The News Messenger Bicentennial Edition
Thursday, July 1, 1976, Page 11-B

Talk To High School Students In 1944 Tells Blacksburg History

EDITOR'S NOTE: Miss Mary Apperson was a native of Blacksburg and a descendant of the Black family for which the town was named. She was well versed in the history of the town. Her family has given permission for THE NEWS MESSENGER to publish the following notes of a talk she gave at Blacksburg High School in 1944.

The following is copied from a notebook received with other papers of Mary Apperson after her death November 13, 1974.

Mary Apperson Oct. And Nov. Given at High School 1944.

Remarks - "Drapers Meadow" Massacre - Families - Ingles, Harmons and Drapers - "Smithfield - 1748 - Whitethorn" Solitude -

John Black of Scotch Irish descent was the first permanent settler having come with his brother William from Augusta Co in 1770 and settled on the Ingles' land - being a wilderness - they felled the trees and with the aid of a Negro servant they built a house where the 1st Stone Dormitory now is on campus, working by day and taking turns at night keeping watch for the Indians.

After arranging things as comfortable as he could he went back to Augusta and married Miss Jane Alexander and brother to their new home. In 1772 or 1773 (1774?) the Indians burned the house. His wife and infant son spent the night in a hollow tree nearby while John stood guard. In the morning he saddled his horse and took them back to Augusta where they had to remain for six years because Mr. Black was in the Rev. War.

Treaty Signed
When the treaty was signed and the territory freed of the invaders, they returned and rebuilt their house. His farm began about where the Agriculture Hall is, extending almost to the Mts. - and back toward Mr. Warren Millers, owning about 700 acres and his brother William the same but more to the east.

The house was built of logs with a fort around it for protection. One morning my grandfather discovered a group of Indians climbing down from a tall tree, he went out and threw his hat high into the air, they took this for a friendly token and they came to the house.

He invited them to breakfast afterwards. They asked for a knife as a souvenir which he gave them, they departed, but returned a month later having gone to Richmond, they brought back some beautiful trinkets for my grandmother.

In 1797 William Black and his wife Jane McBeth gave 38 acres 3/4 plus 20 poles for the town of Blacksburg before going to Ohio to settle.

In the same year the town was laid out and William sent the petition to the General Assembly of Va. In Aug. 4, 1798 the land was deeded to the trustees of the town. The first trustees were - Gov. Rutledge, John Black, James Patton, Preston, Edward Rutledge, William Black and John Preston.

The trustees sold lots to 26 people:

John Preston lots 1 and 3, Rob't King no. 2, John McGhee 4, Mrs. Lyons, Henry Price, Washington Dobyns, Samuel Black, John Helms, Harmon Gifford, Paris Smith, Mary S. Charlton, Wm. J. Barger, Wesley Argabrite, Wm. Ronald, Adam Croy (Croix), John Gardner, John Surface, William Rutledge, T. Rutledge, Wm. Thomas, Wm. Argabrite, John. B. Goodrich, Andrew Croy, Elizabeth Stanger, John Spickard, John Peterman.

Some brought 2 or 3 - The Streets were "Smithfield," Main, Roanoke, Water, Thomas Creek and Lower st. The rest were unnamed.

The owner must build a house not less than 70 ft. Square - fit to reside in with a brick or stone chimney in from 2 to 5 yrs. If not the title ceased.

In locating the Main St. - some difficulty was met in securing the property from the Amiss family. Where Mt. View or the home of Col. Palmer is - They wanted to make Church St. the Main St. It was then located where the Argabrite garage is from there cross the VPI campus on the east side of the Infirmary by the present Lutheran Parsonage.

In the sale and distribution of lots in the new Town - Lot 40 was assigned to the Methodist Church and on it Jonas McDonald built at his expense the first Methodist church. 3 have been built since.

The Presbyterians held their services there and both denominations held their Sunday School until 1830. The first Methodist Church was log - the second the same - 1840 a lovely brick church was built of colonial design - which served until the present one was erected.

The churches were lighted with dipper molded candles, lard burning lamps, oil lamps, and electricity.

Adam Croy
Mr. Adam Croy was the sexton of the first church - 1833 to 1861 and took meticulous care of it seeing that everything was in perfect order. He was constantly watching to see that no one disturbed the service, walked around in his pumps snuffing the candles.

The 2nd church was built with the steps on the outside to the galleries, one of the windows upstairs was at the end, the sexton would open it, put out his horn and blow loudly and long. It was heard much further than the bell. He kept his clock in exact time by his sun mark and neither the preacher nor the people could induce him to blow the horn a minute earlier or later than the right time.

Story of the Bell Practicing, Blow the Bell:

One nite about 12 p.m. the entire town and neighborhood was awakened by the ringing of the new church bell which had been acquired. The citizens rushed to the village and to the church and inquired as to what the matter. Mr. Croy being stone deaf finally made them understand and was heard to say, "I thought I'd blow de bell and "practice" a little bit."

The parsonages have varied - first one-Camper Place; second - Dr. Earheart house; third - Mr. Alex Blacks cottage Main St.; 4th-church; 5-present location on Preston Ave.

The Presbyterian Church has had (3) locations of its own - first founded 1833 using a log cabin near Palmer Spring road from Main on Clay Street. Second - on corner from the Black Cottage or Oddfellows Hall. third - on Roanoke St.

While the one on Main St. was used as a church a citizen passed and found an old man a Mr. Angell, sitting on the steps intoxicated. The passerby said, "Why Mr. Angell you shouldn't be sitting on the church steps drunk." His reply was "I'd rather be a door keeper in the house of the Lord than a well in the tents of the wicked."

The first Baptist church was located where the present Christian church is. It was a brick building and during the Civil War was used for a hospital for soldiers. It was condemned soon after it was purchased and while a new church was being built services were held in Mrs. Gardner's mother's house, Mrs. Monroe Evans.

Baptist Church

The second Baptist Church was started in basement and first floor finished was demolished and a frame building was on the same locations 1854 - it was used until 1903 when the present structure was completed.

The Episcopal Church was established mainly thru one of the early commandants of Prof. Of the college Gen. Boggs and he lied in Grandma's (Dr. Harvey Black's house) while they were in Williamsburg.

The Cathloic Church in B - was built about 1915 and the first Christian Church 1903 - lot purchased from Baptist.

The Lutheran Church first located out on the Herman McDonald Farm (not far from Prices Fork and called Old St. Peters until about 1770. This church was originally called St. Michael's then Prices Church, still later the Old Brick Church and finally St. Peters. It was the oldest Lutheran Church west of New Market, Va. And at least the 4th and more likely the 3rd oldest for the whole of Va. It closed its door as a place of worship about 1885.

The Schools of Blacksburg were taught in various buildings - One house where pupils were taught by a private tutor in a log house where the Episcopal Parish House - corner - near Argabrite house called Loxely Hall.

The first public school was in a small house where the cemetery is, teachers were Miss Mollie Kent and Mrs. Dawson. George Croy's grandfather. The Blacksburg Female Academy was located in the old Red Brick House of the present Public School. There were 3 rooms the small one on west side was used for a music room. The music teacher was Miss Sue Peterman was said to be a beautiful talented and well trained lady - went to school at Hollins - to a finishing school in Baltimore. Miss Ellen Peterman and Miss Ollie taught the academic subjects. Miss Johnie ? was very homely and never went to the table after their mother died. Miss Ann became Mrs. Andersons.

The Kent home - Colonial Inn was a private school for girls and the Misses Petermans taught it. My mother & Lucy Francesco went there. The table in my room is the one she sat at. This was after the Civil War closed. The house was also used for a Bank.

The most noted school in Blacksburg or the neighborhood was Preston and Olin Institute located on the campus before VPI.

The citizens combined with the Methodist church to put this Institution with effective conditions. The name Olin was selected by the Methodists for the first Pres. Of Randolph-Macon College and the citizens interested named for Maj. Ballard Preston, prominent in political circles. William R. White an uncle of ours (Aunt Celelia's husband) was the first President from 1854 to 1859 from then it was under the care of Gilmore and Smith. Then the Rev. Reece and Rev. Graham taught there. It was closed during the Civil War, reopened 1868 by the Rev. P. H. Whisner for whom the Methodist church is named.

