Archive for July, 2008

Maj. William T. Sutherlin’s family buried in North Danville 1843+

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

When the town of North Danville established the North Danville Cemetery in 1878, the land was purchased from W. A Baugh and Mrs. A. M. Keen.  The Keen land was “already being used as a cemetery.”  Thomas Jackson Lee was a former mayor and a member of that committee.  When he died suddenly on October 8, 1887, his widow had a large stone mausoleum constructed between the oldest graves and Claiborne Street.  Mrs. Lee donated additional land and the cemetery became known as Leemont in honor of T. J. Lee. 

The following inscriptions are on four sides of each of the three markers seen here.  T. J. Lee is buried in the square in the background.  The houses on on the western side of Claiborne Street. The square here, east of Lee’s mausoleum, appears to contain the oldest graves in the cemetery.  Nathaniel Green Sutherlin, who was born on July 11, 1836, died on February 9, 1843 and is buried in that square. 


His father George Sanders Sutherlin (b April 7, 1796 d July 111, 1856) and his mother Polly Starlings Norman Sutherlin (b November 1, 1794 d May 8, 1860) were buried there before the Civil War began.  (more…)

Jones Store Washington St. – At The Curve

Monday, July 21st, 2008


Danny with sister Elaine Ricketts Gibson and our grandpa Dan Jones before he died in December 1946. (much more with old photographs) (more…)

Sentinel 1940s Stonewall Elementary School Newspaper

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

          Stonewall Jackson Elementary School was on the corner of North Main Street and Bradley Road before it was torn down a few year ago.  The school opened in 1915, when the Danville and Pittsylvania County line was just beyond a few hundred yards.  Jim Clark gave me this photograph of the opening ceremony.  Mayor Harry Wooding was one of the dignitaries.  Sam Sparks, Nancy Newman’s dad, remembered marching from Bellevue Elementry on that day in 1915.

Opening Day – 1915 – Stonewall Jackson Elementary School – North Main Street  

A few years later, I came along.  I began the first grade in September of 1947.  I saved two of the school newspapers; maybe because my name is in both issues:

I was brief, as usual, with three words: “For our schools.”  I seemed to have appreciated them less as time went on, but I finally got through all twelve grades and graduated in 1960 from George Washington High School.  I have another issue from 1949 when I was in Miss Ferrell’s third grade class, with what I think was my first poetry at age eight:

Danny’s writing and coloring in 1949, at age 8.

Other poets in the class are Mildred Yeatts (my next door neighbor for a while), Neil Griffith, Jean Hubbard, Louellen Owen, and Harrell Mann. 

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Early Danville, Virginia Drug Stores

Monday, July 14th, 2008

The Town of Danville, Virginia had many pharmacies over the years:

1850 –The 1850 census for Danville lists Hiza G. Archer, age 27, druggist, and wife Frances M., age 25 with a son William, age 3.   Hez. (Hezekiah?) G. Archer is listed as a druggist in Danville, Virginia in the 1851 Thompson’s Mercantile Professional Directory. 

1858 – John H. Holcombe was operating his drug store in Danville in 1858.  He was born in North Carolina, operated a pharmacy in the old 1854 Masonic Temple building on the corner of Main and Union Streets.  In 1860, when a census was taken, John Holcombe was 26 years old.  Living with Holcombe, his wife and child were two drug store clerks.  One was Charles K. Carter and the other Henry Adolphus Wiseman (1847-1902), both 17 years old.  Wiseman became a partner in the drug store and later owned the entire Temple Pharmacy for forty years.  The corner became know as “Wiseman’s Corner.”  When the Civil War broke out, Henry A. Wiseman was a medical student.  He enlisted in the Ringgold Battery of artillery, but was soon transferred to the medial department of the Confederate Army. This building was dedicated on May 24, 1854 by Masonic Roman Eagle Lodge No. 122.  Planning began in 1899 to replace this building with a new structure. (much more with maps, drug store bottles, old photographs) (more…)

1893 Fire Destroyed Danville’s Finest Building

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

          The skies of downtown Danville, Virginia were bright with large flames lighting up Main Street just after midnight on March 7, 1893.  In one of the biggest fires in memory, Danville’s finest building, Wright’s Hotel, was destroyed.  The hotel was lower Main Street (see the map below).

 Wright’s Hotel from 1890 stationery

           The fire was contained to the hotel and the stores on the first floor, so neighboring businesses at first were relieved. The loss of the large five-story building was put at $50,000 and the insurance only covered $25,000.  Commission merchants, Jennings & Watson lost their office.  Their loss was about $9,000 with insurance coverage of $6,000.  A Boston shoe house owned by Aaron Summerfield lost his stock of shoes which was valued at $11,000, with $8,000 of insurance. 

It appears that Wright’s Hotel at 230 Main Street was built in 1889. In 1888, there are only three hotels listed in Danville (1) The Burton Hotel on the corner of Main and Union Streets (2) The Carolina Hotel at 543 Mains Street and (3) The Normandie Hotel at 546 Main Street.  Robert Brydon’s drug store was next door at 238 Main Street, directly in front of Craghead Street.

