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t c i e o l n f Re S A special supplement to the News-Patriot and Hopewell News

Past • Present • Future — August 2015

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN THE 1600S

HENRICUS SHOWS HARSH TACTICS USED BY EARLY SETTLERS AND INDIANS. 4 FIRST BLACK FOOTBALL PLAYER AT HOPEWELL HIGH TELLS HIS STORY. 16

HOSPITAL HAD HUMBLE BEGINNING 100 YEARS AGO. 24


contents

t i c o e n l f e S R

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Past • Present • Future August 2013

INTERIM Publisher Mike Davis publisher@hpcmedia.net.com General Manager Freda Snyder gm@hpcmedia.net EDITORIAL

A history of hunting and fishing in Prince George

James Peacemaker Jr., Managing Editor Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer Blake Belden, Staff Writer

8

ADVERTISING David Pegram, Account Executive david@hpcmedia.net

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Dana Johnson, Account Executive dana@hpcmedia.net Maggie Kloske, Account Executive maggie@hpcmedia.net

Rachel Cole, Account Executive rachel@hpcmedia.net PRODUCTION Steven Patterson, Composing Ashley McLeod, Composing Reflections magazine is published one time per year by HPC Media P.O. Box 481, Hopewell, Va. 23860 www.hopewellnews.com (804) 458-8511 ©2015 by HPC Media

Crime and punishment at Henricus

Local doctor played with basketball greats at UNC

14 Group resurrects Civil War artillery unit 16 Hopewell High School’s first black

football player

19 Local woman sang with country legends 20 Fire nearly destroyed Hopewell 100 years ago 28 Hopewell area has history of aviation

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REFLECTIONS 2015 • 3


JAMES PEACEMAKER JR. / STAFF PHOTOS

Henricus interpreter John Pagano shows a bunch of sticks that would be used for “birching,” or whipping, a servant or child.

Brutal beginnings

Henricus demonstrates punishments by early settlers, American Indians By JAMES PEACEMAKER JR. Managing editor CHESTERFIELD ­— The Europeans and the Native Americans were very different cultures when this area was settled in the early 1600s. But there was one thing they shared when it came to crime and punishment during that era ­— brutality. A recent event at Henricus Historical Park in Chester demonstrated various ways both cultures kept their people in line. While the punishments 4 • REFLECTIONS 2015

seem harsh by today’s standards, they served an important purpose. In these times, every day was a struggle to survive, and not having strict discipline could be deadly, not just to individuals but the whole group. A group of re-enactors representing Powhatan Indians demonstrated several punishments that would have been common during the time. Those who were guilty of murder or even theft were punished with death. The punishment served as a pretty good deterrent against murder.

“They will basically scalp you, burn the hair in front of you, and basically all of the warriors line up around him and break all of the bones in his body … then burn him in the fire,” one interpreter told a small crowd of kids and adults. The Powhatan Indians used scalping as a way to dishonor someone and it was done before execution. Execution for theft would not involve as much pain, but the offender would just be clubbed to death. Women were the ones who executed people without honor.

Powhatan Indian re-enactors at Henricus demonstrated a graphic form of punishment used against an English colonist. John Ratcliffe was captured and punished twice for either not trading fairly or mistreating the Indians. He is one of the characters portrayed in the Disney movie “Pocahontas.” The first time they caught him, they cut off part of his chest and legs and released him. The second time, he was tied to a stake and the Powhatan women cut the flesh from his face with a seashell


and threw the pieces in the fire as he watched in agony. They then burned him as well. English settlers had similarly brutal punishments for misdeeds. Randall Benton, who was portraying a musketeer from the first couple of years at Henricus around 1611, said English colonists’ punishments during the time were passed on from the medieval traditions.

“Torture to get evidence, torture to get people to admit things was standard. We tend to think of England as being enlightened. No, they inherited the same long history of what we would call today human rights violations on a large scale. All of Europe. all of the world is like that,” Benton said. During this early time of the settlement, Sir Thomas Dale ruled under martial

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law. There was not freedom. Dale was determined to have this colony succeed, unlike the initial settlement at Jamestown a few years earlier. “Where Jamestown had no rule of law, they were reduced to cannibalism. They were supposed to be over here getting rich finding gold and bringing back money for their investors,” Benton said. In the first few years with Thomas Dale’s martial law, officers gave punishments on the spot. “We are going to have very severe penalties for seemingly minor infractions, but the idea is to basically scare you to not do things. If I steal food from either the storehouses or my neighbor, I’ll be executed. If I bother the Indians, I’ll be executed. If I fall asleep on guard duty, I’ll be executed,” Benton said. There were 76 laws, and for a lot of them, punishment was death. He said the harsh punishments were necessary to keep order and to ensure their survival. He said if guards fall asleep, it could lead to the deaths of many people if the Powhatan Indians attacked. The Indian village was a couple of miles away. If the English colonist were caught trading with Indians, it was punishable by death as well. If they bothered the Indians, it was punishable by death. “It’s not because we are nice, but because we are pragmatic. … The Powhatan people have something around 30,000 people in the area and we are 300,” Benton said. Other brutal punishments included being “broken on the wheel,” tied onto a large wagon wheel and beaten to break the bones in the limbs. Another punishment involved piercing a man’s tongue or cheek with a bodkin, or large needle. Church also played an important role in the settlement. Church and state were one and the same. The settlers were required to go to church two times a day, three times on Sunday. Those 15 times a week were 6 • REFLECTIONS 2015

An interpreter portraying a Powhatan Indian throws a piece of flesh cut off of the victim’s face with a shell during a re-enactment of the punishment of English settler John Ratcliffe.

Henricus Musketeer Randall Benton talks about some of the punishments that were used in the early years at the settlement.

also used to go over all laws, so there was no excuse that no one knew about a law. If they missed church once, they would have their food taken from them for a

day. If they missed church a second time, they would bind your hands, hoist you up, and whip you. A third time and you

would be chained up and shipped back to England to go to prison. The church also served as a meeting hall and courthouse. “The whole idea is not to kill as many settlers as they can, the idea is to have a law-abiding group of people who do their jobs and don’t make trouble,” Benton said. Another punishment used when a musketeer is caught fighting with another musketeer was called a scouring stick gauntlet. A scouring stick is a stick on the underside of a musket that can be pulled out and was slid into the barrel to pack the bullet in the gun. “The punishment can’t be lethal because … you don’t want to lose you musketeers,” Benton said. The musketeers would line up in two rows and the offender would walk between them and get swatted with these sticks. It wouldn’t cause permanent damage but it would hurt. The colonists lived under Thomas Dale’s rules from 1611 until 1619. A more judicious system was then put in place that was more similar to English law. John Pagano, an interpreter at Henricus, told about some non-lethal punishments doled out during the early 1600s. One punishment involved being strung up by your thumbs with a rope over a branch. Children would have to stay standing on your tiptoes in order to keep the weight of their body from hurting your thumbs. For adults they might string them up off the ground and even tie weights to your feet to increase the pain. “Any of the punishments where you are tied is not fun,” Pagano said. Pagano also demonstrated a common punishment for children or servants called “birching.” He broke off a few branches from a branch and said these would be used to whip someone on their backside. Birching was a type of punishment that required little preparation other than


snatching up a few branches or twigs. “If you did something around the year, where you weren’t supposed to do it, the master by English law, was allowed to punish you, but even under English law, he is not supposed to … inflict cruel and unusual punishments,” Pagano said. He said birching or being tied and put on display for the public was not considered cruel or unusual at the time. “It’s not going to break your bones. It’s not going to do anything other than give you some nice cuts on your backside,” Pagano said. He said it will make it painful to sit, and being lazy was one of the main reasons that children or servants were punished. “Malingering,” or faking illness or injury to avoid work, was a common crime during the time. Sometimes people were just tied up to make them uncomfortable for long periods of time. Punishments would often

