White Oak Mountaintop Graves of 176 years ago

November 28th, 2008

On Wednesday November 27, 2008, the day before Thanksgiving, Bobby and I hiked up the north east side of the mountain from Pleasant Gap.  Loggers are cutting very large logs on the north slope of the mountain.  

At the top, probably about a half mile from the road we again reached the old “burying ground.”  By spreading the leaves we found many more head and foot stones which were either laying flat of sunk stright down.  We found dates and initials which were chiseled on some of them. 

The oldest marked grave appears to be a “W. M.” who died in 1832 at age 21. The Merricks later owned property, but not as early as 1832.  They may have lived here before they purchased the land. 

Cllick for many more phtotgraphs and infromation:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Walton land and Walton’s Mountain at Pleasant Gap

November 28th, 2008

 This is an 1888 survey of the Franklin Turnpike through Pleasnt Gap.  The “Mountain Road”  is shown headed north and then northeast towards Dry Fork and on to Chatham.  The circled area at right on the property line is the “burying ground” mentioned in the 1866 deed. 

A modern map shows no roads north and south across the White Oak Mountain range in the area of Pleasant Gap from miles to the east or west.  This passage was probably an old Indian trail.  The name is thought to have originated from Lt. Jesse Walton’s wife who was Ann Pleasant.  The Waltons and Ricketts were neighbors.  My third great grandfather William Ricketts received a lnad grant on White Oak Mountain south of what became the town of Dry Fork in 1780.  He bought adjoing land on the Dry Fork of White Oak Creek in 1786 and lived there until he died in 1832.  When Thomas W. Wooding, later of Meadowwood, came around in 1820, William Ricketts, born in the 1730s, was between 90 and 100 years old.  His wife was in her 70s and they had one female slave betweem 25 and 35 years old.  One of William’s older sons by a previous marriage lived nearyby.  William Ricketts II married Mary Hargaret (Hankins?) and later moved to Tennessee.  Just four families from William II was Jesse Walton and two more families away William Walton.  Even today the area along White Oak Mountain is relatively sparsely populated. 

When my 3rd great grandfather William Ricketts’ will was written on November 2, 1826, William Walton was named as an administrator.  My great great grandfather Nathaniel Ricketts (b 1795) reported on June 20, 1832 that his father had died.  His will was probated on July 16, 1832

Click here for more maps, photographs and infiormation:

Read the rest of this entry »

Searching For the Burying Ground on Walton’s Mountain

November 21st, 2008

It was very cold and very windy on November 21, 2008, when my son Bobby and I went out to Pleasant Gap looking for a graveyard.  We do our paperwork and have great success finding the old places we are looking for.  This day was no exception. 
 
Thomas Wingfield Walton (1806-1879), a grandson of Lt. Jesse Walton, sold a tract of 478 acres at Pleasant Gap in 1866.  This gap is where the Franklin Turnpike (SR 41) cuts through the White Oak Mountain range.  This is a Triassic age outcropping of mountains, which is said to be formed some 200 million years ago, give or take a million.  There is scattered petrified wood along the southern slopes of the mountains.  Most of my favorite places for finding the ancient wood, turned rock, now have houses fairly close together. 
 
I found a deed about 15 years ago of this 1866 sale. I located a small map which showed the intersection of the Franklin Turnpike and the “Mountain Road” (SR 835), which runs northeast to Dry Fork and on to Chatham (Pittsylvania Courthouse).  From this intersection to the summit where searched this day is 600 yards or about a third of a mile.  In this short distance, the incline rises 200 feet to an elevation of 1,023 feet above sea level.  One property line, of which I could determine the approximate location, mentioned a point near a summit, which was near the “burying ground.” 
 
We drove up an old farm road towards the summit, which is due east of the gap where the Franklin Turnpike cuts through.  We zigzagged through the woods for hundreds of feet up toward the top of the mountain.  Before we reached the top, Bobby yelled out something like, “There they are!”  There were a number of fieldstones, which were placed at the head, and foot of the graves. 

 

Here is Bobby at one of the graves on top of a summit (1,023 feet above sea level) of the White Oak Mountain range.  Note the sharp drop off in the back ground to the north east.  In this short distance, we believe there was a small cabin where the family lived.  Between US 29 and SR 41 north of SR 863 (R & L Smith Drive) there are four high points.  The highest is 1,140 feet above sea level.

Click here for much more:

Read the rest of this entry »

Hannibal died here 182 B.C.; Danny was here 1962, 2,144 years later.

November 11th, 2008
When Carthaginian General Hannibal went through Gaul across the Alps to attach Italy in the third century before Christ, he started out with forty elephants. He lost half of them crossing the mountains. My grandsons counted my elephants and said there were over 600, but they are not full sized.
Hannibal spent 15 years in Italy harassing the Romans. They finally pushed him to Crete, Tyro, Ephesus, and Nicomedia. He settled between Nicomedia (now Izmit in Turkey) and where Constantinople (now Istanbul) was later founded). Prusias, the King of Bythania had sheltered him for a time, but finally agreed to give Hannibal up to the Romans. He refused to be captured and took poison from his ring and died. He had lived a relatively long life for those days when he died at age 64.

During the summer of 1962, some of us Karamursel servicemen went around the bay to “Hannibal’s Castle.”
My room mate Fred Galante of Long Island, New York and I climbed the mountain south of Karamursel Air Station in 1962. The base was at the site of an old British World War I air strip. The runways were covered with antennas connected with out super-secret jobs as Radio Intercept Analysts. Fred went on to become an Air Force Captain. On the oppositre shore of the Bay of Izmit are the ruins of “Hannibal’s Castle.”
The ancient Bay of Astacus is east of the Sea of Marmara, just southeast of Constantinople (now Istanbul). Our Karamursel Air Base (airmen of the Air Force were there along with Navy and other servicemen, but the old World War I airstrip was covered with antennas) was on a peninsula between the small villages of Yalova and Karamursel. The ancient town of Libyssa was on the north side of the Bay of Astacus was almost opposite our military base.
This is a wall of “Hannibal’s Castle” with local Turkish children. In the background is a part of the Bay of Izmit.
Click here for more:
Read the rest of this entry »

Nicaea, Turkey and other Adventures of 46 years ago!

November 9th, 2008
I was working at Sears Roebuck as a salesman about 10 am one day when the assistant manager called me to his office.  He said a guy just came back from two years in the army.  He had my job when he left and he wanted it back.  So, he said he would pay me until lunchtime that day.  I don’t believe that I thanked him for the two-hour notice.  My dad died in 1957, when I was sixteen, and mine was the only income for my mother and me.


So, I went to the post office and joined the Air Force.  The recruiter said I had to go to Roanoke for more test and a physical and the government would pay my way there and back to Danville.  I said no, I want to go on to Texas.  On January 19, 1961, I went alone on a bus to Roanoke for a night in a hotel on the government. 


The next morning I heard a lot on the radio about the new president taking his oath on the same day I would take mine.  Every one seemed to be excited about John F. Kennedy being president.  Well, the weather was so bad that the promised airplane couldn’t come in and go out, so they stuck us on a train.  They told me I had the highest test score, so I got long strings of meal tickets, train tickets, and even Pullman car tickets for a bed at night.  These six guys really looked up to me, since if they lost me, they lost their food and transportation.  The most appreciative guy was the only Black with us.  He was always friendly and happy.  He thanked me all the way to San Antonio and especially when we arrived. He told me what a great job I did getting the guys to Texas.  I can’t remember his last name, but he was from Danville.  I came across his basic training photograph not long ago:
Airman Basic Rose from a Lackland Air Force Base picture machine Feb. 1961.  
Well, the train went up north to Cincinnati.  We had a long lay over in the big fancy train station.  The next stop was St. Louis.  We had an even longer stop there.  It was snowing and all I had was a light white sport coat, but we walked out and found the USO.  We spent a nice time there and boy was I cold. 
We spent eight weeks at Lackland in San Antonio.  Then they put me on a bus to San Angelo, Texas where Goodfellow Air Force Base is located.  They gave me the job I was promised.  Another of our Danville group named Barton was promised an interesting technical job and they made him a cook.  I was trained for six months in secret things.  If I told you, I would have to shoot you as the old spy saying goes.  I completed my training as a Radio Intercept Analyst Specialist.  That kind of lets the secret out of the bag.  I might now say that we were listening to the Russians. 
     

After a long leave in Danville, my brothers-in-law took me to New Jersey to catch a plane.  For some reason we didn’t get on the Air Force plane.  They bused us on to Idlewild Airport (which later became Kennedy).  I was given tickets to Frankfort Germany on Pan American Airlines.  I seemed to be the only military person on the flight.  I spent about five days at Rhein-Main Air Base there, and then put on another Pan American 707 jet liner to Istanbul.  From there a Turkish Airlines small plane took me to across the Sea of Marmara to an airstrip east of Yalova, Turkey.  Karamursel Air Force Base was east of there a few miles from the small village of the same name. 

 

 

 

A week or so after I arrived at Karamursel, Richard Rowland from Danville showed up.  After a push by a congressman, we were allowed to leave on the same plane on June 14, 1963.  We took a lay-over in Rome, Italy and toured the city later that day.  On the 15th we took a flight to New York and on to Washington, D.C.  We took a train to Danville.

While at Karamursel we were fortunate to have a chaplain who loved history and going places.  He often organized day trips to historic places.  We once visited Nicaea where the well-known Nicene Creed was written in the fourth century AD.  This ancient city was founded in the fourth century BC by one of Alexander the Great’s commanders.


These are the mountains south where the road led to Nicaea (now Iznik) from Yalova.

 


  

 

The old city of Nicaea had a double set of walls for protection.  The location is show of the church of Hagia Sophia (St. Sophia) where the Nicene Creed was written.  Hagia Sophia means Holy Wisdom in Greek and is not a saint.  The lake is a big one.  I believe it is about 15 miles long and over 200 feet deep in places. 

 


 

  

An old coin from Nicaea shows the walls

Here I am at Nicaea, comparing facial expressions with an old Roman carving.


