Patrick County People





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     Patrick County in two hundred years produced many interesting stories and characters. There are an endless number of stories about Patrick County history and I hope to share them with the readers. Here are some people who were born, lived or had connections to Patrick County.

Revered Robert Childress "The Man Who Moved A Mountain"

Alfred Cleon Moore

Alfred Cleon Moore, born in Patrick County on December 12, 1805, moved to North Carolina as a boy. A physician and legislator in the “Old North State” at the outbreak of the Civil War, Moore returned to Virginia and from April 17 until June 8, 1861 served as a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of Virginia. In November, he ranked as colonel of the 29th Virginia Infantry Regiment.  

The 29th fought in Southwest Virginia and Kentucky, where in 1862 they fought future United States President James A. Garfield in the Battle of Middle Creek. The regiment transferred to Petersburg as Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia moved north into Maryland. Moore held the position of colonel until his resignation on April 8, 1863, due to “advanced age and failing health.” He served in the reserves in Wythe County and after the war continued as a physician. Moore’s mortal remains reside in the McGavoc Cemetery near Fort Chiswell, Virginia.

Ophus Eugene Pilson

Ophus Eugene Pilson 1910-1999 Educator, Historian and Mentor
O.E. Pilson Collection at Bassett Historical Center   

I met O. E. Pilson in the 1980s. He was a great teacher. He shared his knowledge of history

and encouraged my interest. He let me accompany him all over Patrick and Henry counties

telling stories from the vast knowledge he accumulated. As a genealogist, author of his

Patrick County Cemetery book and as primary writer of the  History of Patrick County,

all of us stand on his broad shoulders. Whenever I think of him a verse always come to mind.


"They are not dead who live in lives they leave behind.

In those whom they have blessed they live a life again."


Aunt Orleana Puckett



        Courtesy of Kimble Reynolds

Kitty Reynolds: Patrick County’s Civil Rights Mother

      In the kitchen of the Reynolds Homestead hangs a picture of Kitty Reynolds, the slave that traditions says saved the life of her owner Hardin Reynolds when she distracted a raging bull long enough for the father of R. J. to escape danger, but it is as a mother than she should be more famous.

     Burwell age nineteen and Lee age seventeen were children of Kitty Reynolds. On November 29, 1877, at the end of Reconstruction after the Civil War the Reynolds brothers got into a fight with the white brothers Green and Aaron Shelton near the present day site of the Patrick County Schools bus maintenance garage. The cause of the altercation was verbal harassment by the Shelton boys directed at a school for former slaves at the site overlooking Campbell’s Branch.

     Aaron Shelton knocked Lee Reynolds over a log near the road and Burwell stabbed the former with a knife resulting in Shelton’s death the next day. In April 1878, Patrick County tried the two Reynolds brothers separately. Judge William Treadway presided and with all white juries even though attorneys for the brothers Andrew M. Lybrook and William Martin asked for the juries to be one third black. The court found Burwell guilty of first degree murder after a second trial. Lee received an eighteen-year sentence for second-degree murder after a second trial. The attorneys petitioned Judge Alexander Rives of the Federal District of Western Virginia to move the cases to federal court on the grounds that the state court denied the defendant’s rights due to a lack of blacks on the juries and they could not receive a fair trial in Patrick County due to their race.

     On November 18, 1878, Deputy U. S. Marshall O. R. Wooten arrived in Stuart to take the Reynolds brothers under his protection. This set off a chain of events that ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Editorials in newspaper and Resolutions in the Virginia General Assembly said Judge Rives actions were a "Federal usurpation of power" and "unwarranted by the Constitution." Virginia’s Attorney General asked Congress to pass legislation to prevent Federal courts from "usurping" the power of state courts. Newspapers as far away as Baltimore and New York commented on the case that began as a senseless killing in Patrick County.

     Judge Rives responded by calling two grand juries that included black men that eventually indicted judges in Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Botetourt, Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Franklin, Fluvanna, Halifax, Henry, Nelson and Roanoke counties including Judge James D. Coles of Pittsylvania County and Judge Samuel G. Staples of Patrick County for excluding African-Americans from juries violating the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guaranteed "equal protection of the law."

     Of all the judges arrested only Judge James Doddridge Coles of Pittsylvania County refused bail and petitioned the U. S. Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus claiming he had not violated any law becoming a case forever known as Ex Parte Virginia. On March 15, 1880, the Supreme Court denied the petition, thus upholding Judge Rives actions as part of decisions on three separate cases commonly referred to as "The Civil Rights Cases" that set precedents for the protection of rights for the former slaves. The courthouse in Chatham received National Landmark status in 1987 due to this case instead of Patrick mainly because the National Park Service did not dig deep enough to find the roots of the case were in Patrick County. Further information can be found in the writings of Herman Melton’s Pittsylvania County’s Historic Courthouse: The Story Behind Ex Parte Virginia and "Thirty-Nine Lashes-Well Laid On:" Crime and Punishment in Southside Virginia 1750-1950.

     Burwell Reynolds received a sentence of five years for manslaughter for killing Aaron Shelton. Patrick County did not prosecute Lee Reynolds and released him. Kitty Reynolds continued to be a cherished member of the Reynolds family. Tobacco magnate R. J. Reynolds would send a car from Winston-Salem up to Patrick County and bring her to stay with his family. She never realized the full impact of her involvement as a "mother" of Civil Rights in Patrick County.

Reynolds left and second from the left in the front row of the1897 faculty at West Virginia University.


Powell B Reynolds


Powell B. Reynolds  served in Company K, 50th Virginia Infantry from Patrick County during the Civil War.

Powell Benton Reynolds served as President of West Virginia University from 1893 until 1895. In 1894, he set fourth a vision of a "new university," arguing that the school was "entering upon a new era" that could enable it to "rank with the best state universities in the country." Reynolds' plan for reorganization would make it "necessary to renew all the courses, and to readjust the work and the functions and relation of the Faculty, so as to secure co-ordination, harmony, and efficiency, and bring the University up abreast of the times."


Reynolds shown in back row directly in the middle of the 1895 faculty at West Virginia University.



Richard Joshua Reynolds


A Young Man From Patrick Changed the World


    Several years ago while working in the new Wachovia building in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I happened to look out the window from the eighth floor and saw a familiar figure. At lunch, I went out to the small park near the new skyscraper and there was a young man on a horse forever immortalized in bronze.


    On July 20, 1853, a son was born to Hardin William and Nancy Jane Cox Reynolds at their home Rock Spring at the foot of No Business Mountain in the eastern section of Patrick County. Little could they realize what an impact this man would have on the world.


    Two local traditions linger about the young man. In April 1865, he supposedly hid horses from the U. S. Cavalry under George Stoneman raiding in the last days of the Civil War. Another is in 1870 he attended Emory and Henry College, like Jeb Stuart twenty years earlier, but that Rufus James Woolwine apparently took his favorite girl from him and they married her.


    The young man in question suffered from dyslexia and stammered. He had large appetites for work, women, gambling, and drink. He worked for his father as a salesman for the family tobacco business traveling through Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina saving his money for a future venture.


    He needed a railroad hub for his business plans and since there was not one in Patrick County, he traveled to the nearest one. In 1874, he arrived in Winston, North Carolina with 5,000 dollars. Winston and Salem were separate towns then. He spent $388.50 for a hundred foot lot near railroad tracks to build a factory to manufacture chewing tobacco.


    He married Mary Katherine Smith in 1905 and produced four children: Richard, Mary, Nancy and Zachary. When he died of cancer on July 29, 1918, his company had 121 buildings, ten thousand workers, made ten million dollars a year profit. He left an hundred million dollar estate including Reynolda House and Tanglewood. Virginia Tech operates his birthplace and seven hundred acres as the Reynolds Homestead.


    Richard Joshua Reynolds is buried in the cemetery near Old Salem within site of the giant Wachovia building and the statue of himself as a young man coming from Patrick County to change the world.



Right, the grave of the Reynolds Family near Wachovia building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and left, the statue of young R. J. Reynolds in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.



James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart  "One Of Us" 

"Call the shapes from the mist,

Call the dead men out of the mist and watch them ride.

Tall the first rider, tall with a laughing mouth,

His long beard is combed like a beauty&rsquos hair,

His slouch hat plumed with a curled black ostrich-feather,

He wears gold spurs and sits his horse with the seat

Of a horseman born. It is Stuart of Laurel Hill,"

                                  			-- Stephen Vincent Benet

     If you grew up in Patrick County, you could not escape Jeb Stuart. He was on the bank signs, the kid who lived next door shared his name, the county seat carried his name and if you were from Ararat you saw the historical marker that told you where he was born every time you drove to Mount Airy.

     Born on February 6, 1833, this son of Virginia was brother to ten, father of three and husband of Flora Cooke. He liked to flirt with pretty girls and he loved the place he was born, Laurel Hill.

     This son of Southwest Virginia went to school in Wythe, Pulaski, maybe Floyd and at Emory and Henry College, where he found God. A Christian, who founded churches, bought his men scriptures, practiced temperance, loved his sisters and their children.

     A graduate of West Point, he soldiered for the United States of America, where he fought Cheyenne and captured John Brown when not selling livestock, real estate, passing the bar or inventing patented devices that he sold to the War Department for $5,000 in 1859 money.

     From his father he was Scots-Irish, a warrior-poet of Scotland, who knew glory as an officer, who knew loss as a father, who knew the joy of a song and the laughter of friends. From his mother he inherited a love of nature; a good head for business, a wish to return to her ancestral land in Patrick County It was her Christian fortitude that allowed him to face death with his eyes wide open.

     A son of the South, a slave owner, who soldiered for the Confederate States of America, where he was a friend of Stonewall Jackson, surrogate son to Robert E. Lee and mentor to John Mosby and John Pelham. He rode around armies-three times, replaced Jackson at Chancellorsville, fought the biggest cavalry battle ever at Brandy Station and was late for Gettysburg. He was last at Yellow Tavern telling one his generals, James B. Gordon of North Carolina, that "Everyman must be a hero."

     Studied by historians. Here is what one native Virginian, one at the University of Virginia and one at Virginia Tech recently commented on him. "Stuart remains and always will remain on of the great romantic figures of the Civil War. Beyond that, he was a compelling symbol and a gifted professional soldier." "It is unfortunate that his lasting place in American history is as a romantic hero, the beau ideal, because there was more to him than that. Stuart was a brave man, but wars are full of brave men. Stuart was a dashing man, but the Civil War particularly was full of dashing men. Most of all, Stuart was an effective man and an innovator. He combined the gathering of intelligence and the masking of his army's movements with destruction and sabotage behind enemy lines. In some ways, Stuart did far more than cavalry had ever done before, and in some ways he presaged the mechanized and airborne warfare in the wars to come. He deserves to be remembered as an effective, imaginative soldier and not just as the man with a feather in his hat."

     "One of his enemies and former commanding officers John Sedgwick called him ...."the greatest cavalryman ever foaled in America" ...Stuart displayed the capacity to command both small and large numbers of horsemen, and he was able to integrate his cavalry with artillery and infantry, as well as to conduct independent operations. Nathan Bedford Forrest, Wade Hampton, John Hunt Morgan and Joseph Wheeler at one time or another, proved they could do one of these things. Stuart did them all and did them consistently well."

