The Pigg River Slangwhanger, 1840

The following description appeared in The Richmond Enquirer, Richmond, Virginia, on March 21, 1840. Who knew that Chatham (which at that point was not called Chatham yet) had piazzas back then? Probably most folks simply called them porches.

Chatham did have a number of taverns in the 1800s, as Frances Hallam Hurt and other writers documented. Some of these taverns were sites of murders, fights, and other crimes.

If anyone figures out who the Pigg River slangwhanger might be, please leave a comment!

I attended our court yesterday, and, as the boys in your street would say, we had some fun. The Whigs, ever active, were out in obedience to a call . . . It was suspected they intended to speechify for the purpose of getting up a hurrah for Harrison. About 12 o’clock, it was announced at the taverns that there was to be – not a Whig meeting – but speeches delivered, and all were invited to attend.

When I reached the designated point, I found a Whig meeting organized in a piazza. . . . After a short time, I heard the voice of the great Pig[g] River slangwhanger. . . . The aforesaid slangwhanger adopted pretty much the same style of blustering, self-confidence, he used seven years ago, when he returned from Richmond a Nullifier, and met with a memorable discomfiture.

He talked very large, and loud, and boastingly – Told what great things he could do in argument, and how easily he could convince the people, if they would hear him. (Forgetting that almost every voter in the county has heard him again and again, within the last seven years, and that he has talked to them more than any three men in the county.)

He went so far as to challenge his adversaries to meet him in argument. This challenge was promptly accepted. – For this, he seemed not to be prepared: He forthwith drew back . . . . Some sharpshooting and excitement followed, but no discussion. The meeting seemed to fail . . . It produced no animation, no hurrahs among the Whigs. One of the resolutions I heard announced, was, that every Whig voter in the county, should be placed on the Whig Committee of Vigilance. This is truly a committee of the whole!

1959 Chatham Christmas Play

I think not all of the children are identified (there is a scrawled list on the back of the photograph), but here are the names that are known. (Feel free to leave a comment if you know who the children are.)

Patsy Williams played Mary.

Charles Scott (as an adult, he became Rev. Charlie Scott) played Joseph (standing).

Other children: Lynn Hill, Betty Williams, Agnes Giles (probably some of the angels), and Jerry Archer, David Leigh, Henry Law.

Children in the back: Malcolm Woodson, Michael Harris, Lillian Scott, Johnny Ray Neal, Susan Marsh, Carolyn Roach, Irene Barker, Michael Motley, Tom Hodgin, Terry Moore, Kenny Geyer, Wanda Sue Roberts.

Probably in the very back row: Randolph Barker, Jean Shanaberger, David Roach, Debbie Younger, Jane Worsham, Sharon Taylor (hard to read, could be a different name).

From the Preston B. Moses collection. Special thank you to the Moses family for sharing this picture.


Santa Visits Chatham, Virginia

Eva Spencer, Earl Spencer, Hardwick Spencer (toddler in Earl’s arms), Earlene Spencer (behind her brother), and Bobby Wiley are joyous to great Santa Claus! This photograph may have a connection to Hargrave Military Academy, since Earl Spencer is in his uniform from HMA. Or it could have been a Chatham church or civic event.

Photograph from the Preston B. Moses Collection. Thank you to the Moses family for sharing the picture!

Christmas Present: A Car for a Chatham Minister!

According to a conversation with a now-departed Chatham resident, this picture was from the 1950s. For Christmas, the Chatham Baptist Church gave a new car to Reverend Eugene Cullams and his family: wife Jeanie, daughter Tanya, and son Reg.

This photograph is from the Preston Moses collection. Many thanks to the Moses family for sharing the picture!

Letters from WWII: “Will Fight till the Finish”

Hello Dad and All;

They have been drilling the heck out of us and for the last two weeks I have stood it so far, so I guess I can take the rest of it.

I like it better than I did at first. I realize that it’s a job to be done. I am going to do my best. I have had 20 years of my fun in a free country; I want my brother to have his in a free country too. I am going to do my part. I will fight till the finish.

Dad, I have had some pictures made. I will send you one so you can see how I look in a uniform. They look just like me.

Well, as news is short, I will close for this time. Tell all hello and to write soon.
I enjoy hearing from everyone. All be good and may God bless you. Love to all.

Pvt. Lloyd H. Gammon.

(Pvt. Gammon writes to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lester Gammon of Chatham, Route 4.)

Published in the Chatham, Virginia newspaper on Friday, April 23, 1943.

Bake Me a Cake, As Fast as You Can . . .


baking march 19 1954

Photograph dated March 19, 1954. Probably these men were photographed for an upcoming fundraiser; the man in the middle is holding a Calumet baking powder container, and the man on the right is holding a mixing bowl. But hopefully the shovel was not going to be used!