 This marble statue is 5 ½ inches tall.  It came from a small shop in nearby Bursa.  On the neck and on the left side opposite the knee are Christian crosses: Here I am at age 21 in 1962 in a courtyard of the Sergalio Palace in Istanbul. The museum here contains the jewelry collection of real cut stones collected by the sultans for 600 years. In the left background is the large Mosque of the Sultan Suleyman (1549-1557).  Note the tree on my left.   Here I am again 31 years later near the same spot in June of 1993.  What is 21 and 31? An that was 15 years ago. The tree has jumped to my right side and has grown and widened, sort of like I have.  Nancye and I took a tour of Turkey the spring after I retired in October 1992. See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

Take a look at our websites:

http://rdricketts.com or http://beaversmill.ieasysite.com/

“White Lightning” and the Federal Government

November 9th, 2008

Distilling to make an achocholic drink is said to have been around for 3,000 years.  The practice is know to have been in operation in Virginia since 1620.   

In 1629, the Virginia Colonial Assembly established that “Ministers shall not give themselves to excess in drinkinge, or riott, or spending their tyme idellye day or night.”
I like to sleep at night and sometimes find myself idle during the day, but drinking and rioting are out.


We know the problems that alcoholism brings and drinking is expensive.  During the Civil War in 1862 a tax, which began at 20 cents on a gallon of whiskey and beer, rose by 1868 to two dollars a gallon.  When the federal government got involved they noticed that: as the rates increased, the revenue did not.  And the reported number of gallons produced went way down.  So in 1868, the Feds appropriated $25,000 to look for tax cheats. 

A campaign of state prohibition laws against alcohol came about from 1880  to 1890. The temperance supports wanted a total ban of production and sale of alcohol.  Six states enacted a statewide ban on the product and its use.   By 1913, nine states were under stateside prohibition and in 1914 Virginia banned the sale and use of alcohol products.  But all the government efforts never stopped the back woods industry.  Most people thought of the illegal tax evasion as a joke.  My wife Nancye’s relatives came down to Danville from Franklin County, Virginia during the 1930s.  Here are some kinfolks at their turnip still in the 1920s:

 

 Lewis Washington “Fat Lewis” Quinn, Claudia Ingram, Grover Ingram, unknown, Ida Ingram, Lehi Ingram, Sarepta Turner “Rep” Ingram and Cora Ingram.  This turnip still was a small family operation.  The grain was fermented in barrels and the liquid poured into the still itself.  The steam went through a coin of tubing to cool and produce the distilled achochol drink. “White Lightning” and “Moonshine” became terms to describe the illegal operation of making, transporting and selling illegal whiskey.  Another term to describe the practice was “bootlegging.”  This came from the practice of hiding flasks in the leggings of boots.  Some of the early NASCAR drivers hauled gallon jars “moonshine” from the mountains.  I grew up in North Danville not far from Wendell Scott who became the first Black NASCAR diver. In the 1950s, I worked in a grocery store and Wendell would come in just before 9 pm to buy his weekly groceries.  He was a hard working auto machanic who was well-liked in the communityu.  He was a friendly person and most people, including law enforcement, knew he was involved in not quite legal activities, were reluctant to report the activities.  Most people back in the 1940s and 50s just laughed off the idea that someone was selling illegal whiskey.  They probably thought the government takes too much of our money anyway.  The moonshiners capitalized on two loves of many people; the love of whiskey and the love of evading taxes. 

It is unfortunate that some distillers used old car radiators in their process and people have been known to have gone blind or even died from lead poisoning.  One old time bootlegger in the mountains commented: “It aint made to drink, it’s made to sell.” 

Once in a while, then and even today, someone would get caught and receive heavy fines and long prison sentences.  Then the laughing stops. 

See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

 

 

I grew up in North Danville not far from Wendell Scott who became the first Black NASCAR diver. In the 1950s, I worked in a grocery store and Wendell would come in just before 9 pm to buy his weekly groceries.  He was a hard working auto machanic who was well-liked in the communityu.  He was a friendly person and most people, including law enforcement, knew he was involved in not quite legal activities, were reluctant to report the activities.  Most people back in the 1940s and 50s just laughed off the idea that someone was selling illegal whiskey.  They probably thought the government takes too much of our money anyway.  The moonshiners capitalized on two loves of many people; the love of whiskey and the love of evading taxes. 

It is unfortunate that some distillers used old car radiators in their process and people have been known to have gone blind or even died from lead poisoning.  One old time bootlegger in the mountains commented: “It aint made to drink, it’s made to sell.” 

Once in a while, then and even today, someone would get caught and receive heavy fines and long prison sentences.  Then the laughing stops. 

See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

 

 

I grew up in North Danville not far from Wendell Scott who became the first Black NASCAR diver. In the 1950s, I worked in a grocery store and Wendell would come in just before 9 pm to buy his weekly groceries.  He was a hard working auto machanic who was well-liked in the communityu.  He was a friendly person and most people, including law enforcement, knew he was involved in not quite legal activities, were reluctant to report the activities.  Most people back in the 1940s and 50s just laughed off the idea that someone was selling illegal whiskey.  They probably thought the government takes too much of our money anyway.  The moonshiners capitalized on two loves of many people; the love of whiskey and the love of evading taxes. 

