The Holland-Duncan House


Tucked among trees that mercifully shield it from the ugly sprawl that has overwhelmed Moneta, the Holland-Duncan House stands as reminder of Hales Ford before the lake arrived.

Asa Holland inherited the land on which the home stands from his father Thomas Scott Holland in 1816. Sometime in the 1830’s he had the handsome brick home built.

Asa Holland

Asa Holland

Over his life Asa acquired and managed large farms in Franklin and Pittsylvania Counties, on which he raised (primarily) beef cattle, hay, seeds and tobacco. The community was then known as Hales Ford, and he served as its postmaster–Federal before and after the war, and Confederate during it. He operated a general store in Hales Ford in partnership with John Booth and another one in Germantown in partnership with his brother Smithson Holland.

At his death in 1879 Asa’s home was inherited by his daughter and eldest child Sallie Elizabeth. Sallie had married William Erastus “Ras” Duncan in 1853. Ten years her senior, Mr. Duncan had been her tutor when they met. A classical scholar educated at Columbian College (now part of George Washington University) and the University of Virginia, he taught at Hollins College (Sallie’s alma mater), and Allegheny College, where he served as President. During the war he was a Captain and Confederate Quartermaster.

The Duncans founded and operated the Hales Ford Classical and Mathematical School, a co-educational school at a time when they were quite unusual.  From 1876-1881 and 1886-1889, Ras Duncan was superintendent of schools in Franklin County.


I found this old picture here on our farm, but sadly I don’t know when it was taken and I can’t identify the people. Written on the reverse is “Old Holland Home, Franklin Co.”

Smith Mountain Lake was created in 1963 by damming the Roanoke River, flooding much of the land that once was owned by the Holland family. Over the past 20 years there has been another transformative flood–this one of real estate developers and builders of vacation homes. Other than the old Holland homeplace, there’s not much left that a 19th century Hales Ford resident would recognize today.

The Holland-Duncan house is on the National Register of Historic Places and these days is being used as a law office.




The Danville Artillery at Chancellorsville

Following Captain Wooding’s death from wounds received at the Battle of Fredericksburg, command of the battery had fallen to Captain Robert Rice, who had come to the battery when his old command, the Eight Star New Market Artillery, had been consolidated with the Danville Artillery.  Captain Rice was destined to be killed in the fighting around Petersburg in July 1864, but until then the men would be known as Rice’s Battery.

Rice’s Battery was inspected on February 15 and found to have 3 officers and 138 men present, one officer absent, four detached, eight AWOL and five absent sick.  The battery was equipped with two ten-pounder Parrotts, one three-inch rifle, and one Napoleon.   The battery’s ammunition and harnesses were good.  They had 61 horses in good condition and 20 in bad condition, two four-horse wagons and two two-horse wagons.

In March 1863, the battery became part of the artillery battalion commanded by Major David Gregg McIntosh, formerly captain of the South Carolina Pee Dee battery, assigned to the Second (Jackson’s) Corps.  Other batteries in the battalion were Hardaway’s Alabama battery, Lusk’s 2nd Rockbridge Artillery and Marmaduke Johnson’s Virginia Artillery.

On May 2, Rice’s Battery, with the rest of the battalion, moved in the rear of Stonewall Jackson’s famous flanking march column. Jackson launched his surprise attack late in the day, rolling up Howard’s Eleventh Corps.  Because the area was heavily wooded, and due to the lateness of the day, the battery saw no action that day.

The next morning, with General Stuart commanding the Corps in place of the wounded Jackson, the attack was renewed.  Early in the morning McIntosh’s battalion was held in reserve. Around 8 a.m. it advanced to the position Col. E. Porter Alexander was holding near Hazel Grove.

An ideal location for artillery, Hazel Grove had been occupied by Federal artillery the previous day. Fearing that the position had become too exposed, General Hooker ordered the guns to withdraw, handing the Confederate artillery perhaps the most favorable location it had during the entire war. “There has rarely been a more gratuitous gift of a battlefield,” Porter remarked.



