Again in the year 2009, were 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
Down Home in
and photos by Beth Robertson, Contributing Writer
A crossroads since the early 19th century,
Turbeville continues to serve as the areas hub with farmers,
residents and travelers, creating high-volume traffic along
Turbeville and Melon Road as they converge in downtown Turbeville.
U.S. Highway 58 bisects the crossroads, which once
boasted five stores and a post office, often gathering places for
news and tall tales delivered around a warming stove.
Although only Mt. Carmel Antiques once H. L. St.
Johns general merchandise store and the Turbeville Post Office is
open today, the multi-bay Turbeville Fire and Rescue building, the
nearby Ruritan Club, a ball field and a summer vegetable stand still
draw area residents and travelers to the Melon Road/ Turbeville Road
intersection with the four-lane highway.
Known for its incredible soil, the perfect mix of
sandy loam and deep, Turbeville is also the birthplace of the
Virginia Cantaloupe Festival, which premiered at John Wades farm in
1981 and drew 4,200 visitors during its heyday, according to Halifax
Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Pool.
John Wades farm was in
the heart of cantaloupe
country, recalls Pool. Wade also had a horse ring with lights in
the field. And, he was generous enough to allow us to hold it
there, to donate it.
Until 2000, the festivals were held at the Wade
farm. Serenely nestled between ponds and fertile fields, visitors
settled in each fourth Wednesday in July to listen to The Embers,
The Chairmen of the Board and a host of other headliners while
enjoying the famous cantaloupe, pit-cooked beef and other homegrown
and homemade delicacies.
Due to its success, the event was moved to the
Halifax County Fairgrounds in 2000, where Little River Band was a
headliner, but with the sweet cantaloupe still king.
Hilton Hudson, the first president of the Turbeville
Cantaloupe Growers, checks one of the famous cantaloupes on
Twenty-eight years after its inception, the
Virginia Cantaloupe Festival continues as a major fundraiser for the
Chamber of Commerce. While time has altered the Turbeville merchant
image, the strong character and fabric of the community remain
intact, as does its name, which natives of the area credit to the
Turbeville family.Charles Turbeville bought
Bloomsburg in 1850 and sold it in 1887, according to Halifax
County Historical Society President Barbara Bass, tying the
Turbeville name to one of the historic homes.
Turbeville also got its neighbors attention.In 1925 there was a Kiwanis Club in South Boston, and they
declared a Turbeville Day, adds Bass, because the club was
impressed with the history of Turbeville.
Obviously, firsts were the norm at the historic crossroads.
Turbeville can boast having the first woman's
club in the county, which won a national award later in 1927, says
Bass. It had the first men's social club in the county and one of
only two agricultural high schools in the state. During the 1920s it
was the first, through the commitment of the parents and the woman's
club, to have hot lunches in the school, adds Bass. There's even a
tribute in song to the community, although Bass is unsure of its
While much has changed, Mrs. J.E. Oliver III,
whose father, H.L. St. John, ran a store at the crossroads from 1944
until probably the late 1970s, can name previous store owners
along the busy intersection. The Johnson family, Mr. D.W. Lea, Mr.
and Mrs. King, and a second Johnson man ran nearby stores, according
Irvin Richardson first owned the store
Oliver's father later operated. During St. Johns tenure, part of
the store also served as the post office, and his wife, Viola Jones
St. John, served as postmistress.
St. Johns store opened at about 7 a.m. when the
mail came in, according to Oliver, but she said her father did not
keep the store open too late at night. After St. John closed his
store, the post office continued to operate. Mrs. Jack Stevens
followed Mrs. St. John as postmistress, serving until the post
office was permanently closed.
Philip Satterfield remembers merchant D.W. Lea and
his native Turbeville with affection.He was the old aristocrat in
my day and time, he says of Lea. He was very active in the
political community and chairman of the draft board calling folks up
for World War II. Satterfield and five of his brothers served in
WWII, and two brothers served in the Korean Conflict.
My father was a farmer, a
rural mail carrier, and he worked in one of the South Boston tobacco
warehouses, adds Satterfield.
