Early Danville, Virginia Drug Stores

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)

          The Masonic Temple was replaced by a new building which cost $49,000.  The first meeting was held on here on July 1, 1902.  Henry A. Wiserman operated his “Temple Pharmacy” on this corner.  Two doors down in this building Dr. H. W. Cole operated his drug business for a time.  This building burned in a disastrous fire on January 3, 1920.  The fire began in Johnson’s Department Store and burned all the business up Main Street to Union Street, including the Masonic Temple.  The present 10-story building was erected in 1921.  Patterson’s Drug Store was located in the same corner location in this building for many years.  

Virginia Infantry on April 23, 1861.  He was a 23-year old 1st Sgt. at muster on July 21, 1861.  That Sunday afternoon, he was shot in head and killed at First Manassas (Bull Run), the first major battle in Virginia during the Civil War.  He was probably among the first Confederate soldier to die in battle on Virginia soil.  John was born about 1823 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was buried in Grove Street Cemetery, Danville.

        Danville pharmacy bottles turn up frequently.  Each store had their own bottles made with the store name and often the location embossed on the glass.  Many of the early bottles were partially hand-made, one at at time.  Bottles which were made before the automatic bottle machine was invented about 1907 usually have a sworl near the neck at the end of the mold mark.  The lip of the bottle was finished by a hand process in the bottle was twisted while the glass was soft from heat. 

          Pencil rubbings of the glass bottles make the lettering easier to read:

          An early Jacob’s was said to have been located at 501 Main Street where Woolworths was located for many years.  This location across from the Masonic Temple was one of the most valuable locations.  Advertising stated that Jacob’s pharmacy was established in 1848.


According to this clipping, in 1914 Jacob’s Drug Store was down the street just below the Masonic Temple at 423 Main Street where Kresge’s 5 and 10 cent store was later located.  At the soda counter, from the left, is H. Burns Trundle, General Manager of the Bee, the afternoon newspaper, and R. L. Agee, who was a sterotyper for the Danville Register and Bee.  The “soda boy” behind the counter is Garland Crafton. In 1900, Hany Burns Trundle was a 24-year-old reporter in Danville.  After he married, they lived on Chestnut Street.

Dr. Howson White Cole was born on a farm near Danville on 11 Dec. 1830, a son of John Lipscomb Cole, MD. and wife Cassandra Caroline White.  He attended the Caldwell Institute in Greensboro, N.C., Emery and Henry College adn the Medical College of South Carolina.  He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philidelphis, Pennsylvania in 1854.  He began a practice in Greensboro, but moved his practice to Danville in 1858.  When the Civil War began, he volunteered with the Danville Blues (18th Virginia Regiment) and was detailed to the medical department.  His “never robust” health became worse and he was discharged as disabled.  He then volunteered, without rank or pay, and served on the field and in hospitals as his health permitted until the end of the War in 1865.  After the War, because of his continual bad health, he gave up his large and growing medical practice and opened  the H. W. Cole Apothecary.  He is said to have “At once placed upon a higher plane and more scientific basis than any predocessor had done.”  On 13 Jan 1875, H. W. Cole married Eliza Lavelette Dupuy (b 26 Jul 1843 d 4 Dec 1880) of Prince Edward Co., Virginia.  Their son Lavillon Dupry Cole was a well-known Danville druggist and mayor until shortly before his death in 1927.  The 1893 Bulletin of Pharmacy stated: “Dr. H. W. Cole of Danville carries a large stock of the very best drugs he can get, and does the largest business in the city.” 

This is an 1879 advertisement for Dr. H. W. Cole’s Apothecary in the Masonic Temple.  His store was two doors down from Wiseman’s Drug Store which was apparently No. 1 in the same building.  In the same year, Dr. H. W. Cole as operated a Boarding House called the “Mansion House,” which was located on Main Street and Banks Alley (Floyd Street).


Dr. H. W. Cole is buried in Green Hill Cemetery.  The land was purchased from the estate of Dr. Nathaniel Terry Green (grandson of Shefiff Nathaniel Terry – see another post) in 1863 for a graveyard for the many Danville soldiers who died during the Civil War.

The town of Danville did not included land north of Dan River until 1896.  For a short time North Danville was called Neapolis.  This is the only bottle that I have seen with “Neaoplis” embossed:

          C. D. Gitt Pharmacy was operating in 1887 on the corner of Keen and (North) Main Steets in the area of North Theater.  North Main was Main Stret for Neapolis. In the middle of the street in front of the drug store was a public well.  This area was called “Gitt’s Switch,” where the street cars turned around, before the line was extended to the area of Bradley road. 

          C. D. Gitt changed his bottles after Danville annexed the area.

Bendall’s was located at 300 Craghead Street.  The owner was Robert Pascall Bendall (b 1894), son of Danville policeman Edward Franklin Bendall (b 14 Aug 1849 Southampton Co., Va) and wife Naddie Wilson (b 1862 Yanceyville, N.C.)

Robert Brydon’s Pharmacy was located at 238 Main Street.  He was born in 1845 in Edinburgh, Scotland and died on December 24, 1895. He was a corporal in the Queen’s Own Rifles, 10th Highland Regt. and assisted in putting down the Fenian Raid in 1866.  For his service, he received a Canadian grant of 159 acres and a medal.  His brother William Brydon taught him the drug trade in Toronto.  He moved to New York City in 1866 and then to Danville about six months later.  He began his drug store in Danville in 1872 and that October married Ellen Page Dame, daughter of the long-time Episcopal Rector Dr. George Washington Dame.  Brydon served on the city council and was City Auditor from 1896 until is death on 24 Dec 1895.  Two years before he died his drug store was destroyed after a fire at the adjacent Wright’s Hotel in 1893 (see another post).

          In 1879, there was a Clarke and Schlater Druggist on the south side of Main Street, four stores west of Craghead Street. 

Clanton’s Drug Store was at 636 North Main Street, across from the old C.D. Gitt drug store.  The store was later Lea’s and Holland’s Drug Store. 

Fuller Pharmacy had the address 125 North Union and telephone number 3 on their medicine bottles.  The store was apparently among the first to hook up to telephone service. 

John L. Hagan’s “Central Pharmacy” was located at 260 Jefferson Street. 

In 1887, Frank McFall’s Drug Store was located at the corner of Main and Market where J. Berman was located later. 

This is J. C. McFall’s Drug Store on North Union, between Main and Spring.  The old car is rigged up for advertising and has a big J. C. McFall’s Drug Store on top.  In the window are signs for Gem Safety Razors, Coca Cola, and Hire’s Root Beer.  Next door is the Union Street entrance to Belk-Leggetts.  You could ramble through Belk’s to Main and Market Streets from this entrance. 


McFall and Thomas were partners.


Another of McFall partner was Wallace.

Pleasant Richard Jones was born 22 Feb 1840 in Kernsville, Georgia.  In 1858, he came to Danville at the age of 18 and worked in the drug store of J. H. Holcombe.  A few months later, he was employed in another drug store in the same building operated by Flinn and Fitzjames.  He volunteered in Co. B. 18th Virginia Regiment during the Civil War.  He was captured at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July 1863.  He was sent to Port Lookout Prison and later exchanged.  He was with his unit at the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. He returned to Danville and joined in partnership with Jordan Motley and Dr. James Green in a drug business.  He soon bought out his two partners.  Mr. Jones was City Treasurer and President of the Bank of Danville.  He was president of the Danville Street Car Co.  In 1879, P. R. Jones’ store was located on the corner of Main and Market (1892-408 Main St.). 

1879 advertisement for P. R. Jones Drug Store on Main Street

In 1894, R. E. Wiley’s Drug Store was located  on (North) Main St. in Neapolis, near the Main Street Bridge. 

Other Danville Drug Stores:

1881 – Sey and Hodnett Drug Store – North Danville 

1887 – Miller and Watson Drug Store – Main opposite Holbrook.  T. Ashly Miller and J. T. Watson.

1887 – T. R. Sclater – 43 Main St. (home same).

1892 – Cole and Grymes – 1007 Main St.

1892 – Thomas D. Seabury – (North) Main St. North Danville.

1894- Hotel Burton Pharmacy

1894 – McFall and Thomas – 238 Main St. (old Brydon’s location).

1894 – Thomas G. Moore – 606 Craghead St. 

1898 – In 1898 R. Brydon’s Drug Store was at 125 North Union St.

1896 – Danville annexed the Town of North Danville.  Previously Danville was entirely south of Dan River. 

1898 – In 1898 C. H. Goldsborough operated a drug store at 624-626 North Main St.

1898 – In 1898 J. Goldwmith operated a drug store at 321-323 Main St.