Dennis Strawderman portrays Sir Thomas Dale inside the church at Henricus. Attending was mandatory and those who didn’t faced harsh punishments. The building was also used as a meeting hall and courthouse.

be overnight so the offenders could still work during the day. The Powhatan Indians also used harsh treatments -- by today’s standards -- for their children as well. One English settler ob-

served Powhatan mothers teaching their 5-year-olds how to shoot a bow and arrow. The mothers would take a small piece of moss and throw it in the air. The children are expected to shoot it

out of the air with a bow and arrow. If they did not, they wouldn’t be fed. “If you don’t listen to your mother and do your job, you are going to get no food that day,” an Indian interpreter told a group a children.

REFLECTIONS 2015 • 7


JAMES PEACEMAKER JR. / STAFF PHOTOS

Dick Haden points out a canvas-covered duck decoy at the Prince George Regional Heritage Center.

A history of hunting New exhibit highlights Prince George’s history of hunting and fishing By JAMES PEACEMAKER JR. Managing editor PRINCE GEORGE ­ Prince George County has — a long tradition of hunting and fishing, from American Indian artifacts found here to modern day hunt clubs. A new exhibit at the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center explores the history of hunting in the county. “From Survival to Trophy: The Heritage of Hunting and Fishing in Prince George County” opened July 10 and will continue for six months. 8 • Reflections 2013

Heritage Center Executive Director Carol Bowman said the idea for this exhibit has been in the works for some time and took time to acquire items. She said there is a big interest in the outdoor life here in the county and there is a long history of hunting. “The first inhabitants were hunters and fishermen. … That has always been going on here, even before it became Prince George,” Bowman said. Dick Haden loaned many of the artifacts for the exhibit. On opening day for the exhibit, he showed off a range

of duck hunting decoys, some made of balsa wood, some canvas covered, and some modern resin reproductions. Some are working decoys, some are art. “You don’t find all-wood decoys anymore. My dad hunted with those 70 years ago on the James River,” Haden said. The canvas covered decoys have a wooden bottom and head. The body of the duck is a framework resembling ribs and canvas is stretched over it and painted like an old airplane’s wing. “This style was used in North Carolina in Currituck

Sound. They adopted that style to hunt with here,” Haden said. Some of modern decoys in the exhibit, his family hunts with today. One duck decoy on display is on loan from Carol Bowman and it was carved by Kenny Rice, who is known nationally for decoy carving. Haden’s father’s old hunting vest is also on display. Haden said his family has been hunting ducks along the James River for generations. “Anywhere you see what looks like a pile of brush out in the river, that’s a duck


A punt gun is on display inside the Prince George Regional Heritage Center.

A historic photo shows a fox hunt around 1930.

A hunting vest.

A selection of duck decoys is shown.

blind,” he said. “My dad started me hunting when I was 8 or 10 years old. My son, he’s in his 40s now, he hunts” and Haden’s grandsons hunt here as well, he said. “We’ve been hunting in this same spot in the James River 17 years,” he said. “It’s called the James River Hilton. I have stayed there, eating brains and eggs,” said Chris Hargrave, who

also contributed items to the exhibit. “I’ve got the oars my grandfather back in the 1920s used, a long pair of oars. He used to row people out there in the river,” he said. Most of the items on loan for the exhibit from Hargrave were handed down through his family. “My family grew up making a living hunting and fishing and all on the James River out of the Burrowsville/Brandon area. …

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We were all hunting guides. I am a fourth-generation hunting guide,” Hargrave said. He also works professionally selling hunting supplies. He has accumulated a lot of hunting and fishing items from Prince George. Other items in the exhibit include the largest scoring set of deer antlers ever killed in Prince George. Hargrave said they don’t know who killed it because it was shot at night in a field close to the courthouse on Middle Road. “If the person had legally harvested that deer and entered it in the state contest ... it was around 1968, it would have been the number one deer in Virginia,” Hargrave said. Also on display is turkey hunting paraphernalia, including turkey calls. Hargrave demonstrated a wingbone turkey call during the opening of the exhibit. He slowly turned his head from right to left as he made a series of deep chirping-like blasts from the call. Several are on display that were built by Hargrave. The American Indians taught settlers how to make them from the wing of a turkey. It is made of segments from three of the four bones in a turkey’s wing joined together. Hargrave said there is a unique way of using it, saying you have to get a hard spot on your lip that goes away after a while kind of like a callus. It is also called a locator spot. “You’ll see some hunters going down the road around March before spring turkey season comes in and you’ll see them with their wing bones trying to get that hard spot on their lip,” Hargrave said. He said if you are right handed, it will be on the right side, and if you are left handed, it will be on the left side. A large stuffed turkey that Hargrave killed is also on display

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JAMES PEACEMAKER JR. / STAFF PHOTO

Chris Hargrave demonstrates a wingbone turkey call. It is made of segments from three of the four bones in a turkey’s wing joined together.

in the exhibit. “Prince George is one of the very unique counties. It has a very high history and longevity of trophy deer, bear and turkey,” Hargrave said. He said some companies look to buy land here specifically for outdoor sporting. One of the more interesting pieces in the exhibit is a massive “punt gun.” This M-bore, breech-loading punt gun from around 1880 made by Trulock and Harriss of Ireland used 3.5 ounces of powder with a maximum load of 16 ounces of shot. It was purchased by David A. Harrison III from Holland and Holland Ltd., London, in 1986. It is on loan from the Flowerdew Hundred Collection courtesy of George Harrison. SERVING CUSTOMERS SINCE 1927

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ing and fishing exhibit. He said the exhibit is just starting and they plan on adding to it. Those interested in lending items to the exhibit, including old photos, can contact the Heritage Center at 804-863-0212 or pghistory@ aol.com. The Prince George Regional Heritage Center is located at 6406 Courthouse Road, Prince George. For more information, visit http://princegeorgevahistoricalsociety.org. The center is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. It is closed on major holidays.