Wright also had businesses in Charlottesville, Grottoes, and Lynchburg.  A fire in Ghcrlottesviille a short time before this one just missed the hotel there.  On February 21, 1893, a samll building on West Main Street, near Wright’s Hotel, was burned down on Friday night.  Three years later, on May 12, 1896, a disastrous storm hit Charlottesville.  The roof of the annex of Wright’s Hotel was blown off and deposited in hte street, and much furniture was damaged.             

Another tragedy stuck in Danville later that day of the big fire.  Aaron Summerfield hired a crew to try and save some of his stock of shoes.  Suddenly, the wall of the large hotel collapsed burying the work crew.  Two persons were killed and five injured.  The newspaper reported the victims:
Killed were:
*John Lawson, (colored), and
*Jim Motley, (colored).”
*John D. Fickler, (white) arm paralyzed.
*William Powell, (colored) right leg broken.
*Simon Wilson, (colored) left leg broken.
*Smith Buford, (colored) internally injured, may die.

          Note the Summerfield Building opposite Craghead Street in this 1877 map of downtown Danville.  Aaron Summerfield lived in this building and operated a dry goods store here.  There are no buildings on the adjacent lots towards the bridge at this time.  It appears that the hotel took up three lots.  Myer Summerfield, who was the manager, lived on Floyd Street.  It appears that the Summerfield building was torn down to make way for the large hotel building and Summerfield operated his Boston shoe business on the ground floor of the building which burned in 1893.  Also note the Roanoke Navigational Canal, which was completed in the 1820s.  Above is the tail race from the water which was used for water-powered machinery.  The canal was originally a race to the old water-powered grist mill, which was being operated by John Dix in 1771.  This original mill here, which was rebuilt several times, was probably built by Col. William Wynne (see post on Palm Tree Springs).         

                   At the same time, on the afternoon of the fire, the falling wall crushed two adjoining businesses.  The liquor house of John R. Ferrell was crushed and the drug store of Robert Brydon was totally destroyed.  It was reported that Brydon lost his entire stock of drugs.  His pharmacy was located at 238 Main Stret just above the hotel


Robert Brydon, Druggist (rubbing of pharmacy bottle)

          Robert Brydon was born in 1845 in Edinburgh, Scotland and came to Toranto, Canada.    He left a drug business under his brother William Brydon and moved to New York in 1866 and to then to Danville, Virginia.  He opened a drug store here and married Ellen Page Dame (1849-1890) on October 17, 1872.  Ellen’s father Rev. George Washington Dame came to Danville in 1840 and taught school and became the Episcopal Rector.    

          In 1852, Rev. G. W. Dame bought a three-acre tract on Colquhoun Street from Col. Nathaniel Wilson.            In 1877, Rev. Dame lived in the house at the edge of his large lot (726 Colquhoun Street) and Robert Brydon and Ellen Page lived at 714 Colquhoun in the center of the street frontage.  Although the house at 726 has been replaced, the house at 714 is very old.  The bricks are hand molded and the framing is connected with wooden pegs.  It is unlikely that the original house would be built on the property line.  It is my thinking that Dame built this house in the 1850s and later built a larger house up the street and his daughter and son-in-law lived in the older house. 

Copyright 2008 Danny Ricketts

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Trelow, Virginia – Lost Village Found on Sandy River

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Trelow, Virginia doesn’t seem to be on any maps.  The area is an almost forgotten village which was on Sandy River in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.  The South Fork of Sandy River heads up in the area of Axton in Henry County and meanders down into Danville where it empties into Dan River.  There were many water-powered grist mill built on the river and its tributaries from the 1700s water power was no longer important to operate the mills. 

This is believed to be the Payne Mill at Trelow, which was operated by Tap Scarce from just after 1900 until about 1920.  Note the wooden water wheels in tandem.  Most mills had at least one set of grind stones for grinding wheat to flour and another set for grinding corn into corn meal. The area we are now discussing is about four miles east of the Henry and Pittsylvania County line.  Trelow grew around the old water-powered grist mill which seems to have bee built by the Shields family.  The mill and 651 acres of land was sold to Nicholas Perkins in 1792.  Nicholas lived near Perkins Ferry on Dan River, which his father founded.  During the Revolutionary War a hospital was established in his house after the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in what is now Greensboro, North Carolina.  The mill and 651 acres was sold to Abendego Harp in 1801 and the next year his daughter Christine Harp married Thomas Jackson Scarce (1779-1866).  Thomas was a son of Shadrack Scarce (1748-1824) who built Scarce’s Mill on Sandy River about the same time that Thomas and Christine married.  Shadrack Scarce’s mill was about seven miles downstream of Trelow, just above the present Moorefield’s Bridge on state road 863.

