Patrick Hagan

Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Kingsport News, Sunday, November 9, 1952

35,000 Acres Were Bought OnA$25Bid

By VIRGINIA DAVIS Times-News State Editor

DUNGANNON, Va. (Spl.}-One of Southwest Virginia's most wealthy and scholarly residents was an Irish Catholic who followed his uncle into Scott County and/became a legendary land opportunist when the industrial developers of coal and ore deposits cast their eyes on the Virginia hinterlands.

     Patrick Hagan has been dead over 35 years; and the country style, family graveyard at Hagan Hall has been taken over by the wild briars and hornets nesting. But tales of this fabulous and interesting man and his vast estate still go the rounds. People still find their way to the old, dilapidated house that was his "mansion" at Sulphur Springs, and there are many Virginians nearing the name Hagan, after his idealistic man.

     Hagan is said to have inherited his uncle Joseph Hagan's vast tracts and during his lifetime owned thousands of acres which folks say covered most of the Jefferson National Forest area, the Stonega Coke and Coal Co., and the Clinchfield Coal Corp., boundaries that crossed counties into Wise, Russell and Dickenson as well as Scott.

     The town of Dungannon was named by Patrick Hagan, after his home in Ireland, where he was born Feb. 2, 1828. He came to America at 16, stopping at New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk and Richmond before following Joseph Hagan into the western lands of Virginia.

     Storytellers say Joseph Hagan had walked down a Richmond street during a land sale for delinquent taxes and heard the auctioneer ask for bids on 35,000 acres. Without asking its location, he allegedly entered a high bid of $25 and walked away a Southwest Virginia landowner. This tale may bear some truth from the following records in the Scott County circuit court clerk's office.

The High Bidder

     In 1841, Thomas G. Martin, commissioner of delinquent and forfeited lands, deeded to Joseph Hagan of Scott County, 50,000 acres on Stock Creek under the Western Lands title Law. The high bid of $28 was reduced to $26.32 for prompt payment, and the money was to be turned over to the Virginia Literary Fund, the taxes being delinquent from 1815 (date of Scott County's organization) to 1833.

     The first deed recorded to Joseph Hagan was August 30, 1833, when William Thompson and Bernard Hagan of Richmond, executors of the will of William Lamb, sold to Joseph and Sarah Purcell of Richmond 200,000 and 100,000 acres in Russell County, 12,328 acres and 3,155 acres in Monongalia County (now West Virginia), a number of small lots and tracts in the city of Richmond and Henrico County and any other tracts found to belong to William Lamb."

     On Dec. 29, 1839, a power of attorney is recorded by Joseph Hagan of the city of Richmond, empowering William Richmond of Scott County to act for him in land negotiations to the quantity of 2,000 acres, and in the county's sixth deed book, William Neal of Giles County deeded to Joseph Hagan a tract in Hunters Valley below Buckner's Ridge in 1838.

     Joseph Hagan built a log house on a plateau behind the present Hagan Hall, and Patrick built the present structure in 1860, adding to the back part about four years later. Hagan Hall had steam heat, two or more bathrooms and several up-to-date features for that day of rural living. The site of the house is said to have been selected there in Hunters Valley because of the fine spring of sulphur water that bubbles up by the side of Stanton Creek.

     No record of Patrick Hagan's inheritance from his uncle was noticed in the long listings of deeds to and from the nephew and his uncle or from the early will books in the county. A small tract of 200 acres was bought by Patrick Hagan from his uncle for $400 in·1868.

     At least seven deeds are on file showing Patrick Hagan's sales of tracts to the S & W Railroad Co., tracts to Cranes Nest Coal and Coke Co., to the Unaka Corp., and the Clinchfield Improvement Co.

     Old deeds still in his home at Hagan Hall show that in 1890, he was engaged in a $39,000 transaction with a Philadelphia group of businessmen, seeking to buy the iron ore mining privileges in a 10,000-acre tract around his Hunters Valley home. Within this acreage, the exceptions of property sold to other persons were so many that the net acreage amounted only to 7, 977½, computed at $5 per acre.

Learning And Law

     Patrick Hagan had been taught by his uncle the fundamentals of philosophy, Latin, and English, and he went to Tazewell, Va., to study law in the office of Col. Joseph Strass. He began law practice in Estillville (Gate City), where he was admitted to the bar in 1854, four years after receiving his citizenship at 22. He was admitted to practice law in Wise County's. first county court in 1856.

     Said to have possessed the most thorough legal education of any man in his section, he made land law a specialty and 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. He became a resident of Lee County and was twice elected Commonwealth's attorney there before moving back to Scott County to continue law practice.