He was Edward Satterfield, known as Ed. He also was a deputy
sheriff under Sheriff Tune and Sheriff Thomas Coates.
Today, only the St. John building is occupied.
Edith and Tom Stutts maintain a charming antique shop there, Mt.
Carmel Antiques. The old St. Johns store sign, as well as the
Turbeville Post Office sign with its 24596 zip code, still hang as
The Stutts' collection ranges from primitives,
including a spinning wheel, chairs and antique school desks, to a
very handsome game table from Tennessee, a chest of drawers, tables
and an assortment of collectibles. We look for antiques when we
travel, explains Edith, a retired businesswoman. However, she is
not tied to the shop.
The nature of the antiques business is not to
have steady hours, she notes with a smile. My number is on the
front door, and my home is nearby. If I'm at the beach, I will see
you when I get back.
The philosophy apparently works, with old
customers returning to her shop and new ones traveling Hwy. 58,
perhaps for the first time, finding her.The Stuttses, who moved to their Turbeville farm
in 1989, love the area.Turbeville is a friendly, peaceful, and just a
wonderful place to be. It takes you into a different state of mind
when you come home to Turbeville, Edith says.Mrs. Oliver, who commuted to teach business at a
Danville high school and at Averett University during her career,
The people in the area are very warm and
welcoming, she observes. I think it is pretty here, and a
convenient location. With its proximity to South Boston and
Danville, you can work either place. I like living out from towns,
she adds, because life is simpler.
Good Soil, Good People
Edmunds examines a new cornfield at his Turbeville farm.
This is the most peaceful place in the world to
me, says cattle producer James Edmunds, as his pickup truck
negotiates the rain-soaked lane leading to his cabin. Pretty much
all you hear are the songbirds, the hum of the tractor, the turkeys
gobble and sometimes a coyote.
Edmunds and his father, the late Paul C. Edmunds, have farmed in the Turbeville
area for about 70 years. The Edmundses have raised cattle, wheat,
hay and loblolly pines. A lifelong hunter, James Edmunds also leases
accommodations and land for hunting.
This is wonderful soil here, and along the Dan
River, pure low-ground top soil brought down through millions of
years of flooding, he explains.
Halifax Water and Soil
Manager Bruce Pearce agrees. I wish I had 1,000 acres of it on my
place, he says of the rich soil. It was moved here as a result of
water millions of years ago. The good thing is its a very deep,
sandy-type soil that's good for growing any kind of plant.
More recently, several decades ago, a severe flood
uncovered a prehistoric Indian site along the Dan River on Edmunds
property. A university archaeology team spent weeks examining spear
points, arrowheads, pottery and other artifacts. The whole village
was uncovered, recalls Edmunds. The fire pits were intact, like
they just picked up and left in a hurry. Today, once again, fields
cover the site.
Edmunds love of the land mirrors that of his
neighbors, men who want to see the rich land in production.
Hilton Hudson, one of the original Turbeville
Cantaloupe Growers members serving as a catalyst for the first
Cantaloupe Festival, with three of his five sons, Thomas, Steve and
Jonathan, continue as prime producers of the famous melon. About 25
acres are devoted to the melon this year, according to Hudson, who
also grows tobacco and seed wheat. His son Thomas raises cattle.
During harvest, the family has a
melon-and-vegetable stand at the crossroads that Turbeville
Volunteer Fire Dept. & Rescue Chief Ricky Hicks describes as very
popular. This will be the third year Ann Hudson and family have
operated Hudson's Farm Produce at the crossroads. The stand is open
Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sunday from
Hilton and Ann Hudson moved to Turbeville in 1964.
It is where they reared their family, made lifelong friends and
planned their future, securely bound by a strong work ethic that
They're always working, observe two of the
Hudson's neighbors. Neighbors Lucy and James Solomon Jr., both
Turbeville natives, are also well acquainted with the demands of
James Solomon worked on his fathers farm as a boy
and today runs a cattle operation. At one time he also produced
tobacco and cantaloupes, but stopped producing the melon and tobacco
Solomon's garden frames a scenic vista that includes the Dan
River and beyond along historic old River Road.