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JAMES PEACEMAKER JR. / STAFF PHOTOS

Cliff Morris poses in front of his University of North Carolina basketball jersey, which now hangs in one of the rooms in his business, The Morris Cardiovascular and Risk Reduction Center in Chester.

He played with hoop greats Local doctor recalls time playing with Michael Jordan, coach Dean Smith By BLAKE BELDEN Staff writer CHESTERFIELD — Dr. Cliff Morris peeled back the plastic on an edamame hummus wrap from a local coffee shop, and freely recounted a multitude of lifeshaping memories playing basketball as a University of North Carolina Tar Heel three decades ago under the direction of the late Dean Smith. Smith, the famed UNC head coach

who took the Tar Heels to two national championships in his 36-year tenure from 1961 to 1997, died at the age of 83 on Feb. 7 of this year. With his passing came a generous gift of $200 to each of roughly 180 lettermen whom he coached, through which he willed for them to treat their families to dinner. Morris, who played on the varsity team from 1983-1985 and now owns the Morris Cardiovascular and Risk Reduction Center in Chester, said that he heard about the posthumous donation through a text message from a friend, originally believing it to be a hoax until a check in his name showed up on the doorstep two days later. “I still can’t believe it. I mean, who does that? It brought me to tears, literally. When I think about it, it kind of

tears me up now because it’s just an extraordinary thing for somebody to do. ... He was very genuine, and even in his death, he recognized his players,” Morris said. Morris said this act was a testament to Smith’s player-first mentality and caring nature, adding that Smith attended Morris’s wedding, always inquired about his mother and would have supported anything that Morris decided he wanted to do with his life. Although it was widely known for awhile that Smith suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and his memory was fading, Morris said it still came as a shock when his death actually occurred. “He’s Coach Smith, and if it could happen to such a wonderful mind, a brilliant mind, it could happen to anybody. So that was kind of a wake-up call, I REFLECTIONS 2015 • 11


think, for us all that we need to live life to its fullest every day because it could happen to anyone,” Morris said. Recalling his own atypical journey to becoming a Tar Heel two-guard, Morris said that it was never even his intention to play basketball at the college level. Growing up in North Carolina, Morris dribbled the ball down the court at Charles E. Jordan High School in Durham, and opted to attend the University of North Carolina in 1981 so he could stay close to his own family. He was not offered any kind of athletic scholarship to the university, but he earned a place on the junior varsity squad as a way to keep playing basketball recreationally, hang out with the varsity players and gain free access to the popular games. After his time on the junior varsity squad, Morris was asked to practice with the varsity team in 1982, which happened to be the same year that Smith took the team to his first national championship, UNC’s second of five total championships. The 1982 team boasted a roster with National Basketball Association Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and James Worthy. In 1983, Morris joined the ranks of the varsity team in a shooting guard role where he spent his next two years (‘83’84 and ‘84-’85 seasons) playing with notable names like Jordan, Sam Perkins, Kenny Smith, Brad Daugherty and Matt Doherty, among others.

A team photo from the University of North Carolina 1983-1984 team shows Michael Jordan (23), fourth from the left in the top row, and Cliff Morris (20), eight on the bottom row.

In 1984, UNC entered the NCAA Tournament with a No. 1 seed in the East and lost in the Sweet Sixteen to Indiana (72-68). Georgetown won the National Championship that year. In 1985, UNC entered the NCAA Tournament with a No. 2 seed in the Mideast and lost in the Elite Eight to Villanova (56-44), who ended up winning the national championship. “I still pinch myself, honestly, because I was decent when I was in high school, you know, but everybody on the team when I made it up to varsity, every player

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As an aside, Morris did weigh in on the ever popular debate of who reigns supreme in the history of the NBA. “People argue that today, but there’s no doubt in my mind [Jordan’s] the greatest player ever to play basketball,” Morris said. For Morris, fitting into a lineup alongside high school superstars was about recognizing his role and strengthening his ability to perform in it, something that Coach Smith and the rest of the staff, including current UNC head coach Roy Williams, would regularly emphasize to all of the players. Morris said he prides himself in the defensive pressure he brought to the floor, which became his role, as well as exemplifying an enthusiastic and studious personality both on and off the court. “You got to know where you can contribute. And I knew I wasn’t going to contribute on the starting lineup, but I knew that I could be an important part of the team off the court that

would get them ready to compete against the best of the best in the world so that felt good. It felt really good,” Morris said. Although each individual on the team was designated a different role, Smith would stress to the team that no one player was more important than another. Morris remembers one way that Smith would often indirectly remind players that they were equally influential to the team’s overall success during practices. The team would always have a quote, which changed on a regular basis, that they would have to memorize. In the middle of a given practice, the coaches would blow their whistles, pull everyone in to the center of the court and randomly select a player to recite the quote. If that player didn’t know the quote, then he would stand on the sideline and watch while the rest of the team faced the penalty of running suicides. “Oh, everybody is real

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pissed off at you, and it only had to happen once. All you had to do was have it happen once, and that was it. You would never, ever let it happen again,” Morris chuckled, respecting one of Coach Smith’s many effective coaching tactics.”It lets you know you’re an important part of this team. I expect the same from you that I do everyone else. And when you fail, we all fail.” The core value that lies at the root of this simple, disciplinary coaching method has become a major founding principle for Morris in his perception of the real world, both in athletics and beyond, including at his medical office in Chester. “Everybody from the front desk to my medical assistants to the persons doing the ultrasounds and my technicians, everybody is a team player. And everybody has superhuman powers in some way. Everybody has got strengths, so my experience at North Carolina has taught me to look for the strengths

in everybody and maximize those strengths in order to make a great team. And we’ve got a great team in my office,” Morris said. After college basketball, Morris pursued medical school at UNC, fulfilled his residency through Virginia Commonwealth University, obtained his first career as a cardiologist in Hopewell in 1996 and eventually began his own business three years ago. Looking down at Smith’s check resting on the table before him, Morris said that he has given a lot of thought to whether he would spend it, and decided that he would ultimately do what his coach told him to do. “He said take your family out to dinner, take your wife out to dinner. I’m going to take my wife out to dinner,” Morris smiled, adding that in a likewise manner of philanthropy he would probably make a separate donation to Hopewell Public Schools to support future generations.

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REFLECTIONS 2015 • 13


CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The members of Cooper’s Battery, Sgt. Jamie Gambill, Spc. Matthew Burnett, Jim Yeager, 1st Lt. Kyle Fortner, Don Wells, Bill Bjornes and Sgt. Joshua Green, recently pose for pictures in their period dress. Cooper’s Battery is a field artillery re-enactment group that operates out of Petersburg National Battlefield Park.

History’s guardians Group resurrects artillery unit from Civil War By TERRANCE BELL U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee FORT LEE ­— Johnny Clem ran away to join the Union Army when he was about 11 years of age. Sgt. Joshua Green was about 11 years of age when he was bitten by the military re-enactment bug. Despite the fact Green was born more than a century after the notable Civil War figure, Clem was the impetus for Green’s insatiable thirst to learn about the past. It happened while he was a fifth-grade student at Johnny 14 • REFLECTIONS 2015

Clem Elementary School in Newark, Ohio, and won an essay contest that earned him the right to play Clem during an event honoring the fabled “Drummer Boy of Chickamauga.” Both Clem and Green are from Newark. “It was really neat to dress up and walk around like that all day because everyone was watching you,” said the Fort Lee Medical Department Activity Soldier, noting several Civil War re-enactors were on hand for the elementary school event. “It wasn’t a fame thing or anything like that; they wanted to talk to you, they wanted their picture taken with you.” That sense for sharing his history-loving passion with others continued into his adult years and recently moved Green to take on du-

ties as a volunteer reenactor with the Petersburg National Battlefield Park as a cannon crew member. “I’ve always had an interest in wanting to do reacting and to learn more,” said Green, the son of an active Air National Guardsman and Civil War enthusiast. “It makes history more real.” The opportunity to “learn more” came when he met Randolph H. Watkins, a PNBP park ranger and guide, at another reenactment event, and the two spoke at length. “I asked him if he would be interested in serving on a Union gun detachment,” said Watkins, “and he said he not only was interested, but knew a number of other Soldiers assigned to Kenner who would like to join.”

With passion exuding from his persona, Green went about recruiting other members and eventually got six others to commit themselves to performing. Taking on the role as Cooper’s Battery, the group has shown a high degree of earnestness, said Watkins. “Sgt. Green isn’t just interested in ‘burning powder,’” said Watkins. “He and other members are very much interested in learning about Civil War artillery drill, tactics, equipment, etc. and especially in the history and people who served in Cooper’s Battery.” Now, along with a few civilian members, the Union artillery crew has conducted a few events and has a full schedule for the rest of the year,” said Watkins.


Cooper’s Battery, said Green, was a Pennsylvania unit that “fought clear through the war from the beginning, all the way to Petersburg.” Having done research on the unit, Green said its history is illustrious, and he is proud to share it. “It is what I was looking for.” Since the crew was assembled last spring, it has performed once-a-month firing demonstrations at PNBP and has participated in non-battle events such as at Peebles’ Farm in Dinwiddie. At Peebles’ Farm, the group’s first official event, Green said he literally felt the weight of history on his shoulders. “It was very somber,” he said of his two-night campout. “I thought about my own history because there is a good possibility I had a relative on that (battle) line from an Ohio regiment … so just to think that he was at that battle, right where I was, not even a 100 yards from where I was sleeping.” Being right where history occurred, said Green, stirs the

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

emotions and forces one to delve into the psyche of fighting men – their motivations, fears and hopes. “You think about how many people died there and what they died for.” According to official records, there were more than 3,800 casualties during the three-day, 1864 battle in Dinwiddie County that resulted in a Union victory. His presence there generated

images of what it was like in the midst of battle. “I was very honored to be there,” said Green pensively, “to see everything, to see what they saw.” Green said he doesn’t take the reenactments for granted and goes to great length to do everything in period fashion. That includes wearing the replica uniforms to standard and keeping modern conveniences like cellphones out of view when performing. He even sported a period pipe at Peebles’ and took authenticity down to the cuisine. “I used a clay pipe, and we cooked over the fire,” he said. “I have a period recipe book so we were cooking what they ate; they ate hard tack, and I made some hard tack for it.” Hard tack ­— a type of cracker carried by many soldiers — is the Meals, Readyto-Eat of the Civil War era. Being true to history has its merits, said Green. “I’m not only trying to teach the people who visit to see us shoot, but I’m also trying to teach the people in the group who don’t know much about

the war.” Green is still open to learning as well. Although he relishes sharing his knowledge, there are always opportunities for exposure to another history lesson. “When people ask me things, it’s very gratifying that I’m telling them something they may not know,” he said, “but there are always those who know more than you and they teach you something, so it’s kind of a twoway street.” Green’s future plans are to learn more about the Civil War through reenactments and even expanding his roles. They include joining an infantry regiment and starting a medical unit “to teach people about Civil War medicine” he said. As a planned side activity, he also wants to explore participation in reenactment battles that take place outside PNBP. “We’ve got a lot of stuff planned, and it’s just a lot of fun,” said Green. Just as much fun as playing the role of Johnny Clem.

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Breaking tackles, breaking barriers First black football player at Hopewell High School overcame adversity on and off the field

Herbert Lawrence Wheat Jr. speaks during a ceremony to add his name to th

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HOPEWELL — As a teenager in high school, Herbert Lawrence Wheat Jr., wanted to play sports, just like other kids his age. One of his only goals was to get out of the house and away from his four sisters, and he was unaware at the time he would change history for many athletes to follow. Wheat, 64, who now lives in Petersburg, began his sports career in 1964, his eighth-grade year, when he joined the football team at Hopewell High School. He was the first African-American to join the team and the only one that year. Wheat knew very little about the game, as there were no little league teams for African-Americans in the city.  Coming from an athletic family, with his father and uncles playing in, what was referred to as the negro league baseball team, the Hopewell All-Stars, Wheat always had a desire to play. When the little league teams would practice on the hill at City Point, Wheat would go and watch their practices, picking up a little of the game here and there.  “I was athletic. I just didn’t get

to show it because we didn’t have little league,” he said. “So we played sandlot ball.” Wheat played his eighth-grade year, two years on the junior varsity team and two years on the varsity team.  In addition to playing football, Wheat also played basketball and was the only African-American on the team in eighth grade. While he was on the team in 1967 and 1968, he captured the Central District and Central Region tournaments.  Wheat also captured awards for football as he earned the AllDistrict and All-Region during the 1968 season.  Integration was not mandatory at the time Wheat was in the eighth grade. He was given the choice to attend Hopewell High or the all-black school but wanted to pave the way for others, making the choice to attend the high school.  Wheat’s seventh-grade teacher, Samuel Perry, also provided him with the inspiration to play sports and attend the high school. Perry, a man Wheat said “was ahead of his time,” made him aware of the prejudicial behavior, such as name-calling and innuendos, he might endure. 


JAMES PEACEMAKER JR. / STAFF PHOTO

he Hopewell High School Wall of Fame earlier this year.

“It was scary at times,” Wheat said. “Because of the name callings, and other prejudices. There was never any physical prejudices so I was lucky about that, but I heard a few songs sang, I heard a few innuendos.” Wheat recalls a time when he was walking through the halls of the school and heard, “it sure is getting cloudy.”  “And I’m thinking it’s going to rain,” he said. “No, it’s not going to rain. They’re talking about you.”  Wheat also remembers, during his eighth-grade year playing football, that he noticed some of the players acting differently toward him, especially when it came time for the water break.  He said many would not drink the water after he got his cup full, and instead of fighting and throwing punches, Wheat found another way to cope.  “I made sure I was the first one to drink the water. ...,” he said. “And I’d look at those same guys. I know, after about two or three practices, they drank that water and was glad to get it too.”  There was nothing that would stop Wheat from playing football or basketball, including a threatening phone call. 

