March 2006 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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March 2006 Meeting Notices.

Sunday, March 12,2006. Special joint meeting with The Sussex County, Virginia, Historical Society.
Time: 3:00 P.M.   Place: Wakefield Foundation [the old high school] in Wakefield, Va.
The speaker will be Mr. Rob Coles, the great-great-great-great great grandson of Thomas Jefferson. He will present his one man show: meet Mr. Jefferson.
Refreshments will be served.

Monday, March 13, 2006. Our March business meeting.
Time: 7:00 P.M. -Place: Surry Recreation Center.
Program: Bo Bohannan. See the President's report below.


President's Report:

In previous Presidents' reports, I have talked about Surry County's yesteryears. Our historical society's emphasis is, of course, on the past; however, if we are to grow with Surry's history, we have to project ourselves into the future.

The Society is currently located in the county's old jail building on the courthouse grounds. Within the next few months, the county government will move this building elsewhere on the courthouse grounds to make way for additional building space for the district court. Our current office space is becoming more deficient each month. To address our needs, the Directors of the Surry County Historical Society are in the process of developing a fund-raising program for us to have a building on our lot located between Church and Bank Streets. The building committee made up of Claude Reeson, James Harrison, and Bess Richardson gave a presentation of the kind of building that will meet our needs, be pleasing to the eye, and be within our means financially

We have over five hundred members of the Surry Historical Society and we will need your support. The reader may ask why we need a building. My answer is that since Surry County was once part of the Jamestown Colony, we became a gateway for settlers moving Southward and Westward. Our genealogical section has many unique records and thanks in part to our web site and newsletters, people from New England to the West Coast have dropped by to check out their ancestry. While we may have the information they need, we have very limited physical space where they can do research. We are hoping for even more visitors to our area during the 2007 commemoration, and improved quarters will help with tourism because there will be a gift shop and museum where we can display many donations that are now packed in boxes and file cabinets. We are fortunate to have a few dedicated volunteers to keep our office open two days a week despite the lack of any kind of plumbing. With a new home, we will need at least double the number of current volunteers, since we want to have the Society open five or six days a week. Please communicate with the Society if you are interested in being a volunteer.

We will have two meetings in March. On Sunday, March 12 at 3:00 PM, we will have a joint occasion sponsored by the Sussex Historical Society and the Surry Historical Society. It will be in Wakefield at the Foundation Building. The following evening, Monday, March 13,2007 at 7:00 PM, will be our regular general meeting at the Surry Recreation Center. At this meeting, the Building Committee will give a brief presentation on our building plans. The funding committee is planning strategies to raise money for this building. In the meantime, we will continue to be in the Old Jail, thanks to the cooperation of the Board of Supervisors.

I plan to be the "guest speaker" and will share with you my own hobby. At the beginning of this new century, I began to think back over the last hundred years and became interested in learning what contributed to popular culture in the 20th century. As a result, I have spent the last seven years compiling a hundred-volume scrapboo, which is still in the beginning stage as I see no end in sight. I am enjoying this work so much and am getting quite an education in the process. I hope you will enjoy perusing my work.

Bo Bohannan


Captain John Smith:

As a follow-up to our last newsletter, we are happy to report that the deckhouse of the first motorized ferry has been safely moved and stored. At present it has tarps covering it. Plans for restoration have started. The Society appreciates the support of S. Wallace Edwards Jr. in this project. The move and our application for a grant has given the project considerable publicity. The more the better! Lets hope we get the grant from the State of Virginia.

ferry deckhouse


New reprint: Chesapeake Sailing Craft. Recollections of Robert H. Burgess.

Thirty years ago, Robert H. Burgess wrote this book. Out of print for many years, Society member William H. Fox, upon the death of Robert H. Burgess, has edited and added 150 additional photos of the sailing craft that provided transportation on the bay from 1925 to 1975. All pictures are those taken by Burgess. The reprint nearly doubles the number of pictures included. No other book gives as much insight into the water transportation that made the bay and its tributaries so important to our development. Undoubtably some of these sailing craft hauled the timber and farm products from the ports of Surry County.

This book is available from Cornell Maritime Press, P. O. Box 456, Centreville, Md. 21617 phone #800-638-7641. Price is $34.95. I highly recommend it. JEA


1902-06 Newspaper Article
continued from the December 2005 newsletter
transcription by Dennis Hudgins.


First and foremost among Surry's transportation facilities are good roads. The county has bought and uses a road grader, and all of the public roads are worked by it. This is one of the few counties in the state using grading machines on its roads, and the result is apparent in well kept high ways. The importance of the county's splendid road can not be exaggerated, as they enable farmers to haul large loads to market, to travel faster, and to use the roads for a greater number of days during the year.

There are in the county two railroads, one a branch of the Southern, extending southward from Claremont in the extreme north- western corner of the County, and the Surry, Sussex and Southampton, extending southward from Scotland in the north central part of the county. Besides these two the main line of the Norfolk & Western touches the county in the extreme south eastern corner. [p.7] The two roads that extends through Surry are at present narrow guage, though a part of the Surry, Sussex and Southampton Road will be made a broad gauge this Spring, and the same change will be made in the Southern in the-near future.

Besides the railroads there are on the James river three wharves, one at the northern terminus of the Southern, one at the northern terminus of the Surry, Sussex and Southampton, arnd one at Hog Island - Steamers to and from Richmond and Norfolk touch at these wharves, while numerous sailing vessels of all sizes repair to them for the reception and discharge of freight.



There is in Surry but one incorporated town, Claremont, the population of which is near 1000. Dendron, the site of the lumber mill already mentioned, has a population of about the same number and will soon be incorporated. There are a number of thriving villages at convenient distances and all show evidences of prosperity.

