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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Patrick County In The New York Times Ex Parte VA

Two articles from The New York Times: April 12, 1879 and October 16, 1879 discuss the most famous court case held in the Patrick County Courthouse. The Patrick County Courthouse joined the Virginia Landmarks Register on September 17, 1974, and the National Register of Historic Places on December 27, 1974. Patrick County came into existence on June 1, 1791. Twelve days later, the first court met at the home of Jonathan Hanby. Partitioned from Henry County in 1790, Patrick County included 458 square miles. Later land was lost to Franklin, Grayson and Carroll counties.
In 1792, Eliphaz Shelton donated ten acres including the land where the Patrick County Courthouse now sits. In April 1793, the “Gentlemen Justices” of Patrick County authorized the construction of the building. The structure was to be thirty-six feet long and twenty-four feet wide with two twelve foot jury rooms heated by fireplaces with plastered walls and eighteen “lights” of glass in the windows. Contractor Charles Vest completed his work before the deadline and the courthouse opened for court in October 1794. For the next twenty-five years, that building served the county.
In 1819, the county authorized a new building, but two years passed before construction began. Abram Staples, one of the justices, built the new courthouse had the new structure ready one year and one month later on July 11, 1822. Four major renovations have occurred since 1822. In 1928, saw the Sheriff’s Office and jail added. Remodeling occurred in 1936 and 1972. In 1982, another renovation began to relocate the General District Court, Juvenile and Domestic Court Relations Court, the Circuit Court Judge’s secretary and to add space for the Patrick County Clerk of Court’s office.
The building is of Roman Revival or Jeffersonian Neo-Classic in style and made of red brick with a “central three bay blocks and two flanking wings.” There are four Tuscan columns and a large stairway leading from the ground to the portico. This reflects the “high basements” of the Roman Revival. There is a small bell tower and semi-circular opening in the pediment of the portico. The doorway on the portico probably comes from the 1928 renovation.
The county seat named Taylorsville for George Taylor, a hero of the American Revolution, but throughout the history of the county the site of government was Patrick Court House. In 1884, the town was renamed Stuart in honor of Civil War General James Ewell Brown Stuart, who was born and raised in Ararat. J. E. B. Stuart’s father Archibald Stuart served as Commonwealth’s Attorney of Patrick County.
The most famous court case held in the building occurred in January 1878 as part of Ex Parte Virginia. Burwell Reynolds age nineteen and Lee age seventeen were children of Kitty Reynolds. On November 29, 1877, at the end of Reconstruction after the Civil War the Reynolds brothers got into a fight with the white brothers Green and Aaron Shelton near the present day site of the Patrick County Schools bus maintenance garage. The cause of the altercation was verbal harassment by the Shelton boys directed at a school for former slaves at the site overlooking Campbell’s Branch.
Aaron Shelton knocked Lee Reynolds over a log near the road and Burwell stabbed the former with a knife resulting in Shelton’s death the next day. In April 1878, Patrick County tried the two Reynolds brothers separately. Judge William Treadway presided and with all white juries even though attorneys for the brothers Andrew M. Lybrook and William Martin asked the juries to be one third black. The court found Burwell guilty of first degree murder after a second trial. Lee received an eighteen-year sentence for second-degree murder after a second trial. The attorneys petitioned Judge Alexander Rives of the Federal District of Western Virginia to move the cases to federal court because the state court denied the defendant’s rights due to a lack of blacks on the juries and they could not receive a fair trial in Patrick County due to their race.
On November 18, 1878, Deputy U. S. Marshall O. R. Wooten arrived in Stuart to take the Reynolds brothers under his protection. This set off a chain of events that ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Editorials in newspaper and Resolutions in the Virginia General Assembly said Judge Rives actions were a "Federal usurpation of power" and "unwarranted by the Constitution." Virginia’s Attorney General asked Congress to pass legislation to prevent Federal courts from "usurping" the power of state courts. Newspapers as far away as Baltimore and New York commented on the case that began as a senseless killing in Patrick County.
Judge Rives responded by calling two grand juries that included black men that eventually indicted judges in Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Botetourt, Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Franklin, Fluvanna, Halifax, Henry, Nelson and Roanoke counties including Judge James D. Coles of Pittsylvania County and Judge Samuel G. Staples of Patrick County for excluding African-Americans from juries violating the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guaranteed "equal protection of the law."
Of all the judges arrested only Judge James Doddridge Coles of Pittsylvania County refused bail and petitioned the U. S. Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus claiming he had not violated any law becoming a case forever known as Ex Parte Virginia. On March 15, 1880, the Supreme Court denied the petition, thus upholding Judge Rives actions as part of decisions on three separate cases commonly referred to as "The Civil Rights Cases" that set precedents for the protection of rights for the former slaves. The courthouse in Chatham received National Landmark status in 1987 due to this case instead of Patrick mainly because the National Park Service did not dig deep enough to find the roots of the case were in Patrick County.
Further information can be found in the writings of Herman Melton’s Pittsylvania County’s Historic Courthouse: The Story Behind Ex Parte Virginia and "Thirty-Nine Lashes-Well Laid On:" Crime and Punishment in Southside Virginia 1750-1950. Burwell Reynolds received a sentence of five years for manslaughter for killing Aaron Shelton. Patrick County did not prosecute Lee Reynolds and released him.
                In the kitchen of the Reynolds Homestead hangs a picture of Kitty Reynolds, the slave that traditions says saved the life of Hardin Reynolds. She distracted a raging bull along enough for the father of R. J. to escape danger, but it as a mother than she should be more famous.
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lynch Hollow in the New York Times

