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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Robert E. Lee's Patrick County Land

Robert E. Lee’s Patrick County Land

On November 24, 1836, Archibald Stuart received a letter from Robert E. Lee, an officer in the United States Army with a deed that Lee’s brother C. C. Lee wished passed on to Stuart, who acted as the Lee’s attorney in Patrick County. This is the first time the names of Stuart and Lee come together. Archibald Stuart’s son James would make a name for himself as R. E. Lee’s cavalry commander during the War Between the States better known as James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart.

The story of the Lee’s land in Patrick County is an interesting sidelight. After the Revolutionary War, Buffalo Mountain was a part of a 16,000-acre tract of land known as Lee’s Order. This tract was a grant made to General Henry Lee (1756-1818) by the United States for his service in the Revolutionary War. Henry Lee attended Princeton with future president, James Madison, and served as a cavalry commander under George Washington during the American Revolution. Known for his swift movements and lightning attacks he earned the moniker of “Light Horse Harry.” After the war Lee served as Governor of Virginia, but land speculation led to a term in debtors’ prison and a very unhappy end for the man who said Washington was “First in War, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870) known to history as the “Gray Fox,” commanded the Army of Northern Virginia during the War Between the States, but his brothers are lesser known. Sydney Smith Lee (1802-1869) married the granddaughter of “Founding Father” George Mason, the “Father of the Bill of Rights.” He was the father of “Jeb” Stuart’s subordinate Fitzhugh Lee. Sydney Lee served in the navies of the United States and Confederate States of America. Beginning in 1820 with a midshipman’s commission in the United States Navy, he rose in rank serving as Commandant of the Naval Academy, commanding the Philadelphia Naval Yard and accompanying Mathew Perry on his expedition to Japan. He commanded the Norfolk Navy Yard and the Confederate Naval Academy at Drewry’s Bluff during the war. Considered very handsome, his brothers nicknamed him “Rose.” After the war, he farmed in Stafford County, Virginia, before dying suddenly in July 1869. 

Charles Carter Lee was born in 1798 and received a degree from Harvard in 1819. He lived a disjointed life as a New York City lawyer, land speculator and plantation owner in Mississippi until his marriage at age 49 to Lucy Penn Taylor. He lived on his wife’s inheritance, Windsor Forest, in Powhatan County, Virginia, prospering as a husband, father, farmer and writer, especially of poetry.

After the death of their mother, Ann Hill Carter Lee, in 1829, the three Lee brothers inherited the property. There were unpaid taxes and bills against the property, but the brothers kept the land. In 1846, the brothers sold 16,300 acres in the three counties to Nathaniel Burwell of Roanoke County (Patrick County Deed Book #12 page 425) for $5,000. Originally surveyed as over 20,000 acres the Patrick portion was 6,268 near Hog Mountain crossing branches of the south fork of Rock Castle Creek, the Conner Spur Road and a fork of the Dan River. The Floyd portion was 7,143 and Carroll was 5,797 acres.

Of the three Lee brothers, only Carter lived on the land in Floyd County. Papers supplied from the courthouse indicate that Carter tried to establish a gristmill on the land and that he was involved in legal dealings with Archibald Stuart. Tradition states he lived on the Buffalo Mountain property at one time in a home called Spring Camp and that he had a law office. Carter was the last of Henry and Ann Lee’s children to die, but Robert may have summed up the ownership of the land in southwest Virginia and the plight of the three brothers after the war when he said speaking of their poverty, “It’s a hard case that out of so much land, none should be good for anything.”

From “The Dear Old Hills of Patrick: J. E. B. Stuart and Patrick County Virginia.” By Thomas D. Perry available online at www.freestateofpatrick.com

It Is Not J. E. B. Stuart

Over the last few weeks, I have seen multiple people refer to the statue on the grounds of the Patrick County, Virginia, courthouse as J. E. B. Stuart. IT IS NOT STUART! It is a statue to honor all the men from Patrick County who fought for the Confederate States of America in the War Between the States 1861-65. Stuart is on the base under the statue.
With the recent discussion of the Confederate Statue in front of the Patrick County, Virginia, courthouse, Daniel Louis asked me to give a little background information about the statue in front of the Patrick County Courthouse in Stuart, Virginia. For a little history about Stuart and the town that bears his name today. Patrick County formed in 1790-91 depending on which source one believes, named for Patrick Henry. 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. The club spawned from a book club that met originally in 1925. Virginia Lt. Governor James H. Price spoke at the dedication. I believe it belongs to Patrick County. 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.

            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. The majority 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 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.

Descendants of the veterans 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.

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.

            These are the men the statue on the courthouse square represent. All of this comes from my book The Free State of Patrick: Patrick County Virginia In the Civil War. Available at www.freestateofpatrick.com.
The statue went up in 1936.

The plaque on the base remembers Stuart.

The statue on top is a Confederate Veteran.

The Patrick County, Virginia, Courthouse.
J. E. B. Stuart on the base.

Patrick and Henry Counties In Vietnam

On Wednesday, September 13, I am speaking to the Daughters of the American Revolution about Vietnam. Here are my comments.
          Several years ago, Debbie Hall and I began working on a project that became the thing that I am most proud of all the things I have done relating to history. We invited the veterans of Vietnam to come in and talk to us. Here are some thoughts from that project.

