During the year 2001, were making our way around Virginia, each
issue visiting a small town and meeting some of the folks who make up the heart of
electric co-op country. On this years
last stop, well be...
Down Home in Appomattox by Cheryl Adams Rychkova
in PDF Format ‘Where Our
Nation Reunited’is a place of
traditionsand Southern hospitality.
The welcome signs that greet visitors upon entrance
to the county perhaps proclaim it best:
“Appomattox — Where Our Nation Reunited.”
Main Street Appomattox has been totally remodeled to match the town’s
The statement is true, for it was in the quiet
village of Appomattox, on April 9, 1865, that Confederate General Robert
E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to the victorious Union
army, led by General Ulysses Grant.
Nestled in the heart of Virginia’s Piedmont
Plateau, this internationally known town (population 1,700 and another
8,000 living in the county of Appomattox) remains to this day a quiet
place. A bedroom community to the nearby city of Lynchburg, it is a place
of close-knit families, churches, traditions and Southern hospitality.
Historians have oft-spoken of the stillness that
seems to have remained long after the guns were silenced more than a
century ago. In the old village, where the surrender actually took place,
this is certainly true — visitors frequently take note of a certain
solemn silence there; the hopelessness of a lost cause bravely fought, and
the conciliatory tone of peace set by Grant himself.
Appomatox Turn-of-the-century architecture.
The modern Town of Appomattox has a much livelier
feel, however. Located just three miles to the west of the old village,
residents still take pride in their historic heritage. Businesses with
names featuring “Lee-Grant” and “Blue and Gray” dot the landscape.
There is even a Confederate Boulevard and a Lee Street. Confederate and
United States flags fly proudly together, emphasizing that it was here
that our nation became one again.
The old village, or “surrender grounds,” as it is
known by the native population, was abandoned in 1892, when a fire
destroyed the old courthouse. A new courthouse was promptly built four
miles west of the old village, next to the new railroad line. The town
quickly grew around it and it is in this “new” Appomattox that many
guests begin their visit.
Visitor Information Center, located on Main Street in a restored railroad
depot, is the first and best place to begin touring the town and county.
The Appomattox Visitor Information Center is the
first and best place to begin touring the town and county. Located on Main
Street in the restored railroad depot, the center provides information and
directions to the county’s numerous attractions.
Main Street itself is well worth a leisurely stroll.
Totally remodeled to match the town’s turn-of-the-century architecture,
visitors may stroll through quaint antique shops, gift shops and charming
Just around the corner and two short blocks north
leads the visitor to the majestic, present-day Courthouse Square. One of
the more picturesque structures within is the Appomattox County Historical
Museum. Once used as the county jail, this unique building now houses
memorabilia in thematic displays, ranging from a one-room schoolhouse to
an early 20th-century doctor’s office.
Visitors wanting a closer look at the town’s
architecture will want to take the self-guided tour, which includes 44
grand homes from the turn of the century. Starting on Main Street, the
tour weaves by towering Victorian mansions, quaint cottages and even a
massive English-Tudor-style home. Sweep yourself back to another age and
take advantage of the horse-and-carriage tour that is offered.
building, once used as the county jail, now houses the Appomattox County
Once they’ve toured the new town, most visitors
head out to Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, where serious
history awaits. Located just a few miles to the north on Virginia Route
24, visitors can walk the paths traveled by Civil War soldiers and
stagecoaches, then peer into the little parlor where the future of the
nation was decided. And, of course, experience the renowned “Silence at
The historic village offers numerous programs ranging
from slide shows, museum displays and costumed reenactors — all designed
to allow the visitor to become an intimate observer to the drama played
out in the days just prior to — and immediately following — the
Tucked away around the corner from the national park
is one of the best-kept secrets of Appomattox County. Over the past 10
years, members of the Appomattox County Historical Society have labored to
recreate Clover Hill Village, a thriving community that existed at the
time of the surrender.
Historical society members Roy Varcoe and Nancy Murray
have been leaders in the development and preservation of the village. Over
the course of a decade six prominent buildings have gone up in the
village, including an 1827 chapel, an 1830s log cabin, a reconstructed
1860s general store and post office, an early 1900s blacksmith shop, a
“poor farm” cabin and a one-room school.
Bed and Breakfast
Varcoe and Murray, who originally hail from New
Jersey, believe the heritage of Appomattox is worthy of preservation.
“We saw Clover Hill Village as an opportunity to
preserve examples of the rural heritage of our country,” Varcoe said.
“There are some wonderful folks in this area and they have a great
heritage. I only hope that more folks will become involved to assure it
isn’t lost for future generations.”
Murray agreed with Varcoe. “We believe the village
provides a glimpse of the surrounding countryside — of the ‘real
Appomattox,’ ” she said. “The grounds are always open for
self-guided tours during daylight hours and we can open buildings on
and her husband Jerry were seeking a lifestyle change when they found
Appomattox and purchased The Babcock House Bed and Breakfast.