     W. W. Blackford wrote in War Years With Jeb Stuart, "I can close my eyes and bring him before me as vividly as though he were there in life. General Stuart had his weaknesses, who has not? But a braver, truer or purer man than he never lived." He was James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart, a human being. And if you hail from Patrick County, he was one of us, Stuart of Laurel Hill.

Alexander W. Terrell

            Born in Patrick County on November 3, 1827, Alexander Watkins Terrell at the age of five moved to Missouri. He attended the University of Missouri and moved to Texas in 1852 where he became a judge. Like his friend Sam Houston, Terrell opposed secession. In 1862, Terrell found himself a Captain in the First Texas Cavalry. He rose in rank to colonel by June 1863 in Terrell’s Texas Cavalry Battalion.

 The regiment fought in the Battle of Mansfield, Louisiana along the Red River in April 1864. In September, he commanded a brigade of three Texas cavalry regiments for seven months. On May 16, 1865, Edmund Kirby Smith promoted Terrell to brigadier general in the Trans-Mississippi Department, but the Confederate Senate did not confirm his appointment. Two days before his promotion Terrell disbanded his regiment. In July, he fled to Mexico and became a colonel in the Mexican army for four months. He received a pardon from the United States in November 1865. 

            After the Civil War Terrell practiced law and served in the Texas legislature with a stint under President Grover Cleveland as United States Minister to Turkey from 1893 until 1897. Due to his work in the legislature on education, many consider him the “Father of University of Texas.” He wrote two books, one published in 1933 entitled From Texas to Mexico and the Court of Maximilian, and the second he co-edited in 1874 entitled Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Texas. He ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate from Texas and served as president of the Texas Historical Association. Alexander Terrell died in Mineral Wells, Texas on September 9, 1912, and rests today in the state cemetery in Austin, Texas.





People With Patrick County Connections


Robert E. Lee's Patrick County Land



In the third week of April in 1865, two brothers sat at the elder's home in Powhatan County, Virginia, speaking of their
father and discussing editing his memoirs from the American Revolution. The other brother, Sydney, was not present, but all three
were in a financial crisis due to the war. The brothers might have regretted selling their land in Patrick, Carroll and Floyd counties
before the war.

After the Revolutionary War, Buffalo Mountain was a part of a 16,000-acre tract of land known as Lee's Order. This tract was a grant made
to General Henry Lee (1756-1818) by the United States government for his service in the Revolutionary War. Henry Lee III attended
Princeton with future president, James Madison, and served as a cavalry commander under George Washington during the American
Revolution. Known for his swift movements and lightning attacks he earned the moniker of "Light Horse Harry" Lee. After the war Lee
served as Governor of Virginia, but land speculation led to a term in debtors prison and a very unhappy end for the man who said Washington
was "First in War, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

After the death of his wife Ann Hill Carter Lee in 1829, the three brothers inherited the property. There were unpaid taxes and bills
against the property, but the brothers kept the land. In 1846, two sold 16,300 acres in the three counties to Nathaniel Burwell of
Roanoke County (Patrick County Deed Book 12 page 425) for $5,000. Originally surveyed as over 20,000 acres the Patrick portion was
6,268 near Hog Mountain crossing branches of the south fork of Rock Castle Creek, the Conner Spur Road and a fork of the Dan River. The
Floyd portion was 7,143 and Carroll was 5,797 acres.

Robert Edward Lee (1809-1870) known to history as the "Gray Fox," commanded the Army of Northern Virginia during the War Between The
States, but his brothers are lesser known. Sydney Smith Lee (1802-1869) married the granddaughter of Founding Father George Mason, the
Father of the Bill of Rights. He was the father of Jeb Stuart's subordinate Fitzhugh Lee. Sydney Lee served in the navies of the
United States and Confederate States of America. Beginning in 1820 with a midshipman's commission in the U. S. Navy, he rose in rank
serving as Commandant of the Naval Academy, commanding the Philadelphia Naval Yard and accompanying Mathew Perry on his
expedition to Japan. He commanded the Norfolk Navy Yard and the Confederate Naval Academy at Drewry's Bluff during the war.
Considered very handsome, his brothers nicknamed him "Rose." After the war, he farmed in Stafford County, Virginia, before dying
suddenly in July 1869.

