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CHAPTER X

THE BUSINESS HOUSES OF WARRENTON - CONTINUED

Across Main Street, diagonally from the store last described, on the southeast corner of the large lot given by Mr. Lee to the Episcopal Church, the Ma-sons bought a lot and constructed a pretentious building, for Warrenton in the fifties., It was probably fifty feet long and forty feet wide, with its only doors of entrance on Main Street, there being no door on the Church property. The building occupied every inch of the lot, and was three stories tall. As a child I remember that Samuel Mills used the ground floor as a manufactory of furniture. The second story was used by Mr. Mills as a storeroom and sales place for his furniture. The third. floor was the Masonic Lodge, The Johnston-Caswell Lodge. The upper stories were reached by broad steps on the south side of the building, running to a platform. A few years after the war, Mr. Mills discontinued his business, and moved with his family to the country to live, near Manson Junction. About the same time the Masons moved their lodge to the center of town. The top story of "The Masonic Temple" as it was called was the gathering place in 1868 of a secret society, known as the "Constitutional Union Guard,". considered by some as a branch of the Ku Klux Klan, but that was a false impression, as it had no affiliation or connection with that body. The building was totally destroyed by fire some years later.

The adjoining lot on the south of "the Temple" had on it a large rambling old stable, the only livery stable in town, as I remember, controlled by John M. Wilson, and managed by William R. Phillips for many years. He ran the stage line between Warren Plains and the town, and on to Shocco Springs in the summer season. Adjoining the stable lot on the south was a small two-story house, the home of Mrs. Charity Harris, the wife of Dudley Harris, who was a painter in the carriage factory of Bobbitt & Price. Mrs. Harris was a sister of Jere Draper and Mrs. Holloman, and like her sister carried on the business of millinery at home. South of the Harris home was a small building used for some time as the home of the newspaper, theWarrenton News; after the war this house was used by John Hyman as a small grocery store. On the corner was the Volkes-Schloss store, already described as the oldest store.

On the west, in 1879, William J. Norwood erected a large and very nice store, on the spot where formerly stood a small one-story store, owned and kept by Captain Peter J. Turnbull; this was on, the yard of his residence, now known as the Norwood House. For many years Mrs. W. J. Norwood used the residence as a hotel, and it had a fine and widespread reputation as a hostelry. At one time it was the residence of Mrs. Ann Bellamy. Before that it was the home of Mr. Blount, the brother of Mrs. Sarah Cawthorn. He came to Warrenton from Washing-ton, North Carolina, for educational advantages for his children. By the oldest inhabitants it was known as the Camp Place.

On Front Street, south of John Graham's home, in the very early days of the town, stood a row of three small wooden houses always white-washed, never painted. They were the property of Peter R. Davis. The first has been described as a store kept by Mr. Davis. It consisted of four rooms. After Mr. Davis ceased to use it as a store it was the residence of numerous persons, until 1869, when it was bought by W. A. Montgomery, (my husband) who had been recently admitted to the Bar. He converted the north end of it into a law office in the front room, and a bedroom in the rear. A similar arrangement was made on the south side, and it was rented to Charles W. Spruill, who occupied it until his marriage in 1870. Dr. Willis Alston then used it as an office and bedroom, until he left Warrenton for Washington City, where he practiced medicine for a few years. The next house was also of four rooms, and used by Mr. Davis as a residence. I re-call that Mr. and Mrs. Oliver P. Shell lived there when they were first married. While Mr. Spruill was renting the adjoining property he used this house as the printing office of the town paper, also a job office was set up in it. Later a very respectable colored man, John Jenkins, and his family rented it for their residence.
The third one of these buildings was the office of Dr. Philip C. Pope, who came from Richmond and settled in Warrenton early in the years of the nineteenth century. He married Della Cockran, the step-daughter of Governor Turner; there were four children of this marriage. Dr. Pope was a very intelligent man and a very successful practitioner of medicine.

In 1846, when Dr. Pope became restless, and thought to change his life, he sold this office, with his library, his medical instruments, and his good will, to Dr. Thomas E. Wilson, a native of Greenesville County, Virginia. A year or two later Dr. Wilson was joined by his younger brother, Benjamin, in the practice of medicine. Doctor "Ben," being a single man, occupied the rear room as a bedroom, both brothers using the front room as an office.