Though both Varcoe and Murray jokingly ask residents
not to hold their “Yankee” background against them, the two are surely
not alone in their status as new arrivals in Appomattox. The county has
welcomed people from all corners of the earth for more than 100 years.
Some of the conquering Union soldiers even decided they liked the place,
stayed and raised their families here. Then, from the 1970s onward, there
came an exodus of families from the great Northern cities, bringing with
them new talent, ideas and culture. Testament to the love of their new
home are the many old county homes that have been rescued and restored.
Another Northern transplant is Sheila Palamar, who originally hails from Syracuse, New York. She
and her husband Jerry were
seeking a lifestyle change when they found Appomattox and purchased The
Babcock House Bed and Breakfast.
Escaping the Big City
“We had very stressful jobs and were tired of
big-city living,” Sheila said. “After working in the restaurant
business for 30 years and having little time together, we decided to
fulfill our life’s dream of owning a bed and breakfast. But we
definitely wanted to be in a small town.”
The Palamars said they visited Appomattox and
immediately fell in love with the town.
“The people are just so warm and friendly,” Jerry
said. “Everyone helps each other out and are very supportive.”
Renee Coupe (left),
owner of Somewhere In Time Antiques, lived in Michigan for 40 years, but
always planned to return to Appomattox.
Other residents moved away for years but returned to
their roots. Renee Coupe, owner
of Somewhere In Time Antiques on Main Street, said the tug to return home
brought her back to Appomattox.
“I had lived in Michigan for 40 years, but always
planned to return to the quiet of my hometown,” she said. “There’s
just something about this place that makes people want to come back again
Even residents of nearby counties make Appomattox a
regular stop. Charlotte County resident Lennie
Clark said the warmth and good food at the Main Street restaurant,
Granny Bee’s, makes her a regular visitor to Appomattox.
“The food is great and there is always good
conversation to be found here,” she said. “And the local people are so
friendly.” Fellow diner Mamie
Pugh, also from Charlotte County, agreed. “The friendliness and the
wonderful history here bring me back every week,” she said.
Down winding roads leading away from the National
Park and deep into the forest visitors will find Holiday Lake State Park.
The 9,000-acre park consists of a large lake surrounded by wooded rolling
hills. Popular in summer for swimming and other water sports, the park is
open year-round for hiking, fishing and picnicking.
Further out, in the east end of the county, is the
town of Pamplin. Once a thriving railroad center, Pamplin is now a quiet
backwater of sorts; its abandoned, turn-of-the-century store buildings
standing as silent witness to the town’s prosperous past. Pamplin
remains a busy community of active citizens, however. Perhaps chief among
them is Raymond Dickerson,a
lifelong Appomattox County resident, better known to locals as “The Pipe
A Pipe Dream Come True
Dickerson comes by his title by way of his one-man
accomplishment of restoring one of Pamplin’s major claims to fame —
the Pamplin Pipe Factory. The history of the factory dates back to the
Appomatucks Indians and their cottage industry of clay smoking pipes. The
original kiln that once produced one million clay pipes per month still
stands, next to a museum that showcases Native American artworks and
The good food
and friendly service at Granny Bee’s restaurant keeps regular customers
Over a period of 25 years Dickerson has
single-handedly restored the kiln and researched the history of the pipe
industry in Pamplin. He regales visitors with fascinating stories of times
past in Pamplin and the goings-on in the factory. Guests can even observe
how the pipes were manufactured and are presented with a completed pipe
— in the shape of Robert E. Lee’s head, no less — at the end of the
Spending his entire life in Appomattox has given
Dickerson the opportunity to become knowledgeable of the area's past —
and its people. He said he can understand why so many have either returned
to their roots here or come to plant new ones.
“There is something so special and magical about
Appomattox County,” he said. “Everything you need to live a good life
is here, but none of what you don’t need. It’s easy to see why more
people every year choose to make this place their home.
“But,” he continued, “there are plenty of us
here who are glad to have been here all along.”
It’s easy to find the Town of Appomattox, just take
any marked exit off of U.S. 460, and you will quickly find the downtown
area, as well as the historic area. Make your first stop at the
Visitor’s Center, located in the old train depot on Main Street.
Appomattox offers a variety of accommodations, ranging from charming bed
and breakfasts to budget-conscious motels, including a Super 8. For
further information on accommodations and services, contact the
visitor’s center or visit the county Web site at www.appomattox.com.
Visitor Information Center — Main Street. Hours: Monday-Sunday, 9
a.m. to 5 p.m. Contact: (434) 352-2621. Renovation of the center shows off
the original brick, wrought iron, and wood of the old railroad depot. The
center features displays of local attractions, brochures, and information
on statewide and national travel destinations.
A visit to
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park includes such highlights
as Clover Hill Tavern.