It is unfortunate that some distillers used old car radiators in their process and people have been known to have gone blind or even died from lead poisoning.  One old time bootlegger in the mountains commented: “It aint made to drink, it’s made to sell.” 

Once in a while, then and even today, someone would get caught and receive heavy fines and long prison sentences.  Then the laughing stops. 

See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

History posters:

 

Bombs and Killer Bees – Flight From Danville

November 5th, 2008

          My brother Ray Ricketts was a lifetime printer and newspaperman.  His “Danville of Yesterday” feature in the local papers were a long time favorite.  Ray loved and wrote about local history before he moved to Richmond many years ago.  Steve Clark of the Richmond News Leader wrote of a conversation with Ray in 1988:

     

 

 Killer Bees Are Nothing New!
 
          “I’ll read about the killer bees and I’ll think, wait a minute, we’ve already had an invasion of killer bees in America.” Ray Ricketts said.  In Pittsylvania County, Virginia, no less!
          The story goes back to before World War II in 1938, when Ray was 13 years old.  His father, Reuben Ricketts, moved the family from Danville to a 117-acre farm in Blairs, a farming community a few miles north of Danville.

Part of the Ricketts/Jones clan at the three-room cabin where Reuben and family moved in January 1939.  From left: Mary and uncle Carl Jones, sister Marion Ricketts Lewis Cook, Janie Jones (wife of uncle Austin Jones), grandmother Annie Pruett Jones, sister Idella Ricketts Lynch, Aunt Florence “Tiny” Jones Hutcherson Reynolds, grandfather Dan Jones and brother Ray Ricketts.  At right of the cabin is the beginning of a two room addition (In preparation for baby Danny maybe).   
          

 “Before the war started, my dad moved us to a farm in Blairs because he was sure they were going to bomb the cotton mills in Danville,” Ricketts said.  The main crop on the farm was tobacco, but Reuben Ricketts left the tobacco farming to someone else while he commuted to his job in Danville.
          “Dad didn’t have time to do the farming,” the younger Ricketts said.  “But he did plant a large vegetable garden, and he kept some hives of honeybees.”

          “My father read about some African black bees in a mail-order catalog,” Ricketts said.  “They were advertised as busy, aggressive bees, so he thought they would produce more honey than the regular honeybees.”
          The main selling point, however was that the African black bees were a few dollars cheaper.
          “In those days, saving a few bucks was important,” Ricketts said.  So Reuben Ricketts bought a hive of the black honeybees from Africa.
          “I can’t remember whether he ordered them through the mail or bought them at a hardware store in Danville,” Ricketts said, “but somehow he bought a hive.”

           He also bought plenty of trouble.
          “Dad’s bees were very aggressive.”
          But were they the same kind of Africanized honeybees that have become widely known as “killer bees” over the past 25 years?  Ricketts has convinced himself that his father’s bees were the “killer bees.”
         

          “Everything I have read about the killer bees sound just like the bees we had on the farm,” he said.  “If you left them alone, they didn’t bother you.  But if you ventured within 25 feet or so of their hive, many of them would attack you.”  Talk about mean!.
          “Those bees didn’t buzz around your head to give you a warning that you might get stung,” Ricketts said.
         

           “They got straight to the point. 
They would make a beeline toward your neck or your arms, which were not by clothing.  If their aim was true, they zapped you good.”
           Fortunately, their aim was not true most of the time.
          “They either had poor eyesight or poor maneuverability, because they miss a lot,” Ricketts said.
          The black bees didn’t attack humans away from the hive, but Ricketts said they didn’t hesitate to chase the animals on the farm.
          “Without hesitation they attacked dogs, cats, cows and the mules,” he recalled.
          The mules were not so much bothered by the pests.
          “You know, a mule doesn’t panic,” Ricketts said.  “A horse will panic, do something crazy and get itself hurt.  But our mules just shook the bees off and went on about their business.  Mules are cool, calm and collected.  They won’t do anything to get themselves hurt.”
          However, Ricketts’ father was worried about what problems the aggressive bees might cause the other animals, not to mention the neighbors animals.
          “I remember hearing the neighbors talk about how mean those bees were,” Ricketts said.
 

          After one season with the African black bees, Reuben Ricketts had seen enough.
          “Dad decided they were too much of a threat,” Ricketts said.  “Besides, they were not so good at producing honey.  They were so hyper that they must have consumed a greater amount of their own honey than the regular bees.”
          In late winter, before the bees picked a new queen and swarmed out to establish a new colony, Reuben Ricketts went on the attack.
          “Dad stuffed rags into all the openings of the hive and gave them a dose of sulfur smoke.  That finished them off and solved the problem.
         

 The youngest child, Robert “Danny” Ricketts was born at the old Ricketts log cabin in January of 1941 and missed the scourge of the killer bees.

