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If you ask anyone who lives in the
community, they will tell you it’s the people who make the City of
Emporia and Greensville County special.
Although history is unclear as to the
origins of the communities’ names, we know who established the character
of Emporia/Greensville, at least the way we know them today.
Eugene Bloom, known by everyone as
“the nicest man I ever met” did much not only to make life better for
his family, but for his community.
During World War II, Bloom earned two
Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star for “gallantry in
action,” and two field promotions.
The decorated war hero served his
community with the same dedication. He founded the annual Virginia Peanut
Festival, which attracts about 20,000 people annually, served as president
of the local chamber of commerce, and was honored with a Lifetime
Achievement Founders Award, among many other accolades.
Bloom also founded Greensville Memorial
Hospital, a non-profit hospital, by rallying community groups and
businesses to get everyone to donate money that was taken out of their
paychecks. This hospital has become Southern Virginia Medical Center,
which opened a $35 million, state-of-the-art facility last December.
He was the founder of the Little
Senators and other local youth baseball leagues, such as the Emporia
Nationals, who were the champions of their league in 1950. The team was a
farm club for the original Washington Senators and a member of the Class D
The 92-year-old died in 2001, but his
legacy lives on in such community leaders as Robert C. “Bobby” Wrenn,
after whom the local campus of Southside Community College was named.
Wrenn has been clerk of the court for
more than 30 years and is known as “the most photographed man in
He has set the example for leadership by
taking charge when he sees something needs to be done, whether it is
serving for the past 20 years as bloodmobile chairman and donating 183
pints of blood, or serving on the local chamber of commerce board for more
than 20 years.
Wrenn belongs to almost all of the local
civic organizations and helped found some of them, such as the Meherrin
Ruritan Club. He has served in many capacities, including past national
His accolades, including lifetime
achievement awards, are too numerous to list, although he is proudest of
being an Eagle Scout with 54 merit badges.
Wrenn started the local bicycle club,
which sponsors the Great Peanut Ride and Bike Tour that has grown to
include about 1,200 bicyclists annually.
When the Virginia Peanut Festival became
too large for the chamber to manage, Wrenn gathered up a team to put on
Bloom and Wrenn are only two of the many
people who have made Emporia-Greensville a great place to live.
A Caring Community
Greensville County Courthouse is listed on the Virginia Landmarks
Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
Mothers on a Mission, the mothers of
local service personnel, decorated a fence in front of the old Emporia
Elementary School with yellow ribbons, photographs, flags, flowers and
wishes of good luck.
The Fence of Honor says a lot about the
community — it says that a lot of people care about their neighbors and
The area hosts many festivals and events
that draw large crowds.
For 26 years, the Virginia Pork Festival
has been combining pork dishes with continuous live music from multiple
stages, attracting 15,000 hungry people annually.
The Great Peanut Ride and Bike Tour, for
the past 26 years, has been drawing more than 1,200 bicyclists from all
over the country. About 300 volunteers help with the event sponsored by
the local bicycle club.
For the past 26 years the Meherrin River
Arts Council has brought such stars as Crystal Gayle, Lee Greenwood,
Barbara Mandrell, Glen Campbell, Dionne Warwick, The Temptations, the Oak
Ridge Boys and others to town.
Emporia-Greensville Historical Museum, built in 1902, houses
artifacts of the community.
Life in this charming rural community
centers largely on what the people here feel is important — for example,
family. It isn’t unusual to see a child and his dog playing or a mother
pushing a baby stroller or the locals gathered at Anderson’s Pharmacy,
eating breakfast and reading the Independent-Messenger, the only local
newspaper, which was started in 1896.
The pace of life may be relaxed, but the
community’s central location along the eastern seaboard places it within
a day’s drive of over 50 metropolitan areas and nearly two-thirds of the
United States’ population.
Gateway to the South
Positioned along the Virginia-North
Carolina border on the crossroads of I-95 and U.S. Route 58, the region is
within 90 miles of three of Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live”
— Richmond, Hampton Roads and Raleigh.
The community is an ideal stopover point
for thousands of travelers on Interstate 95, as well for those heading to
the coast on U.S. 58. Much of the local retail economy is, therefore,
strongly tied to the travel industry. Emporia was recently ranked among
the top five cities in the nation for retail sales per capita.
The area offers nearly 1,000 motel rooms
and many national restaurants have located here.
Sgt. Lee Cohen of the U.S. Marine Corps, left, and Captain Todd
Anderson of the Emporia Police Department lay wreaths at the foot
of a memorial in Veterans Memorial Park to honor local war heroes.
Emporia City Manager George Morrison III
is impressed with the community spirit. Whether residents are rallying in
support of the local basketball team or trying to pick up the remains from
a disaster — people pull together, he said.
The local Greensville County High School
Eagles basketball team ended the season last year with their only loss,
finishing 29-1. But the community cheered for them and came out to greet
them in the middle of the night after their loss — because to the
community the team is — and always has been — a winner.
“When Hurricane Isabel hit Emporia the
area was left devastated. People were without power for several days —
but they cleaned out their freezers, pulled out the grills and held
neighborhood cookouts,” Morrison says. It was simply amazing to see how
everyone pitched in and worked together for the good of the community.
“People lent generators to their
neighbors or helped them clean up debris in their yards. Everyone worked
together as a team and Emporia recovered from the devastation a lot
quicker than some other localities with about the same amount of
Morrison invites anyone traveling
through the area to get off at the Emporia exit and explore the downtown
area to enjoy some of the community’s local history.
A Proud Heritage
About 16,000 people call Emporia-Greensville
home and are proud of its heritage.
Historic events occurring in the county
since its formation include General Cornwallis and his army marching
through in May 1781, and General Tarleton raiding throughout the region
with small skirmishes.
During the War Between the States,
Confederate General Wade Hampton spent much time defending the railroad
and railroad bridge that crossed through the county.
Prominent persons generally associated
with Emporia-Greensville are John Y. Mason, legislator, twice Secretary of
the Navy, Attorney General and Minister to France; William McKendree,
first American-born bishop of the Methodist Church; Henry Tazwell, U.S.
Senator; and John R. Chambliss, a general in the Army of the Confederacy.
Now, the most notable residents are
NASCAR drivers Elliott and Hermie Sadler. Elliott has twice been named
NASCAR USG Person of the Year for his fundraising efforts for autism and
the Victory Junction Gang.
Working to Stay Competitive
Greensville County has been working to
stay competitive. Its Geographic Information System has been completed
using aerial photography to compile a base map with about 80 different
data layers — information needed in case of an emergency — which will
be placed on the Internet.
A new Jarratt Water Treatment Plant has
been completed; Love’s County Store is building a facility off exit 4
from I-95; a truck-driving school is planned for development in
cooperation with Southside Virginia Community College and an
adult-education center will offer a campus for the college, a workforce
development center and a business incubator to foster the development of
commercial and industrial activities.
A group of community leaders recently
established the Emporia Downtown Development Association to promote
preservation and use of the downtown district.
“Greensville County is committed to
improving the quality of life for its citizens, as is demonstrated by the
projects being completed as well as those being planned,” says County
Administrator Dave Whittington.
For more information about the Emporia-Greensville
County area, visit these Web sites: