Please note that the meeting will be Monday, May 9, 2005, at 7:00 P. M. at the Surry County, Va. Recreation Center. Office open Tues. and Thurs. 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, except holidays.
Our Speaker will be Dr. Melvin Ely, noted author and teacher. Dr. Ely received his doctorate from Princeton in 1985. A professor at the College of William and Mary, he has recently written a highly acclaimed book, Israel on the Appomattox. This important book tells the story of free African Americans and their relations with whites and enslaved blacks 1790-1861. It is extremely relevant to Surry History. This book has won the Bancroft Prize, was named a Best Book by the Washington Post Book World and two other newspapers and designated an Editors Choice by the Atlantic Monthly.
We are fortunate to have this noted author, professor and Society member as our speaker. Do not miss it! His book will be available for purchase at the meeting.
This brief account came from notes of my father, Willis W. Bohannan about Sidney Lanier, who later became a famous poet. He entitled the article, "Sidney Lanier at Bacon's Castle", and later incorporated it into his book, Surry County at War. Since, in spring, "a young man's fancy...", I thought perhaps this love story would be appropriate to revisit.
One Spring evening in 1863 four Signal Corpsmen dismounted in front of the Castle, and General Hankins came out to greet them. They had ridden over from Fort Boykin to spend the evening with the Hankins family. One of the Confederates was a gifted young writer who was destined to achieve lasting fame as a poet; he hailed from Macon, Georgia and his name was Sidney Lanier. He was soon to discover a kindred soul, Virginia Hankins, who was called "Ginna", the General's slim, darkhaired daughter and, during the months ahead, Lanier was to spend as many hours at the Castle as his military duties permitted. The friendship that began that evening in 1863 was to ripen into a romance -- a proposal of marriage and a rejection.
It was nearly a year after he met Ginna that Sidney Lanier, on guard duty, looked across Burwell's Bay and saw a long line of lights that outlined "Beast" [M.C.] Butler's fleet as it began its historic journey up the James River. Soon the turpentine lamps at the signal stations along the River were relaying the message that had been long expected: The Army of the James was headed for Richmond. But, as an added precaution, Lieutenant Woodley ordered Lanier and another scout to ride at once to Petersburg to report the approach of the Federals.
Serving as a scout with Beauregard's army near Petersburg and fighting in North Carolina until he was ordered to report for duty on a blockade runner, Sidney Lanier found time for only two more visits to the Castle before the end of the War - and his return to Georgia. His subsequent correspondence with Ginna and another visit to the Castle led to the proposal. But, by that time, Mrs. Hankins had died and Ginna had become the mistress of the Castle. There were younger brothers and a sister to be reared and educated - and Ginna remained at the Castle until it, like many other Surry plantations, fell before the auctioneer's hammer.
Elections: Elections for Board members will be held at the May meeting. The terms of office will expire for five Board members. Also, we must elect a new treasurer, replacing Martha Rollings, who has resigned. Those with an * after their name are ineligible to serve another consecutive term, having served two three year terms. Officers serve on the board by virtue of their office. The treasurer can serve unlimited terms. Outgoing Board Members are: Barbara Moore,* Wallace Edwards,* Lee Fudge,* James E. Atkins, Kenneth R. Holmes.
The Nominating committee appointed by the president are Faye Grandison, Dorothy Grubbs, Claude Reeson, Barbour Seward, and Margaret Sue Berryman.
Nominees for the Board of Directors are: Margaret Sue Berryman, Claude Reeson, James Harrison, James E. Atkins and Kenneth R. Holmes. Nominee for treasurer is Eliza Drew. Nominations may be made from the floor.
Bylaws Amendment: The Surry County Historical Society and Museums, Inc. Board of Directors, at their regular meeting on February 14, 2005, voted to present to the membership an amendment to Article V, Section 4. Quorums. The section recommended to be changed reads as approved when we organized: "Ten percent of the members of the Corporation, including at least two officers, present at any regularly scheduled or duly called meeting of the membership shall constitute a quorum.
The board recommends changing the words ten percent of the members to twenty-five members.