According to the census of 1900 there are in the county twenty two post offices, and at all of which daily Mails are received. The total area of the county being 138,031 acres, or about 216 square miles, it will be seen that there is on the average a post office at every three miles. The most remote home, therefore, cannot be far from the daily mail, while the great majority are almost within easy walking distance of an office. Stores, churches and schools are located throughout the county in about the same proportion. The entire population of Surry census of 1900 is 8469, or about 39 to the square mile.

The county's greatest need is increased population. The soil is admirably adapted to the intensive system of farming and would easily support many times the population it now sustains. With an increased population each producer could secure better freight rates and better markets for his produce, and every one would gain the countless benefits that spring from co-operation. Farmers and manufacturers in less genial climates should investigate conditions in Surry, for labor and intelligence here yield a much larger reward than the same expenditure will bring in the North, East or West.



According to statistics furnished by Mr. Geo. T. Clarke, Superintendent of Public Schools, the county has 37 school buildings, 9 of which are for white and 16 for the colored pupils, and 43 teachers, of whom 25 are white 18 are colored.

The entire value of school property is about $13,000, this sum not including several buildings which are temporarily rented. Of the schools named four are what are known as graded schools, in which the higher branches are taught, while in all of the schools instruction is given in the common branches. The public school system has been brought to a high state of efficiency and the poorest child, black or white, receives from the county a fair equipment for the duties of life. There are in the county about 25 churches, one for about every three miles on the average. The churches include nearly all of the evangelical denominations, the Methodist, Baptist and Episcopalian predominating. The church edifices are as a rule substantial and attractive and, what is of more consequence, are well attended.

Among the notable improvements witnessed in Surry in the past few years is the county court-house, erected in 1896 at a cost of $9000. This is one of the most substantial, most complete and most modern court-houses in Tide-water Virginia. It is fire-proof through-out, all of the county records, dating to 1652, being kept in patent metallic cases.

As already stated, a number of other improvements are projected for the near future, including the widening of two railroads, and doubling the capacity of the largest plant in the State. As a consequence of the latter the thriving little town of Dendron will enjoy a season of great building activity, are not fewer than 50 residences will be erected in that town in the course of the next few months.

The following is Surry's rate of taxes:
[p.9]     State tax --------------------------------- .40 
County tax for general purposes --------------------.35 
" " " roads ----------------------------------------- .15 
" " " schools --------------------------------------- .10 
District tax for schools ----------------------------- .10 

In addition to the above amount there is also imposed the usual capitation, or poll tax.

The total property in the county, as assessed for taxation, is $1,237,975.56 of which $932,470.56 is real, and $325,505.00 is personal property. To the above amount should be added $146,735.00 of rail-road stock, $17,900 of mercantile stocks, and $305 of telephone stock, all of which are taxed separately and at a different rate from the property classified as real and personal.

The total amount derived by taxation for State and county purposes last year was $17,863.64, to which should be added the capitation tax, and the 5 1/2 excess collected from delinquents.

The amount derived by taxation is amply sufficient to meet the current expenses of the county. At present the entire county debt is but $2,500 and the county it would be glad to pay that would the holder of the bonds permit it. The above facts relative to Surry's finances were courteously given by Messrs. A. P. & A.W. Bohannon, treasurer and deputy treasurer respectively.



While we have no reason to believe that the residents of Surry are free from the faults and follies incident to human nature we can still safely assert that but few sections can show a cleaner record. There are but ten bar-rooms in the entire county, and the citizens of any portion of it may, if they choose, prevent the opening of a bar within two miles of a church or school. Sheriff B. D. Edwards states that only one lynching has marred the quiet of the county during its history, and there has been no public execution since the civil war. Surry, by the way, has the only Cavalry C[o]mpany in the State. The Company numbers 65 men and is a well equipped and a finely drilled organization, made up of the best young men in the county.

It is but the simple truth to state that during her entire his- [p.10] tory Surry has experienced no serious riots, strikes, labor disturbances, or race trouble. This one fact should be a sufficient comment on the character of her people and should, we think, be a strong inducement for capitalists to establish here their manufacturing plants.

History maintains our assertion that the eastern part of Virginia, of which Surry is a part, was originally peopled by settlers of as high character as ever our country ever possessed. The great majority of the inhabitants of the county today are the direct descendants of those settlers, and have preserved intact American manners, habits, and traits of though. The country has been peculiarly free from an infusion of an undesirable [f]oreign element-such as the degraded Poles, Hungarians and Italians- who have created so many disturbances in Northern cities, and to his fact is to be large attributed its comparative immunity from crime.


The climate of Surry, like that of tide-water Virginia, is delightful. The winters are mild and of short duration, while the summers are not excessive warm. United States Weather Beaureau statistics show what the average temperature for the year is aoub 58, Fahrenheit, and the rainfall about 47 inches.

Dr. S. B. Barham, a practising physician and for thirty years a supervisor of the county, states that as a rule the general health is excellent. On the marshes and swamps, which as before stated form but an inconsiderable part of the surface, malaria prevails but his does not by an means characterize the county at large.

All over Surry excellent well water may be obtained and pure living springs are [a]bandant.


In preparing this brief sketch of Surry county we have not attempted to describe all of her advantages in detail. To do so would require more space than is allowed us here. We have simply tried to call attention to some of her attractions for the capitalist and the home-seeker, and to ask such to visit the county and investigate further for themselves. Messrs. S. B. Barham, G. A. Savage, and W. A. Savage Savedge, the county supervisors, all of whom represent the highest type of citizenship, will be pleased to answer any letters of inquiry and will extend [p.11] extend to prospective immigrants any courtesy in their power. The End.

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