Archive for Powhatan 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.

Hometown USA

Recently another local family-owned business passed down through two generations, Davis-Merchant Equipment, was sold. We started thinking about the hometown businesses that are left in Powhatan. One by one they are quietly disappearing and in their place is Haley Chevolet, Wal-Mart, Tractor Supply, Food Lion, Advanced Auto, McDonalds, Wendys, Sheetz (Powhatan now seems to need 2 of them), Pizza Hut, Subway, C&F Bank, Essex Bank and the list goes on.  All the local gas stations have been sold to foreigners.

I remember when Al’s Market was owned by a real Powhatanian, Al, and Red Barn by Larry and Juanita Adams. There was May’s Hardware and May’s Grocery where they knew you by name and the meat was actually cut and packaged in the store. Remember…. The Bank of Powhatan, Yates Ford, Yates Oil, Maxey’s Store,  Brauer and then Adam’s Pontiac, Nichol’s Store, Powhatan Farm Supply, Dr. Bradley, Powhatan Locker Plant, Bloxton’s Pharmacy, Hatcher’s Restaurant, Gene’s Auto Parts, Goodwyn’s Lumber, and Browns Chevrolet. Did you notice how many of these business carried family names?

Bloxton’s Pharmacy was sold to another Powhatan Family, Jim and Carol Gregg, and morphed into Powhatan Pharmacy and Powhatan Plaza Pharmacy.  Yates Oil was sold to the Adams family-another Powhatan long-time name, but one by one, most have simply disappeared.

Have you ever stopped to count how many family-owned businesses are left?  Goodwyn’s Lumber was started in 1932 and is now managed by the third generation of Goodwyns.  Frisby’s Convenience Store was started by the Moore family in 1978 and about five years later their daughter opened the side-door restaurant. This is a favorite hangout of the locals. The chicken & dumplings and fried chicken can not be beat by Wendys or McDonalds. Hertzler Farm and Feed had it’s humble beginnings in an old dairy barn in 1983 and has grown into a full-fledged retail store.  Henry’s Market was started by Henry Ford Harris in the mid 80’s along with Powhatan Station Shopping Center which is filled with local-owned businesses: Sign Design, Country Food and Furniture and Flat Rock Glass.   The County Seat Restaurant, featuring southern style home cooking and hospitality, is run by 4 generations of family members and Dr. Spaur is still a small one-man dentistry in the village of Powhatan.  There are numerous other local-owned businesses but the well-known older businesses are quietly slipping away, replaced by box stores and national name brands.

Time moves on and change comes to every community but is sad to see the big, mega and national names replacing hometown.  Please remember to shop and support the local businesses and let them know you appreciate their contribution to the community.

Note: There are numerous other family-owned businesses that are making a significant impact on Powhatan community.  I can not list them all but if you send me names I will add them to this list.

  • Byerly’s Auto Mart
  • Higley’s Chiropractic
  • Napa (owned by Rick Barden)
  • Ollie’s Computer

%d bloggers like this: