Historian and Author Tom Perry's thoughts on history and anything that comes to mind.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

New Book Murder In A Rear View Mirror

Murder In A Rear View Mirror

I took 2017 off and did not publish any books of my own, but 2018 is going to see multiple titles from my Laurel Hill Publishing company. Already, Avis Turner’s fourth book Alzheimer’s Up Close is out about her experiences as a care giver for her late husband Elbert. This is a subject that strikes close to home for me as my mother suffers with dementia. I brought out Bonnie Turner’s The Eyes of Freya, the first of three in a Science Fiction/Fantasy genre. I worked with Doug Stegall and the Rangeley Ruritan Club to do a history/photo book about the Henry County community of Rangeley, Virginia, which has raised thousands of dollars already for the club.

In 2018, I will be bringing out books ranging from the Civil War, the Papers of J. E. B. Stuart, which covers 1833 until 1854 to World War Two with the letters from Philmore Minter, who served in Company H, 116th Regiment, 29th Division, who fought on D-Day and lived to tell about it. It is the third book I have worked on with Philmore’s son, David Minter.

This bring us to my new book Murder In A Rear View Mirror: Stories of True Crime, which will be available Memorial Day weekend at the Hillsville Flea Market. There are two flea markets, the big one everyone knows about during Labor Day weekend and the smaller one on Memorial Day weekend. I will be donating some of the proceeds from this book to the efforts to restore the Sidna Allen house, which is owned by the Carroll County Historical Society.

This is my first true crime book and it covers stories of true crime that have interested me over the years. The title has two meanings. First, an actual murder seen by one of Laurel Hill Publishing’s authors, Jennifer Gregory, who saw a murder in the rear view mirror in Collinsville, Virginia. The second meaning is to look back, in a rear view mirror, at multiple cases of murder that are well known and some that are not.

The book begins with Virginia Tech massacre of 2007 and ends with the reaction to it over the last decade. Each chapter in the book tells the story of a specific crime from the 1912 Hillsville Shootout to the summer went I around with Judge Woody Lookabill selling his book on the Gina Hall murder by Steve Epperly.

Other prominent crimes with a chapter dedicated to them include the 1929 Charlie Lawson murder of his family in Stokes County, North Carolina, and the killing by Dennis Stockton of Kenneth Arnder in Kibler Valley, Patrick County, Virginia. Two stories from Martinsville include the Shootout on Fayette Street from the late nineteenth century and the Martinsville Seven from 1949.

Mount Airy is the subject of multiple chapters including two bombings involving lover’s triangle, one of Franklin Street and another through the mail by a dentist. Another story involves the mistaken murder at what today is the Spencer’s building, but was Mount Airy Knitting when it occurred.

Two murders from my hometown of Ararat, Virginia, include the murder of J. E. B. Stuart’s great-grandfather, William Letcher, during the American Revolution in 1780 and the murder of a girl named Sadie, which became famous for the lynching of her supposed killer by a vigilante mob in the late 1800s. Two cases from Patrick County include the “Tragedy at Fayerdale, ” which happened at present day Fairy Stone State Park and “Ex Parte Virginia,” which involved the children of Kittie of the Reynolds Homestead.

At 400 pages, the book will sell for twenty dollars and will be available online soon and is available for pre-order now. I will be at the VFW Lot during the Hillsville Virginia Memorial Day Flea Market Friday through Sunday along the gate the front beside my Scentsy gals in their big purple tent.

All these books are available at my website www.freestateofpatrick.com, which has a link to pre-order the autographed books and all the other books I have written.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Remarks on April 21 2018 in Stuart Virginia