Above From The New York Times September 7, 1897.
Below From Notes From The Free State of Patrick by Thomas D. Perry

In searching for information on life for African-Americans during the Civil War for my book on Patrick County, I made contact with Herman Melton of Pittsylvania County. He sent me a copy of his book “Thirty-Nine Lashes—Well Laid On:” Crime and Punishment in Southside Virginia 1750-1950, which contained the following information.

                In September 1897, a twenty-two year old white man named Henry Walls lived in Ararat, Friend’s Mission or The Hollow depending on what name the post office was using at that time. A member of the Cook family accused Walls of being in possession of a stolen saddle and a confrontation ensued resulting in Walls threatening to run off the entire Cook family even if it meant burning their home down.

The following Friday, Walls attempted to burn down the Cook home, but the only member of the family at home, Sadie, discovered him. Tracks showed that Sadie attempted to flee, but was pursued about seventy-five yards from the house and met her death due a blow to the head, a slashed throat and several gashes to her body. Sadie survived this attack long enough to be discovered. Locals questioned her and although unable to talk revealed the identity of her assailant by squeezing a Mrs. Epperson’s hand when she mentioned Walls.

The next day Constable Tom Childress arrested Walls and imprisoned him overnight hoping to transport him to Stuart the next day. Constable Childress was a relative of Robert Childress, the famous preacher in Richard C. David’s The Man Who Moved A Mountain. Emotion running high in area caused Sheriff Rufus Woolwine to venture to the area stopping for the night within a mile of the Childress home that night. A mob came, took Walls and hung him in the hollow behind Hunter’s Chapel Church just above the Ararat River between The Hollow Road and the Hunter’s Chapel Road.

Later, investigators identified Walls tracks as the possible assailant. Rumor persists that Sadie Cook was sexually assaulted. The story made it into the Lynchburg News and the New York Sun reporting, “…there was practically no evidence to convict Walls of the crime. It is now believed that he was innocent. There is much indignation in the neighborhood against the mob.”

If you want to find out about history in Ararat, want to double check your facts or if you want to have a cold drink and talk you go visit Carrie Sue Culler. Her mother, a Pedigo, descended from the family that lived next door to J. E. B. Stuart and her mind, still clear, as a bell is always willing to share much oral tradition. She let me see a book last year by Charles Seaton entitled After Conestoga Wagons and a Peruvian Odyssey that contained the following information.

                Seaton writes that the leader of the vigilante mob was thirty-five year old Charles Walter Taylor, son of Surry County Sheriff Samuel Taylor. Charles married Sara Elizabeth Pedigo at the end of 1884 and thus the connection to Carrie Sue. Taylor placed the rope around the neck of Walls. Almost immediately, Taylor realizing the trouble he was in left for California, eventually sent for his wife and children and started a new life. Charles Taylor lived until 1942

A folk tale rose from the murder and lynching and it metamorphosed into a tale used to scare children into coming home before dark called “Raw-Headed-Bloody-Bones.” The folk tale no doubt gets a local family, the Moores, who patriarch was Rodeham i.e. Raw Head and the hoe handle comes from the tradition that a hoe was used to kill Sadie Cook. The story first told me by Gray Guynn was that a monster lived in Lynch Hollow with a hoe handle for a tail and this monster got boys who played hooky from school to go fishing in the Ararat River or did not get home before dark. This monster made a sound along the lines of “Shifty-Shifty-Thumpty-Thumpty.” For all this monsters powers he could not open a gate or climb over a picket fence, which saved the boy quaking under his bed after barely escaping clutches of the monster of Lynch Hollow.

The murder of Sadie Cook and lynching of Henry Walls was one of those events I heard of from an early age. I remember mowing the grass of the cemetery at Hunter’s Chapel Church that supposedly holds the remains of both apparently buried the same day in unmarked graves gazing down into Lynch Hollow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Andy Griffith and Mount Airy


If you grew up anywhere near Mount Airy, North Carolina, you could not escape Andy Griffith. If you grew up as a baby boomer watching television, you could not escape Andy Griffith. Most people have a choice about him, love him or hate him, but you cannot deny that he is part of our lives.

He is also part of our economy. Just drive down Main Street in Mount Airy and there is hardly an empty storefront. Contrast that with Martinsville about an hour away that does not have the tourist draw that is A N DY Y as Emmett Forrest, Andy’s boyhood friend and the man who collected most of the material in the Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, likes to say.
Last Christmas I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had surgery on February 15. Dealing with the cancer, thoughts of mortality, the physical condition it causes for a man such as bladder control and ED, leads to depression and I fought that. I needed something to bring me out of the dark and get me writing again. I struggled with history projects that usually I dive into, but then one day I ran into Emmett Forrest on Main Street. He too is fighting illness and he said to me that it was like jumping off a ten story building. Someone asks you about the seventh floor of the fall how you are doing. Emmett answered, “Well, so far the ride has been pretty good.” I marveled at his positive attitude and as I always did, I asked him if he had spoken to “Mr. Griffith” lately. I never called him Andy because I did not know him. Emmett told me about their conversation. A month or so later Andy Griffith died on July 3, 2012.

I had written and toyed with the idea of writing about Andy Griffith, but I did not want to write about The Andy Griffith Show (TAGS). I wanted to write about Andy Griffith and Mount Airy, North Carolina, where we were both born. In fact, I was born about a month after TAGS premiered on CBS just down the street from the house Andy grew up. I began to explore the common experiences and the different Mount Airys we both knew.

I began to watch episodes. I began to watch movies Andy Griffith starred in thanks to Netflix. I was surprised at how good a dramatic actor he was. I went to Goldsboro and found the house he and his first wife, Barbara, lived in along with the high school he taught music. I found his dorm at UNC-Chapel Hill and read some of his papers in the Wilson Library. I went through huge files at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and I read many articles online with interviews.

I began to write. I found my voice again. I think the reason was that I was laughing so much at the man from Mount Airy. If there is anything funnier in television history than the TAGS when Don Knotts was on it, I have never seen it. I have always thought that after Knotts left Andy Griffith seemed bored. He was bored and eventually left for other challenges and he struggled, but he left us some of the best comedy on the small screen.

So, I have a book that is written as things happened with his death and the day after July 4, 2012, when Donna Fargo came to town to be Grand Marshall for the parade. There is no more professional and classy woman that I have ever met.  When introduced at the museum, she talked about Andy. Before she had asked me how I was feeling, as she knew I was sick. She has MS, but she will not leave until everyone that wants to see her or get her autograph gets there time with the “Happiest Girl in the Whole USA.”

I usually write about things long after they happen, but this was an opportunity to catch Mount Airy on the day it’s most famous son died and the day after when it’s most famous daughter came home. I walked over to the statue of Andy and Opie headed to the fishing hole and found Patricia Comire and her teenage son, Benjamin. She says her family calls her a “Helen looking for an Andy,” but she likes Ernest T. Bass, so she likes a man on the edge too.  People often talk about the “Mayberry Thing” dying away, but Benjamin reminded me that day there are many in the younger generation that still love TAGS.  He knew all about it and talked and talked.

I think many times that there is much envy and jealousy aimed at Andy, but to wish for the “Mayberry Thing” to go away is to wish for Mount Airy’s downtown to lose the economic prosperity it now enjoys and I am against that way of thinking. You might be against the silliness or the greed that it engenders, but do not forget that Andy Griffith gave many of us pure joy in the laughter and entertainment he produced over six decades from standup comedy to Broadway to movies to television to musical recordings, the only thing he ever received awards.

