in PDF Format
The citizens of Boydton, Virginia, are proud of their
small town, and with good reason. Nestled in the center of Mecklenburg
County, the picturesque town looks like a scene from a Norman Rockwell
painting. From the courthouse square in the center of the town to the
newly dedicated county offices, Boydton is a mix of business and pleasure,
old and new. Located just two miles from Bugg’s Island Lake (Kerr Lake),
the town provides access to some of the finest outdoor recreation you’re
likely to find anywhere. Most importantly, Boydton has managed to hold
onto the easy feel of a small, friendly community. Boydton is centrally
located in Mecklenburg County eight miles east of Clarksville, on Highway
Island Lake (Kerr Lake) is a pristine Corps of Engineers reservoir
near Boydton with more than 800 miles of shoreline.
Kerr Lake averages over two million visitors a year.
It has over 800 miles of shoreline and is one of the largest, most
pristine freshwater lakes on the East coast. There are more than 500
campsites and over 20 boat-launching pads within 15 miles of Boydton.
There are 13 swimming beaches within the same area. The lake is home to
largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and striped-bass professional
tournaments throughout the year. The water is good and clear for swimming
and boating and is managed by the Corps of Engineers.
Mecklenburg County Courthouse building is one of Boydton's most
In the first part of the 19th century, a large
racetrack located just west of the town attracted horsemen from around the
region. The track thrived, but in 1829 the Virginia Conference of the
Methodist Episcopal Church announced that it would locate a new college in
Boydton, if it could build on the racetrack site. The town agreed, and in
1832 Randolph-Macon College opened in Boydton.
By the early 1850s, the Boydton-Petersburg Plank Road
provided a link from Boydton to the rest of the world. Built out of wooden
planks, the road was a success, but keeping the wooden road in repair was
expensive. After a few years, the owners abandoned the effort and its use
With the start of the Civil War, Boydton became an
important recruitment spot for soldiers from around the county. The old
Boyd Tavern, by then a hotel, was used as a recruiting station and several
militia units were formed from the county. The Boydton Cavalry became part
of J.E.B. Stuart’s famous command.
original Randolph-Macon College building is still standing in
The war and its aftermath were particularly hard on
Randolph-Macon College. Due to low enrollment and a lack of convenient
transportation, the college relocated to Ashland, Virginia, where it
remains to this day.
Despite the loss of Randolph-Macon, the years after
the Civil War were not as hard on Boydton as they might have been. After
the war, Boydton emerged as a tobacco-growing center with a prizery and
several warehouses. Those businesses, and the town’s status as the
county seat, enabled the town to survive and prosper into the next
left, Landon H. "Bumps" Carter is greeted by Boydton
Mayor Charles Reamy outside of the Town Office. Looking on are the
mayor's wife, Ann Reamy, Town Clerk Shirley Bowen and Elaine
Bowers, executive director of Historic Boydton's Renaissance, Inc.
Landon H. “Bumps” Carter is one of Boydton’s
best-known and respected citizens. Born in 1912, he remembers the more
recent history of the town. Although he moved briefly to Richmond to
attend college, he quickly decided that city life was not for him. “I
stayed down there about two months. My father came down to see how I was
doing and I told him I wasn’t doing. I wanted to come back home and I
Carter’s father, Garland Holmes Carter, was a
physician in Boydton from the 1880s until the early 1950s. A brother,
Garland Norfleet Carter, was also a physician. “They were together,”
says Carter. “They had an office upstairs over A.T. Snelling’s drug
He also remembers when electricity was much more
“hit or miss” than it is today. “The town had a generating plant on
the hill,” remembers Carter. “But they only turned the power on from
about 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. They figured everyone was in bed by 11.
Entertainment,” says Carter, “was seldom lacking in Boydton. Along
with dances and silent movies,” Carter remembers that “Vaudeville acts
would pass through and perform. Sports and parties also contributed to an
active community. There was something going on all the time,” laughs
Carter, “especially for a little town.”
Carter believes the recent attempts to revitalize the
town are going to help keep the community going. “I want to see Boydton
grow more,” says Carter. “My family and friends are all here. I’ve
enjoyed living here.”
Carol Dill is executive director of the Boydton Medical Center,
which features telemedicine capabilities.
Despite the emphasis on history, Boydton has not been
opposed to embracing new technology. The community was among the first
small towns in Southside to make use of wireless, high-speed Internet
service. Not only are Boydton residents able to surf the Web and pick up
their e-mails more quickly, the service has also allowed the Boydton
Medical Center to link patients in Boydton with specialists across the
state. “It’s called telemedicine,” explains Carol Dill, executive
director for the Boydton Medical Center. “It allows us to stage a
patient’s appointment in real time with the patient here, and the doctor
is at University of Virginia. They can talk with each other and see
Charles Ashbey and Christy Newcomb, finance director of the
Boydton Medical Center are shown with one of the telemedicine
other. The doctor can direct the tests the local
doctor is performing and see the results on his screen. They can monitor
the vital signs as the tests are happening. It’s kind of cool,” laughs
Dill. “The patients are amazed by it.”
