Fall (Sept) 2008 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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The Surrey Side News
The Quarterly Newsletter of
The Surry County Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
Editor: Gordon Bohannan                     Associate Editor: Barbara Hopper

Volume 8 - Number III                     Fall 2008

new home

Time: 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

President's Report

Fall is rapidly approaching us, as we have planned, the Society's building will be dedicated on Sunday, 5 October 2008 beginning at 2:00 p.m. We hope you will make plans now to be with us for this event. Charles Bryan, President of the Virginia Historical Society will be the speaker for the dedication event. Light refreshments will be served on the grounds. If you are interested in volunteering to serve in any capacity for this event, please contact me at the Society office or at home in Surry.

We extend thanks to Bill and Bess Richardson for serving and representing the Society during the Pork, Peanut, and Pine Festival and the African American Family Reunion Weekend both of which were held at Chippokes State Park Plantation. Additionally, thanks to all the volunteers who serve the Society each week organizing, shelving, and greeting visitors as well as researchers.

Bill Fox and Troilen Seward are working to find grant support for the purpose of restoring the Deck House of the ferry, Captain John Smith. It is currently housed on the property of S. Wallace Edwards. Any grant support that is realized will be used to complete restoration of the Deck House and move it to the grounds of the Society Building for public display.

An orientation and training event for Society volunteers will take place on Wednesday, 10 September beginning at 10:00 a.m. If you are interested in volunteering to the Society office, Roger's Store Museum, or special projects, this opportunity is for you.

We continue to solicit information on Surry County cemeteries. Information on these cemeteries, church, family or pauper may be passed on to Vice President, Eve Gregory.

We are excited about seeing you on the night of September 8 beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Surry County Recreation Center. Ms. Carolyn Keen will be our speaker. She will be reporting about her recent project on Country Stores in Southampton, Surry, and Isle of Wight Counties.

Finally, we are looking for information, artifacts, and pictures from the Smallwood Institute which operated as an institution of higher learning in Claremont, VA during the 1890's-1930's. If you can be of assistance to the society with information about relatives who may have attended, relating stories and pictures will help us put together a display for the upcoming December Membership meeting. Search those attics and trunks. Who knows what you might find?

James Harrison, President


William and Mary College During the 1890's

By Bo Bohannan

This summer I have moved into a second floor room in the New Surry County Historical Society Building. This area gives Barbara Hopper and me a place to write for the Society's newsletter, The Surrey Side News, as well as providing space for me to sift through the boxes of materials that belonged to my grandfather, A. W. Bohannan.

I am beginning my research with his copy of the 1899 William and Mary yearbook, The Colonial Echo, as well as some of the college's literary magazines from 1894-1905. My grandfather and my great uncle, James Gordon Bohannan, attended William and Mary around the turn of the 20th century. Their experiences at the college were completely different from students living in Surry County today. Today's students can commute daily to their classes. Back in the 1890's a student going to William and Mary would be a boarding student. It would be at least a full day's trip to get to Williamsburg from the "Surry side". There was no ferry service to Jamestown as there is today.

Fay Savedge, one of our genealogists, remembers stories related to her about people who went to William and Mary during the early part of the 20th century. She remembers the old-timers telling her how it was an ordeal to go off to college at William and Mary. They would go to Petersburg either by catching the train at Wakefield or drive on muddy roads the forty-some miles to the Cockade City. Once in Petersburg, the Surry students would take a trolley car to Richmond where they could board a train to Williamsburg. The student would arrive at the campus that evening. Of course, I am sure students from Surry made short trips home via a rowboat from Jamestown from time to time through the school year.

People are familiar with such William and Mary alumni as George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler, James Blair, and James Madison. The village of Williamsburg was a center of activity during the second half of Colonial America.

After the Revolutionary War, Williamsburg began to fade in influence. The state capital moved from Williamsburg to Richmond. Other colleges such as Virginia Military Institute, The University of Virginia, and Virginia Polytechnic were established. By the 1850's, things began to go downhill for William and Mary. On February 8, 1859, the college was celebrating its 166th anniversary when a fire broke out and destroyed the main building. All attempts to put out the fire failed and nothing was saved except for some records and the college seal. However, a year later the college was rebuilt.

