Permanent Exhibits

The Crossing of the Dan

  • The Native American Gallery

  • Military History of Halifax County

  • Old Time Country Store

  • Pioneer Medicine Exhibit

  • The Map of Halifax County

  • Halifax County’s Rail History

  • Tobacco History of Halifax County

WHAT’S HAPPENING AT THE MUSEUM

NEWEST EXHIBIT NOW OPEN

‘HOLIDAYS IN THE VILLAGE AND TOWN’

Step Back In Time To Scottsburg, Town Square

Looking for an experience you won’t soon forget this upcoming holiday season? It’s time to visit the newest engaging, captivating and inviting exhibit entitled “Holidays in the Village and Town” now open at the South Boston/Halifax County Museum.

No matter where you call home in the county, the museum’s newest aesthetically pleasing miniature lit Scottsburg Village exhibit will conjure up memories of by-gone holiday celebrations and time-honored traditions.

Now open to the public, the latest exhibit will “wow” visitors with an interactive experience transporting them back to a simpler time when life centered around family, church and community in the tiny village of Scottsburg.

Nestled in the heart of Halifax County today lies the village of Scottsburg on a beautiful tract of land named for John Baytop Scott.

Visitors will learn more about Scott and other Scottsburg villagers as they stroll past the lighted replicas of Scottsburg Baptist Church dating back to 1779, Bank of Scottsburg constructed in 1927, Louis Wimbish’s Country Store, the Scottsburg Post Office and Roy Reese’s Gulf Station and Country Store. Their visit continues with a step back in time to Scottsburg Methodist Church dating back to 1884, Scottsburg Normal School constructed in 1893 and W. L. Stigall’s Esso that dates back to 1889.

Leaving the little village of Scottsburg, museum visitors will get a true taste of country living as they venture into an outdoor setting complete with pastoral pond and grazing deer, vintage log cabin and tobacco barn representing the site where Scottsburg’s founder, John Baytop Scott, once stood to survey a tract of land he would later acquire near Difficult Creek.

At the age of 16, Scott left Hampden-Sydney College to join the Continental Army of the American Revolution.

In February of 1781, when General Nathanael Greene and the Army of the South retreated into Halifax County to elude the British Army under Lord Charles Cornwallis, Scott was a lieutenant in the famed Legion of Light-Horse Harry Lee.

It is probable that Scott spotted this tract of land he liked while on foraging and recruiting duty in Halifax County, for after the war he acquired a farm on Difficult Creek. There he practiced law, farmed, served in the Congress, was named Brigadier General of the Virginia Militia, and served as a Captain in the War of 1812. Later, through the influence of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, Scott ran for and was elected to the U. S. Congress.

Scott established sawmills and grist mills on Difficult Creek and evidently had plans for making Scottsburg a major industrial center, for at the time of his death in 1814 at the age of 53, he was planning to build cotton cloth mills on the creek. Scott’s grave is located just outside the town limits.

Plans for these mills died with Gen. Scott, but Scottsburg went on to become a manufacturing center of sorts. The town became a tobacco market, and around this market tobacco prizeries and plants manufacturing smoking and chewing tobacco sprang up. With its market and manufacturing plants, the town became an important trading center, boasting dry goods and general stores and two saloons.

The Richmond and Danville Railroad, now the Norfolk and Southern, reached Clover in 1858 and was completed in Scottsburg in 1859. This provided the impetus needed for real growth of the town.

Calvin Hudson, who served as treasurer of Halifax County at one time, built a factory for the manufacture of plug tobacco in 1877. Others realized the importance of the business opportunity, and soon there were four warehouses and four prizeries and later a cigar factory and sawmill added to the village. The lumber business was second only to tobacco.

George Stigall ran a saloon on the site of Carroll’s Store. Later that building was changed to accommodate a bank. The Bank of Scottsburg then moved to a new building. Also there were two blacksmith shops, a country store, a hat shop and later a broom factory. Church buildings also dotted the Scottsburg village landscape.

The town’s best known institution, The Scottsburg Normal College, which mostly resembled a modern junior college, opened in 1893. It was started by the Rev. S. H. Thompson, a Baptist minister, and served as a private school.

The village incorporated into a town in 1925. Scottsburg was one of the few voting places in the county during the Depression years and was often the scene of free-wheeling, lusty politics during an election where corn liquor flowed freely.

During a tour of the museum’s newest exhibit, visitors may scratch their heads and wonder whatever happened to this once lively and energetic village of Scottsburg.

As time passed, tobacco markets of Halifax County gradually consolidated in the more centrally-located South Boston. At about the same time, the advent of the cigarette-making machine and a decline in the popularity of chewing closed the manufacturing plants. The town made one last gasp to revive its image as an industrial center in the late 1920’s when a tomato-canning plant located there.

