September 2004 Newsletter, Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc. Surry County Virginia Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
P. O. Box 262, Surry, VA 23883   Phone (757) 294-0404
E-mail address: [email protected].
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Newsletter and September 2004 Meeting Notice

Please note that the meeting will be Monday, September 13, at 7:00 P. M. at the Surry County Va. Recreation Center.

Our Speaker will be Dorothy Grubbs.
Dorothy has lived a long and interesting life in Surry County. Her memory of events and history are phenomenal. Don't miss this opportunity to hear first hand remembered history from one whose roots are extremely deep in Surry County.

Expanded Society Office:
The Society is pleased to announce that we now have two more rooms for office space and research. Surry County has emptied the two rooms previously used for storage and we now have the entire "Old Jail". The two rooms have been painted, and thanks to Polly Seward, have new carpet on the floor. We are slowly moving into the rooms. We thank Surry County for giving us this badly needed space.
Our office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, from approx. 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. We are open some other times when we expect visitors.

Please note our new e-mail address ([email protected]) in our letterhead. We try to answer all messages as promptly as possible. Also, requests for research often take extra time to find someone to reply. In some cases, we are unable do the research requested.

Our Web Page remains an outstanding resource. There is a great amount of information available.


Pleasant Point by Gordon W. Bohannan, President

1940 was an important year for my parents, Willis and Josephine Bohannan. They were living in Petersburg, where my father was in a law firm with his uncle, James Gordon Bohannan. Although my father had lived there since the early 1930s, he really missed Surry, his hometown. A few months after my birth in January, he bought Pleasant Point Farm on the James River in Surry. He had visited Pleasant Point as a boy. A cousin, Willis Morrison, had owned it and when he died, Daddy bought it as a summer home for us.

Earlier this year when I was cleaning out Mother's Petersburg condo, I found a booklet concerning the buildings on the farm in 1940. It described each building, the dimensions and value. The report was done by a fire insurance company in Petersburg.

My memories of Pleasant Point are from the viewpoint of a very young boy. I do not remember the first few years of us spending summers at Pleasant Point. However, these first years were an adventure for the Bohannans. The farm had no electricity. I remember the kerosene lamps and the great dangers of fire. We spent the early 1940s similar to the other owners since Pleasant Point was built in the late l7th century. It was one of the few plantation homes that was not burned down at least once in its history. I vaguely remember an outhouse but we soon got water pumped from an artesian well located at the river level. This electric ram provided us excellent water for our ten summers at Pleasant Point.

I also remember the basement which was under the entire house. The only inside entrance to the basement was a set of steep stairs. It was fine for a small child to use, but adults had to bow down or have their heads bump the ceiling. The floor of the basement was dirt and felt clammy to a young boy's bare feet. The ceiling of the basement was low so that anyone over six feet tall had to duck. During our ten year stay, we did concrete the floor of the kitchen and another room where we stored food.

By the time I began to remember events, my sister Suzanne was born. She was a tomboy as a child, so I had a good playmate. There were also two other members of our household who shared Pleasant Point with us for these ten years - my mother's mother, Mabel Congdon, and our family's housekeeper, Estelle Vaughn. Grandmothers are always considered elderly by their grandchildren and "Me-Me" was no exception. I perceived her as being a strict, no nonsense lady, but it was to Estelle that I bonded. To this day my love and respect for her is great. I will share some tales about Estelle in further articles.

In closing, I point out that Pleasant Point is a historical place in Surry County. It has always been a private home and as such does not get the publicity that some other river-front plantations in Surry County receive. During the 1950s and 1960s out-buildings were built and even a swimming pool. In my opinion some of these improvements have tainted the historical value of this great house. In the next newsletter, I will include pictures and memories of some of the outbuildings that were still standing in the 1940s.
Bo Bohannan.


The Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
by James E. Atkins.

My wife and I had the great privilege of visiting this Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, on a recent trip out west. They undoubtably have the largest library of Genealogy in the world. This is a part of the headquarters of the Mormon Church, encompassing a number of square blocks.