Wheat recalls one afternoon during his senior year, when he came home from school to the house phone ringing. When he picked up the phone, he heard on the other end of the line “Hey [explicative] if you don’t want to die, don’t show up at the game tonight.” “I listened to it but I’m going to go play ball,” he said. “I don’t care what you do. Then they hung up and I hung up, and I had a good game.”  During the game, against Thomas Dale High School, Wheat said he intercepted a pass and scored a touchdown. Nothing ever came about from the phone call, he said.  Despite the negativity that Wheat experienced, he also experienced a great deal of positivity from the African-American community.  Wheat said many in the community recognized him, referring to him as “the Wheat kid from City Point,” and continued to encourage him to play for the team. Wheat said he was “representing” the African-American community and wanted to do everything right for them, and represent them well, including his family. 

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Herbert Wheat is shown in his football uniform.

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Because Wheat was the only AfricanAmerican on the team in eighth grade, and was the first to start on the varsity team in his junior year, he took that knowledge back to others, hoping to spark their desire to join the teams. All his years of passing on knowledge of the game, and teaching his friends and family things such as how to get in a stance and receive a handoff, gave Wheat the inspiration to continue coaching throughout his adult years.  Wheat has coached little league teams, has coached at Petersburg High School, coached at Virginia State University for seven years, and was named coach of the year during one

season, and has previously, and currently, coaches for the American Legion.  The irony for Wheat that continues to make him chuckle is he was cut from the baseball team in high school during his ninthgrade year.  “I could run. I could throw but I couldn’t hit worth a dang,” he said. Wheat learned the game from playing, in what he called “the chicken and beer” league, a local team, and from watching games and studying material and going to baseball clinics.  Wheat has been successful in his coaching endeavors as he has had six players sign professionally, including his son Herbert “Trey”

Wheat. His son played for the White Sox for one year before he became injured and was unable to play. Wheat also gained inspiration from teammate Marshall Parker, who is now the athletic director for Hopewell High School. During his time on the team, Wheat was coached by Parker’s older brother on the eighth-grade team, and Parker helped him and guided him through the seasons. Parker recalled times when the two would pass the football to each other before and after practice. The two, along with others, would walk home from practice together.  Parker also played with Wheat on the basketball team, noting that Wheat was “the number six player” and had a lot of time out on the court.  “He was a major impact on our football team,” Parker said. “He played offense. He was also our safety on defense. He was a really good football player. ... He was just a great team player.”  Although he played for many years, Parker only recalls two passes he ever made during his time on the team, and one was to Wheat during the 1968 football season.  It was during a game against Prince George High School, Parker said, and he threw the ball to Wheat, before getting tackled to the ground.  “And all I heard was the crowd yelling and he had caught it and taken it in for a touchdown,” he said. “We tied to stay undefeated that year and go to the regional playoffs.”  Parker also said Wheat made history for others to come out and play for the high school teams.  “I think he convinced a lot of the black guys in our school at that time to come out and play,” he said.  What started out as a chance to get out of the house and away from his sisters, became a life-changing experience for Wheat. He has taken those lessons into his everyday life and passed on his experiences to his son, who was the first African-American on Dinwiddie High School’s baseball team around 1990.  “It made me who I am,” he said. “I look at people as who they are because I had been stereotyped or prejudiced so much. ... I’ll never forget it. It helps you grow, it does.”

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Living life through music BY CAITLIN DAVIS Senior staff writer CHESTERFIELD — The love for music began at a young age for Lynne Carnes. At just two-years-old, she started singing with her older brothers at Bellwood Baptist Church in Chester, and decades later, she is still singing and still makes her way to the stage.  Her time singing at church with her brothers eventually led Carnes, 62, to sing professionally alongside some of the biggest names in country music. Her career that began in 1971 when she started as a backup singer with Lynne Stewart, a singer and actress, who was a regular on a radio show, “Jamboree,” in West Virginia. Singing was also a family affair as she sang backup alongside her brother, Bobby.  In addition to beginning her singing career, Carnes also met her late husband, Tommy, who was a bass player for Lynne Stewart. The two, along with Tommy’s brother, decided to join forces and begin a band in 1978, called Lynne Carnes and Nashville Bound.  The band, Carnes said, played what she referred to as “Gatlin music,” or music similar to the Gatlin Brothers, classifying it as country variety. She said what sold the band was the threepart harmony, the family harmony.  “We had the backstage, the spotlights,” she said in an interview last May. “It was just a big thing. We traveled a little bit.”  After some time as a band, they signed with an agency, Forty Thompson, and began performing and traveling more than they had before, she said. Carnes said the band performed in places such as Atlantic City and Washington, D.C. The band also had the chance to open and headline for artists such as Ronnie Milsap, Alabama, Barbara Mandrell, and Don Williams.  “We played with a lot of really wonderful people and had some great musicians,” she said, remarking Milsap was her favorite to headline for.   Life then took a different turn for Carnes as she gave birth to twins, a boy named Brandon and a girl named Mandy. She and Tommy would take someone along, and have the twins travel with them from show to show, from town to town. Soon though, the pressure became too much. 

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

CARNES

“I felt like I was being pulled because we would have to start leaving them in town and heading to Georgia and all these other places,” Carnes said. “And then with my mother being sick, I just came off the road. ... That was in 1999.” Carnes’ mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and despite her love for the stage and for music, the love for her family life and being home, was much stronger.  “With my mother being sick, I just couldn’t leave home,” she said. “I just couldn’t leave home. That was the one thing that just kept me.” In 2004, Carnes’ husband, Tommy passed away and life was never quite the same for Carnes. Despite her loss, she kept singing and performing for another year, then decided it was time to step down from the stage.  Though she recalls her late husband fondly, noting he could play 14 instruments, life was hard day-to-day for Carnes, saying the two had been married for 37 years at the time of his passing.  Her passion and love for music eventually drew her back to the stage, with many stating that her personality and voice needed to be shared.  “When I hit that stage, it’s like, ‘Wow. This is what life is all about,”