This book is part biography of the man and part memoir of the town we both grew up with and in. If you are looking for negative stories about him, there are not many because no one would go on record and hearsay does not interest me. What I found was a man who did not suffer fools and who was very serious about his craft. He never left Mount Airy. He took with him and shared it with the world and he put it on the map. There is only one person from Mount Airy, North Carolina, to have a Presidential Medal of Freedom and we should be proud of him.

Andy Griffith was not Andy Taylor. I think his father Carl Griffith was Andy Taylor. Described as “the funniest man I ever met” by Andy’s first wife, Carl Griffith was the inspiration for his son. This book is also a little about my father, who grew up the son of mill workers in Mount Airy. In 1966, Erie Perry and Andy Griffith found themselves in line together at the Hospital Pharmacy just a block from Andy’s parent’s home and across the street from where I was born. When I asked my father what he said to Andy, he said nothing because he was so shocked to see him. When I asked my father what Andy said to him like Mark Twain my father, who tells the ladies he is still “Erie-sistible” said Andy was so shocked to see him, he didn’t say anything either. Such is life living in the town that produced two legends in their own time.
For Release September 12, 2012

Laurel Hill Publishing LLC is pleased to announce the publication of 35th book from the regional history press. Beyond Mayberry: A Memoir of Andy Griffith and Mount Airy North Carolina by Thomas D. Perry will ... be available exclusively at Mayberry on Main on Main Street in Mount Airy, North Carolina through Mayberry Days on Saturday, September 29.

Historian and Author Thomas D. “Tom” Perry will be at Mayberry on Main for Book Signings of Beyond Mayberry Wednesday September 26 10 to 2, Thursday September 27 10 to 2 and Friday September 28 10 to 2 at Mayberry on Main, Main Street, Mount Airy NC during Mayberry Days.

The book is also available online at Laurel Hill Publishing LLC’s website www.freestateofpatrick.com. The cost is $19.99.

The book is part biography of Andy Griffith and part memoirs of the town of Mount Airy pointing out the connections between the town and it’s most famous son beginning on the day of his death of July 3, 2012. Perry also discusses his own life in the town and his thoughts about the tourism that keeps the downtown so vibrant.

Perry wrote the book while recovering from prostate cancer surgery. Looking for a project to get back into the swing of writing, he found the laughter of The Andy Griffith Show to be just what he needed. He watched all Andy Griffith’s performances available and based the books on published sources. He observed the events of Griffith’s death and the next day July 4, 2012, which was Donna Fargo Day in Mount Airy as the favorite daughter was in town to be Grand Marshall of the July 4 Parade.

Thomas D. Perry is the author, editor or publisher of over 35 books on regional history. Holding a BA in History from Virginia Tech where he studied under Civil War Authority James I. Robertson, Jr., Perry started the effort to preserve J. E. B. Stuart’s Birthplace just outside Mount Airy in Patrick County, Virginia. Perry is an award-winning historian, who recently raised over $200K to expand the Bassett Historical Center and worked with the Martinsville Virginia Heritage Center and Museum on a groundbreaking exhibit on the Vietnam War titled “Never Forget.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Patrick County in the New York Times


The New York Times published the following on May 29, 1881. It is amazing what one can find on the internet using Google or searching the “Paper of Record” and entering the words Patrick County. Just for fun, I started searching the NYT, found a treasure trove of information of my home county, and thought I would investigate some of the stories I found as a mental exercise to see where they take me.
With the release of the movie Lawless about the great “Franklin County Moonshine Conspiracy,” I thought this one would be a good one to start with. It might amaze the reader the amount of material one can find in old newspapers. I am reminded of my old college professor Dr. Robertson preaching to us about using newspapers, always with a grain of salt, as they were the first recorders of history.
So here is the first of several blogs about Patrick County Virginia in the New York Times and we will see how far this goes…

Monday, September 10, 2012

Love of Country

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

As we come upon the anniversary of September 11, 2001, I often think of Alan Jackson’s song "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” I was in the Library of Virginia that day in Richmond researching the myriad of books I have published since that tragic day. I was getting a book at the circulation desk when I heard two of the women there discussing one of the buildings falling and I inquired of them what was going on. I quickly made my way to a computer terminal and found out in horror what was going on. That afternoon I left Richmond, where I spent most of my time then after a divorce, doing some consulting work, and dating a female Civil War reenactor. As I drove down 360 to 58, I listened to the coverage on the radio as I drove the nearly five hours back home.