County Historical Museum. Located in the Court House Square on Court
Street. The Appomattox County Historical Museum was previously a jail
started in 1895 and completed in 1897. It was the third jail to have been
built in Appomattox County and was in continuous use until May 1981. The
museum houses a turn-of-the-century one-room school, a doctor’s office,
a jail cell, plus numerous artifacts and interesting memorabilia of the
past. For hours of operation and admission policies, call (434) 352-2621.
Court House National Historical Park. Summer hours, daily 9 a.m. to 5
p.m., winter hours, daily 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; cost $2 per person age 17 and older, 16 and
under free; contact (434) 352-8987. Relive the drama of the closing days
of the Civil War. Park personnel and slide presentations brief you on the
background of the park at the visitor information center, located in the
courthouse building. Your visit includes such highlights as the McLean
House, where the actual surrender took place, the Clover Hill Tavern,
where parole passes were printed, and the area where the stacking of arms
occurred. Period re-enactors add an element of living history to your
visit. You will feel the presence of Generals Lee and Grant as you walk
the street of the restored village. Allow 11⁄2 to 2 hours for your
Stroll Through Old Appomattox. Step back in time with the former
sheriff and county clerk of Appomattox Court House, George T. Peers,
portrayed by Pat Schroeder. Experience a first-person, living history tour
through the village of Appomattox Court House in the summer of 1867 with
Mr. Peers. Mr. Peers was born and raised in the county, and because of his
clerking duties, he knew perhaps more than anyone about the area. Join Mr.
Peers at the Confederate Cemetery where the tour will begin. Tours are
every Friday and Saturday evening at 7 p.m. from May 28-Sept. 3. (Tours
also available on some holidays). Cost is $6 per person.
Clover Hill Village
Village. A living history village located on Route 627, approximately
3.5 miles from town. Open April through October — grounds open daily 9
a.m. to dusk. Guided building tours Thursday through Sunday 1-4 p.m.
Special hours and group tours by appointment. Contact Nancy Murray, (434)
Roy Varcoe and
Nancy Murray have been leaders in the development and preservation of
Clover Hill Village.
Museum. More than 65 classic and antique automobiles made from 1906 to
1980 can be seen under one roof at the car museum. Everything from the
classic 1957 Chevrolet to very rare and seldom-seen cars are right here in
Fred’s Car Museum. One of the rarest cars in the museum is a 1939 V-12
Lincoln Limousine, one of only four ever made! Come see a 1906 Schacht
Mfg. Company horseless carriage, a 1914 Saxton, a 1920 Piano Box Buggy,
and a 1936 Packard. There is even a 1962 Rolls Royce, a classic 1946 fire
engine, and a Chevrolet truck that nobody can figure out the date of its
manufacture. There is also a very well-stocked gift shop at the museum
where you can purchase gifts and souvenirs, including T-shirts and a model
of your favorite classic automobile. One of Appomattox’s newest
attractions, this museum is a must-see for all tourists visiting the area.
$5 per person admission fee. Open Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 1-5
p.m. Cruise-ins every second Saturday (May through September) 6-10 p.m.
Call (434) 352-0606 for more information.
House, where the actual Civil War surrender took place.
Retreat. A 20-stop driving tour between Petersburg and Appomattox. The
route traces the more than 100-mile trek Lee and his army took while being
pursued by Union troops. Historic markers, maps and interpretive radio
broadcasts convey details of events leading to the surrender at
Walking Tour. Hours, daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Contact: (434) 352-2621.
Appomattox County boasts more turn-of-the-century homes than any other
county seat in Virginia. The 44 homes on this self-guided walking tour are
all within a half-mile of the Visitor’s Center.
State Park. Located off Route 24 (follow signs). Open year-round.
Camping, $15; swimming, $3 for adults, $2 for children. Contact: (434)
248-6308. The park provides a beautiful backdrop for a variety of outdoor
recreational activities. Swimming, camping, picnicking, boating and
fishing are popular on this man-made lake. The park also offers miles of
lakefront hiking. Camping and swimming are curtailed during winter months.
Call for seasonal hours.
Display. Honoring Appomattox native Joel Sweeney, inventor of the
five-string banjo. Contact: (434) 352-2621.
Pipe Factory, whose history dates back to the Appomatucks Indians, houses
the original clay kiln that once produced one million clay pipes per
Factory. Located in Pamplin City; open by appointment — free
admission. Contact: (434) 248-5778, Raymond Dickerson. The Pamplin Pipe
Factory is one of the two facilities in Appomattox County listed on the
National Register of Historic Places. Its history dates back to the
Appomatucks Indians and their cottage industry of clay pipes. The Pamplin
Pipe Factory was built in 1880. It houses the original clay kiln that once
produced one million clay pipes per month. The site also includes a museum
which showcases Native American artworks.
Vineyards. Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Contact: (434)
993-2185. Stonewall Vineyards offers vineyard and winery tours,
wine-tasting plus friendly and knowledgeable assistance in selecting your
favorites. You will take home double treasures — superb wine and happy
memories. Picnic arbor is also available.