Archive for Our History

50 Years Ago-The Move to Powhatan

Fifty years ago on Monday, May 20, 1968, was the official big move of the Hertzlers to Powhatan from Denbigh (Newport News), Virginia. The city was encroaching on the farmers there forcing them to search elsewhere for affordable farm land.  Gene remembers packing his 1957 blue Ford pickup with his personal belongings and heading west on Route 60, winding through Shockhoe Bottom in Richmond, and on to the farm to arrive ahead of the trucks hauling the thirty dairy cows.

When the cattle trucks arrived, they unloaded the cows behind the barn into a lot with a watering trough and a bunk full of haylage that had been cut that morning from the farm in Newport News so that the cows had no adjustment in their feed ration.  His brother drove a flatbed truck loaded with a wagon full of silage.

Months, weeks and days before, the farm here in Powhatan was prepared for the move. Spring crops were ready to green chop and corn was already growing in the fields. The Surge dealer had installed a pipeline and milking equipment in the cinderblock stanchion barn and milking house. Each work trip to the farm brought equipment, tools, and other needed supplies from Denbigh. And at the last came the three Border Collie dogs; Checkers, Pudgy, and Snickers.

Gene was eighteen when he and his older brother, Oliver, moved to Powhatan to run the farm.  Gene doesn’t remember much about the move. Gene and Oliver lived in the upstairs apartment of the house as the main part of the house was rented to another couple. There was no air conditioning in the house and Gene remembers leaving the windows open for air circulation and hearing the whippoorwills calling from the trees.

There are still several things that dad Hertzler planted in the yard that I greatly treasure; a pecan tree (two have succumbed), a row of beautiful peonies, a lilac bush and hollyhocks. Dad Hertzler loved the land and had a knack for growing boxwood shrubs, pecan trees, peonies, irises, hollyhocks and other flowers which he enjoyed sharing with people.

Gene remembers his folks riding the roads of Powhatan, Amelia and Madison counties looking for a farm. He has no idea where all they looked or traveled. He does remember his sister, sitting in the back seat of the car one day as they wandered the back roads of Amelia County, singing, “Did he ever return, no he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned,  He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston,  He’s the man who never returned” from “Charley on the M.T.A”. (written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lamax Hawes and sung by The Kingston Trio). They ended up finding this farm, it was for sale, but for some reason they did not come the day of the farm auction.  Hugh Ownby bought the farm and was going to turn it into one of Ownby’s cattle sale farms. Several weeks or months later, the Hertzlers contacted the Ownbys and they agreed to sell the farm to them. The rest is history.

Powhatan was so different in those days. There numerous grade A dairies in the county with names such as; Bowlin, Burkholder, Cosby, Harris, Hatcher, Hertzler, Layman, McGee, Moyer, Osborne, Ranck, Schaefer, Stratton, Timberlake, Tucker, Walker, and Willis. Powhatan was truly agriculturally rural. Route 60 was still single lane into Midlothian and Interstate 64 only had sections completed.

The intersection of 653 (our road) and Route 60 the summer of 1969 as they were working on putting in dual lanes.

Another picture of Route 60 before it was dual laned.

Law and order and traffic control was maintained under the watchful eye of one sheriff (Floyd Simpson), one part-time deputy (Nelson Batterson), and two state troopers (Shirley Reynolds and M.C. Arrington).  These guys were fair but they were tough!

Grocery stores: Maxey’s (in the village where Four Seasons Restaurant is now), Nichols Store at Macon, a very small store at the corner of Route 60 and Academy Rd. and the largest was Mays Grocery at Flatrock.

Medical: Dr. Bradley was a one-man office with nurse Betty and two examining rooms. He knew us all by name and made house calls.  I remember office visits costing $12. The office was heated (or at least partially heated) by a pot-belly wood stove. When Dr. Bradley was ready to see you, you were first invited to visit with him in his office. He sat behind a large wooden desk and you sat in a wood chair at the side. If you had a sinus infection, he would open his desk drawer, take out a flashlight and invited you to step into a dark closet in the room with him so that he could shine the light on your sinuses.  Bloxton’s Pharmacy was in the white-pillared building next to Four Seasons Restaurant. I worked at Bloxton’s for awhile after we were married. Dr. Bradley had evening hours once or twice a week and Bloxtons would stay open those evenings just in case his patients needed a prescription. Dr. Bradley would call and let them know when he had seen his last patient for the day so they could close.

Car Dealers: Yates Ford was in the village, and Brown’s Chevrolet and Brauer Pontiac were on Route 60.

Farm Equipment: Davis Merchant was an International tractor dealer and there was a Ford dealership on Route 13 in the village where Mabel’s Cafe is now located.

Other:  Goodwyn’s Lumber, United Auto Parts, Yates Oil, and Powhatan Farm Supply, a Southern States franchise near the village, were all thriving family owned businesses. The Bank of Powhatan and the post office were also located in the village.

There was nothing and I mean almost nothing but open land between Powhatan and the Boulevard (160) which is several miles east of Chippenham Parkway; just a few buildings in the village of Midlothian, Watkins Nursery, and a few scattered homes and a few businesses at Buford Road.  If we wanted to go shopping, we either went to Southside Plaza on the Boulevard or Broad Street in downtown Richmond.  The year we were married, 1972, the excavating for the massive, state of the art, Cloverleaf Mall began on a dairy farm at the intersection of 150 and Route 60. This too has now given way to new and better development.

According to records posted online, there were less than 8,000 people in Powhatan in 1970.  Stores were closed on Sunday, you knew and visited with your neighbors, the elementary and high school were in the village, your address was routes and box numbers instead of street names, the closest hospital was St. Mary’s, and there was a one-lane, steel-trussed bridge across the James River on 522 at Maidens.  If you approached the bridge and someone was already coming across, you had to wait or meet them in the center where there was a place wide enough to pass. The new state of the art concrete bridge was completed in early 1972.

 

 

This picture came from Elwood Yates Jr. and is the old bridge at Maidens.

The new bridge had only been open a few months when Hurricane Agnes dropped record amounts of water on central Virginia in June 1972 causing massive flooding at levels not seen before. The James River at Maidens came within inches of the bottom side of the roadway on the bridge, washing out the approaches.  To come to our wedding June 24, Gene had to travel west on Route 60 to Buena Vista to find an open bridge to cross the river.

The new concrete bridge.

By the time we were married, the farm was established and Oliver Jr. was married. Route 60 was dual-laned and Powhatan was beginning to change. Gene gladly handed the reins of homemaking over to me.  He had bachelored for four years and was ready for a wife!

Oh the changes that have happened on the farm over the years: two 20’X60′ concrete stave silos were built, a double-four herringbone parlor replaced the stanchion barn, and a free-stall barn was built. These are now all relics from the past and integrated into warehouse space supporting our farm supply store which we started in 1983. Additional land was cleared for more cropland, the house was remodeled and a full upstairs was added, trees were planted, new fences built, the dairy gave way to beef cattle and lots and lots of love and energy went into making the farm a beloved homestead.

Now…..the homestead changes, and yes it is the same house.

Fifty years have flown by and our roots have grown deep in the soil of Powhatan County. This is truly home and we love our homestead.  In many ways we have shared our farm with the community through our farm supply store (started in October 1983) and other numerous events we have hosted through the years; Live Nativity, Evening on the Lawn, Fun Day on the Farm and the many bus loads of school children that visited through the years.

Today there is only one dairy left in the county, the old has given way to new, and family businesses are being replaced with chain stores. Change happens and time never stands still but oh the memories of days gone by.

For more of our story, read the blog post “Once Upon A Time“. My blog post “Hometown USA” is a commentary about change in Powhatan.

If there are any corrections or additions, please let me know. I would love to have a picture of Nichols Store, Hatcher’s Restaurant, May’s Grocery, Maxey’s Store.   Did I miss any dairy farmers? You can email me at pathertzler@gmail.com or use the comment section on the blog.

Mutton Hollow

When I was little, my parents were asked to serve at a small church, Mutton Hollow, nestled up a hollow at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Elkton and Stanardsville, Virginia.  It is a very unique stone church built out of river rock. This was a big sacrifice for my parents who had to travel Route 33 west from Penn Laird where we lived and cross a steep, winding mountain.  It took us about an hour to go to church. I would get very car sick every Sunday, on the way there and on the way home. Mother said sometimes I could make it to the top of the mountain before throwing up. There were three of us kids and my younger sister also suffered terribly from motion sickness.  My folks had to deal with two puking kids and the mess every Sunday and nothing helped.

Today Gene and I traveled to Harrisonburg and decided to take the scenic Route 33 instead of Interstates 64 and 81 as we normally do. Times have changed, the road has been widen, straighten and the road across the mountain greatly improved. But let me tell you, it is still steep and curvy and include “run-away truck ramps” for out-of-control truckers to save their necks and loads. Gene made comment that he would not want to drive a truck across that mountain.