When the Society organized, we never expected to have 500-600 members, scattered over around 40 states. Many never get to our meetings. While we have not yet had a meeting without a quorum, we have come close several times. Bad weather or bad timing could jeopardize our ability to conduct business.
This bylaw change will be presented to our membership for approval at our May 9, 2005 meeting. A two thirds vote is required to approve this Bylaw change. The board recommends approval of this amendment.
A major gift: The Society has received a major gift from Mr. Earnest Whitmore Goodrich. He has given the Society $10,000.00, to be used for our office and future museum at Surry, Virginia. It was given in memory of Aurelius Wilson Bohannan, grandfather of our president, Bo Bohannan.
Few if any Surry citizens have contributed as much to our County as has Mr. Earnest Goodrich. He was Valedictorian of his class of 1931 at Dendron High School. He graduated from William and Mary College and completed Law School at their Marshall Wythe School of Law. He earned a master's degree in law from George Washington University. At the age of 26 he was elected Commonwealth's Attorney for Surry County, a job he held for 40 years, except for his time in military service during World War II.
He was involved with banking for nearly 40 years, and his services included many activities and service to Surry County. He also was director of the Board of Visitors of The College of William and Mary. He has been an active historian and writer of Surry history.
Mr. Goodrich, thank you for your service to Surry County and your gift to our Society.
Open House at Rogers' Store. The Society will have an open house at Rogers Store on May 21-22 from 1:00 PM until 5:00 PM. Come see the new displays and information. It is located on Rt. 615 at Carsley, approximately four miles west of Dendron, Va. The Rogers' Store Museum will also have an open house on April 23rd for the West Fanily Reunion.
The Courthouse, Our facilities and 2007: There still is a great deal of uncertainty about what will happen, and when. The architect designing the addition to our courthouse continues to work on the project. Meanwhile,the Circuit Court continues to meet in the Sussex County Courthouse. This is in spite of the fact that the damage from flooding has been mitigated.
There also is a suit asking the county to build considerably larger facilities than the board has authorised as necessary. This has to be settled. It appears the judge may have the last word.
We do expect that we will be able to continue to have our offices in "The Old Jail". We have asked the County for use of the Academy Building as a Museum to showcase all of our county's history. We are now putting in a formal application.
However, time is passing, and 2007 is coming fast! In little over two years, we expect to have the ship/ships at Claremont to commemorate their being here in May 1607. This supposedly has been approved by the Jamestown 2007 giroup. What will be the situation as to our Courthouse and our office/museum at that time?
Report of John Cargill to the Bishop of London in 1724
Southwarke Parish in Surry County
An Earlier Era! The following article, "A Description of Surry County in 1860", was written over 3/4 of a century ago by Surry County lawyer, Mr. T. N. Crymes. Society member Sarah Rowell Johnson copied it in 1929. Reminiscing of times past, it thankfully does not reflect our beliefs today in so many ways. Yet it is our history and should be published. JEA
"It was in 1860 the Golden Age of the South, the end of an era, when social, industrial, and political life of the old South threatened to be shaken from their foundations. The war clouds hung like a pall over Virginia. It was the last year of a happy life. Nowhere and in no age has such a life ever existed, as among the plantations of Virginia."-Eggleston.
It is in this year, the last year of a happy life, that we turn to Surry County, to review its social, educational, religious, and political life.
Let us first look at the plantations, the Great House, or "Gratus," as it was commonly termed by the Negro slaves. It was usually a weatherboard building, although there were some brick; a story and a half above the basement. It was set in a grove of majestic old oaks or hickorys, filled in with maples, ash and locust. Its quaint dormer windows had small panes of glass.
The furniture was "old-timey" and plain. The mahogany or rosewood bedsteads were black with age, but more than beautiful with the great polishings they were given. They were covered with fluffy snow-white hangings. The chairs were tall and straight. There were long sofas and book cases containing fine old books. The long shining tables with their slender brass-tipped legs usually held a bowl of glorious roses in the spring. There was usually an office in the yard where the boys slept. This was a right, eagerly looked forward to and longed for; and when it was gained, highly prized.
Off to one side spread the orchard, which blossomed into a bower of pink and white fluffiness. All around stretched the well-cultivated fields.
