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Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
P. O. Box 262, Surry, VA 23883   Phone (757) 294-0404
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April 1999, page 4
James Atkins, Editor


On July 1, 1997, fifteen citizens of the town of Dendron met in the municipal building and organized a historical society to preserve and promote interest in the rich history of the town.

The first project undertaken is the restoration of an old boxcar from the Surry, Sussex & Southampton Railroad. The boxcar, which dates back to 1890, was donated to the society by Nancy Faison Threewitts Hughes of Dendron. There is one passenger car from the old railway near Scotland Wharf, and there are two engines left: one on display in the New Jersey Transportation Museum and the other belonging to Midwest Central Railroad. Some locals may remember that the Virginia Diner restaurant in Wakefield had its beginnings in a railway car from the Surry, Sussex & Southampton Railroad. Several members and former citizens of Dendron have shared their memories of riding the train to Surry to the Fair, to Wakefield, and one recalled riding the train to Wakefield, changing trains to go to Petersburg, changing trains again to go to Richmond to go to the hospital to have his tonsils removed.

Some items of interest from Dendron's past:

  • Dendron had a population of approximately 3000 people in 1928.
  • The Surry Lumber Company in Dendron began about 1886 and grew into one of the largest plants of its kind in the South. It was said to have been the largest sawmill complex east of the Mississippi River.
  • Dendron had 3 big sawmills, 1 planing mill, 1 building factory for bundling wood, and 1 box factory.
  • Boxes for Standard Oil were made in Dendron and shipped by SS&S to Scotland Wharf and on to Germany.
  • The word dendron means trees.
  • Dendron had two hotels, a post office, 18 stores, 5 churches, 2 schools, a jail, 2 banks, 2 doctors, a skating rink, a movie theater, and a number of non-Company owned businesses such as a drugstore, barber shops, garages, cleaning establishments, a poolroom, a restaurant, bakery, and ice-cream parlour.
  • The Dendron Hotel had a bandstand in front where concerts were held frequently.
  • At one time Dendron boasted of the only brass band outside of the largest cities in eastern Virginia.
  • Dendron had two soft drink bottling companies -- Pepsi and Cherry Cola. In 1910 the granite for the Confederate monument in Surry was transported by the SS&S over temporary track from the station to the courthouse square.

Some wheels from a Surry, Sussex & Southampton Railroad car were located in Assamoosic Swamp in Sussex County. On Labor Day, September 7, 1998, a group from Dendron decided to make an effort to recover them. They were successful and found the wheels to be in good shape. Rolling them across the mud to load them even polished them so they look like they might have just made a run. The two sets of wheels are from different manufacturers. One is from the Tredegar Company, Richmond, Virginia, dated 1906. The other set is from Butterworth & Lowe, Grand Rapids, Michigan. dated 1907. A search of Sussex County records shows that the Surry Lumber company bought pine and poplar timber from J. H. Shelton (former owner of the Stephenson farm) in 1901. They also bought land on the east side of the Assamoosic Swamp in 1908, and the plat for this property indicates a railroad right-of-way along the south boundary of the property. With all of this Surry Lumber Company activity in the area, it is reasonable to conclude that the wheels found in the swamp are from the Surry, Sussex and Southampton Railroad.

Another interesting activity of members of the Dendron Historical Society was a walking tour of the site of the mill yard. They discovered brick foundations of the mills, a structure about head high with four huge bolts protruding out of the brickwork which seemed to have been the support for a large flywheel, the remains of three Company houses which is about all that is left of the large residential area known as "the Barge" where much of the mill workforce and their families lived, a huge cistern that furnished water for the boilers of the steam engine that ran the mill, a large, two-story mule shed which shows good workmanship and materials even today, seven or eight large brick supports of C mill-each about 14 feet high, and an area covered with cinders and tiny pieces of coal (the old rail yard). The cinders had to be cleaned out of each locomotive every morning. At the site of the SS&S engine shop, there are two masonry lined trenches or pits about two feet wide. These pits were designed so that an engine could straddle the pit and workers could access the underside. The pits seem very narrow but this was necessary because the SS&S was a narrow gauge railroad -- the wheels were only 36 inches apart.

The Society has investigated the possibility of having The Comp'ny by Temple Crittenden reprinted. Many people have expressed an interest in purchasing a copy; however, someone or some source is needed to bankroll the project. The total printing cost is needed up front before any books can be printed.

The officers of the Dendron Historical Society are: Bill Richardson, president; Wallace Faison, Jr., vice-president; Ruth Sheffield, secretary, and Nancy Shope, treasurer. The address is P. 0. Box 308, Dendron, Virginia 23839.

If you have relics of Dendron's past and would like to share them with the public, consider donating them to the museum which will be housed in the restored boxcar in Dendron. If you would like to be a part of preserving this history, you are invited to become a member (dues are $10.00 a year) and/or a donor.

For a Dendron Historical Society MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION, CLICK HERE!

SCVHS April '99 Newsletter, page 1         SCVHS April '99 Newsletter, page 2         SCVHS April '99 Newsletter, page 3         SCVHS April '99 Newsletter, page 5

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