In 1861, the American Civil War began. Ninety percent of William and Mary students joined the Confederate army. Soon classes were suspended. Federal troops came and destroyed the buildings on campus. After the war, it seemed as though William and Mary would never rise again. Loyal friends and alumni rallied around the college. By 1869, the buildings were entirely restored. However, there were not enough resources to continue to maintain the college. During the 1870's the college president, Benjamin S. Ewell, appeared three times before the U. S. Congress asking the government to reimburse the college for damages done by the Federal troops during the war; however, he was unsuccessful. By 1881, all professors were dismissed and there was not a single student at William and Mary. During this time the college sexton would ring the bell daily for the beginning of classes to keep up the William and Mary spirit. In 1888, the Virginia legislature voted to get the college on its feet. The Virginia Constitution made it mandatory for the legislature to establish normal schools or teacher training schools. Public education was in its infancy. Then during the 1890's William and Mary became a teacher's college.

William and Mary during the 1890's was a time for rebuilding. Both of the Bohannan brothers received a Licentiate of Instruction at William and Mary. They both taught in Surry County before resuming their careers. There were several students from Surry county and neighboring counties attending William and Mary during the 1890's and early 1900's including:

Nickolas Savedge of Alliance, Surry County
Clarence Winslow Hunt of Claremont, Surry County
Harry Ryley Parker of Smithfield, Isle of Wight County
Paul Alvin Hines of Rescue, Isle of Wight County
R. P. Birdsong of Courtland
Proctor Peebles of Sussex County.

The above information came from the 1898 yearbook, Colonial Echo, and from the William and Mary Literary magazines from 1894-1905.



By Don Wells

West Surry is known as Laurel Springs and has several points of historic interest. It was first settled in the 1670's by the Avery family who built Cedar Ridge ca. 1700. Later there were three other buildings built at Cedar Ridge.

According to the "Guide to the Buildings of Surry and the American Revolution Before 1865" the county had at most three quaint small villages, the largest was Cabin Point. It was followed in size by Surry Courthouse and Laurel Springs Cross Roads respectively. On the Civil War maps of Surry County, only three villages are shown with more than two buildings: Cabin Point had eleven; Surry, five; and Laurel Springs, four. Of the four at Laurel Springs, only Cedar Ridge survives. Built by Richard Avery around 1700, Cedar Ridge is on the Virginia and National Registry of Historic Landmarks.

The Laurel Springs Plantation, built by the Mason family, was according to local stories used by the Union Army as a hospital during the siege of Petersburg and has several graves of Union soldiers. It was destroyed by fire in the 1930's. It is believed to have been built ca. 1800. The fate of the other two is unknown. The Laurel Springs Plantation is pictured in Kornwolf's book as Cedar Ridge. Both are also pictured in Mary A. Stephenson's book, Old Houses of Sussex and Surry. Nearby is a family cemetery with Mason and Avery monuments dating from 1796 and 1800.

Nearby is Avery's Mill Pond which is only a short distance away to the East. It is said to be the last mill in Surry County and the oldest one, known as Johnson's Mill during the Civil War. A few more miles to the East is Snow Hill built by the Boothe family around 1836 according to research by William Logan. Nearby is the site of Baird's Ordinary dated to 1730. Laurel Drive follows part of an old Indian trail later known as Lawyer's Road.

During the Civil War the Beef Steak Raid crossed the Black Water River near Laurel Springs cross roads. At this point a bridge was built to allow the Confederate Infantry, Calvary, and about 3,000 beef cattle to cross. As the transit was finishing, the Union Calvary caught up with the Confederate Raiders and a skirmish was fought as the bridge was successfully destroyed and the Raiders proceeded to Petersburg with their booty of over 3,000 beef cattle.


Elm Shade 1854 & Clear Storey 1700's

By Barbara Hopper

Even though we would like things to last forever, we often do not get our wish. On July 4th 2008 these historic homes of Cabin Point burned to the ground. Elm Shade was the birth place of my husband, Laurie Hopper and the home of his mother, Louise Pennington Hopper, his aunt, Elizabeth Lyons and his uncle, Edward Thomas Pennington.

The architectural characteristics of the house indicate that one entire section was built probably in the early or mid-eighteenth century. The date of the building of the front part, Elm Shade, is substantiated by statements made by Louise Hopper whose Grandmother, Delia Ann Moore Pennington bought the property from her brother-in-law, John Deal in 1890. Mrs. Pennington stated that the house was built before the Civil War, probably in 1854. It remained in the Pennington-Hopper family until 1972.

The older section of Elm Shade was called Clear Storey, doubtless because of the story and a half construction, with modified dormer windows, consisting of six adjoining window sashes. Such a provision for light in the upper half story allowed the builders to avoid the required tax on a two story house.

Other early Colonial features of this section of the house included the sharply pitched roof, windows containing 18 panes, some of the original blown glass, and the original siding of heart pine placed with square nails.