In the grove down the long lane, leading to the great house, were the neat whitewashed Negro quarters. Mammy's house was always the nearest house to the great house. From the doorway of one of the cabins comes the humming of a spinning wheel which is being run by one of the old "colored women."
The gardens were the pride of the mistress. In the vegetable garden she had the best slaves working. The flower garden on one side of the house had every variety of old flowers and sweet herbs. Honeysuckle ran riot over the fence, sending its fragrance into the summer air. Yellow cowslips bloomed in the carefully kept borders; also sweetpeas, pinks, violets, and tall hollyhocks. There were jonquils, graceful white lilies, snowball bushes, and lilacs.
Among the old Surry plantations were: Broom Fields, owned by Mr. Frank Ruffin; Littleton, owned by Mr. William S. Burt; Mount Pleasant, owned by Dr. George Wilson; Scotland Neck by William Carter. Major William Allen owned Claremont Manor and was one of the largest slave-holders in the state. He owned Douglas, Mount Venison, Wakefield in Surry County and Curles Neck in Jamestown. When the War broke out, he equipped a company at his own expense.
The Glebe was the home of the Episcopal minister; Joseph A. Graves owned Four Mile Tree. He was Commonwealth's Attorney of the County, and was later killed in the War by Federal troops at Jamestown. William Spratley owned New Hope which was burned in the War. Mussel Fork Farm was the present site of the town of Dendron, and owned by Charles Goodrich. This was a fine place for hunting and there was a deer stand near where Mr. Edward Rogers' house now stands. Mr. Dabney Philips, one of the first sawmill owners in the county, owned Camp Ground and Huntington.
John C. Baugh owned a large farm near spring Grove. The house on this place was the first in the county to have running water in it. The lead pipes used in this purpose were taken up during the War and made into bullets. Galloway was owned by W. H. Finch. Edwin White owned Selby's and Flood's. Oakland in Little Surry was the home of Dr. William Edwrds who died in 1859. Shady Grove was owned by John Shady Wilson. Colonel John H. Hankins was the owner of historic Bacon's Castle. Chipoax was owned by Albert Jones. Colonel John Wilson owned White Marsh and Edwin White owned Swann's Point.
Here and there are still standing mansions of the old order of Southern aristocracy in picturesque and melancholy ruin, as reminders of the splendor and luxury of the antebellum planters.
Perhaps we wonder what these people of old Surry did for entertainment. They led a rather gay life. There were tournaments at which the Queen of Love and Beauty was crowned. There were balls and fox hunts, which both men and women enjoyed. Many a mile they followed full chase after the "old Grays." At night came the distant call of the 'possum and 'coon hunters.
On Sunday everyone went to church, and to quote Thomas Nelson Page, "Everyone invited everyone else home from church..." And, oh what dinners! Why, the tables fairly creaked under the weight of the many delicious foods. It is a wonder that the house held the visitors, but it did. Such was the hospitality and the congeniality of the good old Virginians.
Traveling circuses sometimes passed through the county stopping at Cabin Pont and Surry. They were objects of interest to everyone, and people came from far and wide. Robinson's was one and it traveled by railroad.
There was special activity at ice getting, corn cutting, fodder pulling, hog killing, and harvest time, especally for the Negroes. They were conveyed from plantation to plantation to assist in this work. Their songs and laughter rang out over the country showing the heart was light and the work not too heavy.
On all the platations there were slaves; every young girl had a maid. They all formed one great family in social structure now passed away.
Candles were made on the plantations in molds; cloth was made by the spinning wheel, loom and reel.
Carriages in those days had leather springs. Other vehicles were sulkies and gigs. Top buggies had not then come into general use. Dr. Tom Sprately, a traveling dentist, drove the first one in the county.
In 1860 there were both private and public schools. There was a private school at Captain Dillard's. The schools were usually made of logs. The children sat at boards around the walls, which were used for desks. Some of these early teachers were: Mr. N. R. Berryman, Mr. W. Y. Titcomb, Mr. William A. Warren, Mr. W. H. Finch, Miss Louise Lane, Miss Nettle Davis and Miss Kate Cowling.