See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

Take a look at our websites:

http://rdricketts.com or http://beaversmill.ieasysite.com/

          “My father read about some African black bees in a mail-order catalog,” Ricketts said.  “They were advertised as busy, aggressive bees, so he thought they would produce more honey than the regular honeybees.”
          The main selling point, however was that the African black bees were a few dollars cheaper.
          “In those days, saving a few bucks was important,” Ricketts said.  So Reuben Ricketts bought a hive of the black honeybees from Africa.
          “I can’t remember whether he ordered them through the mail or bought them at a hardware store in Danville,” Ricketts said, “but somehow he bought a hive.”

           He also bought plenty of trouble.
          “Dad’s bees were very aggressive.”
          But were they the same kind of Africanized honeybees that have become widely known as “killer bees” over the past 25 years?  Ricketts has convinced himself that his father’s bees were the “killer bees.”
         

          “Everything I have read about the killer bees sound just like the bees we had on the farm,” he said.  “If you left them alone, they didn’t bother you.  But if you ventured within 25 feet or so of their hive, many of them would attack you.”  Talk about mean!.
          “Those bees didn’t buzz around your head to give you a warning that you might get stung,” Ricketts said.
         

           “They got straight to the point. 
They would make a beeline toward your neck or your arms, which were not by clothing.  If their aim was true, they zapped you good.”
           Fortunately, their aim was not true most of the time.
          “They either had poor eyesight or poor maneuverability, because they miss a lot,” Ricketts said.
          The black bees didn’t attack humans away from the hive, but Ricketts said they didn’t hesitate to chase the animals on the farm.
          “Without hesitation they attacked dogs, cats, cows and the mules,” he recalled.
          The mules were not so much bothered by the pests.
          “You know, a mule doesn’t panic,” Ricketts said.  “A horse will panic, do something crazy and get itself hurt.  But our mules just shook the bees off and went on about their business.  Mules are cool, calm and collected.  They won’t do anything to get themselves hurt.”
          However, Ricketts’ father was worried about what problems the aggressive bees might cause the other animals, not to mention the neighbors animals.
          “I remember hearing the neighbors talk about how mean those bees were,” Ricketts said.
 

          After one season with the African black bees, Reuben Ricketts had seen enough.
          “Dad decided they were too much of a threat,” Ricketts said.  “Besides, they were not so good at producing honey.  They were so hyper that they must have consumed a greater amount of their own honey than the regular bees.”
          In late winter, before the bees picked a new queen and swarmed out to establish a new colony, Reuben Ricketts went on the attack.
          “Dad stuffed rags into all the openings of the hive and gave them a dose of sulfur smoke.  That finished them off and solved the problem.
         

 The youngest child, Robert “Danny” Ricketts was born at the old Ricketts log cabin in January of 1941 and missed the scourge of the killer bees.

See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

Take a look at our websites:

http://rdricketts.com or http://beaversmill.ieasysite.com/

Dry Fork in Pittsylvania Co. dates back at least 246 years!

November 3rd, 2008

The name Dry Fork in Pittsylvania County goes back at least 246 years when it was notated on a deed as a branch of the White Oak Creek.

 
One of the earliest land surveys in the area of “downtown” Dry Fork, Virginia was for Benjamin Mosby on January 10, 1748.  His survey south of Banister River included 737 acres on both sides of White Oak Creek.  During that time, this area was a part of Lunenburg County, before it became Halifax County in 1752 and Pittsylvania County in 1767.  This large tract contained much of the land from the Banister River and White Oak Creek along the Dry Fork Creek to the area of the Dry Fork Depot.
On November 14, 1762, then Halifax County, Henry Hardin surveyed a 400-acre tract along the southern lines of Benjamin Mosby’s tract.  This land was described as being on the “Dry Fork of White Oak Creek.”  These surveys joined in the area of the railroad tracks and the Dry Fork Road.  This intersection is a short distance west of where the road crosses Dry Fork Creek.  When Henry Hardin prepared his will in 1796, he left 737 acres “where I now live” to a grandson Henry Hardin. 
Another early survey for Robert Weakley for 318 acres on “both sides of the Dry Fork of White Oak Creek” is dated February 16, 1771. 


A survey was prepared for 312 acres on “both sides of the Dry Fork of White Oak Creek’ on June 20, 1772 for Isaac Certain.  On October 26, 1779, Joseph Rogers surveyed 696 acres  “on branches of the Dry Fork of White Oak Creek.” 


The area, which became the Town of Dry Fork in 1906, is due north of the Dry Fork Creek gap between “peaks” of the White Oak Mountain range. I have shaded in the highest points of the mountains on the below topographical map.  The head waters of Dry Fork Creek are south of the mountains near state road 863 (R & L Smith Road) and the waters flow due north.  The railroad, which was completed in 1874 from Lynchburg to Danville, was constructed near the path of this creek.

At the top of this map is the Banister River and at the bottom R & L Smith Drive (sr 863).  “And when we crossed that White Oak Mountain you can watch Old Nintey-Seven roll!”  That line was made famous in the 1920s by “The Ballad of the Wreck of the Old 97.”  The 1903 wreck song became the first record to sell a million copies and is still popular today.   