Thank Gene Fain and the Wharton Stuart SCV Camp for inviting me here today.
Descendants of the men this statue represent formed the Wharton-Stuart Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans on April 14, 1906, with George T. Munford as commandant, Samuel M. Lybrook as first lieutenant commandant, R. H. Dunkley as Second Lieutenant Commandant, R. E. Woolwine as Adjutant, L. C. Dickerson as surgeon, John A. Adams as quartermaster, John W. Wimbush as chaplain, along with a treasurer, color sergeant, historian and over seventy-six members.
We all know who J. E. B. Stuart was, but who was Wharton? Gabriel C. Wharton was born in 1824 in Culpeper, Virginia. He graduated from VMI in 1847 and became a civil engineer. With the coming of war, Wharton served as Colonel of the 51st Virginia Infantry, where he commanded two companies of Patrick County soldiers. He led men at Fort Donelson in 1862. He served with James Longstreet at Knoxville in 1863. John Breckinridge commanded him at New Market in 1864. He served under Jubal Early at Monocacy, Cedar Creek, and the debacle at Waynesboro, Virginia, in March 1865. He married Nannie Radford and lived at Glencoe in Radford, Virginia. When he died in 1906, they buried him in the battle flag of the 51st Virginia Infantry.
They came from Charity and from Willis Gap. They came from Vesta and Five Forks. They enlisted along Spoon Creek or Hillsville, and some even went into Stokes County, North Carolina, to join the armies of the South. They were the Confederate Soldiers from Patrick County, Virginia, and this statue honors their service to Patrick County, their state, Virginia, and their nation, the Confederate States of America. They were men of a different time, who saw life differently than we do today. We do not have to agree with them, but when we dishonor the military service of honorable men, we lose something in this country.
Patrick County formed in 1790-91 depending on which source one believes, named for Patrick Henry, whose portrait still hangs in this courthouse, although he owned over seventy slaves. The county seat was named Taylorsville, after George Taylor, a hero of the American Revolution, but was usually known as Patrick Court House in most of the contemporary letters I have read over the years. It became Stuart in 1884 after the Civil War to honor General J. E. B. Stuart, twenty years after his death in 1864.
In 1936, the statue of a Confederate Veteran was placed on the courthouse grounds in Stuart, Virginia, with a plaque on the base honoring J. E. B. Stuart. The statue is not Stuart, but represents all the men from “The Free State of Patrick,” who served in the war fought from 1861 to 1865 for the Confederate States of America. The Junior Book Club organized in 1933 with 17 members. They put up the statue, not the usual organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy or the Confederate Veterans, now the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. Virginia Lt. Governor James H. Price spoke at the dedication. Interestingly, it was one of the last Confederate Veteran statues placed in Virginia and the last one before World War Two. It would be another 28 years before another went up in Virginia. These are the men the statue on the courthouse square represent. It is against Virginia law at present to remove these statues. A judge ruled on the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville this year.
            In the 1860 Census, 1617 men between the ages of 15 and 50 lived in Patrick County. Eighty-seven percent served in the war. These soldiers faced daunting odds in their service for the South. Seventeen percent became prisoners. Most horrifying for their families, twenty-seven percent made the ultimate sacrifice and died. There were at least 152 men from Patrick in the 42nd Virginia Infantry and only 6 at Appomattox. Of the 334 Patrick County residents who lost their lives in 1862, 102 died due to the war. One can imagine the mental anguish this war brought to them and their families.
Patrick men fought in all the major engagements in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Most of these men enlisted from Elamsville or Ararat at opposite ends of the county.
Patrick County men served in fifty different regiments of artillery, cavalry, and infantry during the war. Twenty-five percent of them served in the 51st Virginia Infantry Regiment. The 50th, 24th, and 42nd Virginia Infantry Regiments contained the next largest numbers. Seven percent of Patrick Countians served in the cavalry and three percent in artillery units. Others served in diverse organizations such as the 5th Battalion Virginia Reserves, 6th Virginia Infantry, 58th Virginia Infantry, the Orange Artillery, and the 21st Virginia Cavalry. Many served in North Carolina units such as the 53rd Infantry Regiment or 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
            Here are some of their stories. A headstone in the Hunter’s Chapel Church Cemetery in Ararat lists James T. W. Clements of Pittsylvania County, 6th Virginia Cavalry. Sheridan’s cavalry captured Clements along with sixty men making a last stand at Yellow Tavern the day “Jeb” Stuart received his mortal wound on May 11, 1864. Present in Harrisonburg, Virginia on June 6, 1862, Clements’ company carried the dead Turner Ashby from the field. Clements served time in a Yankee prison before returning home to Virginia.
The pool of men of marriageable age forced many women to marry much older men such as Edward Noah Martin, who was forty-eight years older than his bride, Naomi Caroline Moran. She kept a sense of humor, stating that, “I’d rather be an old man’s darling than a young man’s slave.” You can see their picture hanging in Wanda’s Estate and Custom Jewelry in Stuart and a giant billboard for the business too.