There were several churches in the county. There were three Episcopal churches: Cypress, Grace Church at Cabin Point, and St. Andrews near Bacon's Castle. It was later sold to the Methodists. There was only one Baptist Church which was at Moore's Swamp. Oak Grove Chapel was a Mehodist Protestant. Hebron at Bacon's Castle, Moorings, Little Surry and Carsley churches were all Methodists. There was a church at Rocky Hock and Union Church. There were some Quakers in Little Surry.
Rev. McGee and Rev. Berryman preached at the Chapel; Rev. Thomas Drumwright at Rocky Hock; Rev. Ward at Moore's Swamp; Rev. McClellan a Methodist; Rev. C. T. Bailey a Baptist; Rev. Murdaugh, preacher at Cabin Point.
The main industry of the county was farming; corn, wheat, oats, field peas, beans, potatoes and peanuts were raised.
Slaves worked the land and at certain times such as harvest, corn shucking, etc. they were carried from plantation to plantation.
There were two stores at Surry Courthouse--one kept by Joseph S. Judkins, where Mr. W. L. Avery's store is and the other by J. R. Fitchie and T. D. Wrenn, at Mrs. T. J. Spratley's store.
There was a store at Cabin Point and one at Bacon's Castle, kept by William Warren. James Harris kept a store at Baileysburg. He had a sign up: "No Money to Lend." Some other merchants were Robert Faison, Col. Thomas Barham, Spat Warren, Henry Jones, Sandy Faison, and John J. Deal at Cabin Point.
At that time the shilling and ni' pence was still in use. Many merchants had their calico prices at ni' pence or a shilling per yard.
Mail was brought to Surry Courthouse by stage or private conveyance. The stage ran three times a week from Petersburg to Surry, from Surry to Suffolk.
The Postoffce at Surry was kept by Timmy Rowell in the old Central office. He always kept the door shut until all the mail was up. He had to make a list of all sent and received. There were postoffices at Baileysburg, Cabin Point and Bacon's Castle. Carter's Wharf, wharf in Surry and Curtis Peak, a steamboat on the James River.
At that time there were several sawmills in the county. Dabney Phillips was one of the first to own one. Taylor and Thorpe, also R. S. Gill at Crenshaw, owned mills. William Allen had a railroad running from Claremont, which was used in sawmill work. It was the first railroad in the county. The rails were later taken up and used for the Merrimac.
Dr. Mac Wilson was a dentist as was Dr. Tom Spratley, whom I have mentioned. Dr. Samuel Wilson who lived in the lower part of the county was said to have lit his cigars with ten dollar bills. Dr. Vail of Isle of Wight practiced in Surry. Other doctors in the county were Dr. Acrell Savedge; Dr. James; Dr. S. B. Barham, father of the Hon. S. B. Barham, Jr., county clerk; Dr. J. B. Straughn of Cabin Pont; and Dr. Carey A. Cotton of Marl Springs.
The military strength of the county at this time was between 375 and 400 men. The Surry Regiment was the 71st Virginia Regiment. Only the officers wore uniforms. They were required to meet monthly with annual meeting held at Surry. There was also a uniformed company of Cavalry composed for the most part of wealthy citizens.
Surry was in the senatorial district with Isle of Wight and Nansemond. The State Senator was William Day of Isle of Wight. George E. Reeves represented Surry and Prince George in the House of Delegates.
Quarterly terms of court were held in March, May and November. Monthly terms were held on the fourth Monday in each month. Terms of Circuit Court were held on the tenth of May and the twenty-fifth of October. Surry was in the first circuit with Princess Anne, Norfolk, Nansemond, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Greensville, Sussex and the city of Norfolk. The Judge of this circuit was Richard W. Baker.
William S. Burt was the presiding Justice of the County Court. Other justices were Henry C. Land, R. B. Spratley, Thomas Barham, Merit P. Sledge, John H. E. Land, Blair Pegram, John L. Davis, R. W. James, Acrill Savedge, Isaac Cofer, T. W. Taylor and Alec P. Baird. In June 1860 all of the above Justices were present to make the Court. Joseph Algernon Graves was the Commonwealth's Attorney. George Bailey was the sheriff, William Underwood was the County Clerk, John L. Davis was the Commissioner of Revenue. The sheriff collected the taxes.