Starting in 1894, they have collected genealogy from around the world, and ensure that it will never be lost. In addition to this library of 142,000 square feet, they constructed in 1965 an underground vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon, approximately 25 miles from Salt Lake City. In this vault is stored camera masters of their precious microfilmed records. They have over 300,000 bound volumes and 2.2 million rolls of microfilm stored there. This library has over 3,700 family history centers in 88 countries.

The staff was very gracious in showing me their wonderful facilities. It is mind boggling. Unfortunately I did not have time to do research. A comment: They welcome gifts of books on Surry County. They have very few.

Fortunately, you do not have to go to Salt lake City, Utah, to gather their information. They list 37 centers in Virginia and hundreds across the country which can access their files. One is in Newport News, Va. 757-874-2335. Society member Virginia Rollings works there. Others are located in Richmond, 804-288-8134; Suffolk 757-538-361; and Midlothian, 804763-4318. Call 800-346-6044 to find the nearest history center in the USA.

The Family History Library's information is available on the internet at


Virginia legislative petition
Surry County1781 Dec. 3Box 240 Folder 3
Church- 1515-p
To the Honourable the speaker & the other Members of general Assembly.

This petition of sundry Inhabitants of the State Of Virginia:
Humbly sheweth:

That the Warehouse at Cabin Point has been burnt and destroyed by the enemy, for which Cause the inspection of Tobacco has ceased, to the very great Disadvantage of many people who have for a Number of Years been accustomed to pass their Tobacco at the said Warehouse, and as it requires Time to repair & revive the same, and as Arghibald Dunop, A gentleman of the County of Surry offers immediately to receive Tobacco at Low Point, provided the said Warehouse at Cabin Point could be discontinued and one established at Low Point.

Your Petitioners with the greatest Humility and Respect humbly Pray that your Honorable House will disaontinue the said warehouse at Cabin Point, and that the said Arghibald Dunlap may be permitted to prepare the necessary Houses at Low Point [commonly call'd Guildford] in the said County of Surry, and that the said Warehouse may be fixed and established agreeeable to Law. Your petitioners wish to add, that this Warehouse will be by far more beneficial to the people in general, and the merchants in particular, than the former one, as it will be placed very convenient to bold, navigable Water, wheras the channel at Cabin Point will hardly admit of a passage for small boats, except at very high water. Your Petitioners therefore humbly hope, you of your Wisdom will seriously deliberate upon the Premises and grant them their Request &C they are in Duty bound shall pray &C.

1781 November 27th.

[Original signatures are)
J. Kee
James Rae
Stephen Sorsby
William Collins
Wm. Maget
John Bartle
Wm. Stewart
Jonathan Ellis
Jas Gilchrist
Ben Putney
Lewis Putney

[Verso] Surry petition Dec: 3:1781 referred to Propositions The Petition of Sundry Inhab. To G. Assembly.


Dendron Historical Society Cookbook is in the Works!
Your contributions are sought. Details are HERE.

Chancery Papers #325    

1st May 1869

J. M. Messersmith in Confederate Army: member of Surry Artillery; by deposition of John Underwood; Also says J. M. Left the Company in spring of 1864; said he was going to Petersburg. He returned next morning from Petersburg to Richmond, borrowed some money from Underwood and then took the cars for Fisherville in the valley of Va. He never returned to the Company: WAS REPORTED AS A DESERTER.

Deposition of Vincent C. Blunt says Messersmith left in spring of 1864 and said he never intended to return to his home, his wife or his family unless he could live in peace.

Enna [sometimes called Rowena] Messersmith, says on 9-3-1862 she was united in marriage to Joseph M. Messersmith at the date of their marriage, he was a soldier in the Army of the Confederate States of the Company of cavalry formed in Surry.