The White Oak Mountain range runs northeast and southwest through Pittsylvania County from the area of Cascade to near the center of the county line with Halifax County.  Some believe that the mountains were created during the Triassic Age of some 200 million years ago.  I am not too sure that there is an accurate measure of hundreds of millions of years, but that is another story.  But there are large specimens of petrified tree trunks and limbs to be found on the northern slopes of these mountains.  There are sandstone outcroppings, clear quartz and some gold has been found.  There is a great debate going on concerning the mining of uranium on lands to the north of the range.  There is probably oil down there, but many are opposed to getting it out of the ground.  There have been claims of finding dinosaur footprints near where the Banister River cuts through the mountains.  


At the center of this gap and west of Dry Fork Creek and what is usually known as “the” White Oak Mountain, my third great grandfather William Ricketts owned 205 acres from the 1780s until he died in 1832.   His survey, dated April 25, 1780, was for 55 acres of land on the north side of White Oak Mountain and branches of White Oak Creek.  On June 20, 1786, Ricketts bought an adjoining tract of 150 acres between this tract and Dry Fork Creek.  On later maps, I found that a small branch flowing east through this 150-acre tract was referred to as “Ricketts Branch.”  A 1910 map showed two log cabins.  I believe that the large one north of Ricketts Branch was the homestead of William Ricketts. 


William Ricketts had a son Nathaniel Ricketts who was born in 1795.  He was still alive in 1850 and was a shoemaker.  After William died in 1832, Nathaniel signed a Deed of Trust for $37.90 in favor of Robert Wilson of Dan’s Hill.  In 1833, the Ricketts plantation was sold for this debt at public auction to Robert Hatchings for $110.20.  The land was subject to the dower interest (usually one third) to William’s widow Nancy Ricketts for her lifetime. Nancy was a daughter of William Davis of Cherrystone Creek.  In 1850, John M. Hutchings bought this property to add to his adjoining property to make a large tract of more than 600 acres.  On the 5th of April 1862, John M. Hutchings sold the 627 2/3-acre tract to Beverly A. Davis for $3,140.  The sales price in Confederate money may be slightly misleading.  Those who purchased land with their current money were the fortunate ones.  Three years later in 1865, the money was only worthless paper.  This land crossed the road from Dry Fork to Pleasant Gap.  The Ricketts Branch and Dry Fork Creek are mentioned on the deed. 
The cabin near Ricketts Branch on the 1910 map is very likely the cabin rented by Ed and Lucy Ricketts.  She mentioned living near her sister Izetta Owen, wife of Charlie Owen, and hearing the trains go by.  (see Lucy’s Sketch on  our website: http://family.rdricketts.com/lucysketch.html ).  Charlie Owen and his brother-in-law Charlie Edward Ricketts were both on the town council of Dry Fork when it was incorporated in 1906.  The Charlie Owen farm was between the Dry Fork Road and Ricketts Branch.  Edward Robertson, a Revolutionary War veteran, bought 241 acres here in 1786, after the War.  He died in 1826 and was buried in the large, largely unmarked, graveyard on the Charlie Owen farm.  William Ricketts died in 1832 and may be be buried here in an unmarked grave.  The very large size of the graveyard indicates that it might have been a communtiy cemetery. 

 ).  Charlie Owen and his brother-in-law Charlie Edward Ricketts were both on the town council of Dry Fork when it was incorporated in 1906.  The Charlie Owen farm was between the Dry Fork Road and Ricketts Branch.  , a Revolutionary War veteran, bought 241 acres here in 1786, after the War.  He died in 1826 and was buried in the large, largely unmarked, graveyard on the Charlie Owen farm.  William Ricketts died in 1832 and may be be buried here in an unmarked grave.  The very large size of the graveyard indicates that it might have been a communtiy cemetery. See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

Take a look at our websites:

http://rdricketts.com or http://beaversmill.ieasysite.com/

History posters:

http://rdricketts.com/blog/history-posters-danville-pittsyvlania-co-va/

Pictures of Dry Fork Distilleries circa 1910 surface

October 28th, 2008

       In 1914, Virginia residents voted to ban the manufacture and sale of alcohol.  In 1920, the 18th Amendment outlawed whiskey in the entire United States.  The Prohibition, which lasted until 1933, when the 21st Amendment, ended this restriction.   
        
My grandfather Charlie Edward Ricketts worked in one of the Dry Fork, Virginia distilleries around 1900 when the manufacture of whiskey was legal.  My grandmother Lucy was not happy about him working there. 
 My grandmother Lucy James Ricketts (1877-1953).  Lucy, know as Jimmy, wrote about life at Dry Fork beginning in the 1800s.  Look at http://www.rdricketts.com/family/lucysketch.html.  
I spent many lonely hours, never got to go home often to see my people and they never came to see me often as it was so far away and Mr. Williams made my husband sell whiskey and I did not like that so I was so dissatisfied he decided to move away and he went to Dry Fork and hired to Mr. Pigg.
Ed made a good salary and we got alone well, but Mr. Pigg made whiskey and he put my husband in a bar room to sell whiskey and that did not suit me as my little boy [Leonard] stayed with his daddy nearly every day and I did not want him to come up in a whiskey shop and Ed taken to drink and always a drunken crowd around and that was against my wishes, but he was always good to me but that was not my wishes for him to drink or handle whiskey. There were fighting and cursing all the time and write in sight of my house. That kept me nervous and worried all the time so one night my husband got in a fight and was stabbed in the side real back and I was sick in bed at the time. Oh, no one knew what I went through with just the good Lord’s help. That led me through with it.