The Great Depression came along, the bank failed, the canning factory closed, the source of lumber was depleted and with the trees went the lumber business. Plug tobacco chewing went out of vogue, and so went the factories and prizeries. The growth of large scale business enterprises brought about the death of small ones, like the hat and candy shops, and stores and banks as well.

And that, visitors will learn, is how Scottsburg went from a bustling village to just another sleepy little town on the Richmond and Danville line of the Southern Railway.

As visitors leave the museum’s old timey Scottsburg village, they will have an opportunity to step into Town Square where a wandering Civil War Soldier may greet them “how-do.”

Then they may join others for a family gathering complete with sumptuous meal spread out on the holiday-draped dining room table, with nearby organ at the ready to provide a holiday tune or two.

The festive exhibit will encompass the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays with changes being made to suit the seasons. So visitors will want to come again as the seasons and holidays change to see what’s new and inviting at their local museum.

The South Boston/Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts and History is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no cost to enter the museum and to enjoy all the displays and exhibits; however, donations are appreciated.

The museum is located at 1540 Wilborn Avenue in South Boston.

For more information, call 434-572-9200.

BOTTLE AND SMALL COLLECTIBLES FAIR 

SATURDAY, NOV. 5 AT MUSEUM

Antique bottle collectors and others with small collectibles will be able to buy, sell, trade and display antique and vintage bottles, glassware and other collectibles when the South Boston — Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts and History hosts the Bottle and Small Collectibles Fair on Saturday, Nov. 5.

The fair will be held from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. featuring antique and vintage bottles, glassware, crystal, china, porcelain, jugs, crocks and other relics. And a new addition this year will include a variety of small collectibles such as stamps, postcards, coins and other items.

This Bottle Collectors’ Fair is a collaborative effort of local bottle collectors among many of the vendors from the Commonwealth of Virginia. The collectors will be exhibiting and trading bottles ranging from the early colonial period until modern day. Many local bottles also will be on display during this museum fundraising event.

Exhibitors will set up from 3 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4, and exhibitors and dealers only will be allowed in the museum from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, prior to the event opening to the public at 10 a.m.

Admission will be $5 per person, and children under 12 will be admitted free with parent. All proceeds will benefit the museum.

Currently the museum is seeking exhibitors and vendors to participate in the Bottle and Small Collectibles Fair. The event is limited to 14 8-foot tables on a first come, first serve basis. The cost is $30 per table with a maximum of three badges, and vendors and exhibitors are asked to stay the entirety of the show. Vendors also are responsible for their own table during the show.

For more information, interested exhibitors and vendors are urged to call Paul Smith at 572-9200 or 724-986-6416 or send an email to info@sbhcmuseum.org.

Vendors wishing to pay by credit card may call the museum at 572-9200. Checks may be made payable to SBHCM and must be mailed to P.O. Box 383, South Boston, VA 24592 no later than Nov. 2.

MUSEUM CELEBRATES

40TH ANNIVERSARY

For the past 40 years, people have visited the South Boston-Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts and History in South Boston and left with an innate sense of discovery, a flash of joy and happiness and a newfound connection to the place they call home, its people and its past.

It’s that emotional response felt at the local museum that keeps people coming back, and it is all thanks to the vision of the museum’s early founders who persisted and eventually brought this vision to reality on July 11, 1982.

On Sunday, July 17, from 2 to 4 p.m., the museum celebrated its 40th anniversary with a reception featuring a time of memory-sharing sparking that same joy and wonder. Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to visit the cultural, natural and art exhibits including The Crossing of The Dan, the History of South Boston and many others that honor and educate about our area.

It indeed was a festive time of celebration when many in the community came together to learn more about the area they call home and better understand the museum’s vision and passion that has served to excite and teach visitors while continuing to hold strong for four decades.

Those attending this special afternoon celebration enjoyed a time of conjuring up fond memories, renewing old friendships and making new ones while enjoying delicious refreshments served by museum volunteers.

Museum Welcomes Many Special Visitors

Young visitors from all across our community have been making their way to the local museum to learn more about what makes this place they call home so special.

On a recent Wednesday morning, a group from First Baptist Day Care spent some time visiting The World of Charlotte’s Web and searching to find where George Washington has been hiding inside the museum.

They also toured the Crossing of the Dan exhibit along with other favorites such as the Harrell Buggy, war room and the old tobacco barn, just to name a few.

At the end of their visit as they boarded the First Baptist Church bus, all agreed they wanted to return very, very soon to see what’s new at their local museum.