Lucy Wade Solomon, a daughter of the late John
Wade, was reared just across the road from the Solomon's new home.
As a youngster she helped with her fathers tobacco crop, first
handing leaves and then moving up to stringing, which she
laughingly describes as a big-time promotion.
There were two sisters and one brother in the
family, and all four children helped on the farm, including the
garden. There have been so many changes in farming, from plowing
with a horse to tractors. So much that was manual is mechanical
now, says the retired Virginia Power employee.
While Solomon doesn't recommend farming as an easy
life, he does not hesitate to describe it as a good life.He also plans to keep on keeping on with his
Angus herd at the Turbeville farm.The one thing that is great here is the people,
says Solomon of his community.Neighbors get along, both emphasized. It is just
a great place to be, she adds.
Mary S. Medleys life is firmly tied to the
Turbeville soil and family. Her father farmed, and her husband, Joe,
farmed until he died 20 years ago. The family, with the four
children helping, raised tobacco, watermelon and cantaloupe. Medley
also worked at JP Stevens for several years.
Although her own life is full, her neighbors
describe Medley in a special way. Mary Medley does for everybody,
says Lucy Solomon. And apparently she does it well.
She's active in her community and her church, and
is a member of the Turbeville Ruritan Club. She is proud of her
home.Its a nice place to live because everyone gets
along, and most everybody knows everybody, says Medley, who was
born on a nearby farm. Were just one big family up here. If anyone
new moves in, they are welcome. I would say this is the best
She's also proud of the children who grew up on
Story's Creek Road. They were smart children, she said, noting
their many accomplishments. Of her four, one is a consultant with
IBM, one works for ABB, one serves on the Richmond Police force, and
a daughter has been teaching in Georgia for 20 years.
Turbeville Fire & Rescue
A vital part of the community, the Turbeville
Volunteer Fire & Rescue building dominates the crossroads landscape
where Melon Road meets Hwy. 58.
The department serves about 75 to 80 square miles
and about 2,500 residents, according to Chief Ricky Hicks.
There are about 45 active volunteer members. With
the ambulance transport and volunteers working during the day,
sometimes it was hard to get calls covered, says Hicks. Now, paid
personnel provide coverage 12 hours a day during the week.
It has worked out pretty well, says the chief.
We have volunteers on weekends, and we've been able to cover our
calls during the week.
Only Turbeville and North Halifax join the Rescue
Squad in providing ambulance transport, a service Turbeville began
providing about eight years ago, according to the chief. We respond
to between 275 and 300 calls, both fire and EMS (annually), adds
Hicks. The majority are ambulance calls.
In addition to its ambulance, the fire department
has two engines, a tanker, and a brush truck. A smaller truck can
serve as backup for emergency calls if the ambulance is already out
on call, added Hicks.
The fire department is a community lifeline.
People look to it as the helping hand, says Hicks. If you don't
know who else to call, you call the fire department. Sometimes that
just means putting them in the right direction with advice, and
occasionally people stop by and want you to take their blood
pressure. We try to be here for the community because they support
us so well.
Turbeville Elementary School, an area landmark, closed in
2007, and was purchased by Kevin Puryear Properties LLC..
Since Turbeville Elementary Schools closure in
2007, the department has acquired adjoining land and organized an
Emergency Services Softball League for Sunday afternoon games.
Often we only see each other at tragedies, so we came up with
this, explains Hicks. The county's fire departments, the sheriffs
department, rescue squad and police departments participate in the
Sunday games, which began in May.
For EMS and firemen, new state regulations coupled
with a staggering amount of paperwork demand more and more time to
keep abreast. There are a lot of good people here, says the chief.
One person cant do it. Our treasurer, Carroll Collie, spends
countless hours on the paperwork, adds Hicks. We have the same
regulations a big city has.
But Hicks is optimistic about the future, the
training and the commitment demanded of the young volunteers who
must one day fill the shoes of retiring members. No doubt he
remembers his own teenage years. I started when I started driving,
recalls the chief.