A United States post office was opened at Trelow in 1905.  The Postmaster was J. T. Haley.  His salary was set at $12.29 a year.  Usually a store owner would contract with the Post Office Department to operate the post office because of the traffic and customers that the mail service would bring into the store.  The Trelow Post Office closed in 1905.  The 1910 and 1920 census shows Dorsey Scarce, age 25, next door to Tap, the miller.  He is a merchant and is probably operating the store where the post office was located.  There was a Buck Myers who operated a store in that area. 

The Rev. Roberson is with some of his flock below the dam at Payne’s Mill.  Wesley Haley and Marvin Willis hold hands as Mrs. Hyler is about to be baptized.  At the top of the hill, north of Trelow is Bethlehem Baptist Church. 

Hog killing at Payne’s Mill, Trelow, Virginia.

The mill at Trelow went through many ownerships before it burned in 1925.  John Thomas “Tap” Scarce came to Trelow sometimes between 1901 and 1906.   Tap Scarce had been the miller at Lanier’s Mill on Sandy Creek for about ten years.  (see the separate posting on the destruction at Lanier’s Mill).  Tap and wife Lucy Emma had two more children after they moved to Trelow.  These photographs were given to me by Tap’s daughter Geraldine Scarce Braford, who was at Trelow on September 12, 1909.  This is the John Thomas “Tap” Scarce family about 1905 at Trelow.  At left is Minnie Ola Scarce (Hubbard) (1895-1960), Lucy Emma Scarce (1868-1939), Howard A. Scarce (1892-1923), Tap Scarce (1861-1936).  In front in white is Jennie Alice Scarce (Boaze) (b 1901).  At back Gregory? and the oldest child, Sallie Ethel Scarce (Winn) (b 1890). Here is Tap Scarce with his 1916 T-Model Ford and two daughters, Nelly left and Gerardine.

Tap stands in front of the mill with his daughter Jennie in white, Jim Haley and daughter Ola.

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Copyright 2008 Danny Ricketts

Dateline: 1923: Cyclone Destroys Lanier’s Mill

Monday, July 7th, 2008

One of Pittsylvania County’s favorite places was completely destroyed by a violent tornado on April 23, 1923.  Here is a photograph of the aftermath:

Minnie Ola Scarce (1895-1960) snapped this picture of part of her family the day after the disaster at the ruins of the old mill.  Her father John Thomas “Tap” Scarce (1861-1936) was the miller at Lanier’s Mill when his first four children were born.  Tap married the former Lucy Emma Scearce (1868-1939) at Stewarts Creek Mill on March 15, 1888.  When their first child, Sallie Ethel Scarce (Winn) was born on May 7, 1890, Tap was the miller at this mill.  Three other children, Howard A. Scarce (1892-1923), Minnie Ola Scarce (Hubbard) (1895-1960), and Jennie Alice Scarce (Boaze) (b 1901), were born in the miller’s house across the road from the mill.  Jennie is the girl in the white dress in the picture.  A younger child, Geraldine F. Scarce (Braford) (b 1909), who was born at Payne’s Mill at Trelow on Sandy River, gave me this photograph.  Geraldine went with Tap and her sisters from their house on Claiborne Street in Danville on April 24, 1923 to see his old workplace.  Another sister Nellie Reaves Scarce (Yeatts) (b 1906 at Payne’s Mill) visited the ruins.

The “cyclone” left the sturdy building in total ruin.  Large twelve-by-twelve beams were twisted and broken like toothpicks.  Pieces of wood and tin were blown miles away.  The wind even destroyed the wing of the mill dam and drained one of the area’s most popular swimming places.    

Joe T. Law also remembered going to see the damage with his father Jim Law.  He was a fifteen-year-old at the time.  Joe said that the heavy four-foot-in-diameter millstone was thrown down Sandy Creek by the violent wind.  Joe lived on my mail route, not so far from Geraldine, before I retired in 1992.  They have since both died. 

Jim Slaughter reported that a barrel of flour landed on his farm after flying a mile and a half.There was a widow, Mrs. Bailey, who missed her favorite mild cow after the tornado.  Jim Slaughter, her neighbor, helped her search the surrounding area.  They heard a moo and found the animal lying in a ditch with two broken legs.  Mrs. Bailey refused to “put the animal out of it misery,” as thought to be the only option.  With a horse and sled, the neighbors drug the cow back to her stable.  The Veterinarian came and constructed a canvas sling with holes for the cow’s feet and a hole to allow milking.  Mrs. Bailey fed, watered and milked the cow until it recovered.

The first mill at this site on Sandy Creek was built in 1788.  In February of 1881, William S. Lanier and Rawley Robertson were granted a permit to build a mill at this site.  The mill became known as Lanier’s Mill and Rawley Robertson operated a store in the area.  The mill site was called “Gray’s old mill site” when Lanier and Robertson bought the property.  The location in upstream of state road 863 (now called Lanier’s Mill Road) on Sandy Creek.  Down Sandy Creek just over four miles (as the crow flies) is the site of the well-known Beavers’ Mill.  See the site for pictures and information about that mill.  

Copyright 2008 Danny Ricketts

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