Many children grew up never knowing their father such as Susan Emma Moss, born after the death of her father Jesse Moss of Company G, 51st Virginia Infantry. Moss died of measles and rests today ten miles north of New Market in a cemetery near Mount Jackson. His wife’s pension application is the only record of his service in the Confederate Army. My friend, banjo player, Tommy Morse Moss is descended from him.
            Andrew Jackson Stedman of Gates County, North Carolina, enlisted as a sergeant in Company B, 49th North Carolina Infantry, and received a wound at Malvern Hill in July 1862. He became a first lieutenant in the Signal Corps. He married Susan K. Staples of Patrick County after the war, practiced law in Stokes County, North Carolina, and edited the first newspaper in Patrick County, The Voice of the People, in 1876. It is still in print today as The Enterprise.
Rufus James Woolwine was born October 20, 1840 in Christiansburg, Virginia and died on December 14, 1908 in Stuart, Virginia. In those sixty-eight years he would live as honorable and memorable a life as anyone from Patrick County. He served as deputy sheriff from 1866 to 1891 when he was elected High Sheriff of Patrick County, which he held until 1904. He was active at the Stuart Methodist Church for over thirty years. Tradition has it that he stole R. J. Reynolds girlfriend from him and marriage to Sarah Rosabell Brown came in 1868 and four children were produced among them Rufus E. Woolwine, who served as Commonwealth Attorney for our county for twenty years.
            Rufus James Woolwine was a good writer and in his youth he was “touched by fire” and if not for Jeb Stuart he would be the most famous civil war soldier to come from Patrick County. He enlisted in the fifty-first Virginia Infantry in July 1861 and the next year would be promoted to Captain of Company D. He wrote in his diary on July 24, 1861, "Twas then we bid farewell to home, friends, and connections and took up the lines of march to meet the serried ranks of a strong but dastard foe. Twas then many of us looked upon our native soil as we thought for the last time."
            He saw battle at Fort Donelson, Tennessee in 1862 and at New Market, Third Winchester, and Fisher’s Hill in 1864. He spent a good deal of time in 1863 on recruiting duty and collecting supplies for the regiment. On March 8, 1865 Woolwine was captured at the Battle of Waynesboro, Virginia.
            After capture Woolwine went to Fort Delaware, which held 10,000 prisoners in 1864 and had a death rate higher than Andersonville, Georgia. Restored, it is open to the public during the summer as a state park. From there Woolwine wrote “How much I wish I was in old Patrick this beautiful evening.”
Woolwine took the Oath of Allegiance on June 17, 1865, and was released. Two days later, he boarded the steamer “Richard Willing,” and returned to Virginia. He arrived home on the June 27 after a trip that took him from Baltimore via water to Newport News and Richmond, where he saw Washington’s statue on the Capitol grounds “draped in mourning.” As he traveled by railroad toward Lynchburg, he had to get off at Burke’s Station and walk, then catch another train to Farmville. He rode the last five miles to Lynchburg on the James River and Kanawha Canal, then caught a train to Elliston and walked home from there.
He quickly took his notes and completed his journal while it was still fresh in his mind. Woolwine ended his journal with these thoughts: “Thus ends a journey of four years through the most eventful campaign known in the history of men or nations. Now that peace once more smiles upon our land and country, let us look to the wise disposer of all human events and implore Him in His infinite wisdom and mercy to smile upon and bless us, a subjugated people. God grant that our course may be such as to meet with the hearty approval of those in authority, both on earth and in heaven. Oh! That we may yield placid obedience to the laws of our land and the laws of god, so that we may again place our dear old state in her original high standing. And when we shall have done this and have finished our pilgrimage here below, may we all join that celestial host of angels in bright glory to sing praises forever more, to the great Jehovah.”
Woolwine settled on Russell Creek in Patrick County, where he manufactured tobacco and sold dry goods. In 1866, he became deputy sheriff of Patrick County. In 1964, Louis H. Manarin in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography published by the Virginia Historical Society edited the Civil War Diary of Rufus J. Woolwine.
Former Captain Woolwine moved to Stuart and served as sheriff from 1891 until 1904. For thirty years Woolwine served as secretary of the Sunday school at Stuart Methodist Church, where his favorite hymn was “A Charge To Keep I Have.” Rufus James Woolwine lived as a good citizen, obeying, and even enforcing the laws. He put the war behind him, but left his thoughts and feelings to give us insight into a momentous time in our history.
     Woolwine lived in retirement until his death on December 4, 1908. The old soldier rests today in the Stuart cemetery near his messmate William Dennis Via. Born on September 8, 1838, Via enlisted in the Ross Company of the 51st Virginia Infantry in June 1861 serving with Rufus Woolwine.
       After the war, he married Minnie Via and had five children: Daisy, James, Marcie, Mary and Posie. Dr. Via, a dentist, served as one of the first Trustees of the town of Stuart and mayor in 1884. Less than a year before his own death, the old soldier still attended reunions, the last one in Jacksonville, Florida. As the last survivor of his mess, his time as Corporal, Company D, 51st Virginia Infantry dominated his thoughts. Dr. Via died on March 6, 1915. On February 20, 1914, reflecting upon the death of his friend Via wrote the following poem and sent it to Woolwine’s daughter.

“Oh! Death thou has taken him away,
            And his suffering was so great.
I stayed with him all I could,
            For he was my last ‘messmate’!
My ‘mess’ have all left me now,
            And I am left here alone.
Captain Woolwine, the last to leave me,
            Our friendship was truly known!
We traveled over mountains and valleys,
            Where crystal streams ran down.
Now all their travelings are over,
            Not one of them can be found!
The Lord has done right with them
            I hope they are all at rest.
Though I am left here alone,
            I hope they are with the blest!
If they are with their Saviour,
            Though I cannot long here remain.
My ‘mess’ has gone and left me,
            Though true happiness I hope to gain!
We loved and respected each other,
            While we together roamed.
But they have all left me now,
            And I will seek a heavenly home!
Now I hope to meet them all,
            In the sweet bye and bye.                
And walk the golden streets of heaven,
            Where we will never, never die

On December 6, 1900, an aging man from Sweden rose to speak to the Garland Rodes Camp of the United Confederate Veterans in Lynchburg. Augustus Forsberg, who commanded many of the men from Patrick County in the 51st Virginia Infantry said, “Many years have passed since the events I have just narrated, and, like similar details of warfare, not of such importance as to merit a place in history, they will soon be forgotten. But the participants in the struggle of those ‘days that tried men’s souls’ cannot readily forget the trials and perils to which they were exposed.”
Patrick County’s Civil War soldiers are all gone. They rest in graves from northern Georgia and Fort Donelson, Tennessee to Finns Point, New Jersey, and Elmira, New York. The last veteran of the War, Joseph Henry Brown, served in Company G of the 24th Virginia Infantry. Born in 1843, he survived the war after capture at Five Forks in April 1865, as Robert E. Lee’s lines were broken around Richmond forcing the retreat that ended in surrender at Appomattox. Brown died in 1940 at the age of 96, ending the last human link to the war.
     In July 1913, President Woodrow Wilson presided over the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. One veteran from the North and the South represented each side on the platform near Wilson. In a symbolic gesture of reunification, the President grasped the hand of both men simultaneously. Photographs show Dr. William Dennis Via of Patrick County, the Southern soldier holding a Second National Flag of the Confederacy that is on display in the Patrick County Historical Museum.
     As a young boy, Wilson, a native Virginian, saw Jefferson Davis brought through Augusta, Georgia, after the Confederate President’s capture. My maternal grandmother lived in Augusta and as a boy took me to the spot Wilson saw Davis. This memory is still strong with me and as still strong with Wilson as he stood in Gettysburg that day when he spoke at this historic moment saying, “We are made by these tragic, epic things to know what it costs to make a nation—the blood and sacrifice of multitudes of unknown men lifted to a great stature in the view of all generations by knowing no limit to their manly willingness to serve.”

These remarks come from my book The Free State Of Patrick: Patrick County Virginia in the Civil War available online at www.freestateofpatrick.com

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Real Mayberry

        The Real Mayberry is in Patrick County. Up on the Blue Ridge Mountain plateau is a small community named Mayberry. The center of the area is the Mayberry Trading Post, the location of a store since 1858.

Mayberry was once the site of a general store, tannery, brickyard, barbershop, gristmill, and a post office first run by Confederate Veteran Jehu Barnard of the 50th Virginia Infantry and others from 1872 until 1922. One family story tells that Mayberry comes from a Colonel Charles Mayberry, a militia captain, who came into the area in 1809, but there were multiple Mayberrys both named George in 1791 when Virginia cut Patrick County out of its eastern neighbor Henry giving Virginia’s first governor Patrick Henry the ability to see his name on a map.