In 1872 it was turned over to State and became Virginia Mechanical and Agriculture. Through the efforts of Dr. Harvey Black first Rector of the Board. The building was used in summer by teachers as a school for the pupils of the Town.

First Bank
The first Bank of Blacksburg was located in where the present Bank is situated - called the Amiss House. It was closed during the Civil War , then later opened in the Brick House now called the Colonial Hotel. This house was built by Mrs. James Randall Kent. Right after the war between the states another was opened by Mr. Hubbert - in the present Piggly Wiggly Store and also the first drugstore was opened by Dr. Conway.

The National Bank was built by Mr. Alex Black, he was Pres. For 46 years.

The Farmers and Merchants and Merchants Bank was organized in 1920 in its original location. The largest Inn or Hotel of Old Blacksburg was on the property now belonging to the Norfolk and Western Railway. The building faced Main St. Opposite Mr. Dillon's Feed Store. It was operated by Mr. John Peterman. Story Miss Ann Keith shot during Civil War Able's Raid.

Another old Inn and Tavern was where the Roop house is, the east side at the back of this house is said to be the original part of the building.

It was operated by a man named Pugh, who was where the Roop house is, the east side at the back of this house is said to be the original part of the building.

It was operated by a man named Pugh, who was so lawless that he ruled with a wicked hand. The citizens were afraid to report him to the authorities for fear of bodily harm. He was later shot by a Mr. Joe Keister, brother of Anderson who was freed at his trial.

This house was later enlarged by Mr. George Keister who ran it as a hotel and boarding house. In 1872 it was known as the "Luster Hotel." Not any of the present family here. The students of the early years Va. Agri. Mechanical College took their meals there and for many of them roomed in what is now known as Lybrook Row called "Hell's Row" by the students. There was no dormitory and no dining room on the campus at that time.

After the Mr. And Mrs. Amiss mother and father of Mrs. Palmer moved to Mt. View 1864 their house was turned into a Hotel and operated by a Mr. Bodell.

Mr. Eakin had a hotel in the Roop House as did Mr. And Mrs. Tutwiler in the early 1900.

In early Blacksburg there were several bar-rooms, it was not an unusual sight to see drunken men on the street around the Tanneries and places of gatherings.

There are very few remaining old homes.

One of the oldest is the little brick house on Main Street built by Mr. Speckard and my grandparents lived there my mother and 2 uncles were born there - Mr. Alex and Charlie Black.

The old Amiss house one of the loveliest and most handsomely furnished was located where Mrs. Vain Kesley lives. This was my greatmother's place. Many interesting stories are told of the happening etc. that took place.

One of the very oldest is the house behind the Mess Hall which was moved from the campus to its present location, built about 1778 by my great-grandfather John Black. The woodwork is well worth a trip to see it.

Little Cottage
The little cottage of Miss Georgia Croy's on Roanoke is very old well preserved and I think one of the quaintest. There was an old store building torn down to put the present post office on.

The Colonial Hotel was built prior to 1860.

The log part of Mr. Joe Prices' house, home of Mrs. Gardner is one of the oldest homes probably built in 1840.

The oldest part of "Solitude" house of Prof. Saunders by the Lake was built in 1849.

The Walter Price Home was built by Mrs. Conner's father, Col. William Thomas.

Fiddlers Gren was a lovely old home of Mr. Alexander Black, father of Dr. Harvey Black. It was torn down many years ago. The present house is occupied by Mrs. Eoff.

Mt. View the home of Col. William H. Palmer is one of the handsomest here.

The mail was brought once a week by stage from Cambria then every day later by coach or hack driven by an old negro man named Flem Johnson.

Post Office

The first P.O. was located opposite the N & W station. The second in the Old Lancaster house, where the filling station is opposite Brown store. It was then moved into a store where the Blue Grass Market, again to the building where the Greek restaurant is, later to a store building where the William Preston Hotel is and finally to its present situation.

The first Masonic Hall was on the present location of the Negro school. 2 - to the third story of Mr. Alex Black's Store and from there to the nice structure it has on Roanoke St.

When we hear of the industries of early Blacksburg we feel that it was a more enterprising place than it is now.

There have been at least 12 or 14 kinds of manufacturing done in Blacksburg.