So I just told my husband Ed, as I called him, I just could not stand it any longer. I could and would not stand living such a life and raise up our boy in a whiskey shop, no never. And he decided to get away as he was tired of it too, so he went and rented a farm from Mr. Jim Evans. So he bought a team and believe me I was glad when the day came to move away, but Mr. and Mrs. Pigg had been nice to us and did not want us to move away. Mr. Pigg begged for Ed to stay but he would not, said he would never sell whiskey anymore.
On October 27, 2008, my friend Craig Stowe shared with me two photographs of the Dry Fork distilleries.

This is Charlie Edward Ricketts with his wife Lucy James Mills Ricketts and her father Samuel David Mills(1853-1920).  In 1900, “Eddie” (age 29) and “Jimmy” (age 23) were living next door to her father on the Dry Fork Road with their first three children: (1) Willie Leanard Ricketts (age 7), Viola Lee Ricketts (age 4) and Lena W. (age 2).  They told the census taker they had been married eight years.  On August 8, 1901, my father Reuben Edward Ricketts (1901-1957) was born.   

The sign over the store reads: “Edward Jones Distillery No. 57 Dist. of Va. Registered.’  Ed Jones was born in 1884 and married Lucy Burnett in 1904.  Ed was operating this distillery in 1910 when the census taken came around.  He was then 26 years old.  Their three children were daughter Dessie, age 5, son Flure, age 4, and Bashly age two months.   

This is probably the Pigg Distillery with the Pigg (later Jones) Mill in the background.  The Pigg Distillery was said to be one of the largest in the state, employing fourteen workers.  We believe that this is where Eddie Ricketts worked around 1900.  

Craig Stowe shared these photographs with me on October 27, 2008.  He remembers them in his house when he was a child.  Craig was born in 1914, the year that all the distilleries in Virginia, both large and small, were closed by law. 

See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

Take a look at our websites:

http://rdricketts.com or http://beaversmill.ieasysite.com/

History posters:

http://rdricketts.com/blog/history-posters-danville-pittsyvlania-co-va/

Two Confederate Soldiers Born at Beavers’ Mill

September 18th, 2008

In December of 2003, my son Bobby and I discovered what is believed to be the oldest surviving wooden water wheel in America.  The 1792 water powered grist mill was just about a mile and a half above Piedmont Mall in Danville (as the crow flies) on Sandy Creek.  Maj. William Beavers was in charge for the Pittsylvania County militia for the southern half of the county in the period leading up to the War of 1812.  The muster for the militia was held on the grounds of the 785-acre Beavers’ Mill tract. We found two military buttons for that period at the site.  For more about the mill and artifacts see:

http://beaversmill.ieasysite.com/

William D. Beavers, grandson of Maj. Beavers, was born in 1838 at Beavers’ Mill on Sandy Creek near Danville, Virginia.  His parents were Edwin Rush Beavers (1806-1868) and the former Elizabeth B. Carter.  The old 1792 mill was handed down to Edwin and his miller and slaves were grinding wheat and corn throughout the Civil War times.The 1860 census taker came to Beavers’ Mill back home to record Edwin Rush Beavers and his family.  His son Jeduthan Carter Beavers.  In 1858, the Pittsylvania court appointed Jed to be Trustee for Edwin R. Beavers affairs.  From court records, it appears that he had a stroke and was mentally unstable.  In 1868, the court ordered the remaining tract of 565 acres divided into six parts for Edwin’s children.  One child, Wm. D., had died in 1863 durning the Civil War.   

Keeping the mill in operating condition was time consuming and expensive.  The parts wore out and were frequently borken.  During the Civil War, Mrs. Elizabeth B. Beavers complained that the gudgeon was broken, but the mill was running again after she spent almost $400 dollars on repairs. 

The gudgeon above is one of the spare parts at Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.  The drawing shows how it is used.  The iron part covers the end of the central shaft.  Replacing this part is a difficult task.

Here our grandson Joey Ricketts is with what we believe to be the 1792 Beavers’ Mill waterwheel.  After nearly 200 years underwater, we brought the separate pieces to our yard from the mud, clay and sand of Sandy Creek and reassembled it in our yard.  The length is 16 feet 3 inches and the diameter would have been about eight feet.  The wood appears to be spruce and heart yellow pine. 

In 1859, when he was twenty one years old, William D. Beavers set out on his own to the Red River Valley of Texas.  He obviously heard glowing reports of the rich land and business opportunities in northern Texas from relatives of those who moved a few years before.  In 1860, he was living with the widow Eliza Pritchett, formerly of Pittsylvania County.  

When the census taker came around on 21 Aug 1860 in Sherman, Grayson Co., Texas, William D. Beavers, age 22, was living with the widow Eliza Pritchett and family.  The next entry is her son-in-law George S. Fitzgerald, who wife Sarah B. Pritchett died inon 10 Dec 1859.  Later in 1860, George married Frances Dance Pritchett (1818-1897), another of Eliza’s daughters.