Charles Carter Lee was born in 1798 and received a degree from Harvard in 1819. He lived a disjointed life as a New York City
lawyer, land speculator, plantation owner in Mississippi until his marriage at age 49 to Lucy Penn Taylor. He lived on his wife's
inheritance, Windsor Forest, in Powhatan County prospering as a husband, father, farmer and writer, especially of poetry.

Of the three Lee brothers, only Carter lived on the land in Floyd County. Papers supplied from the courthouse by the Honorable Gino
Williams indicate that Carter tried to establish a grist mill on the land and that he was involved in legal dealings with Archibald
Stuart, father of James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart. Tradition states he lived on the Buffalo Mountain property at one time in a home called
Spring Camp and that he had a law office. Carter was last of Henry and Ann Lee's children to die, but Robert may have summed up the
ownership of the land in southwest Virginia and the plight of the three brothers after the war when he said, "a hard case that out of
so much land, none should be good for anything."


Patrick County's Poet Laureate: Robert Penn Warren 

“If the Southerner, with his Great Alibi, feels trapped by history, the Northerner, with his Treasury of Virtue, feels redeemed by history, automatically redeemed,"

– Robert Penn Warren

             In 2006,  All The King’s Men staring Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins opened in theaters across the country. The thinly veiled story about Huey Long “Willie Stark” from 1946 Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name is a about political corruption in pre-Word War Two Louisiana. Sean Penn, no relation to the author,  has come along way as an actor since playing Jeff Spicoli in the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Penn won the Oscar for Best Actor in Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River. He reprises the role of Broderick Crawford, who won the Oscar for the 1949 film version of the book. People my age remember Crawford from the Television show "Highway Patrol" (1955-59).

            What people might not realize is the Patrick County connection to this book about Louisiana politics through the author of the book. Robert Penn Warren descends from the Penn Family of Patrick County, who built Aurora “The Pink House” just off Highway 58 on the Henry County border and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Warren begins All the King’s Men with the ironic sentence, “To get there you follow Highway 58, going northeast out of the city, and it is a good highway and new.”

Thomas Jefferson Penn built the “Pink House.” He was the son of James Penn and grandson of Abram Penn.  Thomas married his cousin Catherine and their grandson also Thomas Jefferson Penn built Chinqua-Penn House near Reidsville, North Carolina.      

Robert Penn Warren’s mother Ann Ruth Penn was the daughter of Gabriel T. Penn, who was the son of Edmund Penn (1789-1860). Edmund’s parents were Abraham and Ruth Stovall Penn (1743-1810). Abram Penn was at the Battle of Point Pleasant at the confluence of the New and Ohio Rivers in 1774. He fought in the American Revolution at Guilford Courthouse. As one of “Gentlemen Justices” in Henry County, he served as a Virginia Delegate in 1777 and 1779. He was one of the “Founding Fathers” of Patrick County and built his home Poplar Grove in the eastern part of the county a few miles north of the Reynolds Homestead. Ruth gave birth to twelve children among them Gabriel, from whom John E. Penn, an attorney and Civil War veteran descends. He was instrumental in the early days of Virginia Tech. James Penn, whose descendants worked to start the American Tobacco Company and Edmund who descendants include Robert Penn Warren.

Edmund born on January 8, 1789, married Mary “Polly” Clark Ferris on June 11, 1816, the daughter of Josiah and Mary Stovall Ferris. Edmund moved to Perryville, Kentucky in 1815 and then Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1817, both the sites of major Civil War battles. Edmund settled near Trenton, Tennessee, in 1841.