The larger section of Elm Shade was probably erected in 1854. It is said that this part was erected on the foundation of an earlier part of the older house which resembled Clear Storey. Here was an English basement just like all of the old houses in Cabin Point. The basement contained a hall, three rooms, and two fire places. The house itself contained a large front hall, wide stairway, and four large rooms; two up stairs and two down stairs. There was a set of steps as wide as the hall that led to the older portion of the house. There is also an entrance to the older portion from the upstairs hallway. There are two fireplaces on each floor.

Like all old houses, Clear Storey has a story to tell. This time it is not the usual ghost story, but a story about a soldier in the Civil War. It seems that a Confederate soldier was seeking a place to hide from the Union Army. He was given refuge in Clear Storey. When the Union soldiers came searching for him, he hid in the room above the central room. The union soldiers did not go upstairs, but ran their sabers up through the ceiling. The soldier was saved because the floor boards were wide enough for him to lie on his side and the sabers went by him instead of through him.

Elm Shade

Elm Shade, Cabin Point, VA


Howard Winfield & Clara Corselius Bishop

By Barbara Hopper

Howard Winfield Bishop, son of Junius Winfield and Roasabelle Susanne Rogers Bishop, his wife, was born December 26,1895 in the family farm home known even today as Hickory Hill Farm (circa 1878) in Waverly VA which is about five miles from Dendron. The home was built by his father. Howard was the youngest of ten children all born and raised at Hickory Hill.

Howard grew up loving farming and upon his marriage in 1918 to Clara Clementia Corselius, he briefly managed the farm in Surry County known as Littleton. Clara was born in 1889 in Midland, Michigan and moved with her parents, Edward and Clara Josephine Corselius and sisters Helen and Grace to Surry County, and lived in Claremont. Her mother worked at the Spring Grove Railroad Station for years and it is said she was the first women to use the Morse Code there. Her sister, Helen, taught school at Spring Grove.

In 1921, after their first child was born, the family moved to Washington D.C. Howard's first job was driving for the Capital Street Car in D.C. He then studied electrical engineering and worked for an armature factory. He followed that by establishing the successful Potomac Armature Company of Georgetown, Washington, D.C., an automotive generator and starter factory sales and service company, from which he retired in September 1960. He was always proud of the fact that his company had the job of training war veterans to specialize in winding armatures for airplanes, trains, and autos. They were working at wartime speed.

Clara loved music and played and taught the piano. She earned several copyrights for songs she wrote about the war and the famous Atlantic solo flyer, Charles A. Lindbergh. She also was organist at Ritchie Memorial Episcopal Church in Claremont.

They raised four children, a son Edward, who succeeded Howard as president of Potomac Armature Co., and three daughters, Mrs. Beatrice Franklin, Mrs. Rosalind Barton, and Mrs. Patricia Middlethon all of Arlington, VA, and had fifteen grandchildren at the time of his death. Howard died on September 3, 1961, and Clara died on January 12,1972.

The descendants of Howard and Clara have learned to love Surry County through visits to relations and friends over the years. Both Rosalind and Patricia are members of the Surry County Historical Society. Beatrice, also a member, passed away in November 2005.

Spring Grove Depot


Important Dates & Times to Remember

The next open meeting will be September 8, 2008 at the Surry Recreation Center. The speaker for the evening will be Carolyn Keen who will speak on her research for her upcoming book, Old Country Stores: Isle of Wight, Surry and Southampton Counties.

Mark your calendar for September 10, 2008. There will be a training session for volunteers and prospective volunteers from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the museum building on Bank Street in Surry. Come out and become a volunteer. We need you.

The December meeting will be December 8th at the Surry County Recreation Center at 7:00 p.m. Dr. Elaine Vinson will speak on "Smallwood Memorial Institute".

Museum's Hours
Tuesdays and Wednesdays - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Books2 We have many Surry BOOKS for sale. Most of them cannot be gotten anywhere else! We also have the beautiful Surry Courthouse medallian and the new 1607-2007 ship pin/pendant.
Take a look at them and order with the BOOKS!

Watch for new listings in our upcoming issues of The Surrey Side News.



Please keep your dues up to date. We need your support now to be able to afford our new offices. Please make sure your dues are current for 2008. Note the expiration date on your mailing lable. Send your dues payment along with the membership form to the Surry County Virginia Historical Society and Museums, P. O. Box 262, Surry, VA 23883.

Membership information and Application Form

Please share old photographs and/or stories about your ancestors or places in the county that are very memorable to you. We are always looking for new material for the newsletter, or if you have a suggestion for a story you would like to see us write, please let me know. You can e-mail them to Barbara Hopper at [email protected].

Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc.

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