In November 1860 in election for President and Vice-President, John Bell and Edward Everett received 197 votes, John C. Breckenridge and Joseph Lane 115 votes; and Stephen A. Douglas and H. Johnson 59 votes, making a total of 367 votes cast in Surry.
Surry Courthouse was at that time a very small place. There were two stores which I have mentioned. George S. Waite kept a tailor shop where the Spratley brothers had a store next to the old postoffice. He made uniforms at the beginning of the War. The old Wayside Inn was a tavern kept by R. H. Rowell. Dr. Albert Edwards lived at the Burrough and Capt. Jacob F. Faulcon where P.C. Cox now lives.
The old Courthouse was a story and a half high. Above the lower room there were two small jury rooms. The jail was a brick building and stood on what is now Mr. Berryman's lot.
Cabin Point was at that time quite a large place and was the center of social life. Surry in 1860 was a very progressive and rich county. It had a population of 5,585-six tenths of these were Negroes.
It is in this condition that the fast gathering war clouds looked over Surry to sweep away the old Virginia Plantation. But those clouds would bring long-remembered memories for Surry to cherish.
This copy of "Surry County in 1860" was copied by me in 1929 from papers of Surry County lawyer, Mr. T. N. Cryrnes. There were no dates or signatures on the papers. At that time I was a high school student at Surry High School and was writing a short history of Surry County for my class to be exhibited at the County Fair.
I have always been interested in Surry County history and in 1945 I worked for Mr. Bohannon, Treasurer, who wrote the wonderful book, "Old Surry." I am enclosing this copy because I thought parts of it would be of much interest to the Historical Society.
New History: We promote and publish the history of Surry County, most of it on activities of the past. This current event is very historic, and the very best of our history, past, present and future. Surry High School just won the State Championship in boys' basketball for the first time. Coach Joe Ellis led them to this victory, while gravely ill with cancer. A very special meeting was held on March 26, 2005 to celebrate the victory but to especially honor Joe Ellis. Below are excerpts from an article written by Harold Jones, Chairman of the School Board of Surry County. JEA
The agenda was expected to take an hour and a half but took four hours. The time passed quickly with all of the speakers telling stories about Coach Joe. I myself said that we were there to celebrate life and that is what occurred. Through Joe's determination we all were able to feel that we take life too freely without consideration for the time that we have to spend here. His was a story of a person that overcome the fact that he could have possibly gone on to be a top college basketball player to a possible pro player, but he had to stop due to his blood pressure being that of a 90 year old man.
He chose to stay in Surry when some of his family were going to other states. He chose to be a teacher as well as a coach. His family supported him during all of the years that he taught and coached for the Surry School System. He was able to inspire generations of Surry students to reach for their full potential.
I was impressed that when at the school board meeting he was quoting the grade point average of the players and not just their playing statistics. He was focused on their academic game as well as their basketball ability. He was a strict disciplinarian. He was quoted for telling players that did not meet his requirements that "I want you but I don't have to have you". It was a rule that they were able to learn. He told them not to act unprofessional on the floor when playing ball and what I saw in Richmond at the tournament were well behaved young men. That says a lot for Coach Joe. I only summarize what took place in the four hours of celebration with Coach Joe and want to say that his own testimony was inspirational. He told of going for chemo and having a pain which was not supposed to happen. When checked it was found that part of the tube for the chemo had broken off and was located in his heart, but he survived. He told of other incidents which could have resulted in his death but he was spared and has made it 19 months to be able to attend the gathering. He said that it was not often that people were able to get their "roses" while they are alive and not in the ground.
The class of 1971 are to be thanked for their efforts in coordinating the gathering. Coach Joe was presented a resolution from the board of supervisors proclaiming March 26th as Coach Joe Ellis day. The school board presented him a plaque for his retirement from teaching. This will allow him to go to the treatments that he needs and draw on his retirement. The teachers had requested, at a past school board meeting, to transfer their sick leave to Coach Joe but there is a policy prohibiting this, so the next best thing was retirement.