The view from Hazel Grove, with Fairview in the distance


The view from Fairview, with Hazel Grove in the distance

The guns massed by Colonel Alexander at Hazel Grove (including Rice’s battery) fired with devastating effect not only on the Federal artillery now operating from Fairview, but also on the Federal infantry lines, and the forces concentrated at the Chancellor house. The shell that knocked General Hooker senseless as he was standing on the Chancellor porch (and in so doing possibly changed the outcome of the battle) was fired from Hazel Grove.

Within a couple of hours the Federal losses in men and horses had been so severe that they began to pull back from Fairview, further constricting their lines. Col. Alexander acted quickly, advancing guns to Fairview from where they could strike nearly every Federal position. From Fairview Rice’s Battery directed counter-battery fire at the federal guns around the Chancellor house. It was during this bombardment that the Chancellor house caught fire and burned to the ground.


The view from the Chancellor House toward Fairview


Attacked on all sides and being pounded by Confederate artillery, the Federals continued to pull back, abandoning the position around the Chancellor house and withdrawing to their last defensive line.  During the night of May 4 they retreated to the north side of the Rappahannock River, capping the Army of Northern Virginia’s greatest victory.

When Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, received a telegram detailing the events of the battle he is said to have exclaimed, “My God! It is horrible! Horrible! Think of it. 130,000 magnificent soldiers cut to pieces by less than 60,000 half-starved ragamuffins.”

There were only two casualties in the battery.  James Long, a 43-year-old farmer from Russell County was killed and Watson Anglea was again wounded (his third wound in less than nine months).  For his conspicuous gallantry in action, James W. Gosney, a 24-year-old carpenter, was promoted to corporal. He would end the war in a hospital and a Federal prison.

In a few weeks the batallion would be on its way to Pennsylvania.

Tobacco Life

The old barns for flue-curing bright leaf tobacco still dot the countryside here. But they aren’t used any more. Someday they’ll be gone.



Hand-hewn logs, daubed with mud and rocks


The leaves were cured by burners, first wood and later oil. They hung on poles like these, strung together on tobacco sticks.


We would straddle the poles and hang the sticks as they were handed up to us.

One of my first jobs, before I was big enough to go the field, was handing leaves to the stringer–three at a time, stems straight and aligned.



Danville Crime: January 1918

This appeared in the Danville Register in February, 1918


Month of January Shows New Record in Decrease in Crime

The month of January shows a new record in the decrease of crime in the city, only 91 persons being arrested during that period. The report of the chief of police shows that of this number 77 were found guilty, 8 sent on the grand jury, and 6 acquitted.

The city treasury gets little this month a a result of the activities of the police, a check for $341.60 being handed to the treasurer, this covers fines and costs imposed, collected (sic) during the month.

Drunkenness again leads the list of offenses. According to officers, however, it is not liquor that is causing so much drunkenness but patent medicines which contain alcohol and which are swallowed for the work that the alcohol will work. “Beef, Iron and Wine” and “Bay Rum” are the most popular form of stimulant now that liquor is so scarce.

There were 9 case of assault, 11 violation of the city traffic ordinance, four cases of larceny and five instance of carrying concealed weapons.


Bay Rum


The 13th North Carolina at Fredericksburg

December 13, 1862. Just south of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

As dawn broke on a cold foggy morning, the men of the 13th North Carolina infantry regiment were in position just behind and in support of nine pieces of Confederate artillery–3 batteries and one section of a battery under the overall command of Capt. Greenlee Davidson. The 13th N.C. regiment was commanded by Col. Alfred Scales and was part of Pender’s Brigade, A.P. Hill’s division, Jackson’s Corps.

Davidson’s guns were deployed around what had been a cluster of slave cabins on Alfred Bernard’s Mannsfield plantation. The cabins had been torn down to clear the sight lines for the gunners.


This shows the Confederate positions as the Federal assault began. The 13th NC is part of the line behind Davidson’s batteries.

The advanced guns under the command of Capt. J.B. Brockenborough slowed the Federals, but were brought under the concentrated fire of skirmishing infantry and 20 Federal batteries. After taking heavy casualties, they were forced to withdraw.


The Federals are approaching Lane’s brigade, which is defending the railroad cut. Note the 13th and 22nd North Carolina behind Davidson’s batteries. Brockenborough’s artillery is now under the command of Lt. McKendree and has been repositioned just north of Davidson.

As the assault continued, the men of Lane’s brigade, deployed along the railroad cut, began to run out of ammunition. Eventually they were overwhelmed and forced back.


Lane’s brigade defended from the wood line here, along the tracks. The Federal assault approached from the field beyond the tracks.



During this time the federal artillery had been targeting Davidson’s guns at the Bernard cabins. The 13th and other supporting infantry behind the guns took heavy casualties in the shelling.

Fredericksburg. Looking from the RR toward the Bernard cabins site

A view from the railroad back toward the site of the Bernard cabins, just in advance of the woods in the distant foreground

Eventually Pender’s brigade, including the 13th NC, participated in the counterattack that drove back the attackers and retook the railroad.




This story is best told with maps. But to understand the experience of soldiers that day, it is better told in their voices.

John W. S. Guerrant of Rockingham County was a 20 year old private in the 13th N.C. on the day of the battle. Here is the story as told by him in a letter he wrote in 1915, at age 73.

“Our regiment supported a battery in an open field, with a body of woods immediately behind us, which was so badly riddled during the day with cannon balls, grape shot and shells that it looked like a tobacco field after a hail storm had struck it. A great many men of our regiment were killed or wounded on that occasion. We were lying on the ground when a shell or cannon ball went into the ground under a man by the name of Hawkins from Yanceyville (my note–he was Cpl. Charles O. Hawkins, of Company A—a 24-year-old farmer), and while he was not wounded at all, the concussion killed him immediately.

Another man, whose name was Soyers, also from Yanceyville, (my note—Thomas L. Sawyers, a 20 year old farmer in Company A) and who was seriously wounded, asked my old friend Tom Fitzgerald (my note—Richard Thomas Fitzgerald of Company A), who now lives at Ruffin, and was at that time a litter-bearer, and whose duty it was to take the wounded off the battlefield to assist him in getting off the field. Mr. Fitzgerald tried to impress Soyers what a hazardous undertaking it would be. Still Soyers insisted, and placing his arms around Fitzgerald’s neck they started, when immediately a piece of shell struck Soyers, tearing off a large portion of his side. Fitzgerald sat him down by a tree, where he died in a few hours.

That night a detail of fifty men—five from each company—was taken from our regiment. I was one of the number. We were carried out between the lines of battle among the dead and posted with instructions to be vigilant and alert, and if the enemy advanced we were to fire and retreat, otherwise to remain until we were relieved.

Heavy snow had fallen, a good deal of which was still lying on the north hillsides, yet we lay there all night to find the next morning that the enemy had covered the pontoon bridges with pine-tops and broom-straw to keep from being heard and had crossed the river.

I could mention a great many things that happened that day, but it would make my letter too long.

The first day after the battle we remained on the battlefield to bury the dead.  The second day we marched some six or eight miles to a heavily timbered body of woods, where we soon stretched tents and built chimneys to them, and made ourselves comparatively comfortable.”

In a letter from earlier that year John wrote, “While supporting a battery at Fredericksburg, John Tulloch, who was lying by my side, received the wound he will carry to his grave.” John Tulloch, a 22 year old “hireling” when he enlisted, was wounded in the left ankle and retired to the invalid corps.

John was promoted to Corporal, effective December 13, 1862, presumably for his service that day. With the promotion came a raise.  John went from earning $11 per month, to $13 per month.

John Wyatt Stubblefield Guerrant

John W. S. Guerrant

Tom and Martha Fitzgerald

Tom and Martha Fitzgerald


The Danville Artillery at Fredericksburg

Yesterday a friend and I traveled to the Fredericksburg National Battlefield. One of our objectives was to try to develop a better understanding of the Danville Artillery’s role in the battle.