Today, the Blue Ridge Parkway crossing Mayberry Creek rolls by the Mayberry Trading Post just a few miles from Meadows of Dan, Virginia, and the famous Mabry Mill. Mayberry is also the home to one of the rock churches made famous by the Reverend Robert “Bob” Childress in the book The Man Who Moved a Mountain. It is the only Childress church in Patrick County and the first one he converted from wood to rock.

Patrick County has a claim to the “Real Mayberry.” Jerry Bledsoe’s book Blue Horizons: Faces and Places from a Bicycle Journey Along the Blue Ridge Parkway published in 1993 tells a story from the time the parkway construction began. Addie Wood of the Mayberry Trading Post said Sam Nunn brought ginseng to sell and brought his grandson, a boy named Andy Griffith.  Carl Griffith, Andy’s father, was a visitor as well. Addie was sure that this Mayberry was the Mayberry on the television show. “I’m confident that he did. His mother was raised within seven miles of here, and Andy’s father I know beyond doubt came to the store here and brought him when he was just a little boy. Andy’s mother told me that.”

So, was Mayberry the inspiration many years later for the name of the town on The Andy Griffith Show? Maybe it was a good memory a boy had of his maternal grandfather. As Andy might say, “It sure sounds like it, doesn’t it?” In his papers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Andy Griffith has a copy of the section of Jerry Bledsoe’s book with a giant circle around the part about Mayberry Trading Post. That would seem to close the circle for me anyway.


Other Andy Griffith and Patrick County Connections

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Andy Griffith’s Momma Was a Nunn

Carl, Andy, and Geneva Nunn Griffith in 1957.

Often at book events I will tell potential customers of Beyond Mayberry: A Memoir of Andy Griffith and Mount Airy, North Carolina, that “Andy Griffith’s Momma Was A Nunn.” The look on their faces never ceases to make me laugh. I then tell them, “She was a Kibler Valley Nunn, not a Catholic Nun.”

Several years ago, I found myself rummaging through the papers of the Patrick County Courthouse. As a lark, I looked up the last name Griffith and, lo and behold, there was a marriage license dated August 22, 1925, between Carl Griffith (1894-1975), a laborer, age 30, the son of John D. and Sallie Griffith of Mount Airy and Geneva Nannie Nunn (1899-1986), age 26, the daughter of Sam and Mary Jophina Cassell Nunn of Patrick County. The Reverend J. S. Rodgers of the Methodist South Church married the couple in Patrick County, probably in the town formerly known as Taylorsville, now Stuart, Virginia, on August 22, 1925. John Clark of the Circuit Court of Patrick County filed the document.

Mary Jophina (Jopina or Jossina or “Jo Pinney”) Cassell Nunn (1866-1938) was the daughter of Peter Cassell and Nancy J. Rogers.  Samuel “Babe” Nunn (ca. 1850-1905) was the son of John and Scenna Phillips Nunn. Andy Griffith’s grandparents were married on February 14, 1886, in Stokes County, North Carolina, and are buried at Old Hollow Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Mount Airy.

In 1925, Samuel Walter Nunn owned 122 acres, nine miles from the courthouse in Stuart. The family cemetery is located near Virginia Route 631 between Kibler Valley, where the Dan River rolls off the Blue Ridge and Fall Creek.

Sam Nunn ran a sawmill on Fall Creek, a tributary of the Dan River near where the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad, “The Dinky” ran from Mount Airy to Kibler Valley in Patrick County, Virginia. One story told me by the late Colonel James Love of Patrick County was that Andy’s grandfather murdered a man and made a deathbed confession about it. Fall Creek falls from the Blue Ridge Mountains before making its way to the Dan River near the Command Sergeant Major Zeb Stuart Scales Bridge on Highway 104, the Ararat Highway.

Geneva Nunn Griffith brought her Patrick County musical roots with her and she taught her son to play guitar. Andy Griffith was on the Crooked Road, the Virginia Musical Heritage Trail before anyone thought it up. This is just one of the many connections Andy Griffith had to Patrick County.

Colonel James Love told me that he had taken Andy Griffith around to visit family sites and cemeteries quietly. Sadly, Jim and Andy are no longer with us, but the family history and genealogy still survives.

Other Andy Griffith’s Patrick County Connections