Down Home

Again in the year 2005, we’re making our way around the region, each issue visiting a small town and meeting some of the folks who make up the heart of electric co-op country. On this year’s sixth stop, we’ll be  ...

 

Down Home in Hurt

by Jonathan Parker, Contributing Writer

                                 

Download in PDF Format

There aren’t many neighbors in Hurt, just friends. And that’s the main

reason 1,600 people make the small town in Pittsylvania County their home.

It’s a town almost specially designed for down-to-earth folks who enjoy the company of others and know first names.

Hurt Town Hall, which sits off Pockets Road, is also home to the Hurt Police Department. 

“Hurt is a very close-knit, family-oriented community,” says Mayor Bobby Krantz, sitting behind his desk in Hurt Town Hall. “The people are concerned about their fellow man. It’s a good place to live.”

It’s the reason Krantz and his wife, Jewell, have called Hurt home for 30 years.

“Because, mainly, of the people,” he says, with a smile. “It’s just a great bunch of people. It’s a caring bunch of people.”

Hurt Mayor Bobby Krantz thinks it's friendly people who make the town so attractive.

Krantz and six other council members govern the town. The council meets the second Tuesday of each month.

Town manager and treasurer Mike Hill and clerk Rhonda Parsons handle the day-to-day business at town hall, which sits off Pocket Road.

Hurt Police Department, which includes Chief Brian Marr and two patrolmen, also has an office in town hall. With relatively low crime, Hurt is also a great place to raise a family.

A Rich History

Established as a community in 1748 and incorporated as a town in 1966, Hurt has a rich history.

Captain Benjamin Clement founded Hurt in 1748, while settling land he earlier patented along Sycamore Creek. He built a home on Clement Hill and grew tobacco.

Clement also set up the first weaving operation in the area. Years later, Burlington Industries, once the county’s largest employer, set up a clothing plant on land purchased from John L. Hurt Jr., who is credited with giving the town its start.

When Clement died, his property, which made up most of what is now Hurt, passed into the hands of Maj. John Lynn Hurt, who married Clement’s daughter, Sally.

Hurt worked hard to increase homeowners in the area, while increasing his land holding to nearly 5,000 acres. The area was known as “Hurt’s Community.”

Hurt’s nephew, John L. Hurt Jr., later inherited his uncle’s estate and his dream of making the area into a town.

Hurt sold lots for as little as $200, but placed restrictions on the type of homes and people that occupied the land.

“When Mr. Hurt was living, he would sell a piece of land to an individual, then he would tell them how the house had to be built,” says Krantz.

Hurt's town council now includes (from left) Dennis Nichols, Lillian Gillispie, Dixie Shelton, Mayor Bobby Krantz, Kathy Keesee, Sue Blackstock, and Jason Lovelace.

Hurt held the right to buy the home back, if it was not properly cared for. He also donated land for churches and other worthy causes. “He has given a lot of land and property to the town of Hurt,” the mayor says, describing Hurt as a good man.

“In looking back at the history, they would ask him why he would stand outside in a line to eat at a restaurant and he would say, ‘Because if it’s a line, you know it’s good and it’s fresh,’” he remembers with a laugh. “He was a fine gentleman.”

In his will, Hurt agreed to give Clement Hill, which was around 200 acres, to the then Village of Hurt if the village became an incorporated town within three years.

One hundred and seventy acres of the property were referred to as “The Town Farm,” on which the current town hall now sits.

Voters elected the first council, which included Mayor Henry Winston, R. Neil Eckard, Charlie Arthur, Oadie Rowland, Clyde McCrickard, Madeline Key, and Sam Cothran.

Hurt's first town council included (seated, from left) Clerk-Treasurer Mabel Arthur, Mayor Henry Winston, Jr., Vice-Mayor Neil Eckard, Madeline Key; (standing, from left) town attorneys James and Gordon Kent, Clyde McCrickard, Samuel Cothran, Oadie Rowland, and Charlie Arthur.

The first council met in John L. Hurt Elementary School, before moving into Hurt’s old personal office on Church Street. The office was used as Hurt’s first town hall, before it was moved to the current building in 1970.

Additional portions of Hurt’s estate went to Hurt School to create a playground and beautiful gardens. He also left funds to maintain the gardens, hire a full-time librarian, and supplement the principal’s salary.

The school was renamed in honor of its kind beneficiary.

The wonderfully kept gardens still grace the school’s front lawn today, offering splashes of bright spring flowers against lovely greens.

Close to Everything

Hurt, which borders Altavista in Campbell County, provides the perfect down-home feel, with convenient shopping just a quick drive away.

Although it doesn’t boast a large array of restaurants and shops, the town does have a few stores in Staunton Plaza, a shopping center on U.S. 29 business. Dr. Guy Walton, DDS, also has a dentist’s office in the plaza.

Hurt is home to Central Virginia Family Physicians, a large medical center, offering quality health care and a rehabilitation unit.

Altavista, minutes from the town, includes a variety of restaurants and shops. Hurt is also 30 miles or so from two large cities — Lynchburg to the north and Danville to the south.

Altavista has two hotels, Comfort Suites and Holiday Inn Express, and numerous bed and breakfasts.

Fine Schools

Hurt's elementary school is named for the town's patriarch, John L. Hurt Jr. "He was a fine gentleman," says Mayor Bobby Krantz of Mr. Hurt. Portions of Hurt's estate went to Hurt School to create a playground and beautiful gardens. The gardens still grace the school's front lawn today.