According to Dill, the technology for this type of
service is not new. Developed by the military more than a decade ago
during the Gulf War, the service is starting to be seen in the civilian
world. “It’s not unheard of,” adds Dill, “but it is very unusual
to see it in a town this small.” She credits Mecklenburg Communications
Services, a subsidiary of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, for service
“above and beyond” in setting up the system for the clinic. “They
believed in our project and our ability to pull this off so much that they
came in and
facilitated a lot of getting our project together.
They never billed us for this time and effort,” adds Dill. “They
spent, I don’t know how much time, making certain that everything worked
perfectly to get us online with U. Va. It’s always nice for a company to
come in and support non-profit organizations like us. That shows a lot of
community spirit and care for the people in the area.”
The clinic itself is also unusual for a town as small
as Boydton. Founded 20 years ago as a not-for-profit organization, the
clinic provides a variety of medical services for residents with fees
based on a sliding scale to ensure affordable health care for the area.
Originally operating in a small modular building, the clinic was forced to
seek larger quarters. After looking at several options, the board of
directors decided on a row of vacant and run-down buildings across the
street from the courthouse square. Restoration and renovation of the
buildings not only provided the clinic with a spacious, modern facility,
but also helped improve the looks of the historic district.
library in Boydton is a branch of Southside Regional Library,
Virginia's oldest regional library.
Like a lot of small towns in Southside, Boydton has
seen its share of problems over the past few decades. As the tobacco and
textile industries waned, the town went through a gradual decline. The
people of Boydton, however, never seemed to lose faith in their community.
In fact, they began celebrating the town with “Boydton Day.” People
from far and near come each year to Boydton Day, which is held the last
Saturday in October. The streets of Boydton are lined with food vendors,
crafts, and antiques in which the largest crowd for the year assembles in
Boydton. The big parade, which is usually at 10 a.m., is followed by all
sorts of entertainment. Boydton Volunteer Fire Department cooks the finest
Brunswick stew, and the rescue squad serves delicious barbecue. There are
all kinds of desserts, home-baked pies, and cakes galore. In 1977, U.S.
News & World Report covered the event, calling Boydton “The Small
Town That Refused To Die.”
Today, Boydton is a town in transition. Historic
Boydton’s Renaissance, Inc., a non-profit group of volunteer citizens,
have worked with state and federal agencies as well as local businesses to
push through a restoration-renovation project designed to make Boydton
more attractive to tourists.
“We think tourism is our future,” says Mayor
Charles Reamy. “We already have a lot of tourists coming to Bugg’s
Island Lake and we’d like for them to come to Boydton. History,” adds
Mayor Reamy, “is a key ingredient in the plan. We’re a certified
historic district with over 180 recognized historic structures in town,”
“We’ve designed a walking tour that will include
the Boyd Tavern, which dates back to about 1790. There’s the Boydton
Presbyterian Church, which is from around 1820. We have the courthouse
that was built in 1842. And, we have the Plank Road,” Reamy notes. One
of the centerpieces of the tour will be a replica section of the old
Boydton-Petersburg Plank Road, built as closely to the original as
Bowers is executive director and Dave Arnold is president of
Historic Boydton's Renaissance, Inc.
Meanwhile, the “downtown” section of Boydton has
also seen massive renovations, with facelifts to store fronts, new street
lights, benches placed around the area, and streetscaping. Even the statue
of the Confederate soldier on the courtyard lawn has recently undergone a
complete restoration. The improvements seem to be having a domino effect.
While restoration was underway at the new Boydton Medical Center, two
other nearby storefronts were also renovated. A new breakfast-and-lunch
café is expected to open in one of the buildings within the next few
months. A new retail store is expected to open shortly
in the second building. Old Lamps & Antiques,
which will carry a variety of antiques and collectibles as well as
offering antique lamp parts, service and repair, is scheduled to open in
absolutely love living in Boydton after living in New York for 30
years," says Bob and Jenny Solzman, whose historic home,
"12 Oaks on the Hill," is an architectural gem.
According to Dave Arnold, president of Historic
Boydton’s Renaissance, it’s only a matter of time before word about
Boydton gets out to the rest of the world. “This is one of the nicest
places you’ll ever find,” says Arnold. “It’s a beautiful town, the
people are friendly — it’s just a wonderful place.”
For Gene Coleman, clerk of courts for Mecklenburg
County, living in Southside is all about quality of life. “My
grandparents were our first
Coleman, clerk of courts for Mecklenburg County, says, "You
won't find a better place to live than Boydton."
generation here in Boydton,” remembers Coleman.
“They ran a grocery store on Jefferson Street and then moved downtown to
where the current medical center is. They ran it until 1964.”
Coleman’s father, mother, sister, and brother still live in Boydton.
“Quality of life is what keeps me here” says Coleman. “I’ve got
three kids and we have a good school system here. You won’t find a
better place to live. It’s just good, rural country living and it might
sound corny, but it’s true; we’re all one family. This is a great
place to live. The quality of life is right here.”