It was then part of the 13th regiment of va. Cavalry in the service of the Confederate States government. He was on furlough; returned to his company; She being dependant upon her own exertions for her support and receiving very little if any aid from her husband.

He was a private and later a Corporal.

She remained in the house of her sister's husband, one Vincent C. Blunt. Where she assisted in the work and domestic labor of the family to earn her board. And such other work as she could take in to meet necessities and to clothe herself.

She left Surry in Feb. 1863 and moved to Petersburg where she lived with the Blunts [her sister].

She seldom saw her husband during 1862 and 1863. Gave her little sums amounting to 150.00 Confederate money, was of a depreciated value.

April 1863 he secured 15 days leave and remained in Petersburg with Rowena. Nothing unpleasant occured.

A month later, he secured leave and stayed for a month with Rowena. In Jan. 1864 he visited again and left for station near Richmond and have never seen him again. He is now a non-resident of Virginia and also deserted the service of the government. He has made no provision to support her. He left no property. Also there were no children. It has now been five years.

Asking for divorce and relief.

This was signed by Rowena R. Messersmith.

Note: Surry County at War by Willis W. Bohannan shows that Marion Messersmith served in the Surry Light Artillery, Lightfoot's Battalion and Company G. 13th Va. Cavalry. JEA


Cobham Wharf

The picture below is obviously old, maybe the late 1800s or more likely early 1900s. The site is very similar today, except that the wharf and building are missing. Only a few rotten remains of the pilings are still there. Please note that this wharf is at a different place from the Old Town [ca 1740] of Cobham. The town was east of where Gray's Creek enters the James River, near the present day ferry. Cobham Wharf was approximately three miles east, down stream on the James River.

This site is one of the earliest settled in Surry County. It was an important port for shipping the local fruits of labor. Much fruit was raised locally and shipped. Fish were abundant, and shipped from Cobham Wharf.

You will note what looks like a railroad track going down the hill and out on the wharf. Yet, there is no record of a rail line going to Cobham Wharf. It is highly likely a short tram that took merchandise from the top of the hill to the end of the wharf, and vise versa. Was it horse drawn or did it use a donkey steam engine, like those used in the woods to bring out logs? Horses and mules do not like to back up, and maybe they were disconnected from the tram and turned around to bring the tram back up the hill.

Member Margaret Sue Berryman remembers there was an icehouse in the bank on the right of the picture. This was used to keep the fish fresh when taking or shipping them to market. If any reader has more information on Cobham Wharf, The Society would be grateful to have it. JEA

Cobham Wharf
Cobham Wharf


Books for sale: The following books are for sale by The Surry County Virginia Historical Society. You can order them HERE!

Price each, including shipping & tax

  1. Old Surry, by A. W Bohannan $23.00
  2. The Comp'ny by H. Temple Crittenden $25.00
  3. Cabin Point, the Forgotten Village, by Barbara Hopper $20.00
  4. Claremont on the James, by Marion S. Baird Jr. $19.95
  5. Smallwood College, Claremont, 1896 newspaper $4.00
  6. It Took a Village, by Gray Rowell Henry $6.00
  7. Celebrating in the Village of Surry, A Christmas Story, by Anne Rowell Worrell $6.00
  8. World War 1 letters of Otto R. S. Osterle of Claremont, by Michael D. Harrison $7.00
  9. Steam Boat Bill Magazine, articles on ferries $4.00
  10. Surry County Register of Free Negroes, transcribed by Dennis Ray Hudgins $26.15
  11. Growing up in the South, An Anthology of Modern Southern Literature, edited by Suzanne W. Jones, daughter of Frank Jones. $8.00

Coming soon: There has been a great demand for the book, Lawnes Creek Church, by Ethel R. Rowell. It has been out of print for many years. Her daughters, Anne Rowell Worrell and Gray R. Henry, have graciously given the Society permission to reprint the book. We expect we will announce its availability and price in our next newsletter. The recent damage to the ruins by Hurricane Isabel has increased interest in this important site of our history.