The Battle of Fredericksburg occurred on December 13, 1862. The Danville Artillery was in Jackson’s Corps, under the command of Captain George W. Wooding, a young lawyer when the war began, having graduated from Hampden Syndey College and the University of Virginia law school.

Jackson commanded the right wing of the Confederate forces, in an area known as Prospect Hill. Although far less well known that the fighting that occurred at Mayre’s Heights, the action at Prospect Hill was critical, and it was there that the Federal forces had their only realistic chance of success.

None of the maps I had seen online or in books were helpful in trying to place the location of Wooding’s battery as the battle began. Fortunately the very knowledgeable and helpful park rangers had detailed maps that enabled us to find the specific locations.

General Jackson’s line of battle was alongside or west of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac railroad, which ran across the fields that would become the battlefield. At an area along the center of General A.P. Hill’s line there was a rise which would shield advancing Federal infantry from Confederate artillery fire for about 800 yards as they approached the railroad. To cover this area, Wooding’s battery was deployed about 40 yards north of the railroad bed, along with Lt. George McKendree’s battery and a section from the battery of Lt. Edward Mayre (who ironically would not be a participant in the fighting occurring at his home, four miles to the north).


This map shows the location of the batteries, out in front of the railroad and drawing concentrated fire from the Federal artillery


A view from the railroad bed. The batteries were deployed about 40 yards in front of the tracks, in what was then a plowed corn field and was yesterday a field of soybeans.


Looking back toward the railroad (which runs along the tree line). Wooding’s battery was probably deployed about half way to the tree line from here.

These batteries were in the most exposed position on the Confederate line. The 88th Pennsylvania Infantry advanced as skirmishers and began to fire into the batteries. Initially driven away by canister, the Pennsylvanians returned and from a position in woods to the right front of the batteries, sharpshooters began bringing down the Confederate artillerymen and their horses. Meanwhile the Federal artillery opened devastating counter-battery fire, with as many as 20 batteries concentrating their fire on the exposed Confederates.

The effect of the combined fire from federal infantry and artillery was devastating on the exposed batteries, which were taking heavy casualties. As his men continued to fall, Captain Wooding began helping service the guns himself, despite having been wounded in the hand. Just as Confederate infantry began to advance to support the batteries, Wooding was struck again–this time suffering a serious wound in his thigh. Finally, after battalion commander Capt. John Brockenborough suffered a debilitating wound, the men were ordered to withdraw.

A federal attack reached and crossed the railroad, driving back the Confederates for a while. But then a Confederate counterattack swept them back, defeating them here just as they were being defeated at Mayre’s Heights.

But the men of the Danville Artillery paid a high price for their part in the victory.

The wounded Captain Wooding was taken to the rear, to Belvoir, the home of Thomas Yerby, which was being used as a field hospital. Here he would linger for weeks, suffering painfully. He eventually died on February 1, 1863.



General Maxcy Gregg was also brought to Belvoir that day, mortally wounded. General Jackson visited him as he was dying, in a scene depicted in the movie Gods and Generals.

After his death Captain Wooding’s body was returned to Danville, where he was buried in the Green Hill cemetery.

G.W. Wooding tombstone

His younger brother Harry survived the war and went on to serve as Danville’s mayor for nearly 50 years.

Twenty four years old when he died, George Wooding was never married.

At the County Court held for the County of Pittsylvania at the Court House thereof on Monday the 16th day of February, 1863

The following Preamble & Resolutions were, on the motion of Charles E. Dabney and by the unanimous wish of the bar, adopted by the Court and ordered to be entered on record.

Whereas, intelligence has been received of the death from wounds received at the battle of Fredericksburg of Capt. George W. Wooding of the Danville Artillery, a citizen of this county and a member of the bar, it is resolved

1st, That this Court as a representative of the county recognizing the propriety of expressing in some formal and authentic mode the high appreciation which the people of Pittsylvania have for those of their fellow citizens who have lost their lives in battle with distinction in defense of the Southern cause, doth with pleasure and pride bear testimony to the fact that Capt. Wooding has served faithfully & gallantly in the Confederate Army since the commencement of this war; that his conduct on the bloody battlefield where he received his death wound was so brilliant, soldierly and devoted as to elicit the applause of the whole of the Army; that it has filled the hearts of his fellow countrymen with admiration for his fame and sorrow for his early though glorious death.