 On the same census page is another daughter of Eliza and her husband.  Julia Etta Pritchett (1822-1889) married the Rev. Samuel J. Spotts on 7 Dec 1842.  Massachusetts born Spotts was Pastor of the Methodist church in Danville, before he moved west in 1859.  All five of their children were born in Virginia.  Eliza Pritchett’s husband Joshua died in 1847.  Ten years later, in 1857, she sold her land on the upper branches of Stuarts Creek and moved west.  She sold the family land for almost $4,000 cash and joined a wagon train with sixteen other families, including over a hundred slaves.  After a three month journey, with most of her fourteen children, her grand children and slaves, they arrived in Grayson County, Texas.  In October of 1859, forty four members of the Blair, Williams, and Turner families, along with nine slaves and one free Black man, made the same move out west.  They arrived in Texas on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1859.  Young William D. Beavers may have been with this group.  The wagon trains traveled up to the area now Roanoke and down the valley road to Knoxville.  They took a “steamer” down the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers, and across Arkansas to the Red River Valley northeast of the present city of Dallas in Texas.  William D. Beavers was twenty one when he arrived in Texas with plans to start a tobacco business there.  On October 4, 1861, at age 23, William Beavers went to Sherman, the county seat of Grayson County, and enlisted as first sergeant for twelve months in Capt. William Hugh Young’s Company, Maxey’s Regiment of Texas Infantry. He is on the muster roll for that unit dated at Camp Rush in Lamar County on December 1, 1861.  The company later became Co. C, 9th (Young’s) Regiment Texas Infantry.  The number of “miles to rendezvous” is given as 60.   

William Hugh Young was Wm. D. Beavers company commander when he enlisted.  He was educated at the University of Virginia.  Young was later promoted to colonel and brigadier general.  He was captured and held at Johnson’s Island prison until July 1865.                 

 

 

On the company muster roll for Co. C, 9th Regiment in July of 1861, W. D. Beavers is listed as second lieutenant.  The muster roll for January and February, 1863 lists Beavers as absent: “Remarks: Sent to Texas as recruiting officer Nov. 1/62.”  In March through July, he is again present with his company.  His pay is shown to be $80 per month.

During this time the 9th Texas was involved in many of the large battles.  Wm. H. Young (1838-1901), the company and later regimental commander was the same age as William Beavers.  Young was wounded several times and returned to duty.  After the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, he was promoted to brigadier general on August 15, 1864.  On a march, his left foot was “all but shot off” and he was captured and sent to Johnson’s Island, Ohio, where he was held until July 24, 1864.

Second lieutenant William D. Beavers did not live to see the war end.  The company muster roll for July and August 1863 has the remark for Beavers: “Killed in battle at Jackson, Miss. July 12, 1863.

Another soldier of the same regiment wrote that “..we were corralled at Jackson, Miss. The Feds pounding us there for nine days and nights, here was killed Wm. E. (sic) Beavers of Bonham…..killed by a solid shot…who at one time clerked for W. B. & J. B. Oliphant of Bonham and was as brave and true as ever lived.”   William D. Beavers was only 25 years old when he died.  On April 26, 1861, William D. Beavers’ older brother Jeduthan Carter Beavers (b 1833) enlisted in Co. B, “The Danville Grays,” 18th Virginia Infantry Regiment.  His wife was the former Sallie V. Jordan., wrote to him in Richmond on May 13, 1861.  On May 6, 1862, Jeduthan secured J. J. Adkins as substitute.  On May 18, 1862 Adkins died of typhoid fever in Richmond.  It appears that he served another enlistment in 1863 and 1864.

In April of 1859, the year that William left, his father Edwin R. Beavers began having financial and legal difficulties involving money, land and slaves.  An auction was held on August 23, 1860 for part of the Beavers’ Mill land. 

 These old receipts for 1846 and 1847, which were evidence in the long running court case, were in Pittsylvania Courthouse.

The case continued in county court for 26 years, until both Edwin and Jeduthan were dead.  The court, which is one lawyer who has stepped up a notch, ruled that “it appears to the court that since the abolition of slavery, the object of the suit cannot be effected.”  As is often the case, it was only the lawyers who were winners.  The waterwheel we found was deep down below two rock floors.  We believe that the first mill was constructed in 1792 and was destroyed by fire in 1812.  Almost half the burned wheel settled into the mud and clay and was preserved. 

This is a page from the History Notes publication.  The top view is of the waterwheel in its position where it had rested in water for almost two hundred years.  The insert shows our first view of a mill timber in the Sandy Creek bank.  The museum asked Nancye and I to come to Richmond to assemble the wheel.  A metal supporting frame was bolted to the wheel to hold it on a wall of the new musuem building.  The display position causes it to appear as it did when it was in operation.   

See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

Take a look at our websites:

http://rdricketts.com or http://beaversmill.ieasysite.com/

History posters:

http://rdricketts.com/blog/history-posters-danville-pittsyvlania-co-va/