"The History of Blacksburg, Virginia"
as told to Mary E. Apperson by her mother, Lizzie Black Apperson, in 1936.
Mary E. Apperson--Oct.-Nov. given at High school 1944
Massacre--Families--Ingels, Harmons, and Drapers
John Black of Scotch Irish decent 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 is on campus. Working by day and taking turns at night keeping watch for the Indians.
After arranging things as comfortably as he could he went back to Augusta [Co.] and married Miss Jane Alexander and brought her to their new home. In 1772 or 1734 the Indians burned the house. His wife and infant son spent the nite in a hollow tree near by while John stood guard. In the morning he saddled his horse and took them back to Augusta [Co.], where they had to remain for six years because Mr. Black was in the Rev. war.
When the treaty was signed and the territory freed of the invaders, they returned and rebuilt their house. His farm began above where the Agriculture Hall is, extending almost to the Mt. and back toward Mr. Warren Millers' owning above 100 acres and his bro William the same but more to the east.
The house was built of log 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 souvenier 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--Geo. Rutledge, John Black, James Patton Preston, Edward Rutledge, William Black and John Preston.
The trustees sold lots
John Preston lots--1 + 3
Robt King No. 2
John McGhee 4
Mary S. Charlton
Wm. J. Barger
Adam Croy (Croix)
John B. Goodrich
Some bought 2 or 3. The streets were "Smithfield", Main, Roanoke, Water, Toms 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 Mt. St--some dificulty was met in securing the Property from the Amiss family. Where Mt. View or the house of Col. Palmer is. They wanted to make Church St. the Mt. St--it was then located where the Argabrite garage is from there cross the V.P.I. campus on the E side of the Infirmary by the present Lutheran Parsonage.
In the sale + 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 + 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 moulded candles, lard burning lamps, oil lamps and electricity.
Mr. Adam Croy was the sextion of the first church--1833 to 1861 + 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 + blow loudly + long. It was heard much further than the bell. He kept his clock in exact time by his seen mark + neither the preacher not 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 pm 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 was 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--Cample place
second--Dr. Earheart house
third--Mr. Alex Black's, Cottage Main St. 4 Church--5--present location on Preston Ave.
The Presbyterian church has had (3) locations of its own. Just founded 1833 using a log cabin near Palmer Spring road from Main on Clay Street--second--on corner from the Black Cottage or Odd fellows Hall--3--on Roanoke St.
While the one on Main St. was being used as a church a citizen passed + found an old man (Mr. Angell) sitting on the steps intoxicated. The passer by said " Why Mr. Angell you shouldn't be sitting on the church steps drunk! His reply was,"I'd rather be a door keep in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of the wicked."
The first Baptist church was located where the present Christian church is. It was a brick building + during the civil war was used for a hospital for soldiers. It was condemned soon after it was purchased + while a new church was being built services were held in Mrs. Gardners Mother's house. Mrs. Monroe Evans.
The second Baptist church was started in basement + just just from finished was demolished + a frame building was on the same location 1854--it was used until 1903 when the present structure was completed.
The Episcopal church was established mainly thru one of the early commodants or Prof. of the College. Gen. Boggs + he lived in Grandma's house (Dr. Harvey Black's house) while they were in Williamsburg.
The Catholic church in B. was built about 1915 and the first Christian church in 1903--lot purchased from Baptist.
The Lutheran church first located out on the Herman McDonald Farm (not far from Prices Fork + called Old St. Peter's--built about 1770. This church was outwardly called St. Michael then Prices church, still later the Old Brick church + finally St. Peters'. It was the oldest Lutheran church west of New Market Va. + at least the 4th + more likely the 3rd oldest for the whole of Va. It closed its doors as a place of worship about 1885. The next church was Old Mt. Tabor then the present one on--
The schools of Blacksburg were tought in various buildings. One house where pupils were tought 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 here Miss Mollie Kent + Mr. Dawson, L. Croy's grandfather. The Blacksburg Female academy was located in the old 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 + well trained lady--went to school at Hollins + to a finishing school in Baltimore. Miss Ellen Peterman (took veil) + Miss Ollie taught the academic subjects. Miss Jonnie was very homely, never went to the table after their mother died. Miss Ann became (Mrs. Andersons).
The Kent House--Colonial Inn was a private school for girls + the Misses Petermans taught it--My Mother + Lucy _______ 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 in neighborhood was Preston + Olin Institute located on the campus before V.P.I.
The citizens combined with the Methodist church to put this Institution with effective conditions. The name Olin was selected by the Methodist for the first Pres. of Randolph-Macon College + the cititzens interested named for Maj. Ballard Preston, prominent in political circles. William R. White an uncle of our (Aunt Celelia's husbands) was the first President from 1854 to 1859 from then it was under the care of Gilmore + Smith. Then the Rev. Wm. Reece + Rev. Graham tought there. It was closed during the Civil War, reopened 1868 by the Rev. P.H. Whishner for whom the Methodist church is named.
In 1872 it was turned over to State + became Virginia Mechanical + Agriculture. Thus the efforts of Dr. Harvey Black first Director of the Board. The buildings were used in Summer by teachers as a school for the pupils of the town.
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 Mr. James Randall Kent right after the war between the States another was opened by Mr. Hubbert--in the present Piggley Wiggley store + also the first drug store was opened--by Dr. Conway.
The National Bank was built by Mr. Alex Black, he was Pres. for 46 yrs.
The Farmers + Merchant Bank was organized in 1920 in its original located.
The largest Inn or Hotel of Old Blacksburg was on the property now belonging to the Norfolk + Western Railway. The building faced Main St. opposite Mr. Dillons feed store. It was operated by Mr. John Peterman--story Miss Ann Kent shot during Civil War Ables Raid.
Another old Inn + Tavern was where the Roop house is, The east side at the back of this house is said to be the original art 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 Kiester-Bro. of Anderson who was freed at his trial.
This house was later enlarged by Mr. Geo. Keister who ran it as a hotel + 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 Agriculture Mechanical College took their meals there and for many of them roomed in what is now known as Lybrooke row--called,"Hell's Row", by the students. There was no dormitory + no dinning room on the campus at that time.
After the Mr. + Mrs. Amiss Mother + Father of Mrs. Palmer moved to Mt. View 1864--their house was turned into a Hotel + operated by a Mr. Bodell.
Mr. Eakin had a hotel in the Roop house as did Mr. + Mrs. Tuturta in the early 1900.
In early Blacksburg there were several bar rooms, it was not unusual to see drunken men on the street around the Taverns + 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 + my grand parents lived there my mother + 2 uncles were born there--Mr. Alex Black "Charlie"
The old Amiss house one of the loviest + most handsomely furnished was located where Mr. Vain Kesley lives. This was my g. grandmother'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 g. grandfather John Black. The wood work is well worth a trip to see it.
The little cottage of Miss Georgia Croys on Roanoke is very old well preserved + 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 Price's 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 g. father Col. William Thomas.
Fiddlers Green was a lovely old home of Mr. Alexander Black father of Dr. Harvey Black, it was torn down many years ago. The Preston 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 back driven by an old negro man named Flew Johnson.
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 resturant is, later to a store building where the William Preston Hotel is, again to a store where the Lyric theater is + 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 + from there to the nice structure it has on Roanoke St.
When we hear of the industry of early Blacksburg we feel that it was a much 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 Mr. Grief Miller g.father of Mr. Warren Miller.
Mr. Miller was said to be very witty + droll + often teased his wife by singing to her ______ of song, + she being equally clever had as her favorite song for him.
My grief + burden long has been Becuase 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 + Chestnut Bark. It took a year to tan a hide + on half of it paid for the work.
A saddle shop was also located where Mr. Tucker now lives owned by Mr. John Spickard--Mrs. Regan Wyatts g. father.
The Hat makers shop where Mr. Henry Argabrite lived back of New River Lumber Co. owned + operated by Mr. Joe Barton made fine felt hats for gentlemen which were almost indestructible. My uncle Mr. Black told me one could fight bumble bees 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 Helms + Mr. Effinger. They made buckets, pans, cups + most anything constructed of tin. It was also in the neighborhood of Mr. Tucker's.
The two cabinet maker's business places were run by Mr. Monroe Evans and Mr. Robert Francisco & son of note Peter Francisco. Tell the story of his strength in lifting house + man over fence. Mr. Francisco's home was built in--1857. Tis now occupied by Mr. Tom Hutchinson.
In connection with Mr. Evans' cabinet shop he was the undertaker + his place of business located in his home--?
The wheel wright and wagon shop you notice I say shop--but at that time they were called "shops"--this was owned by the Croy Bros. Adam who was the sexton of M. C. church + placed on the left side of the building that cottage is very old.
There were three Blacksmith shops + in those days did a good business + were very helpful to the public. Mr. Surface had the first shop. Then there were two others run by Mr. Bess + Buck Argabrite.
There were two weaving shops in Blacksburg, the principle one was below the colored Baptist church + was owned by Mr. John Camper + Mrs. Camper wove rugs, carpet[s] + jeans cloth for men's suits.
The Pottery was in the original part of Mr. Will Lybrook's home now owned by Mrs. McGhee. It was ren by Mr. David Bodell. He made jars, bowls, crocks, jugs for use here + then put them in a wagon + took them to Lynchburg [or] Richmond, and [brought] back coffee + sugar goods etc.
In 1865 Mr. Galloway had a shoe making shop where Mrs. Conner now lives. There were (2) or three other shops here about this time, but I didn't find the locations.
Mr. Sheaff was a fine shoe maker. In the early days of local shoemaking a very elegant gentleman visited Col. Preston + was attracted by the calf skin 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 Blds. + Barracks No. I 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 (2) Tailor shops that made suits for men, owned + operated by Mr. Wm. Newell + Mr. Samuel Kerr.
One of the earliest stores was located in the Lybrooke Row. The earliest stores on Main St. were on the same side where Black Logan is now + an old store where the "Shop"is.
The early means of travel from town was by coach or stage + 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 tracks.
The Theater is probably one of the most recent addition 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 [then] the Lyric Theater. 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 pumped in hollow log pipes. Later came the cisterns. My grandmother Mrs. Harvey Black was the first citizen to have water brot into house from spring near Tucker's house.
Guide to the Manuscript Collections in the University Libraries
Guide to Resources for the History of Blacksburg, Virginia
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Last update: March 5, 1998
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