2nd, That this court, the bar concurring, doth deeply deplore the loss of so gallant a spirit and doth offer to his bereaved family the assurance of their profound sympathy.

3rd, That the foregoing preamble and resolutions be spread on the records and that the Clerk of this Court forward a copy thereof to the family of Capt. Wooding and a copy to the Danville papers for publication.

L. Scruggs, Clerk

In addition to Captain Wooding, at least 15 other men of the Danville Artillery were wounded at Fredericksburg. I have only been able to identify six of them:

Benjamin Walton. A 25 year old carpenter. While home on furlough, recovering from his wound, he married Sarah Edmunds of Caswell County. He eventually rejoined the unit and was captured at Ft. Gregg in Petersburg in April, 1865 and sent to Point Lookout prison. After the war he returned to Pittsylvania County, marrying his second wife Tabitha in Pittsylvania County in 1872. He died in 1889.

Isaac Bowman. He returned to duty in September, 1863. He was captured in Farmville on April 6, 1865 and sent to City Point Prison.

George Skelton. He was struck in the hip by a minie ball. A 24 year old farmer, he was wounded again at Spotsylvania Court House in May, 1864. He was paroled at Appomattox when the army surrendered.

John S. Owen. A 21 year old stage driver, he was captured at Petersburg on April 3, 1865 and sent to Harts Island prison. He lived in Pittsylvania County after the war.

Lt. Joseph Jones. A 35 year old machinist, he was seriously wounded, but survived. After recovering, he served out the remainder of the war in the Ordnance Department and later as a blacksmith.

James K. Phillips.  A 19 year old day laborer, he suffered a serious concussion early in the battle. He was again wounded at Mattahony Creek on May 24, 1864. After the war he went to college and became a lawyer in the Shenandoah valley. He married Emily Litten and died in 1908 at age 55.



This modest marker is in the St. Matthews Episcopal Church cemetery in Hillsborough, North Carolina. It marks the grave of William Joseph Hardee Jr., the only son of Lt. General William J. Hardee. It is a reminder of a sad story from the closing days of the war.

The scene is the Battle of Bentonville, March 21, 1865. General Hardee has just turned back an attack by Federal General Joseph Mower. Shelby Foote tells the story:

Hardee had stopped him with reinforcements brought over from the right, including the 8th Texas Cavalry, which sixteen-year-old Willie Hardee, the general’s only son, had joined that morning after finally overcoming his father’s objections that he was too young for army duty. “Swear him into service in your company, as nothing else will suffice,” Old Reliable told the captain who reported to headquarters with him. Then he kissed the boy and sent him on his way for what turned out to be a share in the critical job of checking Mower’s penetration. Elated by the retirement of the bluecoats — which he did not know had been ordered by Sherman — Hardee grinned and said to Hampton, as they rode back from directing the counteraction: “General, that was nip and tuck, and for a while I thought Tuck had it.” Laughing, they continued across the field, only to encounter a pair of litter bearers bringing Willie from the front, badly wounded in his first charge. It was also his last; he would die three days later, with his father at his side, and be buried in a Hillsborough churchyard after the military funeral he would have wanted. For the present, Hardee could only dismount and spend a moment with him before rejoining Hampton for deployment of their troops in case the Yankees tried for another breakthrough, somewhere else along the line.

Commanding the wing of the federal army that Willie and his comrades fought against that day was General Oliver O. Howard. General Howard was a close personal friend of the Hardee family and had been young Willie’s tutor while his father had been the Commandant of Cadets at West Point from 1856-1860.

A month after Willie died, in what would be the last major action of the campaign, General Johnson surrendered the Confederate army and the war was over.

Pardon Me

Following the election of Abraham Lincoln seven states in the deep south seceded from the United States and established a new confederation–calling themselves the Confederate States of America.