There was once three Tanneries located here, one on the present site of the William Preston Hotel owned by Grief Miller, great-grandfather of Mr. Warren Miller.

Mr. Miller was said to be very witty and droll and often teased his wife by singing to her of song and she being equally clever had as her favorite song for him: My grief and burden long has been, Because I was not saved from him.(sin)

Another tannery was located on the corner by Mr. Alex Black house now Mr. Oakey, the 3rd where Mr. Arthur Tucker house now is. The leather was tanned in Red Oak and Chestnut Bark. It took a year to tan a hide and one half of it paid for the work.

A saddle shop was also located where Mr. Tucker now lives owned by Mr. John Speckard Mrs. Ragan Wyatt's g.father.

The hat makers shop where Mr. Henry Argabrite lived back of New River Lumber Coowned and operated by Mr. Joe Barton made fine felt hats for gentlemen which were almost indestructible. My uncle Mr. Black told me one could fight bumblebees nearly all day without wearing it out. They also made lovely hats for the ladies out of straw.

The tin shop was run by Mr. John Helm and Mr. Effinger. They made buckets, pans, cups, and most anything constructed of tin. It was also in the neighborhood of Mr. Tucker's.

The two cabinet makers business places were run by Mr. Monroe Evans and Mr. Robert Francesco son of Peter Francisco. Tell the story of his strength lifting horse and man over fence. Mr. Francisco's home was built in 1851. It is now occupied by Mr. Tom Hutcheson.

In connection with Mr. Evans cabinet shop he was the undertaker and this place of business located in his home.

The wheelright and wagon shop - you notice I say shop - but at that time they were called "shop" - this was owned by the Croy Bro. Adams who was the sexton of M. C. Church and placed on the left side of the building that cottage is very old.

There were three Blacksmith shops and in those days did a good business and were very helpful to the public. Mr. Surface had the first shop, then there were two others run by Mr. Bess and Buck Argabrite.

There were two weaving shops in Blacksburg, the principle one was below the colored Baptist Church and was owned by Mr. John Camper and Mrs. Camper wove rugs, carpet and jeans cloth for men's suits.

The Pottery was in the original part of Mr. Will Lybrook's home (right side of 3 rooms) now owned by Mrs. McGhee - it was run by Mr. David Bodell. He made jars, bowls, crocks, jugs for use here and then put them in a wagon and took them to Lynchburg and Richmond bringing back coffee and sugar, goods, etc.

In 1865 Mr. Galloway had a shoe making shop were Mrs. Conner now lives. There were two or three other shops here about this time but I didn't find the location.

Mr. Sheaff was a fine shoe maker. In the early days of local shoemaking, a very elegant gentleman visited Col. Preston and was attracted by the calfskin boots worn by the men. He had Mr. Sheaff make him 2 pr. He complained that they didn't fit. Mr. Sheaff said, "They fit your feet but you want a hat instead of boots."

The brick yard was located on what is known now as the Faculty Row on the campus. The brick for the Academic Buildings and Barraks No. 1 were made locally.

These products were sold here, people came for miles around to purchase. The surplus was hauled by wagon loads to Lynchburg the nearest largest town-exchanged for other merchandise.

There were two tailor shops that made suits for men, owned and operated by Mr. Wm. Newell and Mr. Samuel Kerr.

One of the earliest stores was located in the Lybrook Row. The earliest stores on Main St. were on the same side where Black Logan is now and an old store where the "shop" is.

These merchants provided a stile on which the ladies who had ridden to town on horseback could alight.

The early means of travel from town was by coach or stage and back. When the R.R. completed in 1904 the citizens felt very proud of this asset. The first station was beyond the present one quite some distance up the track.

The Theatre is probably one the most recent additions to the village. The original Lyric was opened in Sept. 1909 by Mr. Minter. It was located in the Roop Building where the Mick or Mack -- then to the A&P, the Little Theatre 1930 The present one was built.

The town had various springs, one near the school here, another back of the Little cottage on Main St. Palmer Spring -- some few citizens had the water piped in hollow log pipes -- later came the cisterns. My grandmother Mrs. Harvey Black was the first citizen to have water brought house from spring near Tucker's house.

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Last updated November 17, 1997