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Virgilina history on display for all to see

South Boston News
PRESENTATION TO VIRGILINA COUNCIL — Donald and Delores Honeycutt designed and built the display case that will hold the old Virgilina Town Council minutes dating back to February 1900. Shown (left to right) are Priscilla Lassiter, Mary Helen Gravitt, Hallie Owen, council members Catherine Ellixson and Kit Hooper, Donald Wayne Honeycutt and Delores Honeycutt. Back row: council member Jason Johnson, Virgilina Mayor Ralph Murray and council members Keith Tuck, Norman Talley and Sam Torian. (Photo by Michelle Johnson) / April 08, 2013
Acherished piece of Virgilina’s history is now on display at Town Hall, nestled inside a wooden case crafted by Donald and Delores Honeycutt and donated to the town.

On Thursday night, members of Virgilina Town Council and Mayor Ralph Murray accepted the wooden display case, which the Honeycutts fashioned out of lumber from an old town home. The case holds a replica of a Virgilina town council minute book from 1900, which includes the charter of the newly-established town.

The minute book was found several years ago, cast aside and forgotten in an upstairs corner of an old wood-frame store building in Virgilina.

The original council minute book is housed at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Another copy is being sent to the South Boston/ Halifax County Historical Museum for inclusion there.

Hallie Owen, who first brought the existence of the minute book to light last year for an article in the News & Record, said the Library of Virginia contacted her about the historical find soon after the report came out. Owen said she was contacted by Carl Childs, Director of Local Services, who asked that the minute book be donated to the state library. He assured her that copies would be produced and returned to the community, Owen said.

Owen said the current Virgilina Town Council approved the donation of the original, pleased to know that the minute book would be well-preserved at the state library and available to anyone who wants to see it.

And now, with the replica copy going on exhibit at Virgilina Town Hall, locals will have access to the document, too.

The minute book offers a fascinating look at Virgilina’s early history as a town, with documentation of its incorporation and approval of its charter on February 5, 1900.

Entries made by Max Horn and W. L. Gregory, who both served as town clerks, spell out the powers conferred to the town from the outset. The charter called for elections of a mayor and councilmen and the appointment of a town sergeant, clerk, assessor, treasurer and any other necessary officers. Council also was given the power to make laws and ordinances and to manage the town’s fiscal and municipal affairs.

Minutes of an organizational meeting on February 9, 1900 show that Mr. W.H. Pannebaker was appointed mayor, and Max Horn was elected clerk and assessor of revenue and paid an annual salary of $36.

At a subsequent meeting on February 12, several ordinances were approved, including provisions against drunk and disorderly behavior and carrying of concealed weapons, and prohibitions on the firing of guns, pistols or firecrackers. Also, an ordinance was approved to require the removal of dead animals from town; it also barred racing horses or mules along public streets, and the exhibition of fish in barrels or any other thing offensive to smell from the streets.

Council also decreed that there should be no jumping on or off a moving train.

A rate of 50 cents was set for the capitation tax (otherwise known as a “tax per head”) on every male citizen over 21; real estate and personal property taxes were established at 25 cents per $100 in value.

A committee was appointed to investigate the prospects for buying or building a jail. During the spring, town council made some progress on securing a facility; members authorized the payment of rent to the W. D. Amis dynamite house for its temporary use as a jail. In May, bids were received for the building of a new jail, with an award of $82 going to B.F. Pool to carry out the work.

By July, town council cracked down on some of its own members, approving a fine of 25 cents for non-attendance or members being more than 15 minutes late for meetings. By September, the first penalty of 25 cents was assessed on M. D. Hubbard for non-attendance.

Council also was authorized to provide fire protection for Virgilina citizens, with the minutes indicating that council purchased 13 galvanized buckets for firefighting purposes. In 1906, a hook and ladder company was organized with W.W. Tuck as its captain. An alarm bell costing $5 was ordered, and in 1908 an engine house was completed in Virgilina and town council’s fire committee was instructed to organize a volunteer fire company.

In 1906, council appropriated $40 for the purpose of building a new school just outside town limits. In 1910, the Governor of Virginia visited Virgilina. A committee was allotted $50 to provide entertainment for the governor while he was in town, but at the next meeting the mayor was instructed to sell the lumber used to build the seats for the governor’s speech.

By April 11, the mayor’s salary was raised to $5 per month. In 1912, council decided to put down concrete sidewalks. Sidewalks up till this time had been grit-colored walkways; the construction of concrete walks was a subject of controversy as council argued back and forth at several meetings. Finally, the granolitic walks were laid at a cost of $1.18 per square yard; property owners were asked to pay one-fourth of the costs.

The final entry in the minute book, recorded on July 17, 1913, notes there was some misunderstanding about the sidewalks.

Virgilina’s present-day mayor, Ralph Murray, said this weekend he has gotten some laughs out of some of the ordinances that he says still remain on the books. One such ordinance prohibits begging and loitering in town, and states that all non-resident vagrants are requested to leave town or be put to work on the chain gang not exceeding 15 days. Another ordinance set a $5 fine for destroying or injuring a street lamp.

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