Scott County Historical Society

Scott County, Virginia


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Remembered . . . 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 qualities.
      Years have 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 of acres.
     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 families.
     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 Marlborough.
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.

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