We had extra time and I asked Gene if we could take a side excursion. I wanted to see Mutton Hollow Mennonite Church, now renamed Mt. Hermon. At the base of the mountain on the Stanardsville side is a dirt road (Mutton Hollow Road) with a small church sign saying two miles.

I only have a few memories of attending there as it was before I was four years old. One of them was fording the flooded creek in the car and the water came up to the headlights. I remember daddy being concerned that he could be in trouble.  I remember one Sunday walking into my Sunday School class with a small red purse with a long strap dangling from my shoulder. I was so proud!

I also remember one Sunday as we crossed the mountain seeing a tractor trailer that had failed to navigate the curves down over the steep side of the mountain. Daddy stopped the car and we all gazed at the scary sight wondering how they would retrieve the truck and if the driver lived. As we were staring down the side, another church family stopped to look.  (Ike Risser family).

I also remember the pipe sticking out of the rock with mountain water flowing somewhere going up the mountain. There were several picnic tables in little coves along the road for travelers to stop and rest or seek relief from their motion sickness. I don’t remember, but I suspect that my folks had to make use of both spots to clean and calm their puking girls.

Today as we turned down Mutton Hollow Road, I was very anxious to see “the creek”.  We soon came to a nice concrete bridge crossing the creek and I had to stop and take pictures. To my surprise, we crossed the creek (on bridges) three more times.  So, I have no idea which crossing was the one I remembered! There were a few sparse houses on the road but we mostly wound through Shenandoah National Forest.  We could hardly believe that a church would be so far back in the middle of nowhere with almost no homes around.

The first concrete bridge.

The other crossings seemed to have more water.

The little mountain stream was flowing fairly well.

Two miles later, we rounded a corner and there in a clearing was the stone church just as I remembered except they now have a building program with a major addition being added. We were stunned. Where do the people live that attend there?

 

The front door of the church was wide open and you could see the preacher behind the pulpit.

It is good to know the church is still thriving and bringing God’s message to the community of Lydia.

 

Today the parking lot was full of vehicles!  I got a couple of pictures from the road but we couldn’t snoop around.  The setting was beautiful, a step back in time, with the dirt road still running between the church and the creek.  Just past the church, the dirt road ended and a paved road lined with homesteads took us back out to 33. We realized we had come in the back way, up the hollow, to the church.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip down memory lane today. And for memory sake, this is the picture of Judy Risser Pritchart (left) and I (right) at one of those crossings or down the bank beside the church.

I struggled with car sickness even up into my teens years. By the time we were married, it had mostly disappeared, however, I have to be careful especially on curvy, narrow and up and down roads. I credit several things; better roads, better cars with air conditioning and the privilege of now being the front seat passenger!  Our cars in those days were real “boats”! It can still sneak up and get me if I am not careful like the historic Route 58 in southern Virginia several years ago. I have no desire to return!!!

The following two pictures taken by Judy Risser Pritchard several years ago before they started the renovation project.

The original is the back section.  The front is an entryway with bathrooms and a library.

I like this picture as it shows the year the church structure was built. History records that the church was organized in 1936 as a mission outreach from Eastern Mennonite University and they met in a local Brethren Church.  It is recalled that the first structure either burned or flooded (at a different location) and a new building was built on the current location.

We would have attended 1951-1956.

 

Several additional pictures shared by Bertha Horst…the road up the hollow. She got better pictures than I did.

One of the few homesteads nestled in the edge of the forest.

Now you can really see why we wondered why there would be a church up this road!

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time there was a large, white,  two story, clapboard farmhouse sitting in the middle of our lawn.  For those  of you who are “Powhatan old-timers”, it was the John “Booker” and Mary “Lula” Webb homestead. (See note at the bottom of the post for a little bit of info about the Webbs).

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This is one of the Webb boys-I forget which one. It may be Percy.

The leaning walnut tree on the left side of the house is still standing.  From day one, I disliked that tree and wanted it cut down. It was hollow, half dead and  leaning. I wanted to help it out of its misery. Gene saw its potential.  Lightning, storms and disease have taken down all the original trees plus some that we have planted, except for that tree.  Since I wasn’t allowed to get rid of it, I planted a maple beside it to replace it when it succumbed; which I knew would be in the very near future. Instead, it was as if the maple gave it a will to live and thrive. It revived itself, sprouting new growth and has stood the test of 45 years just to prove me wrong!! I do believe it will outlive me.

