September 2005 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 2005 Meeting Notice.

Please note that the meeting will be Monday, September 12, 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 Robert Woollard. He was a crew member of Godspeed's voyage from London, England, in 1985. This was the second replica of the Godspeed built here. It was 67 feet long at the waterline. The hull was built at Jamestown and outfitted at the Newport News Shipyard. It was shipped to London, England, and after grand ceremonies including those with Prince Philip, began a long and perilous trip across the Atlantic Ocean on approximately April 30, 1985.

Don't miss these great and appropriate first-hand recollections, leading into our 2007 celebration of the settling of Jamestown. Robert Woollard is a citizen of Surry County.

President's Report:

I have previously written about some experiences I had as a boy spending the summers at Pleasant Point, and later, at our cottage overlooking Crouches Creek. These were fun times for a boy who loved to explore the shoreline and woods.

Not all of my childhood memories concerned home. I looked forward to going to Surry to the general stores or going to the courthouse to visit my grandfather, A. W. Bohannan. I remember the courthouse being cool even in extreme summer heat. Going into the courthouse was awesome. The inside of the building had a feeling of grandeur to me. It had its own smell of old papers and documents along with tobacco smoke. I do not remember my grandfather smoking, but most adults would light up a Camel, Lucky Strike, or Chesterfield back then. The demeanor of those working at the courthouse during the late 1940s demanded quiet and respect when I visited.

Most of the other people in Surry I remember now were merchants. To a ten-year-old boy, Roy Edwards' General Store was heaven. Mother would take my sister Suzanne and me at least weekly. The smell in this store was of leather. Mr. Edwards would sell leather boots to the local citizens. Mr. Edwards was a serious merchant. He did not cater to small children. However, working for him, was one of my favorite adults in the town of Surry, Mr. Joe Seward. He was younger and very friendly. At times, he would sneak a piece of penny candy out of a jar for Suzanne and me. I remember not only candy in large jars, but also sugar cookies and ginger snaps. Each cookie had at least a three-inch diameter.

I also remember going to the drug store with my father. He was a good friend of the jolly druggist, Dr. Percy King. While they were talking to each other, I was enjoying a chocolate milk-shake made by one of the Youngblood sisters. The drugstore had the absolute best milk shakes that I have ever had.

Next to the bank building across from the courthouse was Captain Land's dilapidated store. It was an unpainted two-story wooden building suffering from posture problems. Going inside the store felt like going back to the turn of the century. I vaguely remember the bearded octogenarian sitting on the bench napping or talking to citizens who were passing on the sidewalk. When Captain Land died, his son Edwin took over. Because of the condition of the store, Mother did not allow Suzanne or me to go into the store because we may have fallen through the floor. Such an edict encouraged Suzanne and me to go into the store when Mother was in the drugstore or at Roy Edwards' store. I don't remember either of us ever having a mishap there.

The pace of shopping in those days was simple and free of stress. Going to Food Lion, Farm Fresh, Ukrop's, etc. in today's world is fast-paced and stressful. Waiting in a grocery store line today is not fun.

I will share more memories of other merchants in Surry at a later date.         Bo Bohannan

dendron store
Coming Soon! New Dendron Historical Society Museum.


Main route from Florida to Maine. Did you know that the main route from Florida to Maine goes through Surry County, Va. It goes through Carsley on route 615. It is a fact! I have seen the current map showing the route.

At our open house for Rogers' Store on May 21, 2005, we had a visitor, Phil Potter, from Daytona Beach, Florida. He stopped and toured the store. He was quite interested and took several pictures. He was a bicyclist from Florida, heading north.

He was a member of the Adventure Cycling Association. They print a total of seven maps showing the best route from Florida to Maine. They seek a route that bypasses all interstates, four-lane roads, mountains and large cities. It clearly shows Carsley and route 615 as the recommended route.

He was equipped with everything he needed, a small tent, stove, food and clothes. His bicycle was obviously designed and equipped for his journey. We wish him well. We have noticed that quite a few bicyclists come through Carsley. Now we know why. JEA



2007 is coming up fast. The Surry County Board of Supervisors had a special meeting on August 18, 2005, concerning facilities and activities. A number of Society members were in attendance. Many alternatives and facilities were discussed. No decisions were made.

The Society has made a written application to the county for use of the Academy building, Ca 1845, as a Tourist Center/Museum. We also have requested that the "Old Jail", our office, be moved as early as possible to ensure it can be used during the festivities. This is necessary to accommodate planned additions to the Courthouse. Rest rooms are badly needed.

Decisions are necessary very quickly if we will be ready for 2007. We will be ready. We just do not exactly know how. JFA


From Richmond Enquirer, October 30, 1816.