NEW EXHIBITS

The World of Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte, a matronly spider and the hero of the E.B. White classic, “Charlotte’s Web,” would be proud of the attention she’s getting at the Halifax County-South Boston Museum of Fine Arts and History with an exhibit showcasing the famous spider who, with the help of subtle messages weaved in her web helped save the life of one of her barnyard friends, in this case Wilbur, the pig, the runt of his litter destined for slaughter.

The exhibit is open to the public beginning Wednesday, June 22 and runs through the summer, in addition to scavenger hunts conducted by museum volunteers both for pre-schoolers and older children.

Charlotte’s Web tells the story of Wilbur and his mentor and friend Charlotte, a brown barn spider who takes Wilbur under her wing and helps him avoid the ax by weaving certain words into her web, such as “radiant”, “some pig”, “humble” and “terrific”.

A brave young farm girl, Fern, originally fights to save Wilbur, allowing him to see another day, and with the tutelage of Charlotte, Wilbur eventually wins a prize at the fair, completing his journey from runt of the litter to champion hog.

Charlotte, by this time older and nearing death, leaves her last batch of eggs in the barn, with several of her prodigy hatching to care for Wilbur.

The barnyard as depicted in the book brings various barnyard animals to life, including Wilbur, Golly the goose and Templeton the rat, all of whom are included in the exhibit, as well as other barnyard animals, such as cows, roosters, goats and geese.

Carolyn Shortt and other museum volunteers Linda Daniels, Pam Smith and Karen Taylor, helped bring the story to life at the museum.  She read “Charlotte’s Web” to grade school children as well as other E.B. White books authored by White including “Stuart Little” and “The Trumpet of the Swan”.

“Come see how Charlotte saves Wilbur, how Fern feeds Wilbur and how Golly tries to spell, and watch the moving story of Charlotte and how she sacrificed to save Wilbur’s life,” Shortt explained in promoting the exhibit.

Shortt added that kids of all ages will be caught up in Charlotte’s web, and parents and grand-parents as well will recognize the lessons the book teaches such as perseverance, loyalty and respect.

A farm boy himself, White may have gotten the idea for Charlotte’s Web after watching a spider spin a web and create an egg site on his farm, and the story has withstood the test of time.

South Boston 1800s

Have you ever wondered how the town of South Boston got its name? Or ever even thought about how long it has been around and who decided this little spot on the map would be a good place to call home and began building a village that would soon attract other residents and businesses?

A new exhibit now open at the South Boston-Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts and History entitled “South Boston In The 1800s” answers each of these questions and many more in great detail. The informative displays feature an inside look at the parlor of a South Boston home in the 1800s, numerous archived photos of early houses, businesses, schools, churches and medical facilities in the town and numerous stories and autobiographical sketches about the town’s founding fathers. In addition, a diorama of the town and railroad along with a replica of the old covered toll bridge offers visitors a glimpse into what furthered the development of South Boston as a village and later a chartered town.

The public is encouraged to take a few minutes to visit the museum’s newest exhibit to learn more about South Boston’s timeless history beginning with the original “South Boston” that was located on the south side of the Dan River and incorporated by an act of the Legislature of Virginia on Dec. 8, 1796.

It all started at Boyd’s Ferry, one of the earliest river crossings established in Halifax County in December 1752, the year the county was created out of Lunenburg. The ferry crossed about where the Norfolk Southern Railway bridge crosses the river today.

Many may even remember the days when Boyd’s Tavern once stood at the back wing of a house next to Z’s Antiques on U.S. 58. The ferry’s importance lay in part in the fact that over it passed the road from the south to Charlotte and Prince Edward counties, Petersburg and Richmond.

As the ferry’s importance grew, a few families moved in, and in 1796, it was decided to attempt the establishment of a town. By 1801 there were six taxable properties — the town had a physician, two taverns, a store and two other improved properties. In 1802 there were still six, and by 1804 there

Flash forward to 1811, and the original South Boston had grown to a flourishing town with a store, an Episcopal Parish, a large tavern and comfortable residences. Water was supplied by a big spring, probably the “bold spring” that gave the road there its name.

However, in that same year, a destructive flood, coming suddenly, would sweep away most of the town, leaving only three or four houses. So far as known, no lives were lost, but nearly all citizens were bankrupt and moved away with only two or three exceptions.

In March 1832, the first post office was established with Francis M. Bostwick as the first postmaster. That post office was discontinued three years later in 1835.

By that time, only a handful of lots were listed including a store, tavern, tobacco warehouse, several houses and the ferry that continued in operation and use until the building of the toll bridge in 1852.

Why did the first “South Boston” fail to develop?

Perhaps it was due in part to the destructive freshets of the Dan River that is said to have ravaged the town, this being the cause cited throughout the years and still continues to this day.

The early town suffered heavily from the floods of the Dan River that often spread over the lowlands on which the town was situated. Consequently, the citizens gradually moved to the north side of the river where the ground was higher.