she said. “It’s like I’m a people magnet and I love to sing.” Carnes made her way back to the music scene with the help of Donna Meade, the widow of the late Jimmy Dean. She recalled meeting Meade prior, when her late husband sang with her in the Meade family band. The two ladies still enjoying singing together.  “We love to be on stage together,” Carnes said. “We harmonize well and I think we’re a good, strong team and she asked me to do events with her.”  Last year the two performed on May 11, at the first annual Jimmy Dean Music Festival, singing a medley of Pasty Cline songs, which Carnes admitted, that “Sweet Dreams,” a Cline song, is her favorite to sing.  Over the years, Carnes has performed in shows benefiting the American Heart Association and organizations for cancer and multiple sclerosis.  Currently, Carnes does karaoke and she is a disc jokey for private parties, weddings, and various Moose Lodges, VFWs, and American Legions.  Carnes also works alongside Meade with the “Old Dominion Barn Dance,” a country music show with performances held at Henrico Theatre, located in Highland Springs.  She will also be performing on October 4 at the Carpenter Theatre in Richmond for the second annual Jimmy Dean Music Festival. Proceeds benefit The Children’s Education Fund at Henricus Historical Park. The festival will feature the Oak Ridge Boys, Donna Meade, Brad Spivey and the Honkey Tonk Experience and Tony Jackson.  Though Carnes is still singing and still working with music, her life is not the one she envisioned all those years ago.  “What I really wanted and what I ended up with were two different things,” she said. “What I really wanted was I wanted to go out and do it big in Nashville. I wanted to be a recording artist out of Nashville.”  However, no matter the venue, the songs being sang or the size of the stage, Carnes will continue to sing and play music, a love affair that continues to grow.  “I love doing music,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting in with the band. I think that’s where I feel more like me is when I’m on that stage. ... I blossom when I’m on stage. I feel like that’s where I should be.”  Reflections 2015 • 19


PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ANN K. AND PRESTON H. LEAKE LOCAL HISTORY AND GENEALOGY COLLECTION AT THE HOPEWELL LIBRARY

Hopewell’s rise from the ashes

2015 marks 100-year anniversary of an event that changed the city forever By Ashley McLeod Staff writer HOPEWELL — This year marks the 100th anniversary of a devastating event that may in fact have made Hopewell what it is today. In 1915, a fire wiped out the small city, causing millions of dollars in damage, and left approximately 25,000 residents homeless. This event had a drastic 20 • Reflections 2015

effect on the history of the city. In the years leading up to the fire, Hopewell was not even called Hopewell. The area we now know today had not been incorporated as its own locality, and was technically considered to be part of Prince George County. There wasn’t much in the area; a few farming families were present, such as the Eppes, along with fishermen who

came and went. The area was still recovering from the aftermath of the Civil War. In 1912, the DuPont family was looking to build a new dynamite factory and came to the area. “They wanted an isolated place, near the water, where they could build and operate the factory,” said Jeanie Langford, the assistant librarian and archivist at the Hopewell Library’s Ann K.

and Preston H. Leake Local History and Genealogy Collection. The property was bought, and the factory built, which began an influx of new residents coming to the area. People came from all over to come and work in the new factory. The new workers came from places like Alabama, Tennessee and New York. At about this time, World War I had begun, and


many from Eastern Europe were fleeing to America to escape the war. A large portion of these immigrants were Greek, Czech, Polish, Russian and Armenian. Due to the start of the war, the dynamite factory transformed into a gun cotton factory, becoming the largest in the world at the time. The factory can’t run without staff, so a lot of the European immigrants move to the area for work. Dupont builds housing for the immigrants, and also has someone to help them learn English. The workers build their lives at their new jobs, and they are paid very well for their work. Because of the amount of new people coming to the area, it soon began to grow. Buildings made of wood were quickly built to serve as clothing stores, groceries, doctors’ offices, bars and a variety of other places that people would need to go to live. Hopewell had started to become a well populated up and coming area. “It was like the Wild West on the East Coast,” said Langford. The morning of Dec. 9, 1915, started out like any other morning in Hopewell. People went to work, whether it was in the factory or in the grocery down the street. And then things quickly turned bad. “Everyone blamed it on a Greek restaurant. Somehow an oil stove gets kicked over, and with all that wood, it spreads,” Langford

said. The small fire began in a three-story building on Appomattox Street and spread quickly through the wood houses and businesses, destroying around 400 different buildings. People began to flee town, trying to escape the blaze. With no fire or police department, the whole area was in chaos. The plant shuts down, and workers filled the fields around it trying to put out what flames had made it that far. Dupont was doing everything they could to make sure the fire did not reach the plant, which would have been an even larger catastrophe. Power lines were collapsing, which cut off half of the water being sent to the plant, so the water in Hopewell was cut off. In case the fire did reach the plant, they wanted to be sure there would be enough of a water supply to put it out. This also caused the fire in the small city to continue burning. Several buildings near the railroad tracks were blown up with dynamite in order to try and stop the fire from spreading to the plant. By 8 o’clock that night, the fire had finally burned itself out. A lot of the people had left town by now, and were headed toward Petersburg or Richmond on train, in buggies, or on foot. Whoever was left in the area was stranded and had nowhere to sleep. A lot of workers slept in the fields because there was

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nowhere else to go. In all, 24 city squares were affected by the fire. In just one day, the bustling new area was completely wiped out. Since there was no police force in Hopewell, the State Militia was called in to help, and ended up staying in the area until March of 1916. There are no deaths on account of the fire. Because it started in the daylight, it

was easier for people to see it coming and try and get away. The plant reopened that night at 9, and rebuilding of the area began as soon as it was cool enough to do so. The importance of the factory was high, as the war was ongoing and the product was very important in fighting the war. The governor of Virginia at the time told people in the area to rebuild with

more brick buildings, so that something like this would not happen again. Rebuilding the area ends up costing between $1 million and $3 million. Back then, $1 million now would equal $23,248,712.87. Help is coming from all over the place. The YMCA and churches in Petersburg open their doors to help house people. Dupont even received an offer of help from the Rin-

gling Brothers Circus, which was not traveling at the time because it was winter. The circus had heard about the devastating fire and offered to bring their commissary, cooks, and whatever else they could to Hopewell to help those who were affected by the fire. Within days, trains were bringing supplies to the area in order to rebuild. Merchants built and opened up


shop again, and this time the buildings were better built than before. The area petitioned the governor so that they could become incorporated as an actual city, which meant residents could build and maintain a fire and police department, and build a local government. “Even though the governor is a little reluctant, it is awarded to them in February and becomes official July 1, 1916. Hopewell officially becomes a city,” said Langford. While the fire completely destroyed the small town, it also may have been exactly what the area needed. After the fire, better buildings, and more buildings were built. People saw the area as a fresh new place to live. It gave resident more of a reason to push to become officially a city. “It may have been the best thing to ever happen to the area. Without it, they would have no incentive to build better buildings, they may

have not pushed to be incorporated, they may not have seen the need for a fire or police department,” Langford said. If the fire had not happened, the area may have kept on with everyday life, and who knows how long of a time it would have taken the residents to make the move to become incorporated, and to build and prosper to be the Hopewell that we know today. There are many photographs from long ago which show Hopewell in what it was before the fire. Buildings and streets have changed, but there are many places that are the same. Langford is currently working with Johnny Altman on pinpointing exactly what was where before the fire broke out. By matching certain landmarks, you are able to figure out where buildings from that time would be now, allowing you to picture what Hopewell looked like in its beginning and taking a step back in history.

