May 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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May 2006 Newsletter and Meeting Notice.

Monday, May 8, 2006. Our May business meeting.
Time: 7:00 P.M.   Place: Surry Recreation Center.

Our speaker will be Bobbie Walker, Director of Customer Service and Industry Relations with the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the state body responsible for developing tourism throughout the state. She's likely bringing another speaker, perhaps even the director of tourism development for the state, although this has not been confirmed.

Bobbie will talk about how tourism is developing around the state, how Surry can effectively tie into those trends and make the most of its resources and the upcoming Jamestown 2007 celebration. According to Bobbie, Surry is featured, along with Jamestown and Williamsburg, in an inset in the new maps at all the visitors centers and she agrees that this is the time to get as many residents as possible involved.

We welcome Bobbie Walker as our speaker.


Elections: This meeting will be very important as we will have election of Officers and board members whose terms have expired.

The Nominating committee as appointed by the Board of Directors consists of members Barbara Hopper, Barbara Moore, Hannah Bohannan, Amy Harte and Bill Richardson. They will present the following slate of officers and board members at the May meeting:

PresidentRev. James Harrison
Vice presidentKent Harrell
SecretaryBarbara Hopper
TreasurerEliza Drew [second term]

Board members whose terms expire are: Kent Harrell, Martha Rollings and Phyllis Wacker. Margaret Sue Berryman is leaving for health reasons. James Harrison and Barbara Hopper are being replaced because they are running for office.

Board of Directors nominees are:

Barbara Moore
Phyllis Wacker
Bo Bohannan
Eve Gregory
Troilen Seward

The floor will be open for nominations for all positions.

President's Report:

I have enjoyed being your Surry County Historical Society president during the last four years. I was fortunate to be assisted by many competent people. My greatest appreciation goes to Jim Atkins, our past president. He helped me in all facets of being president of the Society. The office volunteers helped smooth some of my rough edges; they are really to be commended for their dedication to this organization.

The Society's future is bright. With over 500 members, a steady stream of visitors and an extensive and rapidly growing collection of valuable historical records, books, and artifacts, we have totally outgrown our offices in the Old Jail which the County Board of Supervisors has so generously made available for our use the past six years. More space is imperative for us to serve our members, friends, and the public.

To that end, your Board of Directors has initiated preliminary planning for a new headquarters building on the Society's lot across from the courthouse grounds with the appointment of three special committees - a building committee, funding committee, and finance committee. These committees have begun initial planning. You will hear more about these efforts at the May meeting. At that time, the Board of Directors will bring recommendations to the members to approve moving ahead with developing final plans for the building and to authorize a fund raising campaign for the project.

The goal is very ambitious - to have the building on the new site by May 2007 for the 400th year anniversary celebration of the Jamestown settlement. To realize this goal will take the commitment of all our members and friends. The members of the special committees are dedicated and working hard and I hope each of us will give them our full support and cooperation.

Surry County is in an epicenter of nearly four hundred years of Virginia history. It has a wealth of genealogical information because so many settlers came through our county on their quest for a new home in the unknown territories in the west. Our genealogy records are among the most complete in Virginia. We have extensive files on both black and while families of Surry County. The Surry County Historical Society is the repository for these priceless records. The proposed new headquarters building will provide both the adequate space and the appropriate conditions to protect them for future generations.

In closing, I will always be grateful for these four years. I have gained many friends and look forward to working with the new officers and continuing to help the Society attain its objectives for the future.
Bo Bohannan


Most Important Announcement: Society members and Surry County Lovers have been waiting for years for this announcement. Guide to the Buildings of Surry and the American Revolution, by James D. Kornwolf, is going to be reprinted.

Guide to the Buildings of-Surry and the American Revolution, originally published in 1977 as part of the Surry County Bicentennial Committee's activities, is being reprinted by author James D. Kornwolf's family. They are working with Dietz Press and may have copies available in time for the Pork, Peanut and Pine Festival in mid-July.

Dr. Kornwolf, whose family lived in the Clarke House on Church Street in Surry Courthouse from 1970-1984, passed away last December after retiring as Professor Emeritus of Art and Architectural History from the College of William and Mary in 2002.

The 240-page "Surry Guidebook" includes numerous photographs (many of no longer extant buildings) and a hand-drawn fold-out map of early county historical sites and land grants. It provides a comprehensive catalog of the county's architecture over the past 400 years and is also of great value to genealogists.

We look forward to this book's becoming available. No other out-of-print book on Surry County is in such demand as this great work of James D. Kornwolf.

Peanut, Pine and Pork festival at Chippokes State Park, July 15th and 16th. Don't miss it. The Society will have a booth.


The 100th Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town of Dendron
by Bess Richardson

March 15, 2006 came and went with no fanfare, yet it marked a special milestone in the life of the Town of Dendron, Virginia. On March 15, 1906, the town was officially incorporated. Plans are in the works for a 100th Anniversary program to properly celebrate Dendron's past and present with three days of events on June 9 - 11. The Dendron Town Council has been busy organizing a variety of activities for the weekend that will include music, food vendors, arts and crafts, displays, and a Saturday morning parade.