In addition to First Cross Roads Baptist, Cross
Roads Baptist, Mt. Carmel Presbyterian and Olive Branch United
Methodist Church, the Turbeville Ruritan Club, located off Melon
Road, also serves the community. Our mission is community service,
says long-time member and club treasurer D.H. Mac McDowell.
One of the clubs projects is scholarships, with
four awarded earlier this summer. All four recipients are planning
careers in the medical field, McDowell says.
Tragic fire victims, the
Patrick Henry Boys Home and the Halifax County Library Fund have
also received Ruritan support. The club has barbecue suppers and
a booth at the annual Heritage Festival as fundraisers. About 49
years old, the club is located off Melon Road within sight of the
Turbeville Volunteer Fire & Rescue
building.Good people, a good community, close knit, and
the fire departments members serve us well, says McDowell. Its
just a good community.
Halifax County Attractions
Berry Hill Resort -- Stellar retreat featuring a
two-story Greek revival mansion and 92 guest rooms.
Bob Cage Sculpture Farm More than 70 wood and
metal sculptures by world-renowned artist Bob Cage.
Buggs Island Lake More than 55,000 acres; one of
the premier bass fisheries in the country.
The Prizery -- Community Art Center in South
Boston featuring a 250-seat theater, art gallery and banquet
Chastain Theater -- Located in The Prizery,
providing professional and semi-professional entertainment.
Crossing of the Dan -- Exhibit of the military
maneuvers of Nathanael Greene during the Revolutionary War. Located
Noland Village -- Charming restoration of American
Staunton River Battlefield A 300-acre Civil War
historic site including battlefield, earthworks, walking trail, and
Staunton River State Park -- Access to Buggs
Island Lake offering swimming, cabin rentals, camping, trails,
tennis courts, boat launching.
South Boston-Halifax County Museum Permanent and
rotating exhibits trace the history of Halifax County and the
South Boston Speedway Exciting NASCAR-sanctioned
Town of Halifax -- Historic district includes
classical-revival courthouse housing records that date to 1752. A
great resource for genealogical researchers.
South Boston Historic District -- Wonderful
examples of Victorian architecture; walking tour.
Virginia International Raceway (VIR) -- A 4.2-mile
natural-terrain road course
featuring a season of vintage and motorcycle
Annual Festivals & Events
Mid-February in South Boston.
Crossing of the Dan Revolutionary War Reenactment.
First weekend in May
Halifax County Heritage and Antique Machinery
Festival at Halifax County Fairgrounds is a 3-day event that
highlights rural and agricultural heritage.
Second weekend in May
Noland Village Day. Located in Providence, the
event features stew, country music, crafts, antique furniture and
farm machinery, vintage cars, plant and herb sales, and a house
Third Saturday In May
Ducks on the Dan Derby Duck Race in
Saturday of Memorial Day weekend
Virgilina Summer Fest. Parade, arts & crafts,
music, food, bands, games and rides for the kids. Street dance 7
p.m. - 9 p.m.
Last Saturday In May
Faith Fest held in South Bostons Constitution
Square. A non-denominational day of family,
fellowship, and Christian music.
Third Saturday In June
Battle of Staunton River
Ceremony. Confederate encampment, cannon firing, UDC medal
presentation, wagon rides, guest speakers and more.
Scottsburg 4th of July Parade & Celebration.
Parade, food, fireworks and music featured.
Fourth Friday in July
Virginia Cantaloupe Festival. Food, music and
beverages at Halifax County Fairgrounds.
Last Saturday In September
Harvest Festival in South Boston. Crafts, games,
Third Saturday In September, Even Years
Tobacco Ball held at The Prizery.
First Week In October
Halifax County Fair with live concerts, a midway,
exhibits and food.
Second Week In October, Odd Years
Art Show at The Prizery in South Boston.
Second Weekend in November
Holiday Living Show in South Boston.
For details and directions to attractions, visit
www.gohalifaxva.com; for visitor information, call (434) 572-2543 or
toll-free (866) 464-2543.