John L. Hurt Elementary School, the town’s public school, provides a good learning environment and caring teachers for kindergartners to fifth-graders.

Middle and high school students attend public schools in Gretna, which is 10 miles from the town.

The town is also home to Faith Christian Academy, which offers preschool to high school programs.

Founded by Curtis and Louis English, the school is a definite drawing card in luring new residents, says Krantz.

Faith Christian Academy, founded in 1989, offers programs for preschool to high school.

“The Christian academy is a big plus for us. Personally, I feel like people are looking for something like that,” he says of the school, which is led by Administrator Lisa Moore.

The town also has two parks. The Roosevelt Mattox Park, which sits beside town hall, includes a creek, pavilion, and grassy areas, perfect for cookouts and family gatherings.

Wayside Park offers a unique lure — a swinging bridge. It also has picnic tables, a wonderful view, and adequate parking.

Hurt also offers varying denominations of churches, from Methodist to Baptist. St. Victoria Catholic Church, one of the area’s few Catholic churches, sits off Pocket Road behind town hall.

Dedicated Volunteers

Hurt Volunteer Fire Department offers fire protection and an ambulance service to the community.

Hurt’s lifeblood is its volunteers, with Hurt Volunteer Fire Department leading the way. The department, which also offers an ambulance service, has a two-story firehouse on School Road.

The dedicated volunteers spend countless hours answering emergency calls, maintaining the equipment, and attending training classes, all in the name of helping the community.

“We have an excellent fire department,” says Krantz.

Uncertain Times

But not everything is rosy in Hurt. Recently, the town has faced some uneasy economic times.

Its lone grocery store, Winn-Dixie, closed its doors last year, leaving a huge portion of Staunton Plaza vacant.

Uncertainty has surrounded Burlington Industries for several years, culminating in the business filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection three years ago. A New York investor has since purchased it.

However, the town continues to worry about the industry’s future.

The town’s future, though, is bright, says Krantz.

He is holding out hope that the town can continue to groom a large portion of land off Pocket Road into Key Industrial Park.

“It would be nice if we could do that,” he says. “‘It would give people some jobs and security.”

Down-Home Living

Wayside Park offers a great place for picnics and other gatherings, such as Boy Scout cookouts. From left are David Grzenda, Hunter Layne, Dustin Queener, leader Steve Rigney, John Little, William Oakley, and Ian Rigney.

Krantz knows as long as the town continues to be home to caring folks, it will always prosper.

With affordable housing, the town is the perfect place to lay down permanent roots, he says. “Everybody is laid back. You can yell across the fence at each other. The people look out for each other and look out for their welfare,” he says.

As far as neighbors go, that’s all anyone can ask for.

Jonathan Parker is the editor of the Altavista Journal. He is active in West End Church of Christ and community activities.

At A Glance ...

 

Population: 1,600

Land area: 2.73 square miles

Incorporated: 1966

 

FUN FACT: The land surrounding the Hurt area was originally part of a land grant made by King George II to Benjamin Clement in 1741. Clement resided at Clement Hill, where gun powder was made during the Revolutionary and Civil wars.

 

If You Go…

Clement Hill, Hurt’s first settlement, sits above town hall just off Pocket Road.

Roosevelt Mattox Park, which is located behind town hall, is a great place for a picnic.

A small creek runs behind Town Hall in Roosevelt Mattox Park, a great place for a picnic.

A swinging bridge graces Wayside Park, off U.S. 29 business, also offering scenic views and picnicking areas.

The gardens at John L. Hurt Elementary School, on Prospect Road, are beautifully sculpted. The gardens, which are filled with colorful flowers, were placed and now cared for through money left from the estate of the town’s patriarch, John L. Hurt Jr.

In nearby Altavista, visitors can tour Avoca Museum, the former home of Col. Charles Lynch, one of Campbell County’s founders.

The museum also offers a Native American collection, composed of arrowheads, furs, handmade tools, and other artifacts, and a display featuring Altavista’s history.

The town is also home to Riverfront Park, which sits on Staunton River, perfect for canoeing, fishing, or just wading around.

To the north, Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s summer home, is only 20 minutes away. Red Hill, Patrick Henry’s home and burial place, is a half-hour drive away, in Brookneal.

Appomattox and its historic courthouse, in which General Robert E. Lee surrendered to end the Civil War, is 45 minutes to the north. The drive will take travelers down Route 24 and through Rustburg, Campbell County’s seat.

Leesville Lake, a downstream reservoir created by the hydroelectric design of Smith Mountain dam, has 100 miles of shoreline nearby. The lake, cared for by Leesville Lake Association, is booming with new homes and development.

Smith Mountain Lake offers boating, fishing, swimming, and camping on 500 miles of shoreline, spanning over three counties — Campbell, Pittsylvania, and Franklin. It is 40 minutes from Hurt.

Bedford, a 30-minute drive from Hurt, offers fantastic hiking trails and camping at the Peaks of Otter. Bedford is also home to the D-Day Memorial, a fitting and moving reminder of the soldiers that gave their lives for this country.

 

Home ] Up ] Cover Story ] [ Down Home ] Food For Thought ] Reader Recipes ] Caught In The Web ] Editorial ]