An oasis of calm amid encroaching development.
Jetersville, Virginia, once a bustling Amelia County crossroads west of Richmond bordering neighboring Chesterfield County, remains an oasis of calm amid encroaching development.
The original unincorporated village off U.S. 360 near State Route 671 once boasted a train depot, post office, churches and stores. The Farmers Lane post office is now closed, replaced by a newer one on Jetersville Road that serves a much expanded 23083 Jetersville zip code. The depot is gone and passenger trains ceased operations years ago, although freight trains rumble by twice a day. Some county residents are unaware of the original village’s presence or history.
Glen Wilkerson, who grew up in the original village, remembers when some now-crumbling buildings along the railroad tracks were filled with activity.
Wilkerson, Amelia County Parks & Recreation director and current chairman of the Amelia County School Board, explains, “It’s a place where people still speak to each other and wave. It’s one of the best places in the world to live, with a good quality of life, good education [opportunities] and a good quality of people. We have great volunteers and people care about their kids. I think people [who move here] choose [to live here] because it’s still rural and you have a chance to have space and not be crowded out in a subdivision.”
Wilkerson’s family modeled success for him. His father lived until age 90, although a massive heart attack at age 45 left him disabled. His mother cleaned houses to help support the family.
“We always had clean clothes, ironed and neat, and we helped on nearby farms and had fresh food,” he says of his growing-up years.
“My mother — Amelia Virginia Wilkerson — yes, that’s her name, went back to school and became a nurse. She was in school when I was in college at St. Paul’s College and still lives [in old Jetersville].”
Originally known as Perkinsonville (named for William Perkinson, who was granted 200 acres of land in 1735), the village became Jetersville after Matthew Richard Perkinson sold land to Tilmon E. Jeter in 1826. Amelia County (pop: 12,690), named for Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II of Great Britain, was created in 1735 from portions of Brunswick and Prince George counties. Its size was later reduced to create Prince Edward and Nottoway counties.
The county remains the sixth-largest agricultural producer in Virginia. But county administrator A. Taylor Hardie III says government, including county schools, is the largest employer.
Many residents are self-employed or commute to jobs in Richmond, Farmville or surrounding areas. Churches and civic groups still play a strong role in the community. An annual “Amelia Day Festival” is held each Mother’s Day weekend in Amelia’s historic courthouse square, with the next event scheduled for May 11, 2019.
Jerry Morris, owner since 1995 of Jerry’s Now and Then Antiques at 16430 Court Street in Amelia, is a lifelong resident and history buff raised on a Jetersville dairy farm. He explains, “Old Jetersville is pretty much gone but it was a very busy place in the early 1900s. A store and the old post office [building] are still there, but they’re empty. Jetersville Methodist Church is the oldest church [still holding services] in the old part of Jetersville.”
He adds, “I love it here … this is a very friendly community. If someone’s in trouble, people will come to the rescue.”
Surrounded by Civil War history, he recalls stories handed down through his family, including one about Union forces camping on his “homeplace” and taking everything during the war. A Union soldier “took a fancy” to his great-grandmother, Anna Octavia Vaughan, slipping a note to the young woman before Federal troops left.
“The note said he didn’t want her to go hungry; he told her he had hidden a ham [for the family] in a burlap bag below the house,” Morris says.
Small businesses dot the area near “old” Jetersville. Around a bend in Jetersville Road at 22501 Patrick Henry Highway, Elliott’s Country Store has been an eclectic local hangout since 1988. Founded by Tony Elliott, his daughter
Shawn Rowell and husband Dan, now oversee store operations. Shawn Rowell worked at her father’s store as a teenager, left to attend Virginia Commonwealth University and later moved to North Carolina, marrying Dan and having three children.
“But after my dad had a heart attack, he asked us to move back and take over the store … he still does a lot of work here,” she explains. “We have a little bit of everything, including file cabinets and school supplies. We also offer catering; recently we did 1,650 pieces of chicken for an event. We have a lot of local customers … this is a very connected community.”
David Tolley opened David’s Repair Service at 22131 Jetersville Road in July 2018, providing full-service auto/truck mechanical services and small engine repair in a formerly vacant 1950s building that he’s renovating. Tolley, wife Christina and their four children moved from Chesterfield County in 2005.
“When we first moved here, the first six to eight weeks my wife cried because it was so quiet,” Tolley recalls. “But it [rural living] grows on you. This community has been really good to me.”
As chief of the Jetersville Volunteer Fire Department, Tolley also teaches firefighter classes. His station has 32 male and female
volunteers, ages 16 to 70. Jerry Hensley, with the Jetersville Volunteer Fire Department since 1986, says, “The biggest change I’ve seen is in the amount of training needed to be qualified — it’s much more extensive now. It’s a challenge to get volunteers with all the training required. We have no paid staff — our fire department is all volunteer.”
Corey Morrissette moved his business, Rock River Homes, to 22020 Jetersville Road in 2011, renovating the 100-year-old former Sanderson’s Store building. The then-vacant building still had old store equipment inside, but it was zoned for the work Morrissette does. The nowrenovated building showcases the store’s original heart-pine floors and exposed wood-beam ceilings.
“I started as an excavation business and also was buying and selling land. I built my first house in 2007 in Lunenburg. Now we build about 50 houses a year, both spec and custom-built homes,” explains Morrissette, who is single and commutes from his downtown Richmond home. “We build all over Central Virginia, but especially in Amelia, Nottoway, Prince Edward, Powhatan, Farmville and Chesterfield.”
He adds, “We’re a pretty good ways out but I think the eastern part of the county will start seeing more development. Our business has come primarily through word of mouth. We have a good relationship with the community here.”
Jane and Ron Timma operate Hidden Depot Farm Bed & Breakfast at 23745 St. James Road. The tranquil environment includes hiking trails, a scenic 3ó-acre lake for fishing and canoeing and Ron’s large O-gauge model train display and train collection, which takes up an entire room of the house.
The Timma farm was crossed by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia on their way to what became the last major battle of the Civil War at nearby Sailor’s Creek, where almost a quarter of Confederate forces was killed or captured. Three days later, Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House and the war came to an end.
Ron, a retired federal government employee, and Jane, a retired nurse, moved a dozen times for Ron’s job and spent over three years in Saudi Arabia before settling down in Jetersville in 1995. Ron calls their home “the best of country living in a historical setting.” Originally from Florida, Ron notes Jane’s status as an Amelia native and jokes, “After 54 years of marriage I’m still Jane White’s husband!”
With grown children in Virginia, Jane explains, “As a nurse I saw the importance of [having family nearby] as you get older.”
Down the road in Chula, Louise Loucks Holloway lives “on the homeplace where I was born” and says “country people rally around you.” Chula resident Breanna Bartley, a student at John Tyler Community College, says, “I like small-town living … I like it when you tell someone your last name and they know who you are.”
Kristie Martin-Wallace grew up in Blackstone and moved to the area in 2006. She’s on the board of directors for Southside Electric Cooperative. Her grandfather helped get people to start a petition to create Southside Electric Cooperative and her mother worked for the cooperative, so there’s a family connection, she explains.
“The 23083 zip code is the best of both worlds: You get to live in the country but you are 30 minutes from civilization. Some people in the city might live 10 miles from somewhere but their commute is still 30 minutes because of traffic,” she points out. “The only thing we run into here [in commuting] is school buses and deer. It’s a great, welcoming community.”