Preston Moses practiced an early form of Photoshop — he actually drew in details on the photographs! If one looks closely, many details of the men’s aprons and collars are drawn in. In other photographs, eyes or other features were adjusted or changed.  (One can either find that charming or somewhat aggravating, especially when details are obscured by the drawings.)

Photograph courtesy Pattie Moses Lilley.

Belle Grove circa 1933


(Postcard of Belle Grove circa 1913)

By Preston B. Moses (courtesy Pattie Moses Lilley)
Two miles south of Chatham and about [a] half mile off [the] main highway stands Belle Grove. To get the material for this writing I visited this old home last Sunday. As I turned up the private drive leading from the big road to the house, I saw the red brick house standing out bright and plain on the crest of the hill. Lines of blue smoke curling up from a chimney told me someone was at home.

I stopped my old jitney out in the grove and went up a wide box-bordered walk, leading to the front door of the house. On either side of the walk are the trees, oaks, lindens, elms, maples, white walnuts, arborvitaes, white pines, cedars, birches, and magnolia, leaning and bowing gently in a soft breeze as if making curtsies and welcoming me as in days of olden hospitality.

Belle Grove is a solid, square, brick house with four great rooms above and below, a hallway between, an attic under its roof and four rooms in basement. The kitchen is a three room brick structure to [the] rear of the main house, ‘the street’ or slaves’ quarters to the rear and left of kitchen are still standing, and nearby the family grave yard.

This stately mansion was built some time between 1798 and 1801 by Col. William Tunstall, who was clerk of Pittsylvania County. It was at Bell Grove that Whitmell Pue [Pugh] Tunstall, son of Col. William Tunstall, was born and grew up to be a brilliant and gifted son of Pittsylvania. He was a lawyer, served in [the] house of delegates and state senate, and through the determination of his efforts the first railroad was brought into Pittsylvania county. Today, his portrait hangs on the wall of the court house. We have a Whitmell in Tunstall district named for him.

Belle Grove with its thousand acre plantation passed into the hands of Jane Jones Saunders, the daughter of Col. Peter Saunders. She left it to a relative by name of Payne, and John B. Crews bought the place from him. Since his death the property has passed into the hands of his heirs. The original thousand acre plantation was divided and sold, but the Crews kept the beautiful Belle Grove and three hundred acres. Misses Annie Laurie and Mary Virginia Crews are the only members of the family now residing at the place.

Going into the house, I was struck with the quaint, old-fashion atmosphere made realistic by the wealth of old mahog[a]ny furniture and other antiques. The rooms are large, the ceiling vaulted, and the wainscoting reaching high up the wall. I was told the plastering was the original put up with the house, and so was some of the paint work on the interior. The mantels, door frames and cornices are beautifully hand-carved. The massive doors with huge locks swing on the old heavy H wrought iron hinges. The floors are broad planks of hard white pine nailed down with wrought iron nails. All the heavy beams and frame work being hand hewn. Each room has a deep fire place, and one or two tall, narrow windows. Each window has its blinds and shutters. All the walls are about a foot thick. There is not a closet in the house.

The Crews added a small kitchen on the left side of the house and widen[ed] the porch, but the essential solidity and simplicity of the original house have been kept unharmed. However, the snow drop, sweet shrub, lilac, syringo, japonica, wistaria, and magnolia still stand to moan the passing of the beautiful garden.

Part of the large grove of trees in front of [the] house have been cleared away, but Belle Grove still raises its proud head among the old trees and commands a wonderful view of White Oak Mountains rising above the rolling hills.

As I went out to my car there was a lull in the breeze, little lines of blue smoke from the chimney curled up almost straight into the heavens and faded away; the trees seemed to stop their whispering and gesturing and stood perfectly quiet. My mind wondered what tales of happiness and sadness those old trees could tell about in those days of hoop-skirts, mint-julips, distinguished sons of another age, and southern hospitality — if only they could speak.

I drove away, leaving Belle Grove in its proud old age standing and waiting for doomsday.
– article from Preston Moses, “Prying ’Round Pitt: Old Homes,” a column published circa 1933 in a local newspaper. This was the first of a series on “Old Homes of Pittsylvania County.” Photograph from the J.W. Whitehead collection, Pittsylvania Historical Society.



Another negative from the Dearing family collection — unfortunately, we don’t know who the individuals were, but evidently they were pals! Probably the photograph was taken somewhere in the Chatham/Pittsylvania County area; if anyone recognizes the youths, please comment.

Someone (presumably Mr. Dearing) wrote on the bottom of the negative; when I scanned it and made a negative of the negative (does that make sense?), the word appeared in white.

From the Dearing family collection, courtesy the Virginia/North Carolina Piedmont Genealogical Society, Danville, Virginia.