We have been favored by a gentleman of the county of Surry with a list of the long-livers in that county. One is astonished at the number of old persons found in one county...and disposed to think, that in point of health, the upper Country is not so much superior to the lower Country, as has been supposed:
Richard Drury,a hearty man celebrated his birth 1816, aged91
Nat Sebrel, died in the fall of 1815,92
James Seaward, died in 1814,93
Hartwell Hart, died 1815,92
Obediah Pyland, died 1815,72
Lewis Pulley, works in his field and goes to court,82
Wm. Bailey, affected with the palsy, but killed a buck, 181581
Ben. Putney, walked in 1816 to Warren C'ty N.C. And back85
Brett Seward, supports a family by labor65
George Biven, a hearty athletic man65
The Rev. N. Berriman, preaches at least 3 times a week67
Jo. Barham, afflicted with rheumatism, but in good spirits66
His wife, 63
Beverly Booth, Sheriff of Surry, and attends to the business68
Ben. Bell, attends to his business73
Richard Ellis, attends Court and to other business68
Sampson Grantham, a powerful, active man64
Henry Gray, quite a boy in mind and action66
His sister, in the house with him80
James Judkins, a hearty man65
John Slade [and] William Slade, wheel and cart-wrights, following their trade, and will do a good day's work75, 81
Nathan Jones, well known for his vivacity and activity70
Jesse Moore, an old soldier, and supports a family, and married in 1814.72
John Wren, a hearty man.63
His wife, 69
Thomas Lane,a hearty man.64
Dick Thomas,ditto.76
Charity Judkins, 81
Rebecca Smith, 71
Lucy Ellis, 65
Mrs. Norris,walked 15 miles in the afternoon to see her son, 1816 92
Martha Clark, 92
Amy Munroe, 88
Mrs. Marsden, 75
Sally Lane, 66
D. Simpson, 62
Pathy [Faithy] Barham, 72
Polly Cox, 75
Celia Davis, 75
Mrs. Kearnes, weaves cloth every day.75
Martha Thomas, 72
Joe Hollaman,who lives 1/4 of a mile out of this county
and in the Isle of Wight.
Rebecca Thompson,wife of old Second, who died at 80.79
Horman bishop, died in 1815.88
Elizabeth M'Guriman, 65
Ann Duel,  70
Mrs. McIntosh, 63
Mrs. Scammel, 68
Rebecca Richards, 65
Johnathan Richards, supports himself by ditching.70
Thomas Pyland, 64
Thomas Emery, 84
Mr. James, 66
Mr. Reggin, 75
Mr. Willliford,  75   
 Averaging, of course, nearly 74 years. Round.4124
 Submitted by Virginius Hall. 

Note: Thanks to member Norma Pennington for this article.


New Book: "Surry County, Virginia 350th Anniversary Book".

This is a very special book, compiled by Janet L. Appell and Pernell Watson Jr., Co-Chairs of our 350th Anniversary Celebration, and published by Surry County, Virginia. It is beautifully done, in color, with many pictures. The County is mailing a copy to every family living in Surry County. It highlights many of our historical assets and presents Surry County in a most positive way. Every lover of Surry County should have a copy. It is a job well done. The Society has been given copies to sell. The money received will be used to pay for additional books to be published or republished by the Society. See our order information at the end of this newsletter.


Surry County, Va.
African-American Heritage Society

The Surry community has formed a society interested in promoting African-American culture awareness through a variety of educational activities and publications. The following projects are underway for the 2007 celebration and beyond.
  1. Family Reunion Weekend
  2. African-American Heritage Trail
  3. African- American Museum
  4. Publications
  5. Family

The Society meets on the third Monday of each month at the Surry Community Center, at 7 o'clock p.m. Mr. Purcell Bailey is the chairman of the society. Please come and join; we need the support of the entire community. Membership fee is $15 a year per person. If you are interested, please send your name, address and telephone number to:

Mrs. Judy S. Lyttle, Membership Chairperson
African-American Heritage Society
P. O. Box 389 Surry, Va. 23883


New Reprint: "Lawne's Creek Church"

In 1979 Ethel R. Rowell published a history of Lawnes Creek Church. It is the definitive history of the earliest churches in Surry County. It was written with extensive research of records and archeological research on the earliest site [1628] near Hog Island. The latest church, built in l754, burned in 1865. Its ruins are seen at Bacon's Castle on Rt. 10.

This book has been out of print for decades. The daughters of Ethel R. Rowell have given the Society permission to reprint the book.

Purchase of this book will serve several purposes. It is the best work available on the early churches. Funds from the sale of the book will help the society publish additional books in the future. Also, a portion of its cost will be donated to The Bacon's Castle Memorial Association maintenance project. which maintains the site, graveyard and ruins. Hurricane Isabel further devastated the ruins. An immense amount of work is needed. We highly recommend that you purchase this book. You will be pleased with its content.


Melvin Patrick Ely was our speaker at our May 2005 meeting, and was roundly applauded for his great presentation, largely taken from his new book, Israel on the Appomattox. It is a gem. It gives in great detail, from extensive research, the relationships between whites, slaves, mulattoes and free blacks in Prince Edward County, Virginia, starting in the late 1700s, going forward until the Civil War. His book was reviewed on the front page of The New York Times book section on Sunday, August 7, 2005.

Its begins with Richard Randolph freeing some of his slaves at his death in 1796 and leaving them jointly 350 acres of land, called Israel Hill. It details the business, personal, legal, and religious interplay of the people of Prince Edward County through several generations. It goes through the laws, how they worked, did not work, and how they were sometimes ignored. It tells how justice worked and sometimes did not work.

This was not Surry County, yet there are many parallels. Surry County actually had a much higher percentage of free blacks than Prince Edward County, over one third in 1860. Land ownership was common among free blacks in Surry County, largely bought and paid for by the freedmen. Prince Edward County had the bateau on the Appomattox River. Surry County had the fishermen on the James River and the many boats going up and down the river, delivering goods.

There was much enterprise by free blacks evident in both counties. Was it a fair society? No, free blacks could not testify in court against whites. However, they could get whites to testify on their behalf. Many cases were tried and handled in this manner.

Dr. Ely's book is available in bookstores and on the internet at and A paperback version will be available after September 6. I highly recommend it. JEA


Eminent Domain!

The Supreme Court recently sent a shock wave across America with its decision that government can take private property [real estate] for purposes never before considered.

The rights of Eminent Domain have been previously recognized to allow public facilities to be built even if the owner of the land would not agree to sell. Common reasons were to build a school, court house or roads. These are publicly built and owned, and necessary for a civil society. The government would appraise the property, and offer to buy it. If not acceptable to the land owner, counter offers could be made. In some cases it ended up in court. Valuation has often been the problem. Should farm land be valued as a farm, or as a development site for a school? Should a home be valued as a home or a site for a courthouse?

Naturally the government wants to buy property at the lowest cost. Naturally the owner, who may not want to sell anyway, wants highest value based on what the government wants to use the land for. If a properly zoned school site would normally sell for $100,000.00 per acre, why should the farmer accept $10,000.00 per acre? Often the hang-up is what the sale does to the value of adjoining property not taken by Eminent Domain. If little or no road frontage remains, the value of remaining property could be adversely affected.

In recent years slum removal has been touted as a reason. "Lets clean up this decrepit area, get rid of the slums and build a big complex of apartments or condos." There is some public benefit here, less crime, nicer places to live and, oh yes, an increase in taxes.

Now the U. S. Supreme Court has basically agreed that property can be taken by Eminent Domain solely for the purpose of raising more tax money for the City, County or State. Take the nice row of beach cottages so a developer can build a large condo that will pay many times more property taxes. Take several small businesses so Wal Mart can build a super store. Wipe out a farming area so Toyota can build a plant. Where will it end?

Private usage for public benefit has been recognized for centuries. A good example took place in Surry County in 1797. Our farm in Surry backs up on Johnshehawkin Swamp. Miles Burgess owned our side, which meant he owned the swamp to the center of the stream. The adjoining owner wanted to build a mill pond and grist mill. He petitioned the county court for permission to build the pond and mill.

Three Surry County citizens were appointed to:

  1. Determine if a grist mill was needed in this area. The answer was yes.
  2. Determine if this was the best site. The answer was yes.
  3. If needed and this was the best site, determine the value of one half of the stream, the flooded land, plus two acres of land for the mill and a home for the miller. By memory the value of Burgess's land was determined to be $300.00.
In the end, Miles Burgess bought out the owner of the other side of the swamp and owned the mill pond, mill and miller's home himself. Although the mill was closed ca. 1918, the two acres of land and the pond were on a separate deed until 1946 and sometimes sold separately from the farm.

A grist mill was a public necessity in the early days. Mills were generally paid a percentage of the grain brought in to be ground. The miller made money by selling the flour and corn meal to those who had no grain. To ensure there was no price gouging, Virginia law determined the maximum percentage they could take for grinding grain.

So private usage for public benefit has been recognized for centuries, but not as a money making scheme for government. Could the party in power take property owned by those in the other party? This could get scary. Lets hope the State of Virginia acts promptly to outlaw the extended use of Eminent Domain in our state. JEA.

Books2 We have many Surry BOOKS for sale. Most of them cannot be gotten anywhere else!
Take a look at the BOOKS

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Deckhouse of the Ferry, Captain John Smith, c1925, used as a cottage before 2002

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