     He was the leading defense counselor in the long-talked of Daniel Dean case, tried in Scott County in 1878-9. In one of these trials, Hagan's argument consumed eight hours, 'and it is said' he was so disappointed in the verdict for hanging in this case that he carried out a promise made in the trial that an unfavorable verdict to the defendant would cause him to never again participate in a criminal case.

Loved The Poor Man

     Probably the reason respect and admiration for Patrick Hagan has been carried down through the years is that he was a bona fide gentleman. He lived when a good man's word was as good as his bond.

     He loved the humble man, and Scott Countians have said that "Pat Hagan was always good for a dollar-bill handout, if you told him you had named your baby after him."

     Hagan had a large colony of Negroes on his farm and provided a school and church for them. His older neighbors remembered when he would celebrate the Christmas holidays with his most talented slaves making music for the occasion with their fiddles and banjos.

     In the heyday of Hagan Hall, many social functions took place there, and Hagan, receptive to the wishes of his children, often entered into the spirit as spry as a youngster.

     A master of Montesque, Coke and Blackstone, Hagan knew them almost by heart, and he contended no man knew the law who did not know the reason of the law. He was well-grounded in Roman and Grecian history, and the literary classics had a strong appeal to him. One of his favorite books was "Telemaque," which he said, "teaches how to attain the greatest happiness and how afflictions may be mitigated and reconciles man to his lot in life."

     "Reward You Eternally" Hagan's devotion to his Catholic duties was very real, and the Bishop of Wheeling was known to ride down to Wood station, where he was met and driven over the bumpity country lanes to Hagan Hall for a visit with Hagan. Still among the musty , papers in his library is the letter from the Convent of the Good Shepherd, Wheeling, where Mother M. de Sales wrote:

     "Although I know our Sisters expressed their deep gratitude to you for your generous donation, also your warm hospitality, allow me in the name of our community and children to thank you again. You will be prayed for by 140 of our children and will have a communion offered by each of the Sisters once every week. Again thanking you and praying God to surround you and yours with His choicest blessing and reward you eternally."

     The Catholic Church has established "Christ the King Mission" on a two-acre plot given by the Hagan family in recent years from the remains of the Hunters Valley tract.

     A large picture of a bishop or pope still hangs in the sitting room of Hagan Hall, which still has some of its original furnishings. Among the dusty papers in the library was a page from the Irish World of Nov. 29, 1884, wrapped in a sheet of paper, penned by Hagan as follows: "Transatlantic on the English way of dealing with Ireland."

     The Transatlantic is by an Irish distaff correspondent who gives a lengthy dissertation , on the then-new "Book of English Kings," giving a complete indictment against England, including a sitting of Parliament in Trim, when a law was enacted making it "no sin to kill an Irishman."

     Hagan married Mrs. Elizabeth Young Grubb to whom were born four sons and four daughters, two still living.

     His declining years were spent , at Hagan Hall, where he died in his 90th year, Feb. 23, 1917. His, oldest son, Charles F. Hagan, took charge of his affairs under a trusteeship and in his record of disbursements in the Scott County courthouse, some of the expenses indicate a picture of Hagan Hall at its prime: Sterchi Bros. Co., casket, etc. for P. Hagan, dec'd.; $167.50. Rev. J. N. Black, donation church and charities, $200. Mother M. Evangelista for Rosalie Hagan, $10. Miss Lavie McGoldrick, professional services rendered Mother in last illness, $50; Sterchi Bros. Co., casket for Mrs. P. Hagan, $173.15. Huntsman Bros. Co., sugar for Hagan Hall, $32.73; N & W mileage books, $20; Miss Virginia Wilson, stenographer, $35 a month. Subscription Catholic Standard and Times, $6; V & SW Rwy. Agt., freight on coal, $18.55; John Wanamaker a/c for Miss R. B. Hagan, $2; lard for Hagan Hall from Huntsman Bros., $13. Carrie Stone, stenographer. $50; Hodges Studio, Mother's photograph, $12; C. R. Quillen. veterinarian's service rendered injured horse at Hagan Hall Farm, $15; Coal for Hagan Hall, W. F. C. Blackwell, $249.75. Disbursements for this period covered $61,480.88.

     And thus the fortunes of Hagan Hall began to decline and are today almost gone with the wind.


HAGAN HALL, once one of the most beautiful residences in rural Scott County, Va., is seen above in the top picture as it is today. Master of this large estate was Patrick Hagan (inset photograph). The lower left picture shows a view up the front brick walk and part of the numerous flowers, shrubs and trees that grew on the Hagan Hall lawn. This picture was taken Sept. 20, 1914. Picture at the lower right shows a general view of the estate in Hunters Valley taken probably at a much earlier date. Bricks for the mansion were molded and fired at the building site about 1860. The original painter and paperer, Harry Smith, left his name on the bared, plastered wall in the top, front bedroom in 1864. (Top photo by Joe Edwards.)


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