1898 – In 1898 George Latz operated a drug store at 315 Main St.  He and his wife Ida lived at 742 Main Street.

1898 – In 1898, George F Rathvon is listed as a druggist.  He and his wife Mary A. lived in the building and sold dry goods, notions, crockery and glassware.  They were agents for Whtie sewing machines.

In 1902, twelve druggist were listed in Danville, Virginia:

(1) Central Paharmacy, John L. Hagan, 260 Jefferson St.

(2) Frederic Clark, 301 Main St.

(3) C. D. Gitt, 631 North Main St.

(4) A. W. Jacob, 425 Main St. (next to the Masonic Temple).

(5) P. R. Jones, 408 Main St.

(6) James C. McFall, 125 North Union St

(7) Thbomas Moore 208 Craghead St.

(8) Harry W. Thomas, 238 Main St. (site of Brydon’s old store)

(9) Union Street Pharmacy, 432 N. Union St.

(10) West End Pharmacy, 1007 Main St.

(11) R. R. Wiley, 636 North Main St.

(12) Henry A. Wiseman 438 Main St.

In 1904, other druggist were:

(1) George W. Bull, 432 North Union St.

(2) Main Street Pharmacy, 501 Main St.

(3) Clanton Drug Store, 636 North Main St. (later Lea’s and Holland’s).  In the spring of 1956, when I was in the 9th grade at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School, we would frequently visit the soda fountain at Lea’s Drug Store, then head for the “Drop In Club” at the Elk’s Club on Main Street.  The hit song “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford was usually playing loudly on the P.A. system.  About the same time, on Saturday’s we would walk from upper Washington Street, through Chruch Street, where we would stop by Petty’s Sweet Shop for a snow cone.  We continued, eating our snow cone, to the Rialto Thearer, where they usually had a triple feature.  It cost nine cents to get in or ten Dr. Pepper bottle caps.  That was nice since my parents ran a store on West Thomas Street and bottle caps were plentiful.  I usually got by on twenty cents.  Ten cents for the popcorn and ten cents for a coke.

(4) I work part time for Modern Pharmacy on South Main Street, across from the Danville Reginal Medical Center Hospital.  Harry Milam is the owner.  There is no relation of Harry to an early medicine man of the Mountain Hill/Danville area.


James Milam (c1840-1910), who founded the Milam Medicine Co. concocted a root and herb medicine which was advertised to remove acids and other poisons from the blood, cure rheumatism, gout, skin diseases, etc. I think we need this stuff today. This Milam sold his secret formula for thousands of dollars to someone in Richmond.  His grand daughter Nanny James Logan (1861-1956) was born to a free Black woman during slavery times.  James Milam was described as an illiterate white farmer, occasional dentist, and “Root Doctor.”  Martha Louise Logan (1842-1908) was his life-long partner. His grand daughters Sarah Louise Delany (b 1889) and Annie Elizabeth Delany (b 1891), who wrote the book “Having Our Say,” described James Milam as “The meanest looking man in Pittsylvania County.”  Remember, Harry Milam is not a relative and does not look mean.  Go buy something at Modern Pharmacy, 155 South Main Street in Danville, Virginia. 

This newspaper advertisement was a little early for me (1941-the year I was born), but the price for “kiddies” stayed the same into the 1950s when I was a frequent fan of the Saturday morning movies. 

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  This is an 1879 advertisement for H. A. Wiseman’s drug store in the Masonic Temple in the corner of the building shown above.           A son of Henry and Mary Wiseman, Sr., Henry A. Wiseman, Jr. graduated from the University of Virginia as a medical doctor.  He served as a surgeon in the British Army during the Boer War in South Africa in a regiment of Kaffirian Rifles.  He returned to Danville in 1903 and lived in the old home place at 843 Main Street.  His medical office was located in the Arcade Building, 520 Main Street.     
 1858 – The drug store firm of Flinn and Fitzfames (operating 1858) was located two doors down from Holcombe’s drug store in the Masonic Temple (both were in the same building).  In 1860, John Fitzjames, born in New York, was a 30-year old druggist.  John was living with 51-year old Sarah Fitzjames (probably his mother).  24-year old C. M. Flinn, druggist, was living in the same household.
 1860 – Another druggist, the year before the War is 23-year old H. V. M. Hamleton (Hamilton?). 
 1861 – John E. Bryan was listed as a druggist when he enlisted in Danville in Co. B of the 18th

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