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We were privileged to know some of the Webb family; Percy and   “Aunt” Susie Worsham (everyone affectionately called her Aunt). One of the granddaughters, Vernelle, (Percy’s daughter), lived in California and a number of years ago stopped in for a “trip down memory lane”. The only remnants of her history are the leaning walnut tree, the broken remains of an old well and the dairy barn portion of the house. I am so sorry I didn’t write down the history she told me.  The dirt road in the foreground  went by the front of the house, down through the back pasture, across Thorntons (our neighbor) and ended up on Rocky Ford Rd.

I am not sure of all the timing, dates and families. Someday I will go to the courthouse and do some browsing.  Sometime along the way, the house burned and the Green family living here added a three-room apartment (kitchen, sitting room, bedroom and bath) as a second story to the cinderblock milking barn sitting on the back corner of the lawn. Their intent was for this to be temporary housing while they built a new house. Instead, in the early 60’s they sold the farm to Mr. Allen who added an addition with three more large rooms around the structure. This addition included a kitchen, living room, bedroom and bath. The milking barn portion was transformed into a laundry and second bedroom or office. The house now resembled a tug boat!!! The house had a square two story on one corner with a cinderblock, tar and gravel, flat-roof addition around it.  The inside was very nicely done but the outside was beyond ugly!!!

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The before…..our “fixer upper”

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In 1967, the O.W. Hertzler family bought the farm and in May of 1968, Gene and his brother moved from Newport News to run the dairy. They brought along the farm name, Quarterfield, and painted the outside of the house.

Around the time we were married in June 1972, the screened front porch was enclosed with sliding glass windows.

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In 1977, Gene’s folks added a full upstairs and a new roof covering the entire structure, completely changing the look.  Through the years we have given the house lots of loving care: painted inside and out, added a deck, shutters, gutters, new windows and landscaping. The house has “evolved” into a decent looking house that we are proud to call home.

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For the house, life keeps getting better and better. Each time it has modeled its new look with style and wonders what its owners might do next.  Only time will tell, but for the little house, it dreams of living happily ever after.

 

After…. transformation!  And yes, it is the same house. and it still has the upstairs apartment!

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This picture shows the leaning walnut tree.

Hertzler Farm and Feed-June 2009-web

 

Additional Farm History

Webb Family

John “Booker” (1853-1934) and Mary “Lula” (1858-1940) had eight children: Annie (Tuohy), John,  Alice (Simpson), Percy, Charles, Susie (Worsham), Arthur, and Bernice (Nicholls).

In the 1910 Powhatan County fair, the Webbs were responsible along with other residents for the huge success of the fair. He was one of the prize winners of the Virginia Burley Tobacco.

John was a very strict with his children about the care of his animals and always wanted to make sure they had water. He would take wagon loads of supplies to the “poor house” and the residents would sit on the porch waiting for him to arrive. Meals were served promptly at 6 a.m., 12 noon, and 6 p.m. in the Webb household.

Information taken from Powhatan Heritage Book printed in 2010 by Powhatan County Heritage Book Committee.

Note: This information tells me that tobacco was probably raised on the farm along with a variety of different crops and animals. The daughter who visited remembers milking cows.

We also know that at some point there was a moonshine still on a knoll across the creek in the back corner pasture.  When the Hertzlers purchased the farm they found remnants of it and numerous quart jars-one of which I still have.

Mr. Green

Mr. Green was a farmer and his wife was a school teacher.

Bernard Allen

Bernard was a plumber and he purchased the farm in the early 60’s. He milked cows and purchased a new line of John Deere equipment which were all sold at auction in 1965 or 66. The Hertzlers had restless feet and wanted to move the dairy out of Newport News as the city was encroaching on the farmers. They came and looked at the farm but did not come to the sale. The farm was sold to Hugh Ownby and Eddie Orange, a big cattle broker and re-estate company. They were planning to turn it into a cattle auction facility. Plans changed and in 1967 the Hertzlers purchased the farm. That fall they planted rye in preparation for moving the dairy herd in May.

The Allen boys loved to race cars and used the quarter mile driveway as their racetrack. For years bits and pieces of their vehicles would work their way to the surface in the driveway.

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If anyone has or remembers tidbits of history on the farm or any of these people I would love to know. Pat

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Additional Blog Links

Remodeling Bathroom

My New Sunroom

Down a Country Lane

The Tale of Two Trees

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