The Dendron Historical Society will also play a part in this important celebration. The Society will officially open The Dendron Museum and SS&S Boxcar to the public for the first time on Saturday, June 10, 2006. The museum and the boxcar restoration have been the two primary projects of the DHS since it organized in 1997. A smaller project, the restoration of the town's first fire engine, is underway and the Society hopes to have it on site by that date. In addition to displays in and around the Museum complex, the Dendron Historical Society will unveil a new brick sidewalk that will include engraved bricks donated by friends of the Society to recognize individuals who have ties to Dendron. There will be a video of historical scenes and photos, T-shirts and other "Dendron" mementos for sale, tours of town landmarks and sites, and a Dedication Ceremony for the Museum.

Dendron began long before 1906 with the establishment of the Surry Lumber Company on the Mussel Fork Plantation property in the 1880s. SLC, owned by a Maryland corporation, established its operation headquarters and mills here, and the village that grew up around it was named Dendron, from the Greek word for "tree". The company cut and milled timber from five counties, hauling the logs on its own appropriately named Surry, Sussex & Southampton Railway. The main rail line ran from Scotland Wharf to Dory, with logging spurs branching out through Surry, Sussex, Southampton, Isle of Wight, and Prince George Counties. Logs were brought to the mills and the lumber and other products transported to Scotland Wharf to be loaded onto steamships. In addition, the SS&S Railway served as a common carrier hauling passengers, freight and mail over its main routes.

Surry, Sussex and Southampton Railroad log train

With all of the commerce and industry created by the lumber company enterprises, the village of Dendron grew rapidly. Estimates of the population range from 2,000 - 3,000 during the early 1900s. The Surry Lumber Company built areas of housing adjacent to the mill yards with names like Egypt, Russian Town, and The Barge to house the workers brought in to run the mills and work on the railroad. Businesses sprang up along the Main Street, and churches and schools were established to accommodate the growing population. Dendron High School was opened in 1906, serving students of elementary and high school age in the surrounding area for many years. There were two banks in town, The Bank of Dendron and The Bank of Sussex & Surry. Two bottling plants, Pepsi and Chero- Cola were in operation in the town. For entertainment, there were concerts, a brass band and a movie theater, "The Eldon". There was also a Ford dealership, along with livery stables, millinery shops, bakeries, and many other stores.

Surry Lumber Company Mill #3

Dendron remained very much a "company town" and the closing of the mills in the mid-1920s severely altered this once thriving village. Surry Lumber Co. had exhausted its supply of trees, and it proceeded to dismantle and dispose of equipment including trains, rails, water lines and anything that could be sold. The large work force moved on to other employment and, as a result, banks and businesses closed. In 1931, a huge fire destroyed much of the remaining commercial section of the town, along with the Dendron Baptist Church. Dendron became a much smaller town in population and activity, and areas of industry and worker housing reverted to their former agricultural state.

Surry Lumber Company Commissary

Those residents who stayed behind adapted to the changes and needs of their community. Dendron was transformed from a large, bustling, noisy mill town to a smaller, more closely-knit community. Churches and other organizations, especially the Dendron Community Club, remained very active, working to provide lots of activities for the many children and youth of the town. Many of those "former children", who lived in or visited in Dendron during the 1930s, later looked back on those days with fond memories of parties, dances, and roller-skating.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Dendron boasted three grocery stores, the "Company Store" (the former SLC commissary), H. B. Burt's Grocery, and Luther Williams' store. Mr. Williams offered grocery delivery. There was also a doctor's office in town. The newly organized Dendron Volunteer Fire Department built a firehouse in 1949. The Historical Society has acquired the first fire truck purchased by this group, a 1938 Chevy, and is refurbishing it for display. Trailways bus service was secured for the town on the Norfolk to Richmond route for a short time. There was milk delivery in Dendron during these "middle years". Mr. George Goodrich provided this service, and later Curles Neck Dairy delivered in the town.

Stonewall Jackson High School, Dendron, VA

In 1951, the Dendron Training School was replaced with a new high school, Luther Porter Jackson High, and a new elementary school was opened adjacent to it in 1960. The two schools were in operation until 1975 and 1983, respectively, when Surry High School and Surry Elementary School were opened a few miles outside of Dendron to serve the entire school population of Surry County. These were the last schools to operate in the town.

Dendron's Town Council and mayors have worked hard to meet the needs of the community. Sidewalks were built along Rolfe Highway and on some of the streets. A town water system was installed in 1974, and it has recently been upgraded. Construction of a sewer system is due to start this spring. These improvements may spur new construction and population growth in this small community.