In the great gold fever Doctor Pope determined to join the adventurers, and being of a sociable nature he wanted some of the county people to join him. He therefore issued a circular to the county people, to come to a public meeting, to be held in the town on a certain day to consider his plans. Quite a crowd attended the meeting, for the Doctor was a fine speaker, and being much enthused himself, he aroused others. He soon had some twenty-five or thirty volunteers to join his party. In advising them for the necessary things for the land journey, from the Missouri River, near Omaha, he said they would probably have some encounter with the Indians on the way, and that they would have to rely on the country, through which they passed, for their meat supply (wild game) ; and it would be necessary to meet both emergencies that each man should provide himself with a bowie knife to skin the game, also a coon skin cap, a deer skin coat and vest, two pairs of corduroy pants, a pair of thick cow skin shoes, a trusty rifle, powder and balls, and, he added, "I should say, about fifty dollars in gold." On mentioning his last item, one of his most enthusiastic volunteers, "Harry Tom" Haithcock, a huntsman who could hit a squirrel's eye any time with his rifle, whose larder was never empty of wild fowl and venison, exclaimed, "Doctor, what was that last thing you said ?" The Doctor repeated, "Well, I think fifty dollars in gold will carry us through to the gold fields." Where-upon Haithcock said, "Well, that lets me out. If I had fifty dollars in gold, old Warren would be good enough for me."

The fourth one in the row of houses was occupied by Grandison, the waiting man of Peter Davis for thirty years or more. There were changes made in the last two houses some thirty odd years ago, when they were bought by a most respectable and thrifty couple of colored people, "Uncle" Charles Fane, and "Aunt" Jenny his wife. They moved to Warrenton from Mecklenburg, Virginia. They built the comfortable house now standing on the lot, and resided there until their deaths. Both were most industrious, and by their honest labor and theirs courteous manner, not only made good property for themselves, but better still, gained the respect and affection of the community. When each died the town paper made very nice and proper notices of them. "Aunt" Jenny left two children, Aaron Hendricks and his sister Mary.

The house on the south of Grandison's old dwelling, now the Hendricks home, was a house of several rooms, really divided into two dwellings. The northern half was occupied, at the time of which I am writing, by Mrs. Bob Wiggins, the mother of Mrs. William Weldon. Mrs. Wiggins conducted there for some years, a mantuamaking establishment. She was always much liked and respected in the community, and her patrons were among the ladies of means and taste. The southern half of the house was occupied by Mrs. Ann Allen and her sister, Mrs. Dunnavant. They were the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Steiner, who kept the Bellamy Hotel at an earlier period than Mrs. Bellamy. Mrs. Allen had two children, Jacob Allen, of Raleigh, and one daughter, Dunnavant, who married a Dr. Hyde of Richmond, and died a very young woman, leaving one child, Nannie, who was reared by her grandmother in-Warrenton. Mrs. Allen was quite a character in the town. Those who recall her, personally, will enjoy this conundrum that one of her best friends propounded her. This lady said, "Miss Ann, guess who this is : little and loud, poor and proud ?" She quickly replied; "Maria, don't you think I know myself ?" This good friend used to enjoy this rejoinder very much, and felt the tables were turned on her.

The night that the news first reached Warrenton that General Lee had surrendered, quite a number of the citizens gathered on my father's porch, much distressed and excited. Mrs. Allen was among them. She was an ardent Confederate, and adored General Lee, and was also proud of her native State, North Carolina, and resented the boastful claims of Virginia. Alex Weddell, of Petersburg, came into the crowd that had gathered on the porch, to hear the news. He was an immense man in height and weight, while Mrs. Allen was much under size. She rushed up to Mr. Weddell and said "Isn't it awful? General Lee has surrendered." Mr. Weddell pompously replied "Old Virginia never surrenders." Mrs. Allen came back at him in great disgust, "Virginia, the dog's hind leg!"

The two sisters, Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Dunnavant were a great contrast, the last mentioned being very gentle and sweet in nature. She died in that home soon after the war, from tuberculosis. As has always been the custom, in the good old town, when sickness and trouble came to a family, all hearts responded in an effort to help and comfort, so they did most generously to this good woman.
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Source:

Montgomery, Lizzie Wilson; Sketches of old Warrenton, North Carolina; traditions and reminiscences of the town and people who made it, Raleigh, Edwards & Broughton printing company, 1924.

2004 by Nola Duffy & Ginger L. Christmas-Beattie


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