The states of the middle south elected not to secede, but rather to remain in the Union. In Virginia there was a convention to consider secession. By a two to margin the delegates choose to remain in the Union. In North Carolina there was so little sentiment for secession that they didn’t even have a convention.

All this changed when the Lincoln administration issued a call for the states to contribute troops to form an army to “suppress the rebellion.” The people of the mid-south were unionists, but not unconditionally so. Most believed that a state had the sovereign right to withdraw from the union and they opposed any effort to coerce such states. Specifically they opposed going to war with them. So with the call for troops, sentiment shifted dramatically.

Virginia’s Unionist governor Thomas Letcher responded:

SIR: I received your telegram of the 15th, the genuineness of which I doubted. Since that time I have received your communication, mailed the same day, in which I am requested to detach from the militia of the State of Virginia “the quota designated in a table,” which you append, “to serve as infantry or riflemen for the period of three months, unless sooner discharged.”

In reply to this communication, I have only to say that the militia of Virginia will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for such an object — an object, in my judgment, not within the purview of the Constitution or the act of 1795 — will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the Administration has exhibited towards the South.

The Virginia convention reconvened, and this time voted in favor of secession by the same 2-1 margin by which they had previously rejected it.

North Carolina governor John Ellis replied to the federal authorities:

Your dispatch is recd. and if genuine, which its extraordinary character leads me to doubt, I have to say in reply that I regard the levy of troops made by the Administration for the purpose of subjugating the States of the South, as in violation of the Constitution and a gross usurpation of power. I can be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country, and to this war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina.

A few weeks later, North Carolina seceded. In due course, Tennessee and Arkansas would also leave the Union in response.

Four years later it was over. One third of all Southern households had lost at least one family member in the war. The southern states were devastated and a quarter of military-age Southern citizens were dead or wounded.

In May, 1865 President Andrew Johnson issued an amnesty proclamation, restoring civil rights to many Southerners, on the condition they sign a loyalty oath. Numerous categories of Southerners were excluded from the amnesty offer, however, including politicians, high-ranking military officers and persons with taxable property of more than $20,000. The proclamation specifically excluded, “All who are or shall have been pretended civil or diplomatic officers, or otherwise domestic or foreign agents of the pretended Confederate Government.”

It was in this context that Daniel E. Guerrant of Rockingham County North Carolina submitted his request for a presidential pardon. His service as a Confederate tax assessor seemed to exclude him from the amnesty proclamation. Those without amnesty were not only subject to criminal prosecution for participating in the “rebellion,” but their property was subject to confiscation pursuant to earlier acts of Congress. To get the benefit of amnesty, Daniel would require a presidential pardon.

Daniel signed an Oath of Allegiance on July 13, 1865, submitting it along with a pardon application. In applying for the pardon he wrote in his affidavit that “he was one of the Assessors of Taxes under the so-called Confederate States, that he was not appointed as such on account of his political opinions, as he was always opposed to secession and never gave any aid to that doctrine until hostilities had actually commenced and that he rejoices now at the idea that we are soon to have civil government reestablished and that he will again be able to proclaim himself a citizen of the United States. He therefore prays that he may be pardoned.”


The Oath of Allegiance


The pardon application


It was likely a great relief to him when his pardon was issued on August 15, 1865.



The High Bridge

The High Bridge spans the Appomattox River, just outside of Farmville.

Completed in 1852, the bridge is 125 feet high and 2529 feet long. C.O. Stanford, chief engineer of the project said, “there have been higher bridges not so long, and longer bridges not so high, but taking the length and height together, this is, perhaps the largest bridge in the world.”

High Bridge

The bridge was destined to play a dramatic role in the closing days of the Civil War.

In his desperate attempt to escape the pursuing federals, and to provision his starving army, General Lee planned to cross the bridge to the north side of the river then destroy it behind him, thus giving his men some breathing room and a chance to find food.

Aware of the importance of the bridge, the federals sent two regiments of infantry and three companies of cavalry (about 900 men in all) to destroy it and thus deny the Confederates their escape route. After learning of the threat, about 1,200 Confederate cavalry were sent to intercept the federal force and protect the bridge. The federals arrived first, on the morning of April 6, 1865 and began preparing to burn the bridge. After an all-night march the Confederates arrived not long afterwards. In the frantic, often hand-to-hand combat that followed, the entire federal force was captured and the bridge was saved. Confederate colonels James Dearing and Rueben Boston (commanding officer of the 5th Virginia cavalry) were killed in the action, as were federal colonels Horace Washburn and Theodore Read.

The following day the retreating Confederate army made its way over the bridge. But in the confusion of the retreat General Billy Mahone delayed giving the order to fire the bridge. Federal troops arrived at the bridge early on the morning of April 7. By then the High Bridge was in flames and three trestles soon collapsed. But the fire intended to destroy the underlying wagon bridge had been more difficult to start and had not yet consumed to the bridge. The 19th Maine Infantry under Gen. Francis Barlow, charged and, under fire, were able to extinguish the fire using their canteens and blankets. The federal army would use this bridge to cross the river, denying the Confederates their escape. On April 9, General Lee surrendered the army.

Today the bridge is part of the recently-opened High Bridge Trail state park. It’s a beautiful place to spend a day.


There are miles of hiking/biking trails, including one across the bridge


A view from the bridge


This illustrates the scale of the construction. The brick trestles are from the 1850s. The steel ones are from construction in the 1910’s.


The Road Law

Ever wonder how roads were built and maintained in the days before VDOT?


The Road Law for Pittsylvania County

Be in enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia, That the county court of Pittsylvania County shall, at its July term, eighteen hundred and eighty eight, make an order to have the county laid off in road precincts, and appoint a surveyor for each precinct, unless the said court shall think fit to adopt the precincts of roads and surveyors as they now exist, with the respective hands as now assigned to them by law. Each surveyor so appointed, shall be required to keep their respective roads in good order, clear of stumps and loose rock, and free from the falling of dead timber, and well drained.

Any surveyor failing to comply with the foregoing section, shall be liable to indictment before the grand jury of his county, and, upon conviction by the court, shall be liable to pay a fine of not less than five nor more than twenty five dollars for each offense, at the discretion of the court.

All male citizens of the county of Pittsylvania, between the ages of sixteen and sixty years, shall be compelled to work on some public road near his place of residence, at least three days in each year, except such as are now exempt by law or may be hereafter exempt.

Each surveyor shall notify the hands that work on his precinct of road when and where to work, and what kind of tools each of them shall work with. Any person failing to work, when notified by their surveyor or his lawful agent, shall forfeit for each offence the sum of seventy-five cents,  the said fine shall be collected by the surveyor for the use of the road in the manner now prescribed by law. Said surveyors shall keep a strict account of all moneys collected and paid out by them each year. No surveyor shall be allowed to resign his office in less than twelve months after his appointment, and not then unless he can prove his road to be in good order. All surveyors of roads shall receive seventy-five cents for each day they shall actually be engaged in notifying hands to work on roads, and seventy-five cents for each day they may be engaged in working on roads.

After such surveyors shall have worked all their hands on their road at least three days during the year, and find their respective forces are insufficient to keep the precinct of road in good order, it shall be the duty of each surveyor or surveyors to notify any three freeholders–any two of whom may act–to examine the precinct of road, and ascertain what amount of money or timber will be necessary to put said road in good order, and upon their report in writing to any such surveyor, he shall at once proceed to carry out the decision of the above-named freeholders: provided that such freeholders shall not make an exorbitant levy to any one precinct of road in any one year. All such surveyors of roads as may have to call in the services of such freeholders as provided in the preceding section, shall make a report to the board of supervisors at its July meeting of each year, accompanying his report with the report of such freeholders, setting forth the amount authorized to be spent on each road, and any other matter pertinent thereto.

It shall not be lawful for any surveyor of roads to have more than one precinct of roads to work in any one year.

All expenses incurred under this act shall be audited by the board of supervisors, and paid out of the county levy as now paid.

All acts and parts of acts in conflict with this act are hereby repealed.

This act shall be in force on and after the fifteenth day of July, eighteen hundred and eighty eight.