            Robert Penn Warren, born in Guthrie, Todd County, Kentucky, on April 24, 1905, was the eldest of three children, who included Mary, the middle child, and Thomas, the youngest. Robert Franklin Warren (1869-1955), was a proprietor and banker, and Anna Ruth Penn Warren (1875-1931), was a schoolteacher. Robert graduated at age 15. He did not then enter college, but went instead, in September 1920, to Clarksville High School in Montgomery County, Tennessee, and graduated after one school year. In the spring of 1921, he suffered an injury to his left eye from a rock-throwing incident involving his younger brother. The injury eventually led to removal of the eye. During the summer of 1921, he spent six weeks in Citizens Military Training Corp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he published his first poem, "Prophecy." An earlier appointment to the United States Naval Academy was cancelled due to his eye injury. In the fall of 1921, he entered Vanderbilt University and graduated in 1925 summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and Founder's Medalist. In August, he entered the University of California as a graduate student and teaching assistant. In 1927, he received his M.A. from University of California and entered Yale University on fellowship. In October 1928, he entered New College at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar receiving his B.Litt. in the spring of 1930.

He married Emma Brescia in the summer of 1929, a marriage that was to end on June 28, 1951. On December 7, 1952, he married Eleanor Clark. This marriage produced two children, Rosanna Phelps Warren and Gabriel Penn Warren.

Warren was a poet, critic, novelist, and teacher. He taught at Vanderbilt University, Southwestern College in Memphis, the University of Minnesota, Yale University, and Louisiana State University. While at LSU, he founded and edited, along with Cleanth Brooks and Charles W. Pipkin, the literary quarterly, The Southern Review. As a poet, Ronald Reagan appointed him the nation's first Poet Laureate on February 26, 1986. He published sixteen volumes of poetry and two---Promises: Poems, 1954-1956 and Now and Then: Poems, 1976-1978---won Pulitzer Prizes. Warren published ten novels. One novel, All the King's Men, won a Pulitzer Prize. Two novels, All the King's Men and Band of Angels were made into movies. In addition, he published a book of short stories, two selections of critical essays, a biography, three historical essays, a study of Melville, a critical book on Dreiser, a study of Whittier, and two studies of race relations in America. As of this writing, he is the only author to have won the Pulitzer for both fiction and two for poetry. Other honors include Bollinger Prize, National Medal for Literature, and Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Warren's first published novel was Night Rider (1939) and was about the tobacco war (1905-1908) between independent tobacco growers in Kentucky and large tobacco companies. His last published novel was A Place to Come To (1977) which is, to a certain extent, autobiographical. Along with Cleanth Brooks, he collaborated to write the textbooks, Understanding Poetry, Holt, (1938), and Understanding Fiction, Crofts, (1943). He was one of the leading representatives of the New Criticism and these works helped revolutionize the teaching of literature by bringing the New Criticism into general practice in America’s college classrooms.

From the 1950's until his death September 15, 1989, from cancer, Warren lived in Connecticut and at his summer home in Vermont. Robert Penn Warren rests in Stratton, Vermont, and, at his request, a memorial marker is situated in the Warren family gravesite in Guthrie, Kentucky.

Robert Penn Warren wrote one of the best books about the Civil War in 1961 titled, The Legacy of the Civil War: Meditations on the Centennial, which is often quoted by speakers on the subject. Not until recently did I realize his family came from Patrick County, so with the release of the movie I thought we could claim him as Patrick County’s Poet Laureate for this week anyway.  

Warren once wrote that, “Experiencing the appeal of the Civil War is part of becoming American.” As a Southerner, he recognized our greatness as a people and our shortcomings readily as he was one of us. He finished his most famous work All The King’s Men with this, “But that will be a long time from now, and soon now we shall go out of the house and go into the convulsion of the world, out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time.”

For more information visit http://www.robertpennwarren. com  


Copyright 2006 Tom Perry.  No material to be used without permission.  Contact Information: P. O. Box 
50 Ararat VA 24053