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ANN K. AND PRESTON H. LEAKE LOCAL HISTORY AND GENEALOGY COLLECTION AT THE HOPEWELL LIBRARY

Hopewell Hospital in 1915. The hospital was one of the few buildings which survived the fire on December 9, 1915.

JRMC celebrates 100 years of medical care BY ASHLEY MCLEOD Staff writer HOPEWELL — This year, the hospital is celebrating its 100-year anniversary. The John Randolph Medical Center is a pivotal part of Hopewell, and is also one of the oldest organizations in the city. It all started with two brothers, Jeffrey and Wayne Elder. The two were students from North Carolina

who were studying at the Medical College of Virginia. When the two graduated, it was just about the time that Hopewell was beginning to rise up out of the earth. The two came to Hopewell, where Jeffrey worked as a surgeon with the railroad. Wayne was looking into beginning his own practice, and so the two decided to open one in Hopewell. At first the brothers opened up a drugstore. After

some time, the brothers move their drugstore into a larger building, and open up a hospital alongside of it. The building was right next to the Berkeley Hotel on East Broadway, right in the middle of everything that was going on. The hospital was located above the drugstore, and had 15 beds for patients. It was crowded and small, but it served its purpose. Then tragedy hit Hopewell

in the form of a giant fire. In December of 1915, a fire was started accidently in a Greek restaurant, and spread fast throughout the area. Out of all of the businesses in Hopewell, 90 percent were destroyed. But the Elder brothers were in that lucky 10 percent that survived. “When the fire comes in December, it burns pretty much everything down. But the Berkeley motel stops the fire and the hospital doesn’t


get burnt,” said Jeanie Langford, the assistant librarian and archivist at the Hopewell Library’s Ann K. and Preston H. Leake Local History and Genealogy Collection. The brothers continue their work at the hospital for a few more years. Jeffrey decides to join the service and spends time in Europe during World War I. While there, he witnesses the horrors of war, and at one point gets gassed by the Germans. When he returns, his brother is mayor of the city of Hopewell and is still operating the hospital, which was now located in an old boarding house on Sixth Avenue. Following the Great Depression, there was once again a need for a bigger space for the hospital as Hopewell was becoming more and more populated. By this time, President Franklin Roosevelt had passed the New Deal, which was put in place in order Therapeutic Massage Center & Boutique

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Colony was building itself up. The property was given to Cawson in return for him serving as a look out for hostile Indians in the area. The new hospital was completed in 1936, and was named the John Randolph Medical Center, after John Randolph, a prominent lawmaker who was born on the property. The hospital included 20 beds for patients. Dr. Elder

once again delivered the first baby in the new hospital, just as he had done after opening the original location. Soon after, in 1946, another building project was put in place. The community once again helped to raise money and a 20-bed addition was built. In another few years, the need for more room had grown again. In a third expansion project, the community once again helped to

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In 1947 an addition was built onto John Randolph Hospital, which added 20 beds and an emergency room.

raise money in order to allow for a total of 80 beds in the hospital. This addition was completed in 1959. In 1966, a third floor was added, allowing for 30 more beds, and in 1967 an extended care and rehabilita-

tion facility was added. The hospital could now hold 150 patients. This pattern continued well into the 1970s, adding 50 nursing home beds and a skilled care unit. Then the hospital expanded their

emergency room, pharmacy, radiology and pathology departments. By the end of all of the renovations, the hospital has grown to what it is today. Walking through the halls, you are still able to see parts of the original

George Kinchen, pictured above, was a hospital orderly in 1957. He began his employment 25 years prior to this photo. Hired in 1932, Kinchen retired in 1972 with 40 years of service. He worked at the hospital when it was located on N. 6th St.

26 • Reflections 2015

World War I nurse.

buildings. “The old hospital is encapsulated inside the different fronts and additions; it’s still in there,” said Langford. “Most additions made to the hospital were built around the original structure, so the

The entrance to John Randolph Hospital before renovations occurred.


A 1982 architects rendering of the 76,000 sq. foot wing along the front of John Randolph Hospital, completed in 1984.

hospital was able to stay open while expansions were happening.� The entire time the hospital had been open it was considered a private hospital. By the 1990s, debt had piled up and the hospital owed approximately $20 million in hospital bonds and debt. A solution came in the form of a buyer, the HCA Health Care Corporation. The purchase cost the company a large sum: $48 million dollars. $20 million of this amount was used to pay off the hospitals debt, and the remaining money was funneled into a charitable foundation which we now know as the John Randolph Foundation. This was done in order to help fund health care programs at the hospital in the future. Now the hospital operates with 147 beds, and serves the communities of not just Hopewell, but Colonial Heights, Petersburg, and other surrounding areas. After 100 years, the hospital has become a landmark in the city of Hopewell, and helps thousands of patients throughout the year.


Landing strip once occupied Jordan Point

Passion for flight helped airport take off

Photos courtesy of the Appomattox Regional Library System, Ann K. and Preston H. Leake Local History and Genealogy Room, Hopewell, VA.

Aerial view of old airport

By BLAKE BELDEN Staff writer PRINCE GEORGE — Although the Hopewell area today is not a haven for aircraft transport, it once used to have a rich history of flight, including an airport that acted as a center of activity for the riverside locality. The area’s history of flight can be traced back to a man by the name of Fred Hummel. Hummel’s father was the originator of the plant now known as RockTenn, and Hummel himself eventually took it over, but he had a far greater fondness for air28 • Reflections 2015

planes, according to Jeanie Langford, the local historian for the Appomattox Regional Library System in Hopewell. Langford hosted a Lunch & Lecture Series at the library in May titled “The Wild Blue Yonder: The Story of the Hopewell Airport,” in which she discussed the extensive history of the airport that used to be situated just miles away from the existing library. Hummel’s keen passion for flying is rooted back in his childhood days in Wisconsin where he constructed his own glider and flew it off of a cliff at the age of 12 years old in 1911. However, this would

be the first and only flight piloted by his own hands because his poor eyesight prevented him from becoming an official pilot. Yet this did not tarnish Hummel’s overarching fondness for the many accomplishments and wonders of flight, and when he later moved to Hopewell roughly 1,000 miles away from his home, he purchased some property in Topping, in Middlesex County, and built an airport there in 1925. The airport still exists under the moniker Hummel Field, at which is hosted an annual event called “Wings, Wheels and Keels.” Not long after building the

airport in Topping, Hummel married Maria Jones, an adventurous woman who loved hunting, fishing, riding horses and flying. She was so interested in flying that she learned to go on solo flights, and in those days, she eventually became one of the few women to receive an air transport license capable of carrying passengers. This included her husband, who she would fly to various places on a regular basis. In 1929, Hummel decided he wanted to pull in the airplane manufacturing industry to the Hopewell area and began to build another


airport out on Jordan Point in Prince George. The first landing strip of this new airport began as nothing but dirt, where prisoners were brought in from the old Hopewell jailhouse to clear off the surface, and then Boy Scouts came in to remove the remnants of aged corn stalks so that they wouldn’t pop the narrow tires of early airplanes. Soon enough, the airport was up and running and flights were constantly coming into the landing strip, including sea planes, and the area was fully behind the movement.