Whatever the reasons for its failure to develop, and despite adversities, a few hearty souls hung on, and the area remained a small trading post, until and past the time the new town began to grow on the north bank of the Dan.

The settlement on the north side of the river became known as South Boston also, and the section on the south side became known as “Old Boston.”

George Carrington is considered the founder of the settlement on the south side of the river, and Edwin Bedford (E. B.) Jeffress as the founder of the village to the north.

The development of the new northern settlement was enhanced by two major events — the completion of the Richmond and Danville Railroad to this point in 1854, and the construction of the famed covered toll bridge in 1858. The covered toll bridge across the Dan River, constructed entirely of wood, including the pegs, served the community faithfully for 75 years.

The area was open to outside trade; and travel across the river, previously only by ferry, was made easy, so settlers quickly began to appear.

A post office, called South Boston Depot, was established on June 20, 1855, one-quarter mile north of the Dan River. Capt. Edwin Bedford Jeffress served as postmaster of the post office reestablished on the north side of the Dan.

Until 1855 there were only scattered houses in the village. That year, Capt. Jeffress and Josiah Dabbs built a brick storehouse and began a general merchandise business. In 1856 Capt. Jeffress built a dwelling-hotel which became a popular stopping place for travelers.

Until 1868, South Boston’s population consisted of two families, E. B. Jeffress’ and J. D. Chandler’s. The entire settlement consisted of a general store operated by Yancey & Vaughan, the depot of the Richmond and Danville Railroad (now the Southern), a hotel, and a Methodist Church, known as Goodman’s Chapel, later destroyed by fire.

In the year 1878, a great impetus was given to South Boston’s progress when the bridge over the Dan River, which hitherto had been a toll bridge, was made free. The year 1875 saw an even more important event, the opening of the first bank by R. E. and W. I. Jordan.

On Feb. 4, 1884, the name of “South Boston Depot” Post Office was changed to “South Boston,” only a couple of weeks before the Act of Assembly incorporating the new town was passed.

By the year 1884, the town had grown to such proportions as to make organization in corporate form desirable for promoting the best interest of the community. Accordingly, the Virginia Assembly passed a bill to incorporate the town of South Boston, which was approved Feb. 19, 1884.

The charter, which had just passed, suddenly lifted South Boston from a village to the dignity and responsibilities of a town. Such a sudden and unceremonious elevation was to the average South Bostonian decidedly gratifying. In conformity with terms of the legislative enactment, a municipal government was established with seven councilmen, one of whom was biennially chosen mayor.

Despite the lack of streets, South Boston’s population was growing, with an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 residents living there at the time of its incorporation.

Linda Mercer, Phyliss Smith and Carolyn Shortt peruse this replica of a living room in South Boston in the 1800s.

In February 1884, numerous small tenement buildings were being built, and it was only a short while before the town’s population had doubled. Real estate was high — very high. Several large and elegant dwellings and business houses were being completed, while some 10 or 15 others were in the course of being built that year. It would not be long before four large tobacco factories also would be in operation.

The quantity of tobacco sold upon the tobacco market that first season in 1884 was unprecedentedly large due to the fact a great deal of tobacco formerly sold at other markets was now being sold in South Boston because it offered superior facilities and the highest prices. The tobacco market stood at the head of the list selling between 8,000,000 pounds to 10,000,000 pounds of tobacco annually.

During the intervening years, evidence of rapid growth can be found in town records. By 1890 the town had more than 2,500 inhabitants and an established electric and waterworks plant located on the Dan River with a water supply of both Lithia and Freestone abundant.

In addition to tobacco manufacturing, other manufacturing companies included Barbour Buggy Company, Harrell Buggy Factory, Virginia Wagon Company, Dan River Furniture Company, Century Cotton Mills, South Boston Candy Company, South Boston Broom Company, Keystone Chemical Company, South Boston Planing Mills, Pants and Overalls Factory, Boston Brick Company, Haskins Brick Company, South Boston Show-Case Company and Old Dominion Lounge Company.

South Boston also boasted seven churches and a pair of graded public schools along with several private schools, all affording excellent educational advantages. For a small town, its banking facilities were unsurpassed for the period and included Planters and Merchants Bank, Bank of South Boston, South Boston Savings Bank and South Boston Perpetual Building and Loan Company,

Railroad facilities, established industries, past and present rapid growth and capital insured the town of South Boston would become the manufacturing center of Southside Virginia by the turn of the 20th century.

Admission to the museum’s History of South Boston exhibit is free, and donations are welcomed. The museum is located at 1540 Wilborn Avenue in South Boston and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

For more information, check out the museum on Facebook or call 572-9200. The fine arts and history museum is focused on preserving and exhibiting the rich history and culture of Southside Virginia.

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