They came in by themselves. For those who died, their older sisters came in for them. In one case a niece came with her uncle, who lost his arm in the war. One was a drill sergeant that trained men for the war. One guarded B-52 planes in Thailand and another ran communications south of the capitol along the river that led to the sea. Others served on aircraft carriers or destroyers in the U. S. Navy. Most were Marines or men in the U. S. Army who fought against the Vietcong or the Army of North Vietnam. Some would not talk at all, but brought in their photos and many items from their time in Southeast Asia. Others found the experience a cathartic experience that allowed them to release the pain and experiences they held inside sometimes for decades. They were the Vietnam Veterans and they humbled me with their service to this nation even though at the time their service was not appreciated and in many cases they were abused and even spit on by their fellow citizens at the time. Today, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan do not experience treatment such as this, but for the men who went to Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 1970s we felt the need to say “It is never too late, welcome home.”

            The voices I heard working on this exhibit and book had many things in common besides their service in Vietnam. Almost all have some physical health problems due to their service in Vietnam. Many blamed it on the defoliants used to control the jungle growth in South Vietnam such as “Agent Orange.” Many had mental health issues relating to their service, but not all. Some of the men who spoke with me found ways to deal with what they saw. One Air Force man spent years in therapy and kept a journal that he wrote down his thoughts and those of others to deal with the pain of his time in Indo-China. Several took photographs and slides that they shared. These men used these images as their way of dealing with the things they might not want to talk about. A few used humor to deal with their time in the service and spoke glowingly of the time in Vietnam and the people they fought to keep free. A few even expressed a wish to return to the country they fought to keep free from communism.

            There were men who fought and would go back, but most felt the war took their friends and their youth when they were as Oliver Wendell Holmes, himself a Civil War Veteran, spoke of being “Touched by Fire.” Their bitterness is understandable considering the treatment they received for doing nothing more than answering the call of their country at a time of war even though it was never called a war, but a “Conflict” so that Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon did not have to answer to the U. S. Congress except for monies to fund the “Conflict” in far off Vietnam.

            One with the nickname of “Hillbilly” brought it home for me during an interview that he did not want recorded. He asked me if I wanted to see the cost of freedom and when I answered affirmatively, he pulled up his shirt to show me the three wounds he received in battle as a part of a “Recon” team in the jungles of South Vietnam. He experiences health problems due to his exposure to “Agent Orange” that was used to kill the jungle so that the forces of the United States could see their enemies easier and clear spaces to operate within the nation they tried to keep from Communism.

            The men who died were represented by their older sisters, who came in with photos and stories about their younger brother. Time is not kind to women as these ladies all are in their sixth and seventh decades while their younger male siblings remain frozen in time in their late teens and early twenties. Wrinkles and extra weight are not problems for the departed, they are forever young with bronze skin and fit bodies trained in the art of war by their nation to as Bruce Springsteen sang in Born in the U. S. A. “going off to kill the yellow man.”

            These women brought in photos of their brothers from the time they were children and especially spoke eloquently about their mothers and the relationships with what for many of them was their only sons. Few spoke of their father’s feelings as I expect they did not know their father’s feelings as men do not express their emotions the way those who carried these now dead heroes in their wombs. For the most part all of those who lost their lives did so early in their tour of service in Vietnam with one exception due to the pettiness of an officer. In many cases the way these men died was not the story told their families, but the official government description did not match up with the tales of the men who witnessed the end of their compatriots.

            There was emotion kept in secret in some cases for decades. It was not just the sisters of the men who gave their lives, but many of the men who returned and shared their stories became emotional during the course of our conversations. Often, I found myself acting as a therapist for these men, but what amazed me was the simple greatness in all of these men and women who were willing to talk about a time of their lives that many thought would be forgotten because until we started this project no one has asked them about their service or the service of those they lost.

            Another tragic aspect of this work was the several children who never knew or could not remember their fathers, who died in Vietnam without ever laying eyes on them or because they were simply too young to recall the young men who were their fathers. One thing important to me was to visit the graves of all the men who lost their lives in Vietnam as a sign of respect and to make their sacrifice tangible for me personally.

            A gratifying aspect of this project was the men and families of the lost thanking us for doing this project. I never realized that while the men of World War Two receive thanks in the form of monuments, movies and documentaries, Korea and Vietnam do not and the simple fact that we wanted to remember those who passed and those who served meant much to these people and it came to mean much to those of us involved in the project. These are some introductory remarks about the interviews we conducted and converted to DVD so that those visiting the exhibit could hear and see the people and the faces and voices from Vietnam.

            Over twenty hours of video and 2,000 scanned images resulted from this project and exhibit. It came to feel that we were meant to do this project at this time due to all sorts of coincidences that some might see as fate or “God’s Will,” but I know that it seemed that remembering the men who served in a controversial war and forgotten service was well worth the effort. At least one day a week or more, we spent interviewing, scanning, and talking to veterans and their families about their service, memories and how they feel about the longest war fought by the United States.

            Serving your country when it is not the popular thing to do takes a special kind of courage. The sunshine patriot as Thomas Paine stated over two hundred years ago will shirk from such service, but the men and women who went to Vietnam did not. Many expressed their time in the military as “My country, good or bad.” While not all might go back if the war in Vietnam was today, they did then and we should honor their service and not the cowards, who ran off to Canada, and protestors, who get all the air time for taking the popular view today.

            We should never forget that such people make our nation great and exceptional. Most were the children of World War Two servicemen and women, who saved the world from the Nazis, their allies, and Imperial Japan. Several served in two wars that we tend to forget about the 1950s war on the Korean Peninsula and in Indo-China.

            Without exception everyone who came into to talk to us ended up thanking us for remembering their service to this country. It is a humbling feeling to have men, who faced the combat and time in Vietnam to thank you for remembering. These are men who it was my great honor to cross paths in researching history. They reminded me of something Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for."

Never Forget: Martinsville, Patrick and Henry Counties In Vietnam is available online at www.freestateofpatrick.com