            I sat down with my parents and watched the coverage the rest of the night into early the next day. As we approach that anniversary again, I think now of the men and women who fought the “War on Terror” and in some cases making the ultimate sacrifice for love of their country. In Patrick County, we have had many fight and lost two, Jonathan Bowling and Leevi Barnard. I have written many blogs about these two young men and a third Joshua B. Kerns, who lost both his legs and an arm. I never knew the two who died, but I knew members of their families. When J. B. Kerns was wounded, I made a point of visiting him at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D. C. When I see people complain or make “drama” on Facebook, I think of that day and shaking hands with that young Marine from Ararat, who looked me dead in the eye. I realized that most of us have nothing on the size of challenges that he has on a daily basis.

“One man come in the name of love
One man come and go
One come he to justify
One man to overthrow

In the name of love
What more in the name of love
In the name of love
What more in the name of love”
 – Pride (In The Name Of Love) Bono of U2

            Patrick County’s service in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the sacrifice made is noted. What I hope that the rest of us realize is what these young men did for our country and we take PRIDE that such men lived and still live among us.

Every generation has the opportunity to rise up to meet the crisis of their time. The men and women who fought and died in the Middle East are just as dead as the men from Bedford County who died on D-Day June 6, 1944, or the soldier of the 50th Virginia Infantry from Patrick County, who followed “Stonewall” Jackson at Chancellorsville in May 1863 or William Letcher, J. E. B. Stuart’s great-grandfather, who died at the hands of a pro-British Tory in what was then Henry County and now Patrick in August 1780 during the American Revolution. We should take PRIDE in all those who are willing to fight and die for us, their country.

“But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love”
–Alan Jackson’s "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?"

            While fanatics brought down the World Trade Center Towers and attacked The Pentagon, cleared eyed men brought them down such as the three young men mentioned above. I do not know their religious views, but if they were Christians, I hope the two of them who passed are now embraced by God’s Love and as Jackson sang that is the greatest love.

Other Related Blogs.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pinto Beans and Cornbread

"The North thinks it knows how to make corn bread, but this is gross superstition. Perhaps no bread in the world is as good as Southern corn bread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite so bad as the Northern imitation of it. The North seldom tries to fry chicken, and this is well; the art cannot be learned north of the line of Mason and Dixon..." –Mark Twain

            How do you like your “Pinto Beans and Cornbread”? After seeing this Mark Twain quote on Facebook, I harkened back to the bucolic memories of my youth. Specifically, the lunch Bertie Guynn prepared for his “hired hands” when we came out of the tobacco fields every late summer and early fall. While I do not seem to remember the heat, the nicotine sickness, the back pain or that black tobacco gum all over my hands and body, I do remember how good lunch tasted in the late 1960s and early 1970s before we all went off the Mount Airy to become textile magnets.

            Funny how the mind will romanticize memories even when you know how awful to work in a tobacco field under the hot summer sun. Every year at “first primings” most people got the nicotine sickness, which was not pleasant. I never got that sick I think because you can look at me and I sweat, which I believe allowed my body to get rid of the poison. I remember my boyhood friends being deathly ill from their first trip into the fields every year.

            There is a place on the Theodore and Bertie Guynn’s farm we called the strawberry patch because they grew naturally there when was not a terraced field of tobacco on the side of the hill. You can see the strawberry patch from the Ararat Highway when you pass the Guynns headed toward Ararat on the left because it has an incredible view of the Groundhog Mountain. I always thought it would be a great place to build a cabin to see that view of the Blue Ridge Mountains every morning would be pure inspiration.

            Back to the beans. Bertie would let them soak overnight and then slowly cook them all morning as we were in the fields working with some pork for seasoning. My mother would put some brown sugar in hers. Bertie would nearly burn the made from scratch cornbread, but when you broke it open you could see the steam rising from the bread. Now, I liked to mix mine bread and beans together and put some ketchup on them. I put ketchup on everything. Some people like to garnish their pintos with onions or chow chow, the latter being my favorite.

            We would come in from the field and there is this enormous spread of food would be spread out under a big tree in the backyard. I remember the corn tasting so fresh because it was from a field on another part of the farm. We would eat this enormous lunch and nearly pass out for a nap under the trees before returning to the barn to house the tobacco we primed that morning. You ain’t from around here if you say picked tobacco.

            As we grew older and face the mortality as I have with cancer over the last year, it is fun to romanticize the memories of youth. I do not remember the heat or the just hard work tobacco was in Ararat, Virginia, growing up, but I will never forget how good those pinto beans and corn bread tasted.