people would walk back to the post office to get their mail.

The old depot is gone now and the trains do not run any more.

At that time passenger trains arrived four times daily, and there were freight trains daily and a local.

Mustoe Prunor helped Mr. Charlie Smith in the freight room.

There were a few silent movies shown in Mendota during this period.

Cars were very few, most being Model T Fords.

At the present time there are about the same number of dwelling houses as there were fifty-five years ago. There is not a bank, doctor, dentist, lawyer, or high school.

There were no school buses at the time. Some of the pupils had to walk three miles each way. Another local teacher was Miss Emma Smith.

My first teacher was Miss Reba Campbell whose home was in Abingdon. She was my teacher in 1924 and 1925.

The high school building was shaped like an "H". Mr. Milton Kennedy was what was known as the janitor. He was totally blind.

Basketball games were played outside.

The roads were not very good, only dirt and gravel. Cars were not used much in winter as mud was too deep to travel.

There were no telephones at that time in Mendota.

Some other teachers at Mendota at that time were Nell Grigsby, Audry Snodgrass, Creola Snodgrass, Mary Steele, Mary Hardin, Anna Kate Pipper, and Nell Wright.

Names of people living in and near Mendota from 1924 to 1930 were Mr. and Mrs. Abe Barker, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Barker, Mr. and Mrs. Pete Barker, Mr. and Mrs. Cornish Barker, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Barker, Mr. and Mrs. W. M. Hobbs, Mr. and Mrs. Berryhill Hobbs, Mr. and Mrs. Frazier Shepard, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Statzer, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Statzer, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Carrier, Ruth and Jack Morison, Mr. and Mrs. Fredrick Smith, Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Litton, Mr. and Mrs. Wiley Lakey, Mr. and Mrs. Abe Fleenor, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Owens, Mrs. Tumlin, Mr. and Mrs. Ira Hobbs, Mr. and Mrs. John Linen, Mr. and Mrs. Amos Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Robinson, Mr. and Mrs. Lonie Rice, Mr. and Mrs. Will Nickels, Mr. and Mrs. John Hurt, Mr. and Mrs. Abe Wright, Mr. and Mrs. Ryland Millard, Roy Nickels, Mr. and Mrs. Paterson, Mr. and Mrs. John Davenport, Mr. and Mrs. Clint Dye, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Hamilton, Mr. and Mrs. Dewitt Meade, Mr. and Mrs. Jim Hendricks, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Rice, Mr. and Mrs. Dele Tate, Mr. and Mrs. Campbell Dixon, and Mr. and Mrs. Steve Hobbs.

Editor's Note: Mr. Wood, age 69, is a lifelong resident of Scott County.

Scott County Herald-Virginian, July 2, 1980
Contributed by Lester Shadrick

 

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