Recent decades have seen new changes for Dendron. The Dendron Volunteer Fire Department built its current facility in 1984. This organization and its Ladies Auxiliary work tirelessly to serve the surrounding area and keep their equipment up-to-date. The present Post Office is housed in the third building to serve that purpose in the town. It was opened in 1974 with Mr. J. A. Threewitts as Postmaster. Also in the early 1970s, the town acquired the building that had housed Dendron Plumbing and Hardware, to be used as the Municipal Building.

The Town of Dendron has been very supportive of the Dendron Historical Society from its beginning, providing a place for meetings to be held and allowing the Society to display historical photos and other items. It seems most appropriate that on the 100th Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town of Dendron the Historical Society will mark the occasion by unveiling monuments to its past, a restored 1890s boxcar and a museum that becomes Dendron's first new public building of the 21st Century.

P.S. We hope to also have Rogers Store Museum at Carsley open on the 10th.


Surry Lumber's New Mill
by Melvin Blizzard

Surry Lumber Company built its large sawmill building in Dendron, Virginia, near the year 1900. It was the "D" Mill. The measurements of the main structure were eighty feet wide, 200 feet long and it was three floors tall. The attached left side measured thirty feet wide, 180 feet long and it was two floors tall. The engine room measured thirty feet wide, forty-eight feet long. The boiler room measured forty feet wide by eighty feet long. This was one of the largest pine manufacturing saw mill buildings in this country at the time. The smoke stack measured 4 feet in diameter and stood 100 feet tall. There were five of these stacks, and this was the main focal point of the structure. The water storage container was constructed of brick and concrete and measured twenty feet wide, thirty feet long with nine feet below ground grade. This building has 101 double hung windows and twenty-one exterior doors, with loading platforms on four sides. The complete roof is metal. There are six metal roof vents, each measuring four feet in diameter, over the boiler room. Located on the east end was an elevator reaching all floor levels.

Surry Lumber Company Mill Drawing by Melvin Blizzard

The sawmill was the double cutting band type, which sawed in left and right hand directions. Its band saw was 10 inches wide and forty-two feet long. Its band wheels were eight feet in diameter. The sawyer and the set men rode on the mill carriage. The mill carriage was the very heavy type with a steam log turner and loader.

The steam engine was the corless type with two inlet steam valves and two exhaust valves. Its flywheel was twelve feet in diameter with 26 inch face and drove a 24 inch belt.

A scale model of this building has been constructed and will be on display June 9, 2006, in the Dendron Historical Society Museum. Note: Melvin Blizzard made this wonderful model.

Surry Lumber Company Mill Drawing by Melvin Blizzard


Library looking for Bolling Art

Sculptures by self-taught artist Garland Bolling are missing, and the Library of Virginia is on a mission to find them. Officials could use your help.

On July 24, the Library will present the largest exhibition of Bolling's work since a showing in 1937 in New York City. So far, the library has located 30 Bolling sculptures, and it hopes to find more. Library officials are interested in locating missing sculptures from Bolling's "days of the Week" series. Named for days of the week, these missing sculptures depict weekly chores and activities of African-Americans: "Mama on Wednesday" [sewing]. "On Thursday-gossip," "Cooking on Saturday" and "Parson on Sunday" [preaching]. Also on the Library's list of missing Bolling works are "workman", "Fishman", "runner" and "Red Cap."

Bolling, who was born in Surry County in 1898, lived in Jackson Ward in Richmond. His wood sculptures were carved out of poplar with pocket knives. Most were 12 inches to 20 inches high. They usually depicted a single figure engaged in work or play.

Bolling studied at the preparatory Academy Department of Virginia Union University and remained in Richmond the rest of his life, teaching briefly in the city schools and working as a porter and letter carrier. In 1935, he became the first African-American artist in Virginia to have a one-man exhibition. Between 1926 and 1943, he carved more than 80 sculptures. He died in 1955.

If you have information on any of the missing pieces, contact Barbara Batson at [804] 692-3518.

The above article was written by Janet Caggiano and published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, page D6, on April 14, 2006.

Postscript: If any of our members know of any of his sculptures, please let the Society know.


This Issue of the newsletter completes eight years and 32 issues that have been published. As time approaches to publish, there is panic. What should I use? What do I have? Yet, by the time to publish, we have found enough to over fill our newsletter.

I am constantly looking for articles of interest. We need black history, Indian history and white history. We need articles from all areas of the county, and all centuries of our past.

Please give me your articles, and your suggestions for articles and improvement. Many publications include a genealogical query section, asking for family information and connections, should we? Lets keep the information coming, and new research reported.
James E. Atkins

Books2 We have many Surry BOOKS for sale. Most of them cannot be gotten anywhere else!
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Many deeds, records of roads, land grants and other records of Surry County note the waterways of the county. Indeed, it would be nearly impossible to describe Surry County without them. The lesser streams are often described as swamps, branches, runs and guts. There are hundreds of them, many unnamed and unnavigable. This picture shows Cypress and Gum trees, with tangles of roots and Cypress knees. It is typical of many dozens of streams throughout Surry County.

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