William Ricketts Cabin & Barn on White Oak Mountain at Dry Fork

Well, Bobby just relocated these ancient pictures of grandson Joey, Bobby and I on our excursion looking for the cabin our 3rd, 4th and 5th grandfather William Ricketts.  According to Bobby, these pictures are ten years ago in 1996, before we moved to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma for two years of Bible School at Rhema.

 The year after William Ricketts, 3rd great grandfather, died in 1832, the family lost the 205-acre farm on the Dry Fork of White Oak Creek for a debt of just over $37.  The Ricketts men did not own land for quite a while and lived as “share croppers.”  I think the land owner got three fourths and the share cropper got one fourth.  But they did get a place to live and plenty of firewood.  They could have a garden and not much more, but their only risk was the fertilizer.  Sometimes that was a problem in years when tobacco prices were down.   

Willam began obtaining land at Dry Fork, just a short distance south of where the Depot and Post Office were built, in 1780.  The Revolutionary War was still raging when he settled about six miles due south of Pittsylvania Court House.  This was only three years after the courthouse was moved from Callands to the present county seat of Chatham. 

As often happened we had done our homework (or Clerk’s Office work).  I located a 1910 map after tracing the land down to 1910.  The Branch running east into the Dry Fork of White Oak Creek was identified as Ricketts Branch.  We followed a road south off the Dry Fork Road (sr 718) for about a mile where it crossed Ricketts Branch.  When we reached the fork of the branch shown on the map, we hiked up the hill.  We came upon very large rocks which were the foundation and walls of the root cellar of the old Ricketts plantation house.  There was nothing left except the foundation.  We found no metal objects with the metal detector in the surrounding area.  Before we got back to do more exploration, a housing development was build which destroyed the site. 

My grandmother Lucy James Ricketts wrote about living in an old cabin in the 1800s in this area (see: http://family.rdricketts.com/lucysketch.html ).  It was near the railroad and not far from her sister who lived on the old Edward Robertson place north of the cabin below.  I think ii is very likely that, without knowing it, they lived in the old 1700s cabin where her husband Charlie Edward’s great grandfather lived over a hundred years before.

William Ricketts had 55 acres surveyed in 1780 and purchased an adjoining 150 acres in 1786.  He lived here until he died in 1832.  He is probably buried in a community type cemetery just north of his land.  The cemetery is on property owned by Revolutionary veteran Edward Robertson who was born in 1755 and died in 1826, shortly before William Ricketts.

Here is Bobby and Joey at the old foundation of William Ricketts cabin.  Joey is now six feet plus and this is a few feet ago. 

Here is Joey in 2009.  He is an 18-year old senior at Brookville High School in Campbell County, Virginia.  Bobby, Kim and Joey live at Forest, Virignia. 

Back down on Ricketts Branch, we found the rock foundation of an old tobacco fire box.  Most old log barns for curing tobacco had two of these fireboxes. The two walls were usually capped by a single stone about as wide as the box was high.  Often soapstone which was easily shapped, was mined and cut to fit on top of the firebox. Wood was burned here and the heat circulated through flues inside the barn to dry and cure the tobacco.  The resulting product is a golden brown, pliable tobacco which was not entirely dried out in the week-long continious heating process.  The tobacco that I see today is very dry and brittle.  Danville was the main auction market for this “golden leaf” for over a hundred years. 

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