As Hummel had originally hoped, an aircraft manufacturer by the name of Swen Swanson traveled from North Dakota to establish an aircraft construction firm on the site. “He was working on his brand new Swanson Coup that sold for $4,000. If you got the deluxe model, $4,500. Today, if you could even find it, that plane would probably cost you $140,000,” Langford said during her lecture. “There were only four of them built. Mr. Hummel bought one.” The economic timing turned out to be unfor-

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tunate with the onset and deepening of the Great Depression, and Swanson relocated to South Dakota with a business partner and found success building a different type of aircraft, while the Hopewell area lost the promise of a new airplane manufacturing facility. Throughout the 1930s, the Hopewell Airport still remained a local hot spot for public events and other forms of entertainment, including daredevil performances from skilled male and female pilots, parachute jumps, Santa Claus sightings by sea plane, as well as Boy Scout jamborees and other organizational events in the park behind the airport. It was during this time period that a German visitor by the name of Baron Hugo Von Eckener, a world famous and decorated zeppelin pilot, arrived in Hopewell.

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Von Eckener managed the Luftshiffbau Zeppelin, or the Zeppelin Company, at this time, and was the commander of the famous Graff Zeppelin. So in 1931, he travelled to Hopewell on two separate occasions with an idea that the airport at Jordan Point would make for a great zeppelin landing zone, as the traditional thought of the Germans was that zeppelins were to be a rising mode of transportation for the future. However, this venture was cut short by the crashing of the Hindenberg and the onset of World War II. There is some skepticism about the candor of Eckener’s claims, and it is coincidental that Hopewell was a leading manufacturer of ammonia during a time when Germany was still in the process of rebuilding post-World War I. Before the war, they had maintained a dominant control of many chemicals. During World War II, the airport functioned more as a testing and military practicing facility for members of Camp Lee, including a six-week program in 1940 to train 17 Virginia State University students to become pilots. Of those African American students, the only female was a 17-year-old named TheodoReflections 2015 • 29


sia Fraser, and many actually considered her to be the best pilot of the whole group, however her plane crashed during a test landing and she was tragically killed. One of the men in that group was a Bedford man by the name of MacWheeler Campbell who turned out to become a Tuskegee Airman. Following World War II, in 1945, Hummel, who had been leasing the property, purchased the airport. He put a terminal on the site in hopes of developing it into a more official airport where pilots could rest and sleep. Hummel paved one of the runways, added radio equipment and even offered piloting lessons which gave some young, returning veterans an opportunity to find a job. One such veteran, Frank Hancock, came home from the war and started a family, but he decided that he wanted to fly and eventually became Mr. and Mrs. Hummel’s personal pilot. Hancock made decent money chauffeuring them around, but he pursued more entrepreneurial ventures and teamed up with Dick Powell to fly a plane around with a speaker attached to the bottom and promote Dr. Pepper, a product that was just being introduced to the area. Pepsi Co., with headquarters located in Petersburg, dished out $25 per hour for the men to fly around to various fairs and events commercializing the now famous soda. Eventually, the Hummels moved out of Hopewell up to Richmond following the death of their son, Fred Hummel Jr., who died in a plane crash only a week after earning his wings in the Air Force. When they leave the city, the airport is still doing fairly well with air shows and military landings, and the reins are handed over to Mrs. Hummel’s nephew, J. Powell Watson. Watson failed to exercise proper maintenance on the land and facilities, thus the 1960s marked a period of deterioration for the Hopewell airport. Even though both the City

Civil Airport Plan awaiting mission at Hopewell Airport

of Hopewell and the National Air Traffic Safety Committee both expressed interest in the airport, Watson refused to give up the lease, and by the late 1980s, early 1990s, the land became unusable for landing planes. At this time, the land was sold to become Jordan on the James and there remains no visible traces that the airport existed there. “There are hundreds of stories out there. It’s a shame that it’s gone. I wish we could have kept it,” Langford said. Langford believes that the last big event that took place at the Hopewell airport was when a travelling circus came to town. “The circus was supposed to perform on the grounds, but there was a horrible windstorm and gale force winds. However, those who were brave enough were treated to a performance by the one and only Tiny Tim in the hangar. So Tiny Tim tiptoed through the tulips right over at your airport,” Langford laughed. The majority of the information in this article was guided by the research and discussion led by Langford. Tubize Spinnerette cover from 1930 (sketch of airport)

30 • Reflections 2015


Historical marker to recognize WAC Training Center at Ft. Lee FROM STAFF REPORTS FORT LEE – A sign highlighting women’s history in the military is among new historical highway markers recently approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The marker “Women’s Army Corps Training Center,” slated for installation near Fort Lee, located between Petersburg and Hopewell, will recall a Women’s Army Corps (WAC) training facility established at then-Camp Lee in 1948, “when the corps gained Regular Army status,” in the words of the marker’s approved text. “Run entirely by women, the center offered basic training, specialty training, and officer courses,” the sign will state. In 1953 the movie “Never Wave at a WAC,” starring Rosalind Russell, was filmed at

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the training center, where about 30,000 WACs were trained between 1948 and 1954, when the center relocated to Fort McClellan, Alabama. The historical marker is sponsored by the Friends of the Army Women’s Museum Association. The full text of the marker reads (Text may be slightly modified before the manufacture and installation of the sign: Women’s Army Corps Training Center The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) Training Center was established at nearby Camp Lee in 1948, when the corps gained Regular Army status. The first staff members transformed overgrown fields and dilapidated buildings into usable facilities. Run entirely by women, the center offered basic training, specialty training, and officer courses. Gen. Omar Bradley and

U.S. Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers visited WACs at the base, designated Fort Lee in 1950. The feature film Never Wave at a WAC (1953), starring Rosalind Russell, was filmed here. About 30,000 WACs were trained at the center before it moved to Fort McClellan, Alabama, in 1954. The sponsor for the marker is the Friends of the Army Women’s Museum Association. The proposed location is on Oaklawn Boulevard, 100 yards SW of intersection with Lee Avenue. The Virginia highway marker program, which began in 1927 with installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Rte. 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,500 official state markers, most of which are maintained by Virginia Department of Transportation, except in those localities outside of

VDOT’s authority. The manufacturing cost of each new highway marker is covered by its sponsor.  More information about the Historical Highway Marker Program is available on the website of the Department of Historic Resources at http://www.dhr. virginia.gov/.

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is available free of charge through VDH’s Division of Vital Records’ and the Library of Virginia’s websites. In Virginia, death, marriage and divorce data become “public” information 25 years after the event; birth data are “public” after 100 years. Non-public records are only available in a “limited index,” which discloses only an individual’s name and the date and location of the event.

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