In Old Blacksburg

Dr. (W.B.) Conway gives some very interesting reminescences: Who was who in the old days of the village--where and how they lived. (Reproduced by request.)

(REPRODUCED FROM A TYPEWRITTEN COPY OF AN ARTICLE IN "HOME NEWS" A WEEKLY JOURNAL OF HOME INTERESTS, BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 1916. THIS COPY WAS TYPED BY DR. W. CONWAY PRICE--DR. CONWAY'S GRANDSON--AUGUST 1975. A ROUGH MAP OF BLACKSBURG IN THE EARLY 1900s WAS DRAWN BY W.C.P. FOR ANOTHER PURPOSE AND IS INCLUDED HERE SINCE IT HELPS TO CLARIFY THE TEXT. NUMBERS IN PARENTHESES CORRESPOND TO THOSE INSERTED FROM MEMORY ON THE MAP. COMMENTS IN BRACKETS WERE INSERTED BY W.C.P. ALSO TO HELP CLARIFY THE TEXT.)

To realize the conditions of affairs at the time I came to Southwest Virginia, it is well to remember that it was but a few years after the war between the States. The reconstruction period was closing its chapter of that eventful war. Little fighting had been done here on top of the Alleghenies, and in consequence the people of this section had not suffered so severly as had those of other parts of the State. These beautiful blue green hills had not been stained with the blood of fighting men. Blacksburg was then a town of between three and four hundred inhabitants. "William Black gave thirty-two acres of the land on which the town now stands, and which was incorporated by the General Assembly of Virginia in 1798. At this Act, George Rutledge, John Black, James P. Preston, Edwards Rutledge, William Black, and John Preston were made trustees."--Middle New River Settlements, page 381.

The only surviving members of the Black family are Alexander and Charles W. Black. The Preston and Olin Institute, the modest beginning of the present V.P.I., then occupied but one building, the shop building that was burned. The closest communciation with the outside world was two hours trip in hacks to the Norfolk and Western Railroad at Christiansburg Depot--and some citizens had never seen a locomotive.

Now I will tell you something of the old town and her people when I first met them. In my ramblings a few days ago around the town (that part of it that I knew so well in 1871), it brought back to my mind many incidents and memories of my youthful days. The names of the old citizens and the locations of their homes. For the benefit of those who also may recall the past, I want to draw a picture of the town as I remember it by naming over those old families and pointing out their homes. On entering the town on Main Street from the east (southeast), on the righthand side off from the road, was the present beautiful large brick building, the summer residence of Col. William H. Palmer, of Richmond, Va. On reaching Clay Street and turning (northeastward) to the right was the residence of John A. Stanger, first mayor after it was incorporated. Beyond his home was the site of the present negro school; above was used by the Masonic order. Beyond that stood a small building occupied by Mitchel Linkous. On turning and going westward (northwestward) on Main Street, on the right was a residence occupied by Rev. J.P. Hawley; on the left was the Hotel, Mark Jones, Proprietor.

The next home on the right was that of Dr. Harvey Black, a distinguished surgeon of the Stonewall Brigade in the Confederate States Army. He assisted Dr. Hunter McGuire in amputating General 'Stonewall' Jackson's arm. Opposite Dr. Black was the hotel of E.J. Amiss. On the same block adjoining Dr. Black was an old tin shop and the remains of an old tanyard owned by Wm. Peck.

On the next block to the right was the Presbyterian church (#27), and beyond that the residence of Mrs. Emily Lybrook. On the corner further on was an old brick house, the Bennet property, occupied by Sid Ellis, a painter. Back of that fronting on Roanoke Street, was the residence of W.G. Sarvey, owned later by Charles K. Payne, of Charleston, W.Va. The Presbyterian church (#23) now stands on the lot. Back of the old Presbyterian church fronting Lee Street on the corner lived W.N. Gray (#45) and opposite it on Main Street was the Methodist parsonage, now owned by Alexander Black.

On the same block was a store house and dwelling owned by Joe Linkous. Beyond this was the harness shop of John Spickard. Next came the post office, John Helm, postmaster. The next house on the corner was owned and occupied by his son-in-law, Joseph Lancaster (#46). [In the preceding passage, Dr. Conway evidently refers to buildings along Main Street between Lee and Roanoke Streets.]

On the same block near where the Baptist church now stands, fronting Roanoke Street, was a small cottage in which lived Mrs. Hannah Harris. [On Roanoke Street, between Main and Water (now Draper).] On the next block to the right on Main Street, was the home of D.N. Bodell [apparently the north corner of Main and Roanoke], and back of his residence on Roanoke Street was the office of Col. Newly. Beyond him and on the corner of Roanoke and Church Streets, was the residence of James Lawson. Adjoining Bodell on Main Street were three store rooms occupied respectively by W.G. Sarvey, John B. Lybrook (probably #20), and D.N. Bodell. Beyond those store rooms was the store of James Lawson, and on the corner of the same block [at intersection of Main and Jackson] was a one room house occupied by W.T. Willis and used as a tailor shop.

On the opposite block to the left corner [this refers to the north corner] of Main and Roanoke was a store house and dwelling formerly owned by Col. William Thomas (#21), then by T.A. Roberts, and now Alexander Black. Adjoining him on the same block was a residence and drug story of Dr. W.B. Conway (#19), now owned by Alexander Black [this building also housed the bank Conway and Hubbert, the first private bank in Blacksburg]. Next door was the residence of Giles D. Thomas (#18), in which was the office of the Montgomery Saving Bank, Giles J. Henderson, president; Giles D. Thomas, cashier--there was an alley between the Conway and Thomas lots. The Thomas property is now owned by Dr. W.F. Henerson, office in his residence, the room formerly occupied by the Montgomery Savings Bank.

Near the [south] corner of Roanoke and Water Streets was a residence owned and occupied by Wm. H. Thomas (#25). The next block on Main Street going west [northwest] was the hotel (#16), Byrd Anderson, Proprietor; below that was the remains of the Miller Tan Yard [site of #11, 12 or 13] owned by Mr. Grief Miller, father of Judge Charles H. Miller of "Fiddler's Green." Opposite this block was the residence of Jack Keister, and below him was also a part of the Miller Tan Yard on which was located a small house of two rooms, one a leather room and the other a store room [site of the Argabrite gargage, which was built later (#14)]. Back of Jack Keister lived a Mrs. Daughterty.

In front of Main Street on sixteen acres of land was located the Preston and Olin Instititue (#6), with a goodly number of male students, taught by Rev. P.H. Whisner and W.F. Kern. Main Street then curved [westward] to the left and led on towards Newport, Giles County, passing through the present campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, with the Preston-Olin Institute on the right and blacksmith shop owned by Mr. Plunkett, on the left. The shop was located where now stands the V.P.I. Hospital. The road ran out of the town near the residence of Rev. W.E. Hubbert [Main Street did not follow the course of the present North Main Street, nor did the highway to Newport follow the course of the highway existing in the 1920's.]


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