I send this on to let others know that there is still room in the school system for truth, honesty and compassion for others. With this in mind, the violence in school could be reduced if more of it were practiced by everyone.
The Thomas Rolfe Branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities has given our Society a wonderful gift. It is a large [40" by 54"] plat of Surry County. It is unique. It is the only plat or map known that locates the Union Army Telegraph line that went through Surry County during the Civil War, 1862-1865. This telegraph line went from City Point, now Hopewell, through Surry County to Hampton, Va., then up the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore and back to Washington D. C. General Grant could send messages to President Lincoln and visa versa.
There are many narratives written about the telegraph line. This plat is the only document that shows where it went and where there were telegraph stations. Many skirmishes were fought over this telegraph line, often between Surry County Confederate Scouts and Black Union Calvary. There were many casualties.
It is a gem. Undated, it was apparently made after 1928, after the Ferry started and likely earlier than 1950. Research was by Mrs. C. G. Rowell and Mrs G. W. Spratley. Cartography was by Rev. R. H. Thomas III.
The plat has been cleaned and framed, using acid-free paper backing and archival UV resistant plexiglass to help insure it will not further degrade over time. It is displayed in the Society's office where direct sunlight will not touch it. It was shown at the March meeting. Come to our office and see it. JEA
Publish or Perish: When we look at the number of books published or republished on Surry history over the last few years it is astonishing. Nearly all The Society offers for sale were not available seven years ago when the Historical Society was formed. Prices on the few old originals of books that hit the market often cost well over $100.00. Thanks must be given the Dendron Historical Society and the Sussex County Historical Society for their successful efforts in republishing some of these books.
The momentum does not seem to be slowing. There are at least four more new books and two more reprints in the works, hopefully to be published in the next one or two years. For a small rural county such as Surry, this is amazing. All document parts and pieces of our history. Let's keep the momentum going. It is wonderful to know that our past will not be lost. Please buy your copy of the books while they are available. For example, The Surry County Virginia Register of Free Negroes, by Dennis Hudgins, published by the Virginia Genealogical Society is nearly sold out. Our society has purchased nearly all [approx. 20] of their remaining inventory. Marion Baird's book on Claremont is sold out. Build your library while the books are available.
Articles for the newsletter: I have published the Historical Society Newsletter for approximately seven years. As each approaches the time to publish, panic sets in. What do I have that would be of interest? Are the articles appropriate?
I try to ensure that over time we have articles on all areas of the county, and articles from every century of our existence. We try to publish history of all of our citizens and our past, whatever their race, wealth or situation. Yet, there are many articles written in the past that I do not have.
We have published little on genealogy except when it ties into our history. Several pages on the Atkins family would probably have little or no interest to over 95% of our members. The Society is doing a great job in collecting genealogy and making it available to our members. We now have far more information available on Surry families than any other source. It has been indexed and filed. It increases weekly. It is a push for dedicated volunteers to keep up with the incoming information. Yet, it is largely only of interest to family members. So far I have been able to come up with 12 to 16 pages four times a year. We have kept it in newsletter form with # 12 print. Comments have overwhelmingly been that the larger print is appreciated.
I need help with articles of our history written by other members of the Society. Collaborative pictures also are needed. The best way to send articles is by E-mail or computer disc. I can then transfer them to the newsletter without re-typing. Articles and pictures need to be received at least a month before our meetings in March, May, September and December. E-mail to [email protected] Mail pictures to: James E. Atkins @ 9311 Westmoor Circle. Richmond, Va, 23229. I need help, please.
Martha Rollings must be congratulated for her service as treasurer for the life of the Society, seven years. What started as a small group with few members and few funds, has grown, along with the complexity and demands on the treasurer. Among her many jobs were computerizing our membership list and keeping it up to date, handling funds from the sale of books, printing mailing labels and many other tasks.
Martha expected the books to balance exactly, and spent as much time as necessary to insure they always did. She monitored our bank accounts to insure the lowest cost to the society. She questioned bills to insure they were correct.
Martha, we thank you. You deserve a rest.
Keep your Dues up to date. If your newsletter name label shows a date earlier than 3/05, it is time to renew your dues. Support Your Society!