Coming along: It is amazing how many books on Surry County Virginia are in the works at this time. There are three reprints in the process of being published. There are at least four new books on diverse subjects in the works. These cover the entire spectrum of Surry History. The amount of activity in preserving and publishing our history is extraordinary. Let's keep it up!

Order Now, while they are available. Build your library of your history and genealogy. Some of these books may not be available when present copies are sold. You also help support the Society and make funds available for publishing more books in the future.

2007 Transportation Issues:

Plans for the 2007 celebration of the founding of Jamestown continue to progress, or at least most of the plans. There is growing concern about transportation to and from the South Side of the James River.

Original plans included a new additional ferry to be in service before 2007. Undoubtably this would be needed to handle the vastly increased number of visitors to Jamestown during the 400th Anniversary Celebrations. The new ferry would add approximately 50% capacity to the system.

The plan appears to have been sidelined at the present. Unless it goes forward soon, there will not be time to complete the ferry and place it in service by 2007.

Already the ferry system works above capacity at times. Many citizens who live on both sides of the James River depend on the ferry to get to their job on the other side. The only alternatives are the bridges at Hopewell and Newport News. This can add well over 100 miles, two hours, to a daily commute.

Events such as the Pork, Peanut & Pine Festival cause back-ups on both sides of the river of a mile or more each year. Can you imagine what will happen when the President of the United States or the Queen of England makes an appearance at Jamestown?

There is talk of allowing only bus transportation to Jamestown, with satellite parking on both sides of the river. This may help, but Rt. 31 and the ferry must be open and available for the citizens who live on one side and work on the other. Close the Rt. 31 ferry to cars for a year, or a week?
    NEVER! The new ferry is a must! JEA

Request for Information: The Civil War.

Some time ago, a member, William L. West, sent me a Smithfield, Va., newspaper article dated Feb. 11, 1962. It included much information on activities that took place on the Atkins family farm during the Civil War when William Major West owned the farm. There was silver hidden from the Yankees, buried in the woods, including a picture of the silver. There was the picture of a mirror that hung on the wall in the home. There was the story of county records in William Major West's saddlebag, hidden from Yankees under the bed of a sick slave.

Had I not received this article, I would never have known of these activities that took place long before my family moved to the farm. This made me wonder about how many Society members have family information and tales on the war that has never been published or made public. Information may be in the form of notes, newspaper articles, letters, or only in the minds of our older generations.

Think what a story it would make, if we could collect and put together the hidden history of Surry County during this unfortunate war. While there are public records of units, battles, etc., private records tell the human side of the war.

I ask our members to collect and send me a copy of your Civil War "hidden history". I will attempt to ensure it is saved and published in one way or another. James E. Atkins

Rogers' Store:

The Society will have an open house on October 2, 2004, from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Come and see the store buildings, fixtures, records and inventory. If your ancestors lived anywhere close to Carsley, we probably have records of their purchases. We expect to have a farm blacksmith shop from the community on display for the open house.

Roger's Store is at Carsley, on Rt. 615. Rt. 615 runs from Rt. 31 just south of Dendron to Rt. 40 a mile south of Savedge, Va.

Keep your Dues up to date. If your newsletter name label shows a date earlier than 9/04, it is time to renew your dues.      Support Your Society!

Membership information and application form.

Jerusalem Ch
New Historic Road Marker
for Surry County on Rt. 615

K 320


Jerusalem Baptist Church was organized as
Mt. Joy Baptist Church in 1867 at the nearby
home of Mondoza Bailey, community leader
and carpenter. Amelia "Mother" Howard assisted
in the organization of this and six other churches.
Sent by the United States Freedmen's Bureau,
Howard, a teacher from Pennsylvania, helped
to establish African American schools and
churches in the region. Bailey led church
members in the construction of a wooden
building. Nancy Ellis James, born a free African
American woman, and her family provided the
